Published on August 22nd, 2012 | by Harmonist staff197
GBC and Swami B. V. Tripurari
Over the years many of my friends have asked me who Swami Tripurari is, what his relationship is with ISKCON and with ISKCON’s founder-acarya, Srila Prabhupada, and furthermore, how ISKCON devotees should relate to him. Though I have more often than not had to sort through various misconceptions about these issues, I’ve generally walked away satisfied, being able to clarify them for open minded devotees. I’ve been able to carry on as usual, in the association of ISKCON devotees, at ISKCON temples, and serving shoulder to shoulder in long-term relationships I’ve had since the time of my spiritual birth in the ISKCON movement some twenty-two years ago. The root of confusion about who Tripurari Maharaja is has usually been misinformation passed along word of mouth in everyday conversation. Sadly, there have also been direct malicious attacks on Tripurari Swami’s character.
Most recently, the North American GBC of ISKCON issued a policy forbidding ISKCON members to associate with, host, or hear from Tripurari Swami and restricting Tripurari Swami’s disciples from serving in ISKCON temples, in effect driving a wedge between friends, families, and other long-term relationships by artificially dividing between “us and them.” Because the language of the policy spreads misconceptions and at times outright lies about Tripurari Swami, I feel it most important to respond to its charges in defense of Maharaja’s wonderful devotional character and because I value the relationships that I have with ISKCON devotees. I know that many of us prefer to avoid these politically charged discussions in our pursuit of spiritual life, but I beg your attention to hearing me out in the spirit of “satyam eva jayate,” allowing the truth to prevail. I do not seek to share my faith in Tripurari Swami or to bring anyone from one “camp” to another, but rather only to inform the public and by consequence lessen the burden of offensive attitudes, which spread by misinformation.
Below I have included the North American GBC’s policy statement interspersed with my responses. Accompanying the policy statement are several appendices worth of “evidence” to support the points they have summarized. To include each of the appendices here would make this article very long and so I have distilled and commented on the points the appendices are used to support. A PDF of the policy letter below and all of the appendices in full can be viewed here: https://harmonist.us/wp-content/uploads/gbc-policy.pdf
North American GBC Policy Letter Regarding Tripurari Swami
June 12th, 2012
Dear North American leaders and fellow ISKCON devotees,
Please accept our humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
Having received reports of a long pattern of troubling actions and comments by H. H. Tripurari Swami, the North American GBC has been obliged to draw up this position paper. The purpose is to establish a policy for ISKCON North America leaders and members. We hope that clarifying the relevant issues and establishing clear guidelines will reduce any tensions between Tripurari Swami and ISKCON.
To help understand the need for this position paper, we here present a list of those actions and comments by Tripurari Swami that have brought us to this point.
1. Leaving ISKCON
Tripurari Maharaja has left ISKCON. This is his own declaration.
(See appendix A)
Madan Gopal response:
Appendix A references a few quotes of Tripurari Swami regarding his relationship with ISKCON. As we will see, the GBC has taken these quotes out of context and highlighted them to portray Tripurari Swami as having an anti-ISKCON agenda. It is also notable that quotes from a “taped discussion in 1995” are used several times in the policy and a quick internet search reveals that the GBC excerpted them from a similarly contextless attempt at defaming Tripurari Maharaja; an article written by Udayananda das in 2006. It is apparent from this that the GBC have not taken the care to research their information, or better yet to ask Tripurari Swami directly for a statement about his relationship with ISKCON. Rather, they have resorted to third-hand information from an unreliable source. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” is a strategy for political conquest, not Vaishnava relationships. Though they say they are “obliged” to write this position paper, these tactics are tell-tale signs of propaganda, not truth-seeking.
The lack of context for the rest of the quotes in Appendix A are telling. For example, the first quote referenced as evidence sounds quite reasonable:
…I have encouraged devotees to leave ISKCON at times. But I have also encouraged devotees to remain in ISKCON at times. For some it may be better to leave, and if they wish to follow their particular conscience they should do so.
Tripurari Maharaja advises some people to leave Iskcon, some to stay, based on what will be best for them. This quote was taken from an email forum for Prabhupada’s disciples and was also used by Badrinarayan dasa in an email campaign against Tripurari Maharaja last November. I cannot reproduce the whole discussion that was going on, but here is a sentence from the very same paragraph that lends some context to this “evidence”:
Furthermore in my mind leaving Iskcon and being its well wisher are not mutually exclusive. I continue to help Iskcon devotees every day. Many of them write me and ask me philosophical and practical questions and I take the time to answer them. I am not on a campaign against Iskcon and I recognize the many good things the sect is doing.
Obviously the GBC did not give the recipients of the policy the whole story, or all the “evidence” with which to come to judgment about Tripurari Swami’s non-involvement in ISKCON. As I will discuss later in this article, Tripurari Swami’s break with ISKCON some twenty-seven years ago, when seen in context, is much more complicated and yet understandable than the GBC tries to gloss over in this policy statement.
GBC policy continued:
2. Rejecting Srila Prabhupada as his preeminent instructing spiritual master
The members of ISKCON accept and revere Srila Prabhupada as the Society’s Founder-Acharya. This means that for us, he is the link with the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya sampradaya, and that his siddhanta, standards, and practices remain the permanent and irreplaceable basis for all subsequent teachings and activities of ISKCON. Srila Prabhupada must always remain the preeminent instructing spiritual master for all devotees in ISKCON. His position is unique.
Tripurari Swami does not accept this standard. Rather, he presents Srila Prabhupada as one among a number of Gaudiya authorities, among whom he can pick and choose to follow on a particular principle or practice. (See appendix B)
Madan Gopal response:
This second charge is the most offensive and inflammatory charge of the policy, and the GBC supports it with the least amount of “evidence”, and flimsy evidence at that. What this charge highlights though is very important to consider.
Firstly, the GBC’s claim that Tripurari Maharaja rejected Prabhupada as his pre-eminent siksa guru is illogical, confused, and impossible for them to verify. Tripurari Maharaja accepted siksa from Prabhupada throughout Prabhupada’s time here, and siksa leads to diksa—of which Maharaja received three initiations from Prabhupada. Obviously from his diksa by Prabhupada, Maharaja accepted Prabhupada as his siksa guru as well.
The fact that Tripurari Swami also accepts Pujyapda Sridhara Deva Goswami as his siksa guru does not lessen his adherence to the siksa of Srila Prabhupada. Indeed, it was Srila Prabhupada who suggested that his disciples could accept Sridhara Maharaja as their siksa guru. Tripurari Swami holds both of his gurus in the highest regard, and you will never hear him relegate either siksa or diksa guru to a lower position. As Prabhupada explains in his Caitanya Caritamrita purport on guru-tattva; siksa and diksa gurus are equal manifestations of Krishna.1
In today’s ISKCON, acceptance of a siksa guru within the society is acceptable and even encouraged. Tripurari Swami accepted a siksa guru in Srila B. R. Sridhara Maharaja almost 30 years ago, after Srila Prabhupada left for the nitya-lila. What is curious is that anyone with the slightest familiarity with ISKCON history knows what an incredibly conflictual and confused time the early 1980’s were for ISKCON. So many devotees were looking for spiritual guidance and on Prabhupada’s own recommendation the Acaryas and GBCs had approached Sridhara Maharaja for assistance. Prabhupada’s recommendation to go to Sridhara Maharaja was not in any way ambiguous. Indeed, we can see it repeated by the GBC members themselves on their first meeting with Sridhara Maharaja in March of 1978:
Jayapataka Maharaja: “After the departure of our beloved spiritual master we came to offer our respects to you as well as to hear your very esteemed upadesa on certain matters if you would be kind enough… He (Prabhupada) has given explicit desires, but he told us that, on other technical points and other matters of philosophy, if there was question we should approach you.”2
Several years later when the GBC’s relationship with Sridhara Maharaja deteriorated and turned into a campaign of aparadha against him, many devotees, including Tripurari Swami, were given a choice by the 1980’s ISKCON leadership: give up Sridhara Maharaja as your siksa guru, or leave ISKCON. When given a choice between a spiritually potent siksa guru with 60 years experience versus an ISKCON leadership with hardly a decade of experience and fraught with political in-fighting, the spiritual substance of Srila Sridhara Maharaja was obvious. How unfortunate it is that the mandates of misguided people in positions of ISKCON authority 30 years ago (most of whom are no longer practicing devotees) continue to set the agenda for ISKCON’s relationship with other Gaudiya missions in the present day! Resolutions against Srila Sridhara Maharaja and the many disciples of Prabhupada who sought his siksa are still on the ISKCON law books and influence policy decisions like the one being discussed in this article.
Finally, while the GBC attempts to make the case that Tripurari Swami does not hold Prabhupada in prominence, people who are familiar with Tripurari Swami’s preaching and his internal life understand how vitally important Prabhupada’s role really is to this disciple of his. Quite to the contrary of the GBC’s assessment, Tripurari Swami often points out the debt that any western follower of any Vaishnava sampradaya has to Srila Prabhupada’s valiant preaching efforts. To question the faith of a disciple who has for 40 years followed Prabhupada loyally in both preaching and internal pursuit is most offensive.
GBC policy continued
3. Violation of Vaisnava etiquette regarding re-initiations
It is a well-established principle of Vaisnava etiquette that one does not “re-initiate” disciples of a Vaisnava guru who is in good standing. If beseeched by an aspiring initiate, one must at a bare minimum first receive the permission and blessing of the disciple’s guru. (See appendices C and D)
Tripurari Swami has violated this principle of Vaisnava etiquette.
(See appendix E)
Madan Gopal response:
In any case of an ISKCON guru’s disciples seeking initiation, Tripurari Maharaja, out of courtesy, has followed the etiquette that the GBC recommends herein. Tripurari Swami has been approached many times by members of ISKCON who have for one reason or another lost faith in their ISKCON guru, have been mistreated in the institution, have not had their faith in siksa outside of ISKCON honored, or have grown to understand guru-tattva outside of ISKCON’s perspective. As these are not reasons for giving up Gaudiya Vaishnavism altogether, Tripurari Swami does the needful and cares for those who bring their faith to him. These are difficult issues for any preacher to navigate, but Tripurari Swami always honors the principle of divine faith first and foremost. It should be noted that Tripurari Swami has many siksa disciples who are initiated by ISKCON gurus and there is no question of re-initiation. Both Tripurari Swami and the ISKCON guru honor the faith of the disciple and the progress of the student continues as it should. As will be noted below, the GBC’s evidences for Tripurari Swami violating Vaishnava etiquette in regard to reinitiation are either completely false or far more intricate than the policy indicates.
The first example of reinitiation of one of Indrayumna Swami’s disciples has been researched and is entirely false. Tripurari Maharaja and his disciples in the area in question have confirmed that this did not happen. In stark contrast to this false claim, Indrayumna Swami just last year very sweetly encouraged one of his harinama (first initiated) disciples to accept diksa (“second” initiation) from Tripurari Maharaja. Here is his wonderful letter in this regard:
My dear _________,
Please accept my blessings. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
Thank you for your letter and for revealing your heart to me. Actually, I was just thinking of you yesterday – and now your letter has arrived.
I have no objection if you accept 2nd initiation from HH Tripurari Swami. You have my full blessings to do so. I am well aware how much he has inspired you and your husband in your spiritual lives. I am happy that you feel so inspired in devotional service as a result of his guidance. My only desire is that you make nice progress towards life’s ultimate goal. If you feel that Maharaja can help provide that for you, then by all means take shelter of his lotus feet. I would like to think that with me on your left side, and Maharaja on your right side, you will attain Goloka Vrindavan in this lifetime. Please do keep in touch with me. I would like to hear from you once or twice a year. Just share with me your experiences and realizations in devotional service.
Please offer my obeisances to Maharaja and my respects to your good husband.
Your ever well wisher,
These are the beautiful kind of dealings that gurus should be having with their disciples. Indradyumna Maharaja is honoring divine faith, which is the fuel of progress in bhakti. Tripurari Maharaja similarly honors the faith of his own disciples should they find inspiration elsewhere. Faith is not a doormat, something to try to manage or control.
In the case of Trivikrama Swami (example 2), when his disciples approached Tripurari Maharaja for siksa, Tripurari Maharaja referred them back to their ISKCON guru for blessings and they were told that if they took siksa from Tripurari Maharaja they would have to leave ISKCON and Trivikrama Swami would reject them. This experience was recounted to Tripurari Maharaja and verified by others. Therefore these disciples were left without shelter. If Trivikrama Swami had permitted his disciples to hear from Tripurari Maharaja, there would have been no need to put the disciples in that awkward position. As explained above, Tripurari Maharaja has many siksa disciples who are initiated disciples of ISKCON gurus and for whom there is not a question of reinitiation. Many ISKCON gurus have graciously and correctly encouraged their disciples that it is okay to hear from Tripurari Maharaja as a supplement to their practice. This has not been a problem. The current GBC policy will make these cordial relationships much more difficult and only increase misunderstandings.
Example three from Appendix E mentions the case of a harinama disciple of an ISKCON guru receiving “second” initiation from Tripurari Swami. This is not “re-initiation.” Having one harinam guru and another diksa (second initiation) guru is not against our tradition or etiquette, and the disciple in question honors both of her gurus. I know of similar cases in ISKCON where the disciple accepted diksa from a different ISKCON guru. In fact, Srila Prabhupada set the example in this regard when he recommended a harinama disciple of his to accept diksa from one of his godbrothers.
If you want to take initiation from Madhava Goswami Maharaja, I have no objection.3
Prabhupada also wrote to Madhava Maharaja:
I understand from the letter of Asita das that he has gone to your place in Jagannatha Puri. He has asked permission from me for taking initiation from you. I have given my permission and you can initiate him if you like so that he may increase his devotional service there.”4
GBC policy continued:
4. Standards and practices different from those of Srila Prabhupada
Tripurari Swami requires a different, less strict standard for initiation vows. (See appendix F)
Madan Gopal response:
There are many differences in details between how individual gurus make the practice of sadhana-bhakti most effective for individual disciples. Prabhupada also made many adjustments, just one being his reduction of the number of rounds required in chanting japa from 64 to 16. I also know of many adjustments made by ISKCON gurus today. Such is the duty of the acarya, the guru. The guru has to make the practice relevant for the disciple, and this may vary according to individual circumstances.
There is a difference between details and principles in the practice of Krishna consciousness. Principles are not to be changed. Whereas details of how those principles are pursued and by which practices, are made relevant by current acaryas and gurus. These details serve to help establish the relationship between guru and disciple and need not be an arena for discussion by anyone else but these two.
In Tripurari Swami’s role as an acarya and guru in the parampara, he considers, in consultation with prospective disciples, how they will best advance through their practice of sadhana-bhakti. This does not mean the vows or number of rounds agreed upon are “less strict” than ISKCON’s. As a matter of fact, sometimes they are more strict. Some initiates based on status in life or ability to honor their vow agree to chant more than 16 rounds of harinama, while some chant less and many others simply chant 16 rounds. After all, if the disciple is unable to follow the instructions of the guru given to them at initiation, they will be guilty of the offense of neglecting the orders of their guru. Srila Prabhupada makes this clear in his Nectar of Devotion:
In the Naradiya Purana it is directed, “One should not accept more than necessary if he is serious about discharging devotional service.” The purport is that one should not neglect following the principles of devotional service, nor should one accept the rulings of devotional service which are more than what he can easily perform. For example, it may be said that one should chant the Hare Krsna mantra at least one hundred thousand times daily on his beads. But if this is not possible, then one must minimize his chanting according to his own capacity. . . . He must be sure to keep his vow. If he does not strictly follow this out, then he is sure to be negligent. That is offensive in the service of the Lord. If we encourage offenses, we shall not be able to make progress in devotional service. It is better if one fixes up a regulative principle according to his own ability and then follows that vow without fail. That will make him advanced in spiritual life.
The underlying basis of Tripurari Swami’s instructions and requirements of his initiated disciples is an attention to and honoring of their faith and their individual circumstances. This is a very personal and endearing system that I would suggest makes for a very strong bond between the guru and disciple.
GBC policy continued:
SUMMARY: Position and Policy
Srila Prabhupada labored long and hard to design ISKCON as a great transcendental boat. He believed that it was fully able to carry those who take shelter of it across the ocean of the material world to the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord. The planks, the sails, the rigging, and the charts of Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON boat are his standards, his mood of devotion, his instructions, and his system of organization. Thus, out of duty, to help assure that the elements set in place by Srila Prabhupada remain intact, the North American GBC is obliged to establish the following policy.
- Temple presidents and congregational leaders are directed to not promote or host Tripurari Swami.
- ISKCON devotees in general are requested to not promote or host Tripurari Swami.
- Tripurari Swami has his own society. As per international GBC resolutions,those who want to hear from, follow, and promote Tripurari Swami are advised to serve in his society, not ISKCON. (See appendix G)
- Likewise, ISKCON’s policy regarding those initiated by a spiritual master outside ISKCON—including those initiated by Tripurari Swami—is that they should serve in the mission of their initiating spiritual master. (See appendix G)
Madan Gopal response:
To be very clear, Tripurari Swami’s disciples do not use ISKCON facilities to promote him. ISKCON temples are supposed to be places of seva, and so when we followers of Tripurari Maharaja go to them, we are interested in rendering seva; singing kirtan to Prabhupada, Mahaprabhu, and Krishna, worshipping the deities, speaking on the siddhanta, and associating with the devotees. On Tripurari Swami’s own direction, we don’t have any other business there and don’t use the temples for politics. We have many relationships with ISKCON devotees and many of us attend ISKCON temples without any incident. There are also many of Prabhupada’s own disciples inspired by Tripurari Maharaja who are also members of ISKCON in good standing and render service within ISKCON. It is very much their right to continue doing their service to their spiritual master, as it is also their right to follow their heart and accept siksa from their godbrother.
GBC policy continued:
The North American GBC does not like being in this position. There is no short-age of conditioned souls eager to hear Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s message, and the world is full of ripe fields to spread that message. Lord Gauranga has given all of us His sweeping mandate:
prthivite ache yata nagaradi grama
sarvatra pracara haibe mora nama
“In every town and village, the chanting of My name will be heard.”
As fellow followers of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and our previous acharyas, we pray that the seva of ISKCON and of Tripurari Swami may continue to bring benediction to the forgetful jivas of this age. At the same time, experience tells us that it will benefit us all, help us all avoid Vaisnava aparadha, and protect Srila Prabhupada’s position in and standards for his Society, if ISKCON and Tripurari Swami spread Krishna consciousness each in our own specific and separate ways.
The North America GBC Executive committee
Contact: Nityananda dasa / NA GBC executive committee chair
Madan Gopal response:
I hope it is clear that the North American GBC does not need to be in this position. As fellow followers of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, our previous acaryas, and Srila Prabhupada, ISKCON and Tripurari Swami’s mission could be serving Mahaprabhu’s sweeping mandate arm in arm. Though there may be some differences in details between our two missions, there is no good reason why the two cannot continue to work cooperatively. We have a record of doing that for many years without incident, most notably in North Carolina where the local GBC does not oppose our co-existence with the ISKCON community and temple. Unfortunately, it seems that elements of the North American GBC and perhaps other ISKCON leaders are determined to see that a divide is created and widened. We also know that the policy, although officially an action of the North American GBC, has already made its way to Europe, essentially making it an international policy. When this policy was originally conceived of by the GBC, they planned on releasing it to ISKCON temple presidents without notifying Tripurari Swami. It was ISKCON devotees who intervened and asked that the GBC show the courtesy to Tripurari Swami by informing him of the planned release of this policy. Despite many attempts on our part, the GBC ignored our requests for communication and decided to release this policy in the current form. It seems the only reasonable way to interpret this action is to conclude that the North American GBC is insincere in their claim of regret for “being in this position.”
In conclusion, I would like to offer my heartfelt apologies if my discussion of this subject has caused disturbance to your spiritual practice. I cherish my relationships with my devotee friends and family, and yet our loving relationships must grow from a well-informed foundation. I pray that I have helped to clarify some issues and look forward to progressing towards our goal of prema-purusartha in your association.
Madan Gopal das
President, Saragrahi Community of Sri Caitanya Sangha
Hare Krsna. Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
I seek clarificationa about the reference to disciples of HH Trivikrama Swami. The article seems to imply that the disciples of Trivikrama Swami were re-initiated by HH Tripurari Swami, because there is a cryptic statement about them being “left without shelter.” Did they take re-initiation? I hope not.
Pancha Tattva dasa
Pranams Pancha Tattva,
Sri Sri Guru Gauranga Jayatah!
The disciples in question have indeed been initiated by Tripurari Maharaja. However, in his Bhakti-Sandarbha, Sri Jiva Goswami has explained why, in some instances this is appropriate. In general, if a bhakta was previously initiated into a non-Vaishnava lineage, then Jiva advises that they should seek initiation from a proper guide for the path of bhakti that they are now choosing to tread. In one sense this does not even constitute reinitation as presumably the earlier initiation consisted of different mantras and different conceptions.
However, Sri Jiva further explains, that there are instances in which a guru on the bhakti-marga does not behave like a Vaishnava by not recognizing other advanced Vaishnavas, in this case in the form of not giving their disciple permission to hear from other Vaishnavas who are nourishing the disciple’s spiritual life. In this instance, Srila Jiva Goswami also advises that disciple seek initiation again.
The fundamental principle is the honor and worship of the sraddha in the disciple. If it is treated as divine, as it truly is, then these issues would seldom arise because both gurus influencing the disciple’s life would be in concert in their aspirations to nurture that disciple. This is the method highlighted by the anecdote about Sripada Indradyumna Maharaja in the article. Tripurari Maharaja himself has arranged for his disciples to take siksa elsewhere if he felt it would be good for them, and at times, he has even encouraged their reinitiation on the basis of him feeling it would help that particular jiva soul the most to do so. Unfortunately, Trivikrama Maharaja, by contrast, told one disciple if she were to pursue Tripurari Maharaja’s siksa, she must have her name scratched off of his official disciples list. These is a drastically different approach to this kind of situation.
For more on this subject you can see this video:
as well as this lecture:
The lack of regard for the disciples’ sraddha is what I found most disheartening about the policy; both Swami Tripurari’s obviously unshakable faith in his gurus, and those seeking siska and diksa from him.
It is a very shameful policy.
Dear Panca Tattva,
I`m one of Trivikrama Maharaja`s disciples who was rejected by him. I was ISKCON member for about 14 years, temple resident for 13 years, temple treasurer for 13 years. For at least 10 years I was in charge of Trivikrama Swami`s project “Pada sevanam” which included publishing his newsletter, collecting founds for his preaching and Vyasa puja festival. I was also taking care of his Tape Ministry and the list of his discpiles.
To make the story short- at some point my faith in Trivikrama Swami declined. And this led me to serious doubts about other guru`s in our line and even Gaudiya Vaisnavism as such. I never found any better religion then bhakti and I didn`t want to give it up. I was in desperate need of siksa guru who could remove my doubts and help me to continue on the path. I prayed to Nityananda Prabhu to send me siksa guru and I was also looking on my own. In my pursue I never considered contacting BV Tripurari Maharaja in that regard because I knew about Trivikrama Swami`s prejudice against him.
But it happened that I took part in internet discussion where Swami Tripurari while replying to different question, removed one of my serious doubts. And then it happened once again. Then I understood: this is Lord Nityananda`s response. I wrote letter to Trivikrama Swami asking for his permission to take siksa from this Godbrother of his. And response came not even to me but to my temple president: “She`s disloyal. I don`t want to see her face again. Kick her out”. Vaiseseka Prabhu was mediating with him and finely Trivikrama Swami agreeded to talk to me. But he did not change his decision and finely told me I couldn`t be his disciple anymore.
Therefore I feel really sorry seeing all these accusations against my Guru Maharaja. He didn`t steal me and I was not looking for him. Nityananda Prabhu answered my prayer, who`s at fault here? And I was not going to give up my seva in the tepmle. But I was kicked out. And it was a blessing because I was free to join Guru Maharaja`s asram 🙂
In 1968-69 both Trivikrama (then a brahmacari) and myself were together at Beatle John Lennon’s rural estate at the time when Srila Prabhupada was there for a month or so. Both Trivikram and myself were alternately giving Srila Prabhupada his daily massage to aid his circulation, etc.
One day Trivikrama approached me and told me that when he was massaging Srila Prabhupada he felt that His Divine Grace was like a baby in his hands and that he knew just what was best in attending to Srila Prabhupada’s needs. His conclusion was that he alone should do the massages every day, in the interest of Srila Prabhupada receiving the best of care.
The next time I massaged Srila Prabhupada I put the issue before him, telling him what Trivikrama had said and asked Srila Prabhupada if he felt that Trivikram should be his regular daily masseur.
Srila Prabhupada retorted, “Any fool can do this massage.” We continued on alternating in this way.
So the question arises: Was Trivikrama genuinely concerned about Srila Prabhupada’s needs, or was there some personal motivation behind his reasoning?
Of course, not any fool can be a qualified guru. However, the same kind of question arises: When Trivikrama Swami places such an ultimatum before his initiated disciple, is he genuinely concerned about the disciple’s spiritual welfare, or is there some personal interest at play? Tradition, siddhanta, and the more mature examples of contemporary gurus seem to indicate the latter conclusion.
Nitaisundara, you have written thus:
“However, Sri Jiva further explains, that there are instances in which a guru on the bhakti-marga does not behave like a Vaishnava by not recognizing other advanced Vaishnavas, in this case in the form of not giving their disciple permission to hear from other Vaishnavas who are nourishing the disciple’s spiritual life. In this instance, Srila Jiva Goswami also advises that disciple seek initiation again.”
I don’t find this statement anywhere in the Bhakti-sandarbha. Could you cite the source, anuccheda, etc? Is this written somewhere else? I would like to see the quote and it’s context.
The source is anuccheda 238. The subject of the entire section is the service to other Vaisnavas with the permission of the Vaisnava diksa guru. In that section you will find the following:
The “avaisnavopadistena” from Hari-bhakti vilasa runs as follows:
Jiva Goswami’s language is obviously strong. But we cannot reject the mandate on the basis of its implications. If the shoe fits… In other words, if sastra teaches something and the implications run very counter to official policy, what can be done? The sastra should be the basis of policy not its opponent.
Please note that on the basis of this teaching Bhaktisiddhanta, Prabhupada, Sridhara Maharaja, etc. all reinitiated disciples of other Gaudiyas.
Lastly, as Madan Gopal has pointed out, the instances in which Tripurari Maharaja has reinitiated a disciple of a guru “in good standing” are few and far between and carefully considered. Please acknowledge that. Look at the timeline between when some of these disciples first contacted Maharaja and when he actually initiated them. Try to view it fromt he disciple’s perspective and I cannot see how one could not but feel sympathy.
Thank you for the clear reference Nitaisundara.
Pancha Tattva, I understand the focus of your objections has been re-initiation. I’ve read through every one of your replies on the topic and I would just like to suggest that most of your arguments against it have been an emotional appeal; it just doesn’t sit right with you that ISKCON guru’s “in good standing” disciples are re-initiated, etc. The problem is, your emotion only honors the guru, or really the institution of ISKCON. What about the disciple, the people who make up ISKCON? You don’t seem to be acknowledging what a very painful, confusing and difficult situation it is for a sincere sadhaka be finding inspiration, feeling pulled by all powerful conscience in one direction, and then being pulled equally hard in the other direction by feelings of guilt, shame, and accusations of guru-tyaga. Please just consider what a difficult head-space that is to be in. Anyone who has been in that situation knows how very difficult it is when you just want to do the right thing, you don’t want to offend anyone, you just want KRSNA, and yet you have this very difficult growing experience to surpass in sorting through how to honor people who have helped you when they are not honoring your heart.
Dear Pancha Tattva Prabhu.
I am one of the devotees who used to be Trivikrama Maharaja’s disciple. The situation was very difficult to me, but with the Tripurari Maharaja’s help, I think I managed to get through it in a Vaisnava worthy way.
I was initiated in Iskcon in 1998. I was close to Trivikrama Maharaja, he was looking after me in my brahmacari time, I was doing my best in helping him with preaching. When I got married I moved away from the temple and started grhasta life in some Vaisnava community (in Spain). I was very disheartened by local policies and that time my wife and I got completely discouraged from associating with Iskcon and generally we lost our interest in bhakti.
For next few years we kept to ourselves, and our devotional inspiration was almost nonexistent.
Then, in 2004 I received CD with Tripurari Maharaja’s lectures. That event changed my attitude completely. Immediately I felt spiritual enthusiasm reviving in my heart. That time my wife still wasn’t interested. I continued to listen to Swami’s lectures, then after some timeI wrote to him and we kept the correspondence for a while. I started to chant again, read sastras, consider myself a devotee (as I said, after a long break).
At that point, my wife, though she wasn’t very much inspired to pursue the devotional life, she was little bit disturbed by my interest in Swami. She only knew the negative rumours circling in Iskcon. She advised me to contact our diksa guru (Trivikrama Swami) and discuss this issue with him. I agreed with her. I wrote to Trivikrama Swami.
I explained to him that after few “dark” years I feel inspired to pursue the devotional service again, and I owe it to Tripurari Swami, therefore I would like to ask him (Trivikrama Swami) to give me permission to accept Tripurari Swami as my siksa guru. That time I wasn’t considering leaving Iskcon, but I admit that I knew Trivikrama Maharaja’s opinion about Tripurari Swami and I knew it was going to be a problem. Still I tried to balance my heart desire and the Vaisnava etiquette.
As I expected, Trivikrama Maharaja was very unhappy about my choice. We had a long email exchange, discussing all the issues involved – the Prabhupada’s position, Tripurari Maharaja leaving Iskcon, how to deal with Prabhupada’s godbrother’s, the Vaisnavas from outside of Iskcon, etc. In the end I was more then ever convinced about my spiritual choice. The Iskcon position, at least the way it was presented by my diksa guru at that time, was in my opinion in discrepancy with sastras, especially considering Srila Prabhupada’s position. Actually I found it almost identical with ritvik’s misconception.
Still, I didn’t want to reject Trivikrama Maharaja. I hoped that I can convince him to give me his blessings to accept Tripurari Swami as my siksa guru. After all I still considered (and I still do) Trivikrama Maharaja to be an agent sent to me by Krishna to help me in my spiritual life in the beginning of my devotional life and for that I will be always indebted to him. However, as I explained, at one point I realized that I can’t follow him any more, and to grow spiritually I need to follow my heart which clearly led me to another Krishna’s agent.
As I’ve proven I didn’t do it whimsically – first I considered all the arguments (from sastras and sadhus) and I had a long discussion with Trivikrama Maharaja, opening myself for new information that could change my mind.
Eventually he wrote to me:
“Thank you for clearing up your situation fully. I think I now understand your position better. You are free to take help from whoever inspires you in your Krsna consciousness, to save oneself is the first consideration. I wish you the best in your spiritual progress.”
I liked the answer, but I still wasn’t sure what it meant. Was he giving me permission to accept siksa from Tripurari Maharaja? I asked him that. He wrote:
“As you mentioned in your last letter you have heard all my arguments and advices but you didn’t accept them. So why are you approaching me again for advice? It looks clear to me that you have already broken our guru disciple relationship, so please do as you see fit.”
So that was a clear message. Since he wrote that our relationship was broken (and that I broke it, though I don’t agree with it), I was left without a guru. And only after that I approached Tripurari Maharaja for initiation.
My wife, after my email exchange with Trivikrama Swami changed her mind 180 degrees and in her heart she accepted Swami Tripurari to be her guru. When she contacted Trivikrama Maharaja about it, he only wrote her that she should follow her husband.
Both of us, we received harinama and diksa from Swami BV Tripurari.
I can only say that I don’t see anything inappropriate on Tripurari Maharaja’s side in this situation. He met two lost souls who begged him for help and he gave us that help. This is the real Vaisnava etiquette – mercifulness, kindness and love. I guess it would be easier for him to tell us to go away (he doesn’t have much use of us anyway) and he wouldn’t have to deal with Iskcon devotees slandering him. Still he accepted us.
I hope I explained our situation clearly, and I hope Pancha Tattva Prabhu that you’ve changed your mind after hearing me.
This appraisal and analysis of the situaltion feels very concise, very clear, very factual. It is very dispassionately written, shows no malice, but simply puts forth the truth of the matter in the face of purposeful misrepresentation of the facts surrounding the issues under consideration.
My only heartfelt desire at this time is to understand what is really behind this kind of activity. What are these devotees really afraid of? What are they trying to accomplish or avoid?
My only guess is that they are afraid of the fact that Tripurari Swami can offer something of quality, of leadership and guidance that ISKCON leadership cannot, and that they want to avert a loss of face and a loss of support and service to their programs. And this they choose to implement by creating a rift between ISKCON and Tripurari Maharaja. In otherwords I suspect it is only a ploy designed to prevent their family of devotees from being attracted by superior devotional influence, because they understand that this is the actual position. In other words, it is political move, and not a spiritual move.
If anyone can help me to understand in a better way what motivations lurk behind this situaltion, I would be very much interested to hear from them.
Otherwise, it is not surprising to see these things, as it is only more of the same as we have seen in ISKCON since Srila Prabhupada’s departure. That none of the leadership has gone on record as attempting to abort this recent stand, we can understand that this a united political manuveur by those who hold the reins within that power structure.
Certainly there will be those who will fall in line out of ignorance and fear, and in that sense Krishna will not fault them. But those who willfully contrive these false strategies can only bring misfortune upon themselves. So that we do not fall into inauspicious ways of feeling about this, the only antidote is pray sincerely that they will have a change of heart.
Ishan Prabhu, I also struggle with the same question. I can only conclude there remains a fundamental misunderstanding about the difference between matter (institution) and spirit (parampara). It seems that the GBC are more interested in maintaining the organization and it’s resources than allowing the parampara to remain spiritually vital.
This is complicated by the fact that Iskcon basically institutionalized aparadha against Pujyapada Sridhar Maharaja and is now apparently doing the same against Tripurari Maharaja. Such aparadha can only lead to a gross misunderstanding of guru-tattva, which is very evident from the reasoning given in the policy.
“Such aparadha can only lead to a gross misunderstanding of guru-tattva, which is very evident from the reasoning given in the policy”.
The question arises: Are we really dealing with a gross misunderstanding of guru-tattva, or is this simply a perpetuation of the intention to control the flock?
Were they trying to prevent the body of devotees from receiving the siddhanta from Srila Shridhar Goswami, because it exposed their improprieties? I think so.
And are they now trying to prevent the same in connection with Swami Tripurari, not only because of concern over issues of siddhanta, but also because of alarm that, of their own accord they do not have the spiritual potency to retain their flock in the face of all that Swami Tripurari has to offer? I think so.
I have attended Tripurari Swami’s talks, and I listen to his recorded talks with great pleasure. And I have spoken with him personally on different occasions. Never have I heard him take an aggressive stand against Iskcon, even in the face of questions put before him in these connections. He ranks among the highest in terms of his service to Srila Prabhupada while he was with us. He carries the torch of Srila Prabhupada’s mission so successfully, with no backing or support from Iskcon. And without canvassing he is attracting so many of Iskcon’s bewildered and disappointed devotees, always trying to respect diplomatic guidelines. And yet, these dishonest tactics are being employed.
In other words it appears that you are being overly gracious by suggesting that there is a “misunderstanding”. It smells like politics. But I will consider your perspective.
And still I repeat, let me try my best to be sincere in praying that they will have a change of heart, in order to protect myself from descending to an inauspicious mentality.
Thank you for taking time to kidnly and thoughtfully respond to yet another offence towards our dear Guru Deva which does always saden and enrage me. I wish I had the power of your contenence. You are a shining example of a student and an inspiring Guru bhai.
Spirituality is hard enough to persue within oneself for others to think it is acceptable to tell another soul what path is right for them. The most basic understanding is that spirituality is the most precious thing there is and anyone thinking themselves high enough to tell another who they should follow in their inspiration should be understood immideatly to have no standing as an authority on spiritual matters as they show clearly their position by such action.
Dear Madan Gopal Ji,
Essentially I just want to offer you a hug. That is more important than anything that BBC or GBC will or will not broadcast.
It’s sad to see that the “official” ISKCON is still apparently quite far away from giving up insecurities. And its interesting and somewhat uplifting at times to read your thoughtful responses. But in the end, we hope that these discussions will not endure. It is better to completely ignore such things. At times, such as this, it is impossible – and so I salute you.
Wishing you well, and always your brother at heart,
Vraja Kishor das
“I can only conclude there remains a fundamental misunderstanding about the difference between matter (institution) and spirit (parampara). It seems that the GBC are more interested in maintaining the organization and it’s resources than allowing the parampara to remain spiritually vital.”
My own understanding of the difference between institution and parampara is more nuanced. It is not merely the difference between matter and spirit. Sometimes the metaphor is given (both in ISKCON and in Christianity) that the “church” is the “body” of the Founder. However, we also know from Upadesamrta that that the body of a pure devotee is not considered material.
The metaphor and its implications may be apt. Considering that the sadhakas within the institution are encouraged by the Founder to work for the success of the institution’s preaching mission, such dedication to the institution’s success (including attracting followers, fundraising, establishing temples, distributing books, etc.) should not be considered material. They may become material if too much mixed with impure motivations, similar to the way eating prasadam may become sense gratification if not done with proper reverence for Krishna’s grace.
The GBC may consider that cooperation with the separate institution of Tripurari Swami is not the be all and end all of allowing the parampara to remain spiritually vital, and that maintaining the ISKCON organization and its resources is indeed a worthy and important responsibility conferred upon them by the Founder-Acarya, Srila Prabhupada.
It is not as if Tripurari Swami and his followers do not have their own organization and resources or that they are neglectful of their duty to properly maintain those things.
I would love to see all Gaudiya Vaisnava organizations to be able to properly cooperate with each other and give due deference and respect to all preachers of the Sankirtan movement. However, our past experience has shown that concerns on all sides for maintaining the resources of the respective organizations tends to lead to misunderstandings and quarrels.
I just spent the weekend at a conference of Hindu temple leaders and an Indian Independence day parade and fair where booths of various organizations (Christian, Sikh, Hindu, social welfare charities, etc.) were present. It is natural on such occasion that every group is mainly there to promote its own organization. Yes, there is some value to exchange of ideas and observation of “best practices”, and we can all learn things from one another — even from non-Vaisnava groups — but what goes on is that people politely listen to each other while remaining convinced that their own organization’s work is most important.
Formal cooperation and recognition can and usually does lead to misunderstandings. It’s not all one-sided. ISKCON makes mistakes, but so do the followers of the other acaryas. Frankly, there does seem to be a pattern of other groups “preaching” to attract followers from ISKCON into other organizations (and decreasing their commitment to ISKCON’s preaching work). I do not think Srila Prabhupada liked that. I think these may have been some of the considerations that went into statements of Srila Prabhupada such as “They [i.e., his godbrothers] can do very little to help us and can do very much to harm us.” It is not that he wanted us to disrespect his godbrothers, but he knew that the attempt at cooperation between ISKCON and outside groups — even Gaudiya Vaisnava groups — would lead to quarrels, offenses, hurt feelings, mass defections. It always seems to end in tears.
It just seems a safer course for the GBC to follow, with all respect to senior non-ISKCON Vaisnavas, to discourage ISKCON devotees generally from mixing unrestrictedly with them. Yes, there may be misunderstandings about the difference between organizational authority and parampara (the so-called “parallel lines” issue), but to say that organizational authority is unimportant, being material, is an oversimplification.
I laud the attempts of Madan Gopal and other authors to properly explain the contours of institutional and parampara authority and the proper course of dealings and etiquette in interaction of various Gaudiya Vaisnava groups. Still, I think the GBC has its own motivations and responsibilities and should not be ridiculed or demonized. These can be difficult and complex problems without simple solutions.
One could argue that if Iskcon is Srila Prabhupada’s “body” then the BBT is his “soul”–meaning the teachings of Gaudiya Vaisnavism are Srila Prabhupada’s soul.
If the teachings that are being distributed through the organization are not actually Gaudiya siddhanta, then how can the “body” remain spiritual?
I would argue that the policy demonstrates a misunderstanding of guru-tattva which brings into question the spiritual motivations of the policy.
The amount of members, temples, and funding are not an indication of spirituality. Adherence to the siddhanta is. Srila Prabhupada wanted us to study his books and apply the teachings, with the result begin natural outreach to others. If we fail to understand the siddhanta, how can we preach?
Again, I would argue that the policy is not based on siddhanta and therefore the assumption that a decision by the GBC is spiritual just because it is made by the GBC does not apply.
Akruranathaji, I agree with you that “These can be difficult and complex problems without simple solutions.” But I see this GBC resolution very much as an attempt to provide a simple ‘solution’ to a complex ‘problem’ (because I actually question whether such problem really exists). Only time will show whether this attempt works for Iskcon or not. For the last 16 years I have lived in Prabhupada Village, where there are several different Vaishnava ‘camps’, including disciples and sympathizers of Tripurari Maharaja, and in my opinion such resolutions and ‘solutions’ only make things more complicated and miserable for everyone involved. I have watched how over the years the animosities and divisions grow among the residents of this small community, and I see these very divisions and animosities as a true problem, not the fact that devotee A used to be disciple of guru X and now he is a disciple of a guru Z. These are private matters of faith that any community of Vaishnavas has to respect if it wants to be a true community. And if you really want to help people as a group, you want to bridge their divides, not make them harder to pass. It amazes me how the dogmatic understanding of Vaishnavism prevalent among the Western devotees makes it virtually impossible to form any kind of real community. We may think that we have the greatest philosophy in the world, but in real life we are an almost total failure – and that is a proof to a lot of people that we actually do not have a very great philosophy, or that we have polluted and twisted this philosophy to suit our own materialistic desires for control, prestige, and profit. And that is all I see in this resolution. For clarification – I am not a disciple of Tripurari Maharaja, but I respect him greatly as an advanced Vaishnava and I try to hear him speak when he comes to Prabhupada Village. I consider myself a member of Iskcon but I do not accept the GBC authority to dictate to me who I should associate with and who I need to avoid.
Akruranath, how is offensive behavior, such as barring a vaisnava who conducts himself in an exemplary manner as both a sannyasi and preacher, from speaking at ISKCON centers or to ISKCON devotees, based on the litany of rumors (old and new), misunderstandings, innuendo, and lies the safer course? It is such only to the extent that the essential purpose of ISKCON is to maintain membership rolls, bring in donations, and control those who show some interest in the teachings of Lord Caitanya. But those are not among the purposes Srila Prabhupada gave for establishing ISKCON. Rather, it’s for cultivating and propagating love for Krishna and his devotees. You have failed to demonstrate how this policy accomplishes anything like that.
As far as the metaphor that ISKCON is Srila Prabhupada’s body goes, I think it’s much overworked and far past its prime. In a Vyasa-puja offering, one former sannyasi wrote, “You always said, ‘ISKCON is my body.'” But we have no record that Srila Prabhupada ever said such a thing, much less always said it. And in the meantime, so much nonsense is swept under the rug in the name of this so-called dictum. Moreover, Srila Prabhupada said so many times that serving the vani is more important than the vapu. As a metaphor, it’s not apt but tired.
By saying this I have no intention of minimizing the importance of ISKCON. It is the largest, and, in many ways, most active of the missions representing Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s teachings. Were it not for ISKCON’s devotees, I would have been lost in the ocean of attachment and lamentation decades ago. And so many wonderful devotees live and work in ISKCON. But it’s not the only branch of the Caitanya tree. Moreover, I think ISKCON’s leadership has the responsibility for deciding standards for membership, etc. But “standards” contrary to guru, sadhu, and sastra are no standards worth striving for. When they are based on the kind of nonsense we see here, they constitute offense against devotees. What salutary results can we show from the institution’s long-running policy (now effected, perhaps, only unofficially) of vilifying Srila Prabhupada’s Godbrother and (in his words) siksa guru?
And let’s be clear: I don’t think that Tripurari Maharaja or his disciples want to merge his mission with ISKCON. His mission is separate, with its own (very sweet) flavor. And it is a very vigorous branch of that same tree. Just ask anyone who has found shade here. We do seek, however, an end to the campaign of lies against us. We do seek the opportunity to visit ISKCON temples when we have the opportunity without being asked to leave, or cautioned against speaking with anyone. We do ask that Tripurari Maharaja and his associates be given the respect that Srila Prabhupada would insist be shown. Not nominal respect, but honest appreciation for the contributions they make to the sankirtana movement. And, speaking for myself, I think that not encouraging devotees to read Maharaja’s books (as many of ISKCON’s leaders do themselves) does those devotees and the whole world a terrible disservice.
Pages 17-18 of the GBC policy consist of a letter written to me, Sri Radha Vallabha dasa.
Though I quoted this letter myself on Facebook, I respectfully removed the name of the GBC member who wrote it.
However, without informing or asking me, the GBC now uses this same letter publicly without erasing my name.
What disturbs me more is that in the letter quoted in the policy against Swami Tripurari, the name of the sender is changed.
The original letter (dated April 11, 2010) that I got was signed by Radha Sundari devi dasi; in the letter quoted in the policy’s appendix, the name has been changed into Ananda Tirtha dasa.
First of all, the GBC considers it acceptable to use a letter that was addressed to me personally, with my name fully mentioned.
Second, they changed the name of its sender.
(Hence I feel little reluctance either to break the rules of privacy and mention the name of the factual sender).
What is really sad in all this is that history repeats itself: Srila Sridhara Maharaja advised the Iskcon leaders to “honor the free flow of faith” but they were unable or unwilling to do so and the result was many people lost faith in Gaudiya Vaisnavism altogether. Now we see the same thing: the inability of Iskcon’s leaders to honor faith because it crosses sectarian boundaries or challenges their (flawed) understanding of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings.
This is what we find in the appendices for the GBC statement:
– Indradyumna Maharaja:
“Tripurari Swami “re-initiated” one of my female disciples about 6 or 7 years ago. He then informed me after the fact and gave a long reasoning why he thought it was okay.”
– Trivikrama Maharaja:
“Tripurari Swami has “re-initiated” several of my disciples:
Adi-kesava dasa and Rasananda dasa in 2002
Bhava Bhakti devi dasi in 2006
Madhavendra Puri dasa and Tulasi devi dasi in 2011
“Until now (April 2012), Tripurari Swami has not spoken to me about this.”
Note: Tripurari Swami claims that Trivikrama Swami rejected these devotees and only then did he “re-initiate” them. However, Trivikrama Maharaja states firmly that this is not the case. Trivikrama Maharaja reports that he did not reject these disciples but rather, out of duty, warned them that Srila Prabhupada did not want his follwers hearing from non-ISKCON Gaudiya Math-linked speakers.
– Bir Krsna Maharaja:
“Tripurari Swami gave 2nd initiation to one of my disciples, Gopal Nandini devi dasi. It happened in the first few months of 2011.”
Bir Krsna Maharaja reports that Tripurari Swami did apologize for this afterwards.
Statements by Tripurari Swami posted to the “Srila Prabhupada disciples” email conference:
“The guru has the prerogative to determine who he or she will initiate and what if any vows the disciples must commit to.”
“I have a different system. But I really do not think it is about numbers per se.” I was told that Bhaktivinod asked his followers to start with one round and increase as taste increased. Bhaktisiddhanta’s bottom line was “not to allow the mala to fast.” So the number of rounds is a detail, and we know this because we see that it has been adjusted at different times under different circumstances. And in one sense each and every individual is a different circumstance….. It is not really a formula, and we see that the previous acaryas have allowed their disciples to chant less than 16 rounds at the time of initiation.”
“Yes, Prabhupada established a particular standard but in doing so he established his own standards….”
Trivikrama Swami: “I have a disciple who is a friend of the Polish devotee who along with his wife was recently “re-initiated” by Tripurari Maharaja. He told me yesterday that in the initiation ceremony the candidate for initiation does not make a vow to follow the four regulative principles. The reason being that this is personal and private. Nor does he promise to chant 16 rounds. Instead they whisper into Maharaja’s ear the number of rounds they plan on chanting.”
This, along with the material in the rest of the appendices, give rise to some serious doubts for me about the probity of Tripurari Swami’s actions toward ISKCON. It is not a wonder that the leaders of ISKCON would take a dim view toward those actions, and stipulate some distance between ISKCON and his program.
– Trivikrama Maharaja:
“Tripurari Swami has “re-initiated” several of my disciples:
For the clarity-they met Tripurari Maharaja in 2002. Gaura sakti (former Rasananda) was initiated in 2004, after being rejected as disciple by Trivikrama Maharaja. Anadi Krsna dasa (former Adi Kesava) was initiated in 2008.
In 2007, and it`s me. As I explained above, I was given clear choice- follow my heart which meant following the guru sent to me by Lord Nityananda or giving up Gaudiya Vaisnavism at all. As one devotee commented to me at that time: “If you went away to drink alcohol and take drugs no one would give a damm. But for taking shelter of a Vaisnava you are persecuted”
Surprising? Would he even want to listen if he hates him so much? Two ISKCON devotees were trying to mediate my case- Indradyumna Maharaj and Vaisesika Prabhu. In vain.
Yet later he had no problem to allow one of his discip
les to take siksa from Vaisnava from Sri Sampradaya and to another one from Srila Narayana Maharaja.
It is precisely this kind of blind acceptance of the misunderstandings, rumors, innuendo, and falsehoods presented in those “appendices” that the NA GBC are relying on to maintain control over their followers.
As far as the “reinitiations” are concerned, I think those have been addressed quite clearly by those who were actually involved. It strikes me as simply silly to disregard their testimony over second- and third-hand rumors. Did you never play the game “telephone” at parties when you were a child?
Regarding your concern over the nature of the commitments made by disciples at initiation, I have a couple of points to make. One is that they are certainly details, not absolute principles, as far as the numbers of rounds or the way the vows are worded is concerned. Srila Prabhupada, no doubt bearing in mind Mahaprabhu’s admonition that devotees should chant a lakh of names, began with requiring 64 rounds of japa, and gradually decreased it to 16. So is 64 an absolute, or is it something that may be adjusted according to time and circumstance?
Moreover, I have several times, when a candidate whispers the nuber of rounds he or she intends to chant, heard him say, “That’s not enough,” and he asks them to commit to more japa. And I know many of those devotees, so I can tell you that many of his new disciples commit to chanting at at least 16 rounds each day. And those who commit to fewer rounds he advises to increase gradually as they are able, so they come to the stage of chanting at least 16.
Which would you prefer: Mechanically promising to chant 16 rounds a day, whether one is able to maintain that vow or not, or committing to chanting a little more than is comfortable, then gradually increasing the number as they’re able? Even more to the point, the quality of their chanting should increase, which is even more important than however many counter beads they pull down each day.
And at every initiation I have attended, and that has become quite a few, as well as those whose recordings I have heard, Tripurari Maharaja speaks at length of the reasons for adhering to the four prohibitions we generally think of as the “four regulative principles.” Every one. And he has already discussed this with the candidates for initiation beforehand. They know that’s part of the deal going in.
If you want to make any judgment about the “probity” of Tripurari Maharaja’s dealings with ISKCON, I would advise that you dig deeper than the GBC’s self-serving rationale.
Tridandi bhiksu Bhakti Abhaya Ashrama
So lets see… over the last 10 years Indradyumna Maharaja ‘lost’ one disciple to Tripurari Swami, and Trivikrama Swami ‘lost’ 5 disciples who took shelter of Tripurari Swami. They seem to remember well their names. In the same period how many disciples did they really lose? All those who left Iskcon for reasons other than receiving siksa from a Vaishnava outside Iskcon – do they remember their names and reasons they left? How many of them left because they were frustrated and fed up with the way things are run in the temples supervised by IDS and TVS? How many left because they felt uninspired, uncared for, forgotten, used and discarded? Are Iskcon gurus keeping close statistics on these cases of lost disciples? Based on what I have seen over the years, Iskcon gurus lose perhaps as many as 50 disciples to these ‘other causes’ for every one disciple who seeks siksa outside Iskcon. So where are the resolutions addressing these other problems leading to ‘loss of disciples’?
And besides… disciples are not like heads of cattle who wondered off and joined somebody else’s herd so they can be milked there and make someone else wealthy. They are immortal souls who joined Lord Caitanya’s movement to enter into Radha and Krsna pastimes on Goloka. As long as they are on the way to Krsna, there is no loss, only gain, for everyone. Please keep that in mind.
Beautiful second paragraph, Kula-pavana.
My dear brother,
I am enjoying this fiery side of your nature.
My view on this, is that Tripurari swami is a very advanced,fixed up, vaisnava,and in the absence of sufficient spiritual guidance from their diksa gurus, some aspiring kanisthas have taken siksa and/or or diksa from Tripurari Maharaja.
The positon taken by Indradyumna Maharaja, exemplifies a very advanced and exalted vaisnava, who puts the spiritual advancement of his disciples first and foremost above anything else,including his own prestige as Guru :” Trinad api sunicena….” The exalted vaisnava always feels himself to be the most unworthy and inept in serving The Lord and his devotees.I have read in one of Bhaktivinode Thakura’s’ bhajans, that siksa guru’s are many and are more important than diksa guru.The first consideration should always be for the spiritual progress of the subordinate aspirant, n’est pas?
Hare Krishna….. :” Your love for me will be shown, by how much you cooperate with each other to spread this movement” Srila Prabhupada.
My dear vaisnava brothers,please! be wary of committing the “Elephant Offence”.
Maharaja, please accept my obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
I’m a bit surprised that you would see as negotiable Srila Prabhupada’s standard for Harinam initiation – e.g., chanting minimum of 16 rounds daily. Tripurari Maharaja has clearly stated that this minimum number is no more than a detail.
In ISKCON, we accept Prabhupada’s standards as the functional basis for the society. Not to be discarded or modified. The fact that a prospective initiate – not an initiate, mind you, but a prospective initiate – is required to be chanting 16 round minimum for 6 months prior to initiation is not regarded as adjustable.
It’s just one of many indications that Maharaja has his own approach, and of course, his own institution.
Regarding chanting less than 16, that’s just fine, wonderful. But no initiation until coming to that stage.
Traditionally students were not chanting mantras before accepting them from guru. They were given mantra,japa mala, tilaka, kanthi mala, name at the time of initiation. It was good enough for the Goswamis and other previous acaryas. Each guru is free to adjust details. So at some point Srila Prabhupada had chosen to give 4 vows in certain way. If it was not a detail why did he dare to change it? And let`s not forget his disciples at that time mostly lived in temples and had no other obligations. Quite doubtful he was chanting that much himself when he was a householder
“Of all the regulative principles, the spiritual master’s order to chant at least sixteen rounds is most essential.” – Srila Prabhupada, excerpt from CC Madhya 22.113
The point is, a bona-fide disciple in line from Srila Prabhupada follows his instructions. They are not to be reduced, modified, or discarded.
We in ISKCON who are followers of Srila Prabhupada accept his instructions in his books. We don’t minimize them. It is clear to us that Srila Prabhupada ordered that 16 rounds minimum and the following of four regulative principles be the standard for initiation.
Whatever you may think the tradition used to be, Mataji, this is our tradition. And in ISKCON we are determined to keep to it. If someone comes and tries to change that tradition, going against the instructions of Srila Prabhupada, we are duty-bound to object – especially if they are busy re-initiating disciples of very nice Vaisnava gurus in ISKCON.
Pancha Tattva Prabhu writes
“In ISKCON, we accept Prabhupada’s standards as the functional basis for the society. Not to be discarded or modified.”
What a wonderful world it would be if that were true.
It is a little disingenuous to dismiss the complaints of gurus who’ve had their disciples re-initiated as akin to the misunderstandings of a “telephone” game.
And what game it is to reject a disciple without proper reason and then complain about his/her being initiated by other guru? Are we stamps or postcards to be collected? Are we owned by guru or his institution?
This is what Srila Prabhupada has to say:
“The disciple accepts the spiritual master as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As stated by Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura in Gurv-astaka, saksad-dharitvena: “One directly accepts the guru, the spiritual master, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” One should accept the spiritual master not in the sense that the Mayavadi philosophers do, but in the way recommended here. Since the spiritual master is the most confidential servant of the Lord, he should be treated exactly like the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The spiritual master should never be neglected or disobeyed, like an ordinary person.” – excerpt from purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.28.43
This is the general principle.
Yes, you mentioned most important point. Disciple should accept guru as Supreme Personality of Godhead. But sometimes guru doeas something that makes it impossible for disciple to see him that way. Sastras give the solution- find siksa guru you are able to follow. And that`s what we did.
And it seems a little credulous to accept those gurus’ versions of what happened over the testimony of a number of the disciples, including the names of other witnesses, simply because those gurus have some impressive position in the Society. I mean, haven’t we been through this before? And even very recently?
That’s a fair criticism, Maharaja. That’s why I have specifically not addressed the individual situations.
Of course there are circumstances for re-initiation. But I don’t consider that I have the insight to judge any of these incidents. Even reading these personal testimonies from former disciples of ISKCON gurus, I know that I’m not hearing the whole story.
I am writing on a matter of general principle.
Specifically, however, I will say that I don’t see that HH Trivikram Swami, HH Bir Krsna Swami or HH Indradyumna Swami are fallen. They’re very nice devotees and they’ve dedicated their lives to Srila Prabhupada. And they have many very happy disciples.
And, in some cases, they’ve been offended by Tripurari Swami’s actions.
You claim to not have the insight to judge when reinitiation is appropriate while at the same time your entire involvement here has been an effort to paint Tripurari Maharaja’s actions as inappropriate, which implies quite overtly that you do think yourself capable of judging these situations. Please pick one. You cannot have your assertive hubris and your meekness both.
Secondly, nobody here has equated Trivikrama, Bir Krishna, and Indradyumna Maharajas. Did you read the full article? Bir Krishna Maharaja’s disciple was never reinitiated, to say so was the GBC’s lazy journalism and this was already mentioned in the article. If you want to reject every fact that does not conform to your assumptions then there is no point in discussing anything here. Indradyumna Maharaja’s disciple was also not reinitiated and he behaved exemplary, and this was also mentioned in the article. It is only Trivikrama Maharaja who did not behave in a manner befitting a Vaishnava sadhu, and even then as you can see his former disciples have expressed appreciation for the role he played in their life.
Someone having many happy disciples does not in and of itself mean anything. What we are discussing is how they treat those disciples who have been moved by inspiration outside of ISKCON.
Your last point, about some persons being offended by Tripurari Maharajas actions brings up a very important point: It is so perplexingly myopic for someone to expect Tripurari Maharaja to honor those who have cast the first stone by stating that his siksa and diksa are deviant from Srila Prabhupada (a slightly euphemistic way of saying he is not bonafide). It is the height of hypocritical entitlement to then expect him to defer to such people and honor their diksa initiations. The facts are clear as day: if ISKCON gurus behave philosophically and in the best interest of their disciples, Tripurari Maharaja sees no need for reinitiation and does not give it. If an ISKCON guru reveals a sense of disciple ownership and institutional loyalty over spiritual considerations then, in accord with scriptural mandates, Tripurari Maharaja will initiate someone who had previously been initiated. To date, these initiations have numbered very few.
I think you’ll find that, if you ask Bir Krishna Maharaja or Indradyumna Maharaja, they don’t share these complaints against Tripurari Maharaja. As you can see from Madan Gopal’s article, Indradyumna Maharaja wrote a very nice letter giving a Harinama disciple permission to take second initiation from Tripurari Maharaja. And I know that Bir Krishna Maharaja does not have any appreciation at all for this policy. In fact, he seems to have a very warm, friendly relationship with Tripurari Maharaja. Whatever the circumstances surrounding the second initiation of that one Harinama disciple of his, it is no impediment to BKG’s appreciation of Tripurari Maharaja.
I also respect both of them, and I’ve been friendly with Trivikrama Maharaja for a long time. We don’t agree on a number of things, but we are always happy to see each other. I don’t assert that he is fallen. But his treatment of these disciples cannot enhance his reputation as a compassionate man. The sense of proprietorship we see in some of ISKCON’s gurus (and which seems to be absent in the character of both Indradyumna Maharaja and Bir Krishna Maharaja) is due to a misunderstanding of what that service is about.
You say you have no insight for judging these situations, but you dismiss the disciples’ accounts while accepting the NA GBC’s version. Something seems inconsistent here. Perhaps you’re letting them do your thinking for you. That’s probably just what they had in mind. Never mind that Srila Prabhupada wants us to become independently thoughtful. It’s better that we just go along to get along.
Pacha Tattva Dasa,
It was you who asked for more details about the situation of Trivikrama Maharaja’s disciples in the first place:
Now that the details have been provided you insist that you are only writing on “a matter of general principle”.
And, frankly, it was not “whisper time” when disciples went before Srila Prabhupada to pledge their vows for Harinam initiation. They said it for all to hear: No meat-eating, no gambling, no intoxication, no illicit sex. 16 rounds – minimum – every day.
Pancha Tattva das,
It appears that you use the words “whisper time” in response to Asrama Maharaja’s use of the telephone game analogy. But please keep in mind that Asrama Maharaja employs that analogy to characterize a weakness in the policy’s methodology, rather than to, say, question the spiritual standing of the initiating gurus quoted by the GBC. Unfortunately your choice of words has the effect (I assume quite unintentional) of diminishing Tripurari Maharaja’s students. Even the GBC’s policy stops short (albeit not by much) of suggesting that Tripurari Maharaja’s initiations are invalid. After all, if they weren’t spiritually legitimate the GBC would have few concerns about “re-initiations,” no?
Otherwise I can appreciate that you have sought details on the various re-initiations alluded to with scant detail in the policy. That questioning has brought out clarifying perspectives and testimonials from Braja-sundara dasi and Kalpataru das. Those devotees did not approach Tripurari Maharaja for “whisper time” or any other game (at least on this plane), I can assure you.
My point is that, in ISKCON, the Harinam initiation is a vow by the disciple, before the fire, the Deities, the spiritual master and the assembled devotees, that I will follow these principles, I will chant 16 rounds minimum every day. The spiritual master accepts the disciple and promises to guide him back home, back to Godhead.
Perhaps the expression “whisper time” was too familiar. For that, I apologize. But I think you caught my point, didn’t you? In ISKCON, there is a standard for Harinam initiation. By the statements given here, there is a differnt standard followed by Tripurari Swami.
I don’t presume to say that HH Tripurari Swami’s giving initiation is not bona-fide. Far from it. I have an abiding respect for Maharaja that goes back a long way. But his standard for initiations is not ISKCON’s. It’s not our standard. Why, therefore, should the leaders of ISKCON welcome this different standard? And why should they not be disturbed if he’s re-initiating their disciples?
Whether they make the promise out loud or in whispers, the REAL POINT is whether they keep it or not. You think saying the vows out loud helps to keep the promise? Do you have any proof to that? It did not seem to help very much so many of the Iskcon disciples who fell down despite their loud declarations. Besides Iskcon, which Vaishnava institutions or gurus have this type of ritual? Criticizing Tripurari Maharaja for adopting this system is very superficial – merely looking for anything that can make him look bad.
Swami Bhaktivedanta’s standard for giving initiation was different from that of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati.
Bhaktivedanta Swami required certain principles and numbers of rounds, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati did not make his disciples promise wows or rounds.
Initiation standards are details.
Otherwise how could Swami Bhaktivedanta be said to be in line with Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati if having a different initiation standard would be a philosophical and spiritual deviation?
My experience – being amongst followers of various gurus – is that those who want to follow something, will do it or will not do it, whether not under vow or being under strict vows.
Yes, whisper time tends to come afterward when acaryas make concessions on a personal basis but must do so behind closed doors because ISKCON has in so many ways clipped the wings of its own acaryas in a misguided attempt to “protect” disciples. Protection is only properly acheived through sambhanda jnana, both for the leaders and the students.
Here is what Srila Prabhupada says about vows:
Can you explain how tripurari Maharaja has deviated from this?
Lastly, will you please answer me squarely: How do you defend Srila Prabhupada’s standard of 16 rounds if one of his Godbrothers were to say that such a standard was a deviation from Bhaktisiddhanta? How would you argue his case? I am genuinely eager to understand.
Anyway Bhakisiddhanta has a standard of 4 rounds for harinama diksha when it came to householders and this rumor spread about 64 rounds is not accurate. Only for people in the matha, when there is no other engagements, they needed to do 64 rounds. BSST had at least 60,000 harinama disciples and he gave harinama on railway platforms freely.
Srila Prabhupada spread Krsna consciousness all over the world. His godbrothers, who argued against his preaching and sometimes actively opposed him, did not do this.
Srila Prabhupada was not your ordinary spiritual master. Surely you are aware of this. Why would this even be a question for you?
Are you trying to use this argument to justify lowering the number to, say, 12 rounds, or 8 rounds, or 4? Prabhupada was very clear – in his books, and any number of times – about the importance of chanting a minimum of 16 rounds.
It is very illuminating that you so incompletely quoted Srila Prabhupada from Nectar of Devotion. Those little ‘dots’ (…..) marked where you skipped over a very relevant passage. Perhaps it is your honest mistake. Let me quote it for you:
“Generally, we recommend our disciples to chant at least sixteen rounds on their japa beads daily, and this should be completed. But if one is not even able to chant sixteen rounds, then he must make it up the next day.”
You left this out. Why???
Let’s get some clarity on the discussion of standards: Everybody is clear that Srila Prabhupada had certain standards and that Tripurari Maharaja has others. There is no need to try to make that point. The discussion is whether there is a legitimate place for different standards in service to the principle of the guru nurturing the disciple’s growth.
If you want to claim that only Srila Prabhupada can do this, you have to show both why he can apparently diverge from previous standards while at the same time nobody else can. Good luck. It is an amazing feature of ISKCON’s quasi-rtvikism that grand-disciples of srila Prabhupada have been trained to believe that their own guru is somehow lacking. Guru means qualified to adjust things. If someone thinks only Prabhupada was and will ever be qualified to truly nurture his disciples as he sees fit, then in reality they actually do not think anyone else is fit to be guru, because that is the role of the guru. Your surprise that one such as myself would feel conviction that my guru is qualified to adjust the specifics of my spiritual practice only shows the compromised conception of guru-tattva that pervades ISKCON and also seeks to subordinate its gurus to the GBC.
As for the quotation, that part was excluded because it refers to the specific standard of Srila Prabhupada. The rest of the excerpt speaks very clearly of a guiding principle.
The problem is, you make your argument from the point of view that Srila Prabhupada is just another guru. Members of ISKCON don’t see him this way. Srila Prabhupada is indeed “the master at whose feet other masters sit.”
We read the Bhaktivedanta purports and accept their conclusions. Prabhupada’s books are our guiding light.
Interesting that you should treat part of the quote from Nectar of Devotion as acceptable and part as not pertinent to you – going so far as to skip over it. You want only the egg-laying end of the hen. Good luck with that.
We’re not like that with Srila Prabhupada, because we consider ourselves his disciples and granddisciples. For the granddsciples, the Bhaktivedanta purports are equally relevant.
You would marginalize Srila Prabhupada by accepting some bits and pieces of his books while putting aside others. That is effectively your idea. You just demonstrated it.
We’re not “quasi-rtviks.” (Give a dog a bad name and hang it.) We follow in the footsteps of Srila Prabhupada by following his instructions. We study Prabhupada’s books every day. Srila Prabhupada is our param siksha guru. There’s no need to change or water down his instructions, and there’s no need to embrace one instruction and duck another. By adhering closely to the instructions of Srila Prabhupada, the granddisciples bring great happiness to their spiritual masters. It is unfortunate that you mock that.
Srila Prabhupada brought Krsna consciousness to the West. He was empowered to guage the conditions and set standards accordingly. Tripurari Maharaja is certainly free to make whatever adjustments or changes he wants to in his camp – but not in ISKCON.
No, the problem is that you and so many others have completely separated Prabhupada from the Parampara, which, by his own declaration, is where his qualification comes from. You read his books and seek to highlight select statements that you think or have been told are the core of his teachings and instead of understanding those statements within the overall body of Gaudiya teachings (or even within the overall body of Bhaktivedanta purports), you simply take them dogmatically and reject any more developed understanding that would arise were you to temper your reading of Prabhupada with knowledge of the whole corpus of Gaudiya literature. This discussion is a perfect example. Here I am, citing Jiva Goswami, and you are arguing that I am wrong because the institution has managed to convince you, probably without you realizing it, that it is Prabhupada’s shakti incarnate on earth and subsequently all the sectarian policies it has indoctrinated have become the lens through which you read the sastra. You have it backwards. We are to develop sastra-caksuh, not society-caksuh.
Even your understanding of what makes Srila Prabhupada a ‘prabhupada’ is rooted in society consciousness. His unprecedented and eternally glorious accomplishments in the preaching realm were a byproduct of his deep and internal love of God. The love of God is the qualification, not the preaching accomplishment. Proof? Gaura-kishora dasa babaji, Jagannatha dasa babaji, and every other uttama-bhakta who did not introduce Gaudiya Vaishnavism to the entire world (i.e. all of them except Srila Prabhupada). Were these people not qualified to adjust their disciple’s number of rounds? So the qualification comes from the level of internal bhakti, and the sad-guru, by definition, has such internal bhakti. Therefore, every qualified guru is qualified to make the kind of adjustments that you fault Tripurari Maharaja for. And every disciple should feel their guru to have such qualification, or they should find another guru. And third parties should honor that vision of the disciple. Does one have to discover another inhabited planet on which to introduce Krishna Consciousness in order to prove to your mind that they are qualified to help their disciple as they see fit? While hiding behind loyalty to Srila Prabhupada you are elevating your capacity to assess qualifications as the absolute standard. The reality is, how would someone like you treat a Gaura-kishora dasa babaji if they appeared among us today, what to speak of someone as innovative as Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Think about that. Would you be able to recognize their divine nature? Would the GBC?
This is why I say quasi-rtvik, because ISKCON has ended its parampara with Srila Prabhupada, like the rtviks. It’s official policy subordinates gurus to the GBC, which calls into question how fully one can be a guru within the laws of the institution. Indeed we see the more influential and inspiring gurus eventually become stifled by the institution. The slight of hand is that people, like yourself, are convinced that what are actually standard duties and activities of an acarya (like adjusting standards and writing commentaries on sastra) are actually extraordinary activities that are only reserved for Srila Prabhupada (and the entire parampara before him, curiously). So then the whole compromised system works because guru is redefined to conform with the role that ISKCON wants them to play in their society and Srila Prabhupada is presented as everyone’s main guru, to be understood through the society’s teaching of who he is. So quasi-rtvik is quite accurate. This reality is further attested to by the strong overt-rtvik population in Iskcon communities and even in some important roles within the society.
Nitaisundara, your second akapit makes the whole point!
Dear Akruranatha Prabhu,
“The GBC may consider that cooperation with the separate institution of Tripurari Swami is not the be all and end all of allowing the parampara to remain spiritually vital, and that maintaining the ISKCON organization and its resources is indeed a worthy and important responsibility conferred upon them by the Founder-Acarya, Srila Prabhupada.”
I agree that an institution may have valid reasons for not cooperating with another institution. However, I believe that what is at issue here is the way in which Iskcon has gone about that—in the words of Madan-gopal Prabhu, “spreading misconceptions and at times outright lies about Tripurari Swami.” This same objectionable approach began with Srila Sridhara Maharaja and has been repeated with several other Vaisnavas since.
If the cooperation that Srila Prabhupada wanted is not possible—and I can’t say that I’ve seen the GBC expend much effort for this—then it is still not necessary to misrepresent Vaisnavas in the manner which was done with Srila Sridhara Maharaja and now Srila Tripurari Maharaja. For this reason, I feel that Gauravani’s assessment that the GBCs actions in this instance were not “spiritually vital” was accurate.
Pancha Tattva dasa,
I find your comments about chanting 16 rounds to be really rigid—chant 16 rounds, ask all disciples to chant 16 rounds, or you are not a follower of Srila Prabhupada and you can’t get initiated. If Tripurari Maharaja has a more lenient policy for initiation (expands the circle of compassion), what is the fault or problem with that? Does one have to do everything exactly as Srila Prabhupada did to be his follower? Why didn’t Srila Prabhupada have to follow his own guru exactly then?
Furthermore, you say, “In ISKCON, we accept Prabhupada’s standards as the functional basis for the society. Not to be discarded or modified.” I have heard from several Iskcon devotees that many Iskcon gurus actually do make modifications to the number of rounds chanted by initiated devotees in circumstances when a disciple can’t chant 16 rounds. This indicates that the issue isn’t as black and white as you indicate even in Iskcon.
I will take as a compliment your label of “rigid.” Thank you. In regard to the principles and 16 rounds, we have to be rigid like anything. That is what is expected when one takes a vow:
“Now I have taken vow before Deity because at the time of initiation, it is promised before the Deity, before the fire, and before the spiritual master, before the Vaisnava, that ‘I’ll not have illicit sex.’ That is promised. How can I break it?” This is tapasya. “I have taken vow before the Deity, before fire, before my spiritual master, before the Vaisnavas, ‘No illicit sex, no meat-eating, no drinking or intoxication, no gambling.’ I have promised it. If I am gentleman, how can I break my promise?”” – Srila Prabhupada
I cannot speak for those who might accept disciples not up to this standard. The point is, it is not a standard to be modified or discarded. If the prospective initiate has to wait for some time to take initiation while he or she comes to the proper standard, then so be it.
Is it anticipated that some disciples will struggle with their vows? Of course. But here is the standard. Don’t give it up.
Without initiation, you can still do so much service for guru and Krsna, you can still make spiritual advancement. But for initiation, there is a minimum standard of behavior and following. Prabhupada has given it.
Pancha Tattva dasa
Dear Pancha Tattva dasa,
You have argued that disciples of Srila Prabhupada should follow the vows that they took. I don’t really disagree with this. What I was pointing out was that some disciples of Srila Prabhupada (Srila Tripurari Maharaja as well as initiating gurus in Iskcon) have made modifications to the standard of every disciple chanting sixteen rounds. Because it is the prerogative of the initiating guru to set the number of rounds a disciple chants and because we see in our Gaudiya lineage that different gurus set different standards in regard to the number of rounds chanted, it is unnecessarily rigid to think that gurus who have modified the standard of sixteen rounds for their own disciples are deviating in any way. This rigidity of thinking is actually offensive to those gurus who have made such concessions out of mercy and with insight into how to preach according to time and circumstances. Thus this rigidity is a far cry from the rigidity of following the vows you accept.
P.S. Some gurus may decide not to make any modifications to the number of rounds in all circumstances. This is also their prerogative.
Moreover, there are other areas of conduct in which ISKCON gurus and other leaders do indeed discard or modify those standards. If I told you what they were, you would probably be as surprised as I was when I heard this from at least one ISKCON guru. So many of Srila Prabhupada’s standards, from cooking to to cleanliness to Deity worship to worship of devas, and more, have been discarded or modified in the name of keeping things going. Your argument here simply rings hollow.
I’m not as naive as you think, Maharaja. I know there are so many problems in ISKCON. And, guess what? As you know, there were so many problems even when Srila Prabhupada was here.
That doesn’t give license, however, to change the standards. It means we work like anything to come up to them.
And there are very nice ISKCON devotees who are upholding the standards. Do you not know?
The issue is your idea of what the standard is. Yours is a formal and rigid approach that serves not to enhance co-operation and love amongst all devotees, but to alienate people and place some higher than others.
It gives primary importance to outer practices and thinks the mathematics of who can count the most beads is more important than the condition of the hearts of sincere devotees. This resolution will cause heartfelt pain to devotees of Lord Chaitanya. What “nice” devotee would do such a thing, or condone such a thing? The steely cold-hearted actions of Iskcon is not the standard of Mahaprabhu. It is power games and politics, and has no relation to true bhakti.
This comment is intended as response to Pancha Tattva specifically but also as a general observation about debates such as these.
Last night, Pancha Tattva posed a question seeking clarification as to whether or not Tripurari Maharaja has indeed initiated those who were previously initiated by Trivikrama Maharaja. I responded to him confirming that these instances have taken place, and I supplied an argument that involved 3 parts, based on the teachings of Sri Jiva Goswami in Bhakti Sandarbha:
1) One who has been initiated by a non-vaishnava should seek reinitiation
2)One who does not behave like a Vaishnava by rejecting advanced Vaishnavas can be included with those gurus that can be given up in favor of more capable and inspiring sanga
3)That the above two statements are applicable to the situation regarding Trivikrama Maharaja, Tripurari Maharaja, and some disciples.
If Pancha Tattva had been seeking to legitimately rebut my post, he could have made any of the following three arguments, as far as I can tell:
1) I have misunderstood Jiva Goswami and therefore my sastric support is invalid
2) Trivikrama Maharaja neither forbid his disciples from taking siksa nor rejected them, and furthermore, he encouraged them to follow their inspiration
3) Tripurari Maharaja is not actually an advanced devotee and therefore forbidding disciples from hearing from him is reasonable and siddhantically sound.
He did not make these arguments (which he would be strapped to support). Rather he simply pasted a part of a document that he downloaded from the Harmonist itself and presented it as if it constituted some kind of new evidence. The document already constituted the first agrument made in our ongoing debate. Madan Gopal’s response constituted a rebuttal. Pancha Tattva’s initial question sought clarification, which I gave, and then he saw it fit to revert back to initial argument given in the policy, effectively shutting down any attempt at a systematic exploration of the topic.
This was the first sign that this discussion was not going to follow a reasonable trajectory.
Later, two (and a third, by implication) of the actual disciples involved gave their personal and heartfelt testimony, which Pancha Tattva did not even acknowledge because, as is now clear, he is entering this discussion with preconception that Trivikrama Maharaja must be a “very nice Vaisnava guru in ISKCON” and therefore is faultless in all regards. With this bias only evidence and logic (however twisted) that support his preconception are being entertained. In these instances the ongoing discussion becomes more for the edification of onlookers than for the party that is not even technically engaging in debate on account of a lack of willingness or capability to be objective.
Again, as mentioned before, I’m not passing judgment on individual cases. I refuse. Jiva Goswami’s instructions on the matter are, of course, completely revelant as guiding principles. But stating those principles as if they automatically apply to all of the individual cases – and there appear to be quite a few of them – is a strain on your argument and not very credible.
It is telling that I had to ask a question to draw out the fact that ISKCON devotees have been re-iniated by His Holiness Tripurari Swami. It was not specifically stated in Madan Gopal’s original missive. I thank you for answering the question.
I mention that His Holiness Trivikrama Swami is a very nice Vaishnava based upon personal experience. I can see why you feel the need to imply that he is not, but I think you are treading on very dangerous ground while hiding behind Jiva Goswami’s general principles to somehow or other justify it.
I am not interested in going where you want to lead. I don’t want to commit Vaisnava aparadha for winning an argument or for the sake of being “right.”
I’ve made all of these points about re-initiation and the standards for initiation to highlight the difference between Srila Prabhupada’s mission, ISKCON, and His Holiness Tripurari Swami’s mission. That’s all. I think I’ve made my case. Hare Krsna.
I should add that I was quite shocked and disappointed to hear that Tripurari Swami had done these re-initiations, and equally unhappy to hear of his lessened standards for initiation. I’ve always looked up to Maharaja, and I’ve held out hope that there could be reconciliation between ISKCON and his camp. Alas, that does not seem possible.
Dear Pancha Tattva Prabhu. As Nitai said, you just ignored the testimonies given by the persons directly involved, one of them be myself.
Reading my story above, tell me your opinion about those issues:
1. What did I do wrong?
2. What Trivikrama Swami should have done or should have not?
3. What Tripurari Maharaja should have done or should have not?
I might be wrong, but it seems that according to you:
1.I should have stayed in Iskcon, even if it meant complete spiritual inertia and lack of faith in me. Like I was kind of “doomed” to be connected with the institution just because some time in the past I got affiliated with it.
2. Trivikrama Maharaja did nothing wrong, refusing to let me accept Tripurari Maharaja as my siksa guru, because the laws of Iskcon are more important then the spiritual well being of an individual, so better for me was to die spiritually then find new life outside of Iskcon.
3. Tripurari Maharaja commited a great error accepting me. Instead of showing mercy, helping me, he should tell me to go away, in the name of the adherance to some standart that isn’t even present in sastras – it is just a whim of an organization.
Is that right or I read you wrong? You said that you don’t want to consider individual cases, but individual cases are all there is. There is nothing more then it. So I would like you to answer those questions, please.
I think your analysis of the situation is correct, and I don’t see any benefit for anyone in continued discussion, at least until he has something to add. Yes, there are nice devotees in ISKCON. Yes, 16 rounds it ISKCON’s (nominal) standard. I will stipulate that. But he has shown nothing new that would justify the NA GBC policy under discussion. I also conceded that the GBC has the right to advise members whose association may or may not be salutary to their spiritual progress. But I see nothing that gives them the authority to bar any members from hearing from him, with whatever sanctions they intend to impose on those members. And I don’t see any authority for barring either Tripurari Maharaja or any of his followers from visiting an ISKCON center or attending a program at ISKCON members’ homes. Could I expect, for example, that if I were to visit, say, the San Diego ISKCON center, that the local GBC man should feel free to approach me and ask me outside so he can tell me to leave the property? I’ve seen it happen with other devotees.
I’m happy to continue to discuss the issue at hand with others, but only if there’s some chance to advance understanding of the constituent issues.
As can be seen by the link provided by Madan Gopal, the actual rules passed by the GBC are as follows:
1. Temple presidents and congregational leaders are directed to not promote or host Tripurari Swami.
2. ISKCON devotees in general are requested to not promote or host Tripurari Swami.
3. Tripurari Swami has his own society. As per international GBC resolutions,those who want to hear from, follow, and promote Tripurari Swami are advised to serve in his society, not ISKCON. (See appendix G)
4. Likewise, ISKCON’s policy regarding those initiated by a spiritual master outside ISKCON—including those initiated by Tripuri Swami—is that they should serve in the mission of their initiating spiritual master. (See appendix G)
The North American GBC does not like being in this position. There is no short-age of conditioned souls eager to hear Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s message, and the world is full of ripe fields to spread that message. Lord Gauranga has given all of us His sweeping mandate:
prthivite äche yata nagarädi gräma
sarvatra pracära haibe mora näma
“In every town and village, the chanting of My name will be heard.” As fellow followers of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and our previous acharyas, we pray that the seva of ISKCON and of Tripurari Swami may continue to bring benediction to the forgetful jivas of this age. At the same time, experience tells us that it will benefit us all, help us all avoid Vaisnava aparadha, and protect Srila Prabhupada’s
position in and standards for his Society, if ISKCON and Tripurari Swami spread Krishna consciousness each in our own specific and separate ways.
The North America GBC Executive committee
Contact: Nityananda dasa / NA GBC executive committee chair
I have hosted Tripurari Swami at my house before. I guess if I intend to follow this mandate by the North America GBC Executive Committee (and I do see it as my duty to follow GBC mandates, including this one), I should not do so in the future. (I have not hosted Maharaja since probably about 10 years ago or more.)
I do not think these mandates prevent me from reading Tripurari Swami’s writings or visiting his ashram or some program where he is talking. I do not see it as a call to be unfriendly with Maharaja.
I can see how it would hurt the feelings of his followers to read the GBC’s position paper, but I do not think it was meant as an insult or a statement of dislike for Tripurari Swami, though it did call into question the “probity” of certain re-initiations and certain statements he allegedly made.
I agree with Panca Tattva that those “involved” in the re-initiation incidents includes Trivikram Swami and Indradyumna Swami, who also ought not be disrespected or insulted. Their accounts can be considered, too.
I might not agree with the conclusions of the position paper or the way it was written. I have always felt affection and respect for Tripurari Swami, and he often presents Gaudiya Vaisnava philosophy in a profound and clear way. (I also have great respect for Indradyumna Swami and Trivikrama Swami and for devotees on the North American GBC Executive Committee).
I think we should try not to let this decision by the NA GBC EC cause hard feelings. It may be wrong. It may be insensitively expressed. But ultimately, I am sure that both ISKCON and Tripurari Swami’s sanghas can provide sufficient spiritual sustenance for their members, and there is probably some legitimate reason for the GBC’s conclusion the challenges of “cooperation” may be more difficult than the challenges of just not having Maharaja speak at ISKCON functions and not having his disciples serve in ISKCON projects.
Really, let’s not make things worse than they are. ISKCON devotees are free to like Tripurari Swami. They just should not invite him to speak at a home program or bhakta vriksha group or temple program. If people want to join his sangha, they should not be “persecuted” (who has been “persecuted”?), but they should realize that they have made a choice to join the Tripurari Swami group and leave ISKCON. They can still like ISKCON, just as I can still like many non-ISKCON groups, but if they serve in ISKCON it may often be the case that they start canvassing followers and resources away from ISKCON. Perhaps it is better that they just serve within their own group. What’s the harm? It is not “persecution”.
Here in San Jose/Santa Cruz, there is another Sangha called Sri Caitanya Sarasvat Gaudiya Math, consisting of devotees like Janardana Swami (formerly Panca Dravida Swami), Hasyapriya Das, Kumkum Dasi and many others. They are (as far as I know) pushing on the mission of Om Vishnupada Srila B.R. Sridhar Swami in accordance with his management instructions for his society. They also do not “cooperate” with Tripurari Swami and have him give classes at their temples, even though they are representing Srila B.R. Sridhar Swami’s own mission. I do not know if Tripurari Swami’s disciples serve there, but I do not believe they do.
So…it is not just in ISKCON, but within other groups that these problems and separateness arises. And yet for some reason everyone tends to criticize ISKCON “institutionalism” without recognizing that there are similar things going on in other groups.
We are not really “all one”. Srila B.V. Narayan Maharaja did not speak in Sridhar Maharaja’s sanghas, or vice versa. Why does everyone complain that everyone ought to be allowed to speak and canvass followers in ISKCON?
We need to find ways to be friendly and respectful while avoiding quarrels. Maybe the NA GBC chose a blunt instrument when a finer one could have done the job. I do not know. I did not participate in the decision-making or fact-finding, or all the history leading up to it. I believe there was probably a lot of history we all do not know about. And maybe the Committee members got it wrong (whoever they were..Malati? Romapada Swami? Anuttama? Nityananda? Sesa?) Maybe they will change their decision later. Management of ISKCON is not easy, and we do not expect it will always be perfect, but I do consider our legitimate managers to have legitimate authority to make such decisions (just as I believe the U.S. Supreme Court is legitimate, though I disagree with many of its decisions).
I think the best thing is not to use this turn of events as an opportunity to criticize ISKCON or its leadership and promote further quarrels and hard feelings. Tripurari Swami doesn’t “need” ISKCON. He does not want to be part of Srila Prabhupada’s GBC system. He would be the first to admit it. Why aren’t his followers happy to just serve within his institution? (Isn’t that his philosophy, that every initiating guru should have his own separate institution?) Maybe (hopefully) it will all turn out for the best.
I agree with every word.
Pancha Tattva Prabhu, might I ask who you took initiation from? I ask because there was only one Pancha Tattva that I know of who took from SP.
Dear Indranuja Prabhu,
I’m a granddisciple (I have never said I was a Prabhupada disciple), and you and I know each other and have served together in Detroit temple. My humble obeisances to you! I hope you and your family are well. Please offer Ankota Prabhu my obeisances as well.
If you read my various posts here, you’ll find I’m making arguments in support of not changing Prabhupada’s standards for Harinama initiation, and also questioning the general policy of re-initiation of the disciples of gurus in ISKCON.
I have tried to be studiously ‘on subject’ and have not taken aim at individual stories or anecdotes – although I have been baited a number of times by certain individuals, who apparently hoped I would do so.
I began by questiong whether His Holiness Tripurari Swami was actually re-initiating ISKCON devotees – because reading Madan Gopal’s original post “between the lines” seemed to imply just that – although he did not openly say it. Needless to say, I was very surprised to found out that this was the case.
Although I am of the opinion that Tripurari’s camp and ISKCON are two entities and should be mutually respectful of eachother, I have not said whether I approve of the stance ISKCON leadership is taking on this matter in their announcement – in particular, regarding associating with Maharaja or his disciples.
As Akruranatha Prabhu has so eloquently explained, you’ll find that other Vaisnava groups are not opening wide their doors and letting the leaders of yet other groups speak and carry on meetings in their temples and their communities. For some reason, there is dismay and anger when ISKCON follows this policy of formal separation. Whether ISKCON leaders can demand their members to have nothing to do with someone from another organization is altogether another matter. It’s never worked in the past. I doubt if it will be followed now.
For myself, I’ve never had much of an interest in going to anyone “outside of ISKCON.” I watched one Gaudiya sannyasi’s nascent movement on the rise when I was living in New Raman Reti Dhama and, while flocks of devotees from ISKCON were going to see this sannyasi, I wasn’t interested.
As soon as I find out that someone’s program is different from Prabhupada’s, or they’ve gone off and started their own movement, etc., it kills it for me.
You’ll also find that I don’t like it when people read Prabhupada’s books with the idea of picking and choosing what they like. I don’t think it’s the right way to hear from Srila Prabhupada.
The entire discussion is about individual stories. The policy makes reference to individual stories and we have sought to clarify them. Given that fact, the attempt to remain general more constitutes being off topic than it does staying “studiously on subject.” If you fail to see the nuance and consideration that is given to these unique situations every time they arise, I do not know what to tell you.
Pancha Tattva Prabhu, I thought it was you but I wanted to make sure before I replied. I can reply to your points point by point but there is one over arching point you need to be made aware of which, in my opinion, over rides all others and that is vaisnava aparhada. The problem is this is being committed by the NA GBC (and in reality one member only) in the name of “protecting ISKCON”. TS has never gone and poached anyone form any temple in fact one of our congregation recently joined his mission, mainly because I preached to him about it, and TS got on my case about not proselytizing but allowing people to come of their own accord in their time. Whatever you think or do not think on this subject, know for sure TS has always been a perfect gentleman and has gone out of his way to do the right thing by the sisya, which to me is the right way. To protect the faith of the disciple is all important as, after all, without faith what can we hope to accomplish. You should also know I do not do things whimsically and have read all of TS’s books and indeed have gone to a number of his lectures and hosted him recently. Of course this makes me his follower, yes, and I am proud of that but I have never followed anyone blindly, ever. So all I ask is look at what is being said then make a decision. It feels to me you are shooting from the hip on this one especially when it comes to Trivikrama Swami’s disciples. Look at what they say; what Madan says and then in that light look at what the GBC says. You realize (and I have the email sent to another who forwarded it to me) that I am also banned and yet I have not been formally told of this. Don’t you think that is strange (and BTW this is my 3rd ban since 1982). I beg you this is not the same as Narayana Maharaja or the ritviks at least look at this with an open mind. YS, Indra
You were given an opportunity to glorify your Guru Maharaja but in your answer you did not even once mention his or her name. It is a clear demonstration that the dynamic current of the parampara does not reside within your heart nor flow through Iskcon any longer. If it did, you would not have ignored and completely wasted the valuable opportunity to glorify your Guru Maharaja by at least speaking his name.
Although there are disagreements among many Gaudiya missions, I believe that Iskcon (after the time of Srila Prabhupada, of course) is the only institution who has made an official policy that no one can take siksa outside their own institution.
“………. I believe that Iskcon (after the time of Srila Prabhupada, of course) is the only institution who has made an official policy that no one can take siksa outside their own institution.”
What to speak of being barred from visiting the temple if they simply hear from another devotee ….. of Krishna!
Akruranath, I think the real issue here is the way this was put together. I don’t think it’s fair to say there was any offense against Indradyumna Maharaja. If there were, why would he have so freely written the laudatory letter we see here? Bir Krishna Maharaja has expressed his unhappiness, not with Tripurari Maharaja, but with the NA GBC’s policy. That leaves Trivikrama Maharaja, who has been unhappy with Tripurari Maharaja for a long time. That is his right, of course. But he has let that color his dealings with disciples. And those disciples’ accounts of what happened between them and Trivikrama Maharaja seem to be dismissed as not worthy of consideration. After all, they’re not ISKCON gurus.
Our objection is the litany of rumor, misunderstanding, innuendo, and falsehood used to justify this policy. But I don’t see that being addressed here, except to simply brush it aside as criticism of ISKCON. Never mind that a number of ISKCON leaders show no caution in their criticism of Tripurari Maharaja’s siksa, won’t allow his books to be sold in ISKCON-related stores or Web sites, dismiss his initiations as bogus, accuse him of poaching, etc. In the meantime, a good number of ISKCON leaders read his books and express their appreciation for them, subscribe to his online Sanga newsletter, and consult with him on a number of matters, spiritual and practical.
My sense is that most ISKCON devotees don’t care any more for this edict than I do. And they will probably just ignore it. It may, however, further undermine regard for the GBC’s judgment, much as the Pussy Riot trial and sentence in Russia will likely end up further marginalizing Putin and his regime. (Yes, I know: the analogy to Putin & co. is ugly, being stretched grotesquely. I’m addressing the possible effect on general regard for the GBC, not suggesting that any GBC member is a Russian despot.)
I am appalled by this policy, and yet I am not all all surprised. This is a bad combination of experiences.
Can someone please comment on what is the most appropriate way to resolve a conflict or contradiction between siddhanta and the teachings of a particular sadhu? It seems that what oftentimes occurs is that Srila Prabhupada’s words are taken as overriding the siddhanta if there is some conflict or contradiction. He made a passing comment and this is elevated beyond the position of the teachings of GV. In fact, many devotees who yank some comment from the Vedabase seem to have no qualms at all about completely neglecting the siddhanta’s teaching on matters. I wonder if devotees, even senior devotees in ISKCON, have just never learned how to engage these discussions properly?
In reading the ISKCON GBC policy I am struck by what little effort was put into attempting to justify such a policy with GV siddhanta. I understand that it would have been very challenging to do so, but it did not even seem important to the authors. Could this be a sign of this lack of knowledge on what is expected of GV discussion and debate and policy?
Well said, Gopakumara.
“Can someone please comment on what is the most appropriate way to resolve a conflict or contradiction between siddhanta and the teachings of a particular sadhu?”
What is the particular contradiction of siddhanta and teachings of a particular sadhu raised by this particular GBC paper?
I see it as essentially a management decision about how to prevent certain problems within ISKCON communities.
Has the GBC made any ruling on Gaudiya Vaisnava siddhanta that Gopakumar disagrees with?
I am sympathetic to the feelings that ISKCON comes across as bureaucratic, overbearing, insensitive to the internal life and details of all affected devotees. Still, I see it as essentially a policy decision for effective management, and I see it as within the GBC’s jurisdiction or purview to make such decisions for ISKCON. I do not see any issue of siddhanta such as explaining the nature of Krishna or the jiva or His saktis or anything. What philosophical conclusion is at stake?
In a discussion above, Nitaisundara essentially asked us to decide whether Tripurari Swami or Trivikrama Swami was wrong. I guess, more than that, he was asking if Trivikrama Swami’s behavior in forbidding his disciples to take second initiation from Tripurari Swami was so contrary to Vaisnava principles that Trivikrama Swami should be rejected as a bona fide Vaisnava spiritual master.
I think Panca Tattva wisely refused to go there. Why should we in a public forum discuss these things and compound misunderstandings, quarrels and offences?
Is this the kind of “siddhanta” we all need to look into? Do we really need to argue about such things in the comments section of “The Harmonist” (that would be an irony, wouldn’t it?) Let’s discuss siddhanta, yes, but also let’s do in in a way that promotes, rather than disturbs, harmony.
But really, Gopakumar Prabhu, perhaps I am missing something. What issue of “siddhanta” do you want to examine?
There is so much to respond to here that I am having trouble keeping up, but I wanted to implore you humbly to please read very attentively. I did not ask you to decide if “Trivikrama Swami’s behavior in forbidding his disciples to take second initiation from Tripurari Swami was so contrary to Vaisnava principles that Trivikrama Swami should be rejected as a bona fide Vaisnava spiritual master.” Indeed, there is no instance anywhere in this discussion where any disciple of Trivikrama Maharaja sought second initiation prior to being rejected by him. They sought siksa. Furthermore, nobody rejected Trivikrama Maharaja He rejected them. This is an important distinction. Lastly, I was not asking anyone to decide anything. My point was only that despite any and all good qualities Maharaja has, in the determination of Sri Jiva Goswami, in these handful of instances, his behavior justified those disciples seeking shelter elsewhere. I can appreciate the reluctance to enter a potentially offensive discussion, unfortunately that healthy reluctance is not reflected by the leaders of ISKCON who put this policy together.
Most importantly, this subject is a point of Gaudiya Siddhanta. It is Guru-tattva. Tripurari Maharaja is following the mandate laid down in Jiva Goswami’s Bhakti Sandarbha as to how to deal with this very precise situation of Vaishnava gurus and reinitiation. The only way to paint this as merely a management subject is if one is not trying to manage in a way that is rooted in siddhanta.
Also, perhaps due to your own good nature, I think you naively interpret this overall policy. It should be clear that the policy very much implies that Tripurari Maharaja is not bonafide. It says he has deviated from the teachings of Srila Prabhupada. How more un-bonafide can a disciple be? The real question is, though, what constitutes deviation according to Gaudiya siddhanta?
It was Pancha Tattva who actually asked for more details regarding “these things”:
Pacha Tattva dasa wrote:
In fact this was the very first comment to this article.
Now that clarification has been provided by first hand accounts from some of the disciples directly involved in the situation it is better not discussed?
It was the NA GBC EC who actually initiated discussion of “these things” and it was certainly an unwise decision.
Tripurari Swami himself asked that this discussion not be started in the first place. (See the letter above written to Badrinarayana.) This request was ignored.
Now that the NA GBC EC has made false accusations of a breach of Vaisnava etiquette by Tripurari Swami we are to remain silent?
First of all it is an egregious breach of Vaisnava ediquette on the part of the NA GBC EC to spread these false accusations.
Secondly it is stated in the sastra that we are not to remain silent when such an egregious offense takes place.
Thirdly the manner in which this offense has been addressed by the disciples of Swami Tripurari has been most restrained.
Regarding discussion in a public forum: The “position paper” was released to select members of ISKCON. This is akin to whispering gossip in the ears of select people which results in a rumor that is shielded from public scrutiny. Why not bring it out into the light of day? Why not let the accusations in this paper stand up to the test of public scrutiny? The accusations are false and the greater sanga of devotees will potentially be protected from repeating such vicious gossip against a vaisnava.
Rather than “compound misunderstandings, quarrels and offences” this is an attempt to prevent exactly that. The whole paper written by Madan Gopal is aimed at defusing the misunderstandings which the NA GBC EC has propagated and preventing any quarrels these misunderstandings may potentially cause. It is also aimed at preventing offences by making the facts clearly known.
In the case of the relationship between ISKCON and Sri Chaitanya Sanga here in North Carolina, there have not been quarrels and offences. In fact, for the most part, there has been exemplary vaisnava behavior from both sides. We have harmony here and the position paper of the NA GBC EC threatens that harmony.
The fact is that this position paper adds nothing to the existing laws and policies which are already in effect for the entirety of ISKCON. Already ISKCON members are asked not to host and/or take siksa from any Gaudiya guru outside ISKCON. Already the policy is there that anyone taking siksa outside ISKCON is not to serve in ISKCON. The policy paper only specifically mentions Tripurari Swami. This is redundant because TS is clearly outside ISKCON and has been for many years. So to consider that this is essentially a policy decision doesn’t really make sense. There has been no decision in regards to policy. The existing policies of ISKCON already apply to Tripurari Swami in the same way.
What is new are the accusations of a breach of Vaisnava etiquette which were either blatant falsehoods or misrepresentations of real events.
I remember one incident from 1991:
I was on a bus in Vrndavana headed on an ISKCON pilgrimage to Varsana or some other holy places, and with me on the bus was a boy of about 11 years old, and his father.
For some reason the boy asked me whether I thought it was a good idea if he took initiation from Narayan Maharaja. I have no idea why the boy asked me (of all people), nor why I did not have the presence of mind to simply tell him “ask your father.”
But he asked me, so I tried to give him my best advice. I said something to the effect that Narayan Maharaja was a very senior sannyasi who had been a friend of Srila Prabhupada and undoubtedly had deep understanding of the scriptures and realizations about devotional service, and if the boy was developing faith in him as a spiritual master I saw no reason why he should not continue to pursue possibly eventually becoming his disciple.
Then the boys prescient father (I believe they were from Australia or New Zealand) spoke up. He said words to the effect that “If you take initiation from someone outside of ISKCON, there is a chance at some point you will be cut off socially from the ISKCON community.”
I of course respected the father’s advice, but I was not aware of how perceptive it was until a few years later a serious rift did develop between Narayan Maharaja’s followers and ISKCON.
I look back on the conversation and think: “How wise the father was.” He did not tell the boy that there was anything wrong with Narayan Maharaja, and as far as I could tell he had all respect for Narayan Maharaja and for his young son’s decision (if that were to be his decision) to become Narayan Maharaja’s disciple. But he warned, “It might mean in the future that your social connections to ISKCON may become strained.”
Of course, there is no guarantee that accepting a spiritual master who is loyal to Srila Prabhupada’s GBC-system of managing the ISKCON organization will keep one within ISKCON association, either. The GBC may have a falling out with a disciple of Srila Prabhupada who is currently loyal to ISKCON’s leadership and committed to serving and encouraging his disciples to serve within ISKCON. Stranger things have happened. Trust no future, however certain.
Still, it seems the boy’s father’s was amazingly foresighted. (In 1991 I never would have imagined that such a rupture between B.V. Narayan Maharaja and ISKCON would ever take place). If you really want to serve in ISKCON and maintain your social ties within ISKCON, it is probably best to look for a spiritual master who also serves in ISKCON.
If it so happens that your eternal spiritual master is not a “loyal citizen” of ISKCON who obeys the decisions of the GBC (which, admittedly, can be really wrong at times), you should just accept that it might not be your fate to be a part of an ISKCON project or congregation. It is kind of like getting married: by surrendering to a certain guru you also acquire a whole family history, which hopefully should be free of too much impure, materially motivated interactions.
Cooperative projects between ISKCON and non-ISKCON groups might be desirable (I am often sad to see how all Gaudiya Vaisnavas cannot just harmoniously get along and work together), but it may be unrealistic to expect that they will succeed and flourish, at least at present. We should move beyond assigning blame and just realize, these are the historical realities, and probably will remain so for some time.
It is a fact that Srila Prabhupada did not encourage unrestricted mixing of his disciples with his godbrothers or other spiritual leaders. He did invite Sridhar Maharaja to come teach at ISKCON Mayapur, but Srila Prabhupada kept a pretty tight rein on how and when his disciples should interact with Gaudiya Math or other groups. He did expect them (with some exceptions) to maintain their identity as ISKCON members.
Though Srila Prabhupada did permit Siddha Swarup to leave ISKCON with some followers, he told other devotees (Bhurijan comes to mind) that his real preference was for devotees to stay within ISKCON.
Sure, first and foremost one’s duty is to Guru and Krishna. For myself, I have never felt any dichotomy between my duties in ISKCON and my duties to Srila Prabhupada and Krishna. On the contrary, I have felt that Srila Prabhupada wants me to serve in ISKCON. If it is not so for everyone, so be it.
You conclude that the father was “wise” and “amazingly foresighted” to tell the son, who was inspired to take initiation from Narayana Maharaja, that “if you take initiation from someone outside of ISKCON, there is a chance at some point you will be cut off socially from the ISKCON community.” It doesn’t sound very wise to me to respond to someone’s inspiration to surrender to Sri Guru by appealing to fear of the possible social considerations. This is just the mind (fear) getting in the way of the heart.
Furthermore, you seem to think that Iskcon is a totally safe bet in terms of the son getting both a Guru and the Iskcon community. But if it is important to consider the social implications of initiation, isn’t it even more relevant to consider the spiritual considerations? No one can deny the fact that Iskcon has a high percentage of gurus who fall down. So since you brought the topic up, someone might ask you, would the son be better off risking a fallen guru or risking being cut off from an institution?
In truth, the safest path to follow is the inspiration of the heart, the inspiration that naturally arises when we come in the presence of sad-guru. In contrast, fear and calculation are slippery slopes.
Furthermore, is the Gaudiya community so hopelessly quarrelsome that devotees of different institutions have to be so separated? I don’t think so. I’ve often experienced devotees of different institutions interacting without problems. In fact, there are Iskcon devotees harmoniously serving at one of my Guru’s asramas right now and it has been great to have them. Madan-gopal and his wife Gaurangi-priya have written inspiring things about their visit to the Bhaktivedanta Manor for Gaurangi’s brother’s wedding. These kinds of mutually enlivening exchanges are really not impossible as long as the amar guru jagat guru mentality doesn’t spoil everything. From what devotees have written, things have also been going fine amongst the devotees in North Carolina. So the need to attempt to erect fences in this case appears to be an artificial imposition from above based entirely on institutional considerations. As far as I understand, even the local GBC representative didn’t agree with this policy.
For further clarity, especially in regards to Akruranatha’s generous statements about the GBC’s foundation for this policy, I am presenting here the letter that Tripurari Maharaja sent to Badrinarayan after the initial draft of this policy was sent to him before being sent out to all the North American temple presidents. PLEASE NOTE that this email was never responded to. This reveals not only that the GBC was not “forced” into this situation, but also that the members involved seem to have very little interest in working toward a truth-based policy of peaceful co-existence, if there is not an outright malicious motive.
This is an almost unbearable conversation to witness.
The na GBC should withdraw this nonsense statement and issue an apology. Of course they will not do so. To disrespect Tripurari Maharaja , in this blatant manner, will only further deteriorate their complete lack of insight and spiritual leadership. It really is a bit much to have the GBC go on in such a manner. At some point these mean spirited and silly arguments that somehow or other favor a few, should collapse of there own weight. The Bhagavatama is ripe with examples of proper etiquette afforded advanced devotees. What do they think they are going to accomplish? Other than create a sense of enmity and hurt among Maharaja’s disciples. What are they thinking?
Heartbreaking and Absurd!
Panca Tattva Das ACBSP
Has anyone found a way to ensure that all ISKCON GBC and leading teachers in the mission have been informed of these exchanges and this policy? It would be great to see how this might be dealt with differently if the NA GBC is held accountable in its Governance to the Body it is Commissioned for.
If the leaders and international GBC are on board, then so be it. The problem will be bigger than we imagined but at least there would be accountability.
Thank you so much prabhu for writing the article and clarifying everything so nicely.
About the number of rounds chanted – I belive that most of us were quite young when we took to KC and since we received diksa our curcumstances have changed. I find it very difficult for some of us who have small children, or full time jobs, to manage and attentively chant 16 rounds of japa. It is hard for me to accept that devotees cannot understand this.
Well, this is the funniest thing I’ve heard in a while. I would like to point out how utterly oxy-moronic it is to ban Srila Tripurari Maharaja and his disciples from Iskcon in the interests of “avoiding” Vaisnava aparadha.
I refuse to dignify any of Iskcon’s ridiculous resolutions by taking them seriously and will no longer even pay them lip service. They reveal their lack of spiritual vision by equating Iskcon with the vehicle that can transport us across the material ocean and thus ignore the fact that it is Sri Guru who has the power to do this, not any mundane institution. They foolishly believe Sri Guru can be appointed by a committee and contained within geographical zones.
In the words of our beloved Srila Sridhara Maharaja, “Before an open and unbiased eye, the sat guru (real guide) shines above all professors of phenomenon.”
Furthermore, Iskcon’s resolution is in violation of their own prime directive. Clause (a) of Iskcon’s constitution includes Srila Prabhupada’s stated aim to “achieve real unity and peace in the world”. Clause (c) aims to “bring the members of the society together with each other”.
Iskcon is an embarrassment to Gaudiya Vaisnavism. Their resolution has no value. It is nothing but an impotent attempt to maintain a power they lost decades ago but are too blind to realise it.
All glories to Sri-Sri Guru and Gauranga.
Agreed Pancha Tattva, this is an ongoing issue with (some of) the NA GBC who are being provoked by a godbrother who is an admitted Ritvik but is who also quite prominent in ISKCON. The absurdity of this has not escaped most of us however, the idea that the enemy of my enemy is my friend is a very bad precedent. The only thing I can compare this to is the current malaise we see in US politics. I would have thought the particular GBC man who is pushing this absurd and heinous policy would wake up and see the disaster he is making of his spiritual life (and the other devotees who look up to him as a guide). While I cannot say what motivates him to such outrages I cannot but think it is time devotees in and out of ISKCON said enough is enough. Perhaps we can have a repeat of the 85/86 uprising that saw the changes we have today, but I am afraid the only thing that appears to have changed is that the devotees are even more apathetic than they were then. I have been out of ISKCON for 25 years and have no wish to ever go back (and BTW I am part of this policy so I guess it’s a moot point) but I know many sincere devotees who struggle under this oppression. All I can suggest is next time these sincere souls are putting on tilak ask yourself if this policy against Tripurari Maharaja is right and well conceived; ask yourself if what is now ISKCON bears any resemblance to the ideal SP asked of us; and finally ask yourself if you can, hand on heart, bear this offence to senior vaisnavas any longer. If the answer is no do something about it.
I am the disciple of Bir Krishna Maharaja who took second initiation from Tripurari Swami. I just want to be clear that I never, to anyone anywhere, claimed that Bir Krishna Maharaja was fallen, in fact, quite the opposite. I feel very indebted to him for all he has given me. I have lived very close to him in his community for 12 years. He has created a very nice, loving community here. I was somewhat distant from him for the past couple years, but I don’t place any blame on him, it was just the way things went for me. Other devotees were to blame much more than he was, just in basically driving me away with thoughtlessness, like is displayed in this policy. Since I was initiated by Tripurari Swami, Bir Krishna Maharaja and I have had several kind exchanges and as far as I can tell, we have mutual respect for one another. I feel he is truly supportive and happy about me trying to make spiritual advancement.
On a very basic and practical level, I would like people to understand what “policies” like this do. We have a very nice community here. We come from varied backgrounds, countries, gurus, lineages. And as far as I can tell, everyone is getting along very well without policies to keep us all on the right side of the fence. Several of Tripurari Swami’s initiated disciples live and serve in this community, as well as quite a number of his followers, all initiated by Srila Prabhupada or ISKCON gurus. As a community (not just Swami’s followers, but all of us, including disciples of many different guru’s in and out of ISKCON)we chant together, we honor prasadam together, our children all play together. We all play our own roles in serving at our local ISKCON temple. Bir Krishna Maharaja knows who we are, he encourages us in our service. My husband and I provide the temple here with nearly all their milk from protected cows, we (meaning Swami’s followers) lead kirtans, give classes, facilitate programs for our children. No one here seems to have a problem with that. Not that they have expressed to me or anyone else personally, anyway. So should we cut ties with our friends and associates of more than a decade and just create something separate?? That would really have them in an uproar!!We have deep and meaningful relationships with our community. We have trust and understanding. Not that everything is always perfect, but there is never any fighting. Disagreements maybe, but all resolved with respect and kindness. Many of us here are like family. And not just Swami’s “camp”. We are devotees. We are devotees of Krishna. We do not worship and do service in the ISKCON temple for ISKCON, we do it for Krishna. That is why we are there, to cultivate our Bhakti. What better way to serve in our Guru’s mission than to continually serve the devotees, no matter whose disciple they are, with love and compassion?? Because he may not hold us to the standard of 16 rounds, but he does hold us very tightly to the standards of kindness and respect, a standard that people all over the world seem to have given up, and often, sadly, in the name of serving God. This whole mess of a policy leaves me wondering about what kind of leaders feel it is a good idea to go into a community they don’t really know anything about and divide it right down the middle?? They used my name in their policy, but never once was I contacted by anyone to get my statement on what happened. And I believe it is kind of ironic that Swami’s presence in NC seems to have spurred this whole thing on, when, as far as I can tell, the majority of devotees in NC don’t have a problem with it. I may be naively blind, but I don’t think so. At least they don’t have a problem with his followers serving in their temples.
Much Love to those who have so eloquently and tirelessly defending our Gurumaharaja over and over and over and over again. Thank you for having the strength to engage in this. I’m much too weak for it.
Thank you Gopal Nandini for explaining so nicely what the situation is like here, in our community. This policy affected me ever since I heard about it, but I am glad that majority of devotees here realize that you cannot put some NA GBC EC before the Guru and the Shastra.
Thanks you Gopal Nandini, sweet and straight from the heart
Gopalnandini you have explained it so well. Thank you 🙂
Hari Bol Indranuja Prabhu
I can honestly say that it not within my ability to sit this one out. I don’t think i have ever spoken about Iskcon or the GBC publicly in my entire life. This is simply too much. Whoever is responsible for this flawed policy should be held accountable. I would ask my godbrothers to demand the same.
Pancha Tattva Prabhu, I could not agree more with you. It takes a grass roots approach to change things but, as in socialism, all members have to cow tow to the leaders in order to get their daily meals etc. The mood is apathetic and getting worse so. Recently I had a leader from a nearby temple come visit, he admitted this was a huge disturbance and he was going to ignore it. He felt he could do nothing to change the GBC whatsoever (more than this I will not say). But there is a major problem and the NA GBCc are moving quickly towards irrelevance and in the meantime they can and will cause so many problems.
Yet another point I would like to make is that it is not that Tripurari Maharaja and his followers think they are changing Srila Prabhupada’s standards, rather they think that Srila Prabhupada would be doing things similarly were he here today. Within the 12 years he was preaching globally he made so many adjustments to his own determinations, to think that now, 35 years later he would have not adjusted anything further is ludicrous. In fact, that some devotees find this hard to fathom reveals just how rigid a vision of Prabhupada they have been given. We feel Srila Prabhupada was not only supremely compassionate, but practical as well, and we see his flexibility as testament to that.
We consider the tradition to be that of dynamic application of the teachings of the Goswamis to various circumstances in order to inspire and nurture the bhakti of sisyas. In that way we remain chaste, indeed that is what we consider chastity to constitute. On the other hand, in the name of remaining chaste to Srila Prabhupada, ISKCON has adjusted so many aspects of the core teaching, as opposed to their application. The most prominent being the relativizing of the role of Sri Guru and the elevating of the param-guru to siksa guru, neither of which find support in sastra.
The way in which ISKCON is more chaste to Srila Prabhupada is analagous to the way in which many of the Gaudiya Math missions were more chaste to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s methods. In other words, in form.
Phalena pariciyate. How close is ISKCON NA to what Srila Prabhupada wanted it to be? How well has the rigid and guru-diminishing notion of chastity served the society to date?
So well put, Nitai.
The concluding part of the position paper really crystallizes the foundational difference of vision that is the wedge between the official ISKCON policy and that of Sri Caitanya Sangha:
The GBC is implying above that since the boat is constructed of the four elements, if any single element is missing (the system of organization included), the boat will sink and Srila Prabhupada’s amazing legacy will be lost forever.
What I think would be crucial for the GBC to understand is that we don’t consider ourselves to be any less Srila Prabhupada’s followers than do the ISKCON devotees. Our approach to accessing Srila Prabhupada and what he represents is simply different: instead of following his institution, we follow his dear disciple’s understanding of him. This approach is based on the fact that only an advanced vaishnava can truly understand the heart of another advanced vaishnava.
Some devotees feel that this is a risky approach and that it is much safer to follow the system set down by Srila Prabhupada himself. But this is meaningless caution for those who have been touched by a sad-guru’s inspiration. We feel an undeniable connection and similarity between the inspiration we derive from Srila Prabhupada and the inspiration we derive from Tripurari Maharaja. That internal experience alone — backed up by the whole body of Gaudiya literature — gives us firm trust that we are not deviating from Srila Prabhupada in any way.
I wonder exactly what the authors mean by Srila Prabhupada’s “mood of devotion,” and how in particular ISKCON devotees participate (uniquely?) in that mood. The insinuation of a differing devotional mood is particularly surprising in light of Tripurari Maharaja’s role in collecting and making available various evidence that actually reflect on the inner mood of Srila Prabhupada.
In any case, it is purely artificial to try to mandate (evidently in perpetuity) an external mood and mode of presentation or preaching, even within a given institution. After all, it is of course the acharya’s inner life and mood that give the mission its outward shape. How can Srila Prabhupada’s preaching mood, informed as it was by the nature of his svarupa, be institutionalized? You can try, but you end up with a bad caricature of His Divine Grace that tries to sustain or replicate his “mood” in the absence of the appropriate underlying spiritual sentiment. Naturally this leads to all kinds of spiritual calcification, evidenced in the policy and elsewhere. The assertion in Appendix B that Srila Prabhupada has already presented Gaudiya siddhanta “appropriately for the modern age” is case and point. In our experience, “appropriate” is in the very least a moving target, and not one that will be hit by the artificial adoption or perpetuation of Srila Prabhupada’s divine mood.
Haribol all. I am confused. Most of the devotees posting here who are disciples of HH Tripurari Maharaja appear to have a dim view of ISKCON and its leaders – one which pre-dates this policy. Why would it bother you then that ISKCON prefers to have such a policy? What is it about interacting with ISKCON that you feel that you would now be missing out on, etc? And, prior to this ban, if someone like Trivikrama Maharaja had wished to speak at one of your centres/sangas, would he have been invited or permitted to do so? What exactly is your insitution’s policy on speakers from different branches of Lord Caitanya’s tree?
Somewhere along this thread of discussion a misunderstanding developed. Nobody, including Madan Gopal, is arguing that ISKCON should necessarily invite Tripurari Maharaja into their temples. We do question how philosophically sound their disinclination to do so is, but that is not our aim. Not in the least. By cooperate what is meant is more of “not attacking” and not trampling on people’s faith because they may have been involved in ISKCON and feel moved to hear elsewhere. People act like these kind of things do not happen. They do. Two years ago a youtube video was published of a prominent iskcon preacher and soon-to-be sannyasi, on the vyasasana, calling Tripurari Maharaja an ingrate and his disciples prostitutes. I am sure he did not get so much as a wrist slap. After a recent and enlivening visit to North Carolina, the GBC deputed one preacher to go to the mixed community and give a series of rigid classes on how we only serve Prabhupada by serving ISKCON etc. One GBC later began making preliminary inquiries as to whether he should do this for another community (that has no official tie to ISKCON) where Tripurari Maharaja had also been invited. While Tripurari Maharaja was just in Poland, this so-called North American policy found its way to the Warsaw temple. Several months ago a NA GBC man sent out a mass unprovoked email attacking Tripurari Maharaja and saying that Maharaja preys on weak communities. In the wake of this policy, some of Maharaja’s long-standing siksa disciples–godsiblings of his–were told that if they continue to host him in their home their services within ISKCON will be revoked. The list goes on and on.
Would we be inclined to host Trivikrama Maharaja? Probably not considering the regard he has for our Guru Maharaja, but we have hosted Radhanatha Maharaja, Jayadvaita Maharaja, Giriraja Maharaja, Dhanurdhara Maharaja, Bhakti Vishrambha Madhava Maharaja, and others at Tripurari Maharaja’s main ashram. And we would gladly do so again. Indeed, we hope to have intersanga festivals in our developing community in North Carolina. Why not?! But again, we do not expect this of everyone. What we expect is the campaign of aparadha and disregard for divine faith to stop.
My parents were disciples of Srila Prabhupada. When, in my late teenage years I became interested and participatory in KRishna Consciousness, I naturally served at the local ISKCON temple. I also came in contact with the books of Tripurari Maharaja and Sridhara Maharaja and others. In time, my faith in Tripurari Maharaja grew to a point where I felt moved to join his ashram. Was that wrong? Did my being born to ISKCON members somehow make ISKCON the owner of my soul for life? The local GBC man told me not to “forget my roots” implying my actions were inappropriate. So these issues are real and they come to Sri Caitanya Sangha unprovoked on a semi-regular basis.
Whoever spoke of Tripurari Maharaja in that derogatory way is very, very offensive.
I find the trend toward re-initiation outside of ISKCON to be disturbing – but I am also glad to hear that these devotees are remaining Vaishnavas. To call them something else is also very offensive and not worthy behavior of a leader of any Vaishnava organization.
My first take on this discussion was in regard to the principle of re-initiation. I think it should be rare. I don’t think that disciples of a guru in good standing should rush for the doors as soon as opportunity knocks – and a prospective “re-initiating guru” should be very reticent about accepting them. One should not give too liberal an interpretation to the few instructions about re-initiation. Again, it should be rare.
My second take was on the minimum standards for Harinam initiation. Succinctly, Prabhupada gave ISKCON a standard. Tripurari Maharaja’s mission may have it’s own, more flexible standard. That’s alright. But I understand why ISKCON would be on quard when someone presenting their admittedly sometimes lower standard comes courting communities of ISKCON devotees. There must be mutual respect and no opportunism.
There are plenty of nondevotees drowning in the sea of samsara. Why don’t we all pay more attention to them?
I am very, very glad to read the list of Vaishnavas that have been hosted at Tripurari Maharaja’s ashrama. I am especially happy to hear of His Holiness Jayadvaita Swami’s visits. I earnestly seek the dust from his feet.
Finally – and this is what some of the readers here just don’t get – I didn’t say one way or another what I thought of the resolution. One should note, with alacrity, that I’m not eagerly defending it. Hare Krsna.
The problem we are having here Pancha Tattva is that you are repeatedly saying the same thing but it doesn’t appear that you are taking new information in.
If you read my article you would not have to say this because you would know that was not the case with the disciples of Trivikrama Swami. If you read the personal stories of those disciples in response to your comments, how could you suggest they were rushing for the doors?
If you read my article and understood that Tripurari Swami has repeatedly sent disciples of ISKCON gurus to get blessings (what the GBC says should be done) you would not say the prospective re-initiating guru should be reticent about accepting them.
Do you see the problem I am having? If you read the article or any of the responses to you, how can you continue to suggest as you said on FB that we “treat re-initiation in a very casual, matter-of-fact way. It’s not a serious issue for them.”
Here again you are missing what has been said to you. Sometimes our standard (if numbers and quantity of rules is your preferred measurement) is higher than ISKCON’s. I don’t appreciate your suggestion of Tripurari Maharaj “courting” ISKCON communities. That charge (in worse language) has repeatedly been leveled at Tripurari Swami with no knowledge of the facts. If you have an example of an ISKCON community where Maharaj has come courting, be specific. Perhaps you have heard that from others. That is what we are here for, clarifying misconceptions. Let it be known that Maharaj is an opportunist for preaching. If ISKCON people appreciate his preaching he should be called a “poacher” or accused of courting ISKCON devotees?! Since he is not welcome at ISKCON temples and hasn’t been to one for many years, exactly how does he do this?
I am traveling and am having difficulty responding to comments on my article, but I appreciate the discussion going on.
First of all, Iskcon is a diverse group, and the dim view is obviously not of all members. That said, what bothers me about the policy is that I think that it is premised on a faulty notion and that it ultimately doesn’t serve the devotees in general. Let me explain.
I see the policy has being premised on the idea that the best way to execute Krishna consciousness is the way it is done in Iskcon and that Iskcon devotees need to be protected from hearing Srila Tripurari Swami speak. When you really look at this policy, what it is mainly trying to prevent is a situation when an Iskcon congregational member becomes inspired by the presentation of Srila Tripurari Swami to the point that he or she contacts him and invites him to have a program and invites other friends. Of course devotee friends have the choice of whether or not they want to hear from Srila Tripurari Swami, but Iskcon is afraid that if given a choice, then some members will like the presentation and they will lose members. Thus they want to block congregational members from hosting Srila Tripurari Swami. (Coerce them to not invite Srila Tripurari Swami by threatening consequences.) Although this is the real reason for this resolution, they present it as love and duty for Srila Prabhupada, which of course implies that Srila Prabhupada would not want people to hear from Srila Tripurari Swami. And of course that Iskcon is serving Srila Prabhupada best.
Although historically there has been exchanges between disciples of different Gurus within the Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition, Iskcon wants to make a hard line between themselves and other groups in the same way that one might do with groups following apa-siddhanta. Not only does it prohibit Iskcon devotees from hosting Srila Tripurari Swami, it says that those who want to hear from or follow him should leave Iskcon. It also states that disciples of Srila Tripurari Swami should not serve in Iskcon centers. Everyone knows that there is always a small minority of overlap between different missions. Trying to enforce hard divisions between Gaudiya groups is unnatural because devotees form relationships and want to serve and worship together. This resolution causes pain to such devotees. Drawing hard lines also creates divisiveness where their could be Vaisnava dealings protected by resolutions that address real problems, such as when devotees use preaching tactics that intimidate others to follow their Guru out of an amar guru jagat guru (my Guru is the best Guru) mentality.
Unlike how it has been presented, Srila Tripurari Swami does not target weak communities and try to infiltrate. In fact, he turns down many invitations. Furthermore, his disciples don’t pressure devotees to hear from him or take initiation in the way that disciples of Srila Narayana Maharaja did. If devotees are using unethical practices to pressure devotees, then I think an organization is justified to make a policy like the one Iskcon had made. Otherwise, I think that the free flow of faith should prevail. Trying to block the free flow of faith is just another form of the zonal acarya system. By “free flow of faith,” I don’t mean “opening wide their doors and letting the leaders of yet other groups speak and carry on meetings in their temples and their communities.”
Basically there are different presentations or styles of Krishna consciousness, and devotees will be attracted to whatever works best for them. Everyone should respect this dynamic and not try to coerce another devotees’ free will by misrepresenting a devotee (as done in the document Madan-gopal is responding to) or blocking a devotee from hearing from someone they are inspired by (no siksa guru outside of Iskcon policy). If every devotee is encouraged to go where they are most inspired (given that they haven’t been coerced in the first place), then this is best for the devotee community at large. Of course some devotees will join a particular organization and later find that it isn’t the best fit for them. It happens to every group. Best to let such devotees find a group that is better suited for them. Of course, due to logistics, it is often not practical for a devotee to move to another community and thus discreet groups of devotees based on institutional lines is unrealistic.
All groups should be happy with the number of members it has who came without misrepresentation or coercion. If someone has a large group due to unethical preaching tactics, what is the value? We should judge a group not by how small or large it is, but how well it works for the devotees involved. Some presentations are bound to have more general appeal and some will cater to a more specific niche. In this way Krishna showers mercy on his devotees. We should be happy for this.
Why can some members of Iskcon not do this? Because they actually believe that Srila Tripurari Swami is a deviant, inferior follower of Srila Prabhupada who is dangerous to the best and highest understanding of Krishna consciousness. This misconception needs to be addressed.
It is worthwhile to isolate and highlight this aspect of your excellent analysis. Actually, I think that the policy’s subtext and real agenda read loud and clear to many devotees. Accordingly, we are mystified — or at least gravely disappointed — when other readers “take the bait” dangled by the GBC. This is a document about preserving an institutional allegiance, masked (to my mind, extremely thinly) by trotting out (to my mind, quite offensively) suggestions of infidelity to Srila Prabhupada.
It is possible that the authors and architects of the policy actually believe that association with Tripurari Swami and his students will be unfavorable to bhakti and offensive to Srila Prabhupada. But I highly doubt it. The NA GBC Executive Committee puts forth no coherent argument informed by spiritual reasoning. As we have already seen on this page, efforts by some readers to extract such an argument from the policy (or build one of their own) have not only failed, but have also revealed even further reaches of misconception concerning GV history, guru-tattva, the dispensation of harinama-prabhu, etc. It appears that the GBC banked on achieving the desired effect by invoking the specter of infidelity to His Divine Grace. This most unoriginal and familiar tactic amounts to the NA GBC “crying wolf.” It only works so many times.
Well said Gopala. What I believe we have here is an act of desperation. There is no need to make such a blatant attempt from banning Srila Tripurari Swami from ISKCON members if he was not being perceived as a threat. It has increasingly become clear that the power of Srila Tripurari Swami’s preaching, spiritual potency & realization (success in the path of bhakti) and knowledge has come to the attention of ISKCON leaders. Instead of taking advantage of this there is an attempt to shut it off. This is just plain pitiful. Can we not expect more of spiritual leaders?
As for the “dim” view of ISKCON, it is fair to say that ISKCON is vast, complex, multi-dimensional, and we all owe a great debt to its broad reach. However, having spent 16 years associating within ISKCON and 11 of those with Srila Tripurari Swami as well, my experience and conversations have led me to another conclusion. The threat ISKCON leaders feel is not that Srila Tripurari Swami will negatively impact their members spiritual lives (through apasiddhanta or disloyalty to Srila Prabhupada) but rather that he will positively impact their spiritual lives and thereby highlight, by contrast, what the mission is lacking in depth of knowledge and success in bhakti.
And before someone points this out, I know I am making a broad sweeping statement that does not apply entirely to some significantly advanced and profoundly knowledgable leaders and sadhus within ISKCON.
Here is my opinion as a psychologist:
Entire seminars should be taught, required for all sadhakas, that helps us identify when envy has emerged and is causing us to attack those that possess good and desirable qualities. We need to learn to convert destructive envy to constructive jealousy and later gratitude & love. Envy attacks anything deemed powerful, lovely, and good. The awareness of good qualities is felt as a great wound to those that do not believe they possess those qualities, envy is the response to this wound. It attempts to level the playing field by stripping those good qualities from the other.
Jealousy, while not the most constructive emotional state, preserves the good qualities and encourages those who feel a painful lacking to pursue those qualities themselves rather then take them away from others. Jealousy, in its preservation of the good, at least has the hope of becoming gratitude, the seed of love.
Bravo Gopakumar! Someone coming up with a practical solution to a problem that affects all of us conditioned souls.. ANARTHAS!! And there’s no anartha like envy, she leads the pack. That it is so endemic to conditioned life and yet gets so little direct attention is amazing.
Great idea that, having seminars for devotees. I think that education is the basis of varnashrama really. And there is so much valuable education to be had these days, like how to communicate nonviolently, how to listen to feedback, and how to give it non-threateningly. These are basic skills for being human, and if devotees don’t have them then what is the fuss about higher states. The real bottleneck in our Krishna Consciousness Movement is around the basics; how does one get along with one’s neighbours, how do we transcend separate desire and work for the benefit of the whole.
It seems to me as I look around, that anyone outside of an institution like Iskcon, or any other where there is central command going on, is of the libertarian persuasion; ie. don’t preach to me, i don’t need anyone telling me how to live my life. So we have on one side individuals who don’t question authority, and on the other those who accept no authority, except maybe a book or something. I think the place we need to get to is collective authority, ie. being accountable to the community, and the community itself transcending the different sangas and external governing bodies of sectarian institutions. The community is an agreement entered into whereby our differences are respected, but our commonality is highlighted. Community, commonality, communication, co-operation. It is created by mature individuals, who value a peaceful society with plenty of creative interaction amongst persons of different skills, backgrounds, propensities, world views etc. The wider the mix, the more interesting the flavors of the gumbo. Interacting with the diverse wider society need not interfere with maintaining ones own core commitments and loyalties as there would need to be firm understandings about inappropriate conversion attempts and the like. Of course persons agreeing to live in such a community would have to abandon the notion that my guru is the best guru, my sect is the only bonafide one, etc, etc, etc. Lots of ego in those areas.
It is a bit of a pipe dream considering the situation being addressed in this thread, but it is not out of place in the wider vision of Lord Caitanya’s Prema Yuga. We have heard that one of the qualifying characteristics of previous golden ages, the Asyla Federations, was the broad cooperative agreements. Co-operation not competition is the fundamental mood of a golden age. This is a mature vision for mature individuals, and so we may have a ways to go on it yet, speaking for the wider society of devotees, but education is key I think. I personally would love to live with a sanga of devotees who are dedicated to going beyond their usual ego limitations of blame and guilt, of lording it over or breaking off communications, all the types of behavior that are seen when conditioned souls congregate, and flower into a sanga of love. Why not? It’s a great opportunity for advancement. We’ve seen plenty of sangas that don’t cohere because of separate desire, because the spirit of competition predominated. We’re still in the material world, and our material conditioning is still effective. It would bode well for our personal spiritual lives and the spiritual life of our sangas, to participate in creating co-operative communities based on full communication. And that would be huge for the world at large too, for the spiritual revolution that so many of us want to see. It’s a win, win, win scenario.
The situation in North Carolina sounds very promising if the devotees can just not retreat back into sectarianism. One problem is that devotees who tire of sectarianism generally leave groups all together and so there is no one organizing anything, so no sanga. Post denominational sanga is an area that has not been much pursued, but we are a small group still, and hopefully persons with different skills and attitudes will be coming to help us in the not too distant future. Maybe they are here now but their skills are under appreciated. I think the future belongs to co-operation though. Either that or fighting each other with sticks and stones, as Einstein predicted. Quite a choice really.
The problem is that you cannot “teach” a seminar on envy in order to eradicate it from one’s heart. So many fools go to school these days, but that has no impact on their emotional life. You cannot teach feelings you can feel them, know them and let them transform you. No Envy, Gopa, just Gratitude
Haribol Damodara Dasa,
I don’t speak on behalf of Tripurari Maharaja or his institution but my dim view of Iskcon stems from its long history of abusing innocent people and devotees. This resolution against Tripurari Maharaja is in fact another form of such abuse, so they still have not realised the error of their ways.
It is not Tripurari Maharaja’s disciples that are losing from no association with Iskcon, it is the other way around. Iskcon’s Vaisnava aparadha against firstly Srila Sridhara Maharaja, and now their own godbrother Srila Tripurari Maharaja, both of whom are dear to Mahaprabhu and Srila Prabhupada, has blinded their spiritual vision. Because of this they are trapped at neophyte status and will be unable to progress any higher until they take actions to remedy their offences. Such offences against devotees cannot, and will not, ever be tolerated by Mahaprabhu.
If you are confused about this, then you must be an Iskcon devotee. Until you break the bonds of your attachment to mundane institutions you will not be able to connect with the living representative of the parampara who has the capacity to clear all doubts.
You are not correct in your assessment. I received my second initiation from Srila Prabhupada in 1968, and I have a very dim view of Iskcon and its leaders. When I lived amongst them, they fatally threatened each other at times, over issues of territory -which is very much the issue under consideration here – territorial control.
And this attitude of territorial control goes beyond geography to the presumption of control over the hearts and souls of devotees. When living in the New Orleans temple, devotee’s attempts to leave the temple were aborted forcefully by a president who stated, “These are my devotees!”, as if he owned them.
I could easily write a book about this kind of managerial atmosphere in Iskcon, but there would be no spiritual profit in that.
The point is that this kind of attempt at territorial control over the hearts and souls of Iskcon devotees is a material motion springing from a material attitude. There is nothing spiritual about it.
Obviously, the flow of devotees between camps is going in one direction only. Therefore it behooves anyone who is sincerely trying to harmonize these affaires to ask the question as to why Iskcon devotees are having this inclination, and to recognize that they are being drawn to a genuine spiritual source of inspiration. Putting up a material wall like this is not the answer. The answer lies in humbly approaching those souls who hold superior spiritual grace and authority and asking how we can work with him instead of against him.
The goal is not to bind up devotees as if they are bought and sold commodities. The goal is promote love of God, and if someone is successfully doing this, we should put aside our envious attitudes and ask how we can cooperate with his efforts. The real power is not to declare “We are Iskcon, so we are right, by might.” The real power is indicated by the genuine flow towards those who inspire Krishna consciousness in the hearts of spiritual aspirants. The refusal to recognize this cannot serve anyone’s welfare.
Ishan, thank you for articulating your thoughts so clearly here. My immediate response was “Sadhu! Sadhu!” after reading your last three paragraphs. I lack the skill to articulate these things very well, but you have definitely expressed what I hold in my heart after decades of searching for explanations for the apparent loss of spiritual potency within Srila Prabhupada’s movement.
It is crucial that all followers of Caitanya Mahaprabhu become conversant with Gaudiya Vaisnava siddhanta on a wider scale than our original introduction in ISKCON provided forty-some years ago. And that is not in any way meant to minimize the glories of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, my revered and beloved spiritual master. He possessed the highest spiritual knowledge, but we as receptacles for such were limited to varying degrees and could understand only according to our capacity.
Srila Prabhupada, in his books that contain everything we need, has guided us within those pages to read the writings of the Gaudiya acaryas, to examine the philosophy from all angles, to become independently thoughtful, and to write our realizations. We are meant to progress in our spiritual life and not remain adamantly fixed in our earliest conceptions.
Krsna sends facility through advanced Vaisnavas for such progress, and the evidence is the realized faith of devotees who take the gift of such sadhu sangha. If that faith comes to us we’d be crazy to not act on it. If we see it in others, we must honor it or risk aparadha. At the very least that faith should not be obstructed.
ALL GLORIES TO HIS DIVINE GRACE A.C.BHAKTIVEDANTA SWAMI SRILA PRABHUPADA!– Ishan dasa Prabhu,you said that you could “easily write a book about this kind of managerial atmosphere in ISKCON,but there would be no spiritual profit in that”.– As you are one of SRILA PRABHUPADA’s earliest servants and are not not one of todays ISKCON’s “insiders”,I personally would think that a book from you on any subject concerning SRILA PRABHUPADA and/or ISKCON would be most useful,and at least there would be “spiritual profit” for us,servants of SRILA PRABHUPADA who lack your long years of experience and close association with HIS DIVINE GRACE.In other words–Please,please,prabhu–please write down your memories and realizations for the rest of us who are ready to run down and purchase your book or books.–JAI RADHE!
Dear Devaki Nandana das Prabhu,
Please accept my humble obeisances. I had left this area of conversation some time back and so have not received your kind words until now.
It all seems so unfortunate, and not tasteful. If so many others so highly qualified could not change the flow, then who am I to think I can do any such service in this respect? Better I chant my humble 16 rounds.
But thank you for your kind words.
Dandavat pranams Ishan prabhu. I’m coming many months late to this exchange, but I want to thank you for your nice presentation.
Hare Krishna Prabhu,
I accept you obeisances and so happily offer mine in return. That is the sweetness that we search for.
Perhaps we can do the most simply in enjoying the great gift of our Krishna conscious life as far as we are capable. I personally feel so tiny. What to speak of changing the minds of others?
We are so fortunate. Let us pursue our good fortune.
Panca Tattva prabhu says,
Sridhar Maharaja says,
I appreciate the spirit of your comments Panca Tattva prabhu, as I spent a lot of my years in Gaudiya Vaisnavism trying to convince others of the value of my faith. Then I realized one day that, for me, this was more about convincing myself than them. Anyway, I find that preaching to find new members is often a distraction from looking within, into our hearts and into our institutions. I think that we have plenty of internal work to do before we can validly start inviting more guests into our house.
Since the words of Prabhupada seem to be the best pramana I yanked this comment from the Vedabase,
I believe that in these discussions we are trying to identify problems in GV dealing with sraddha, guru-tattva, Vaisnava aparadha, and cooperation. We attempt to resolve these as a way to please our Srila Prabhupada.
“Gentlemen, the offering of such an homage as has been arranged this evening to the Acaryadeva is not a sectarian concern, for when we speak of the fundamental principle of gurudeva, or acaryadeva, we speak of something that is of universal application. There does not arise any question of discriminating my guru from yours or anyone else’s. There is only one guru, who appears in an infinity of forms to teach you, me, and all others.” Srila Prabhupada 1936
Whose interests are the GBC serving? It’s not the greater community of Gaudiya Vaishnavas. It’s not the members of Iskcon. It’s not the members of Sripad Tripurari Maharaja’s sanga. It’s not the sankirtan movement of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. It’s certainly not siddhanta….must be the GBC themselves, and that’s shameful.
It is understandable that Gaudiya organisations want to protect their own standards, maintain integrity towards their founders.
If they sincerely feel that members of other Gaudiya sangas may be a possible disturbance to those standards and integrity, they can make some arrangements in order to protect their own sanga.
To make radical policies that forbid all members of other Gaudiya sangas to visit, attend programs and serve, is to my opinion out of balance.
More balanced would be to welcome members of any sanga (just as any curious non-Vaishnava is welcome to visit, attend programs and usually even perform service) and respectfully draw the line at giving lectures and other ways of transmitting philosophy and viewpoints, since there seems to be a significant cause of friction.
Devotees who humbly and happily partake in bhajans, prasadam, attend lectures, perform menial services are no disturbance to anyone.
In case they do actively start propagandising their own views, guru or sanga in another sangas temple, the temple authorities may reprimand the devotees in question and if needed request them not to visit the temple anymore.
(I too do not like members of other sangas evangelically promoting their views in my spiritual masters sanga)
But there is no need to make general and rigid rules forbidding Vaishnavas from other sangas to visit ones own temple.
In case there are relations of love, friendship, trust and respect, individual exceptions can be made, and members of other sangas may be invited to give lectures, perform altar services and the like.
Just some ideas from my side as possible alternatives to block and reject policies.
I think some of us are tap dancing around the real issue, which in my opinion is neophyte guru verses advanced guru.
The issue of neophyte guru verses advanced guru is a perennial problem. Due to pride and anarthas a neophyte guru may not be able recognize or appreciate an advanced Vaisnava guru, thus due to a false sense of proprietorship he may prohibit his disciples from hearing Krsna-katha from an advanced Vaisnava.
Five hundred Years ago Jiva Goswami (circa 1513-1598) encountered this problem and (as Nitai already pointed out) addressed it in BS 238 where he says that even a Vaisnava guru can be given up if among other things he will not give his disciples permission to serve great devotees.
Sri Jiva continues, “Due to his lack of Vaisnava character, such a guru is not to be considered a Vaisnava.” In support of his opinion he cites the avaisnavopadistena verse from Narada-pañcaratra–“The mantra received from a non-Vaisnava will lead one to hell. One should therefore take the mantra again from a Vaisnava guru, according to the proper rites.”
Four hundred years later, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura (1874-1937) encountered the same problem. About this he said: “If a so-called guru is envious of the Vaisnavas, then one should reject him, remembering the guror apy avaliptasya verse. This so-called guru does not have the qualities of a Vaisnava; therefore such a nondevotee should not be accepted as a guru. Those devotees who desire eternal welfare should say farewell to such so-called gurus, knowing them to be the subjects of the avaisnavopadistena verse.”
Fifty years later (1982), The Iskcon GBC under the control of corrupt neophyte zonal gurus passed a resolution that prohibited members from hearing Krsna-katha from B.R. Sridhara Maharaja.
“Since all the spiritual knowledge and instruction required is available in Srila Prabhupad’s books and from ISKCON, no ISKCON member shall be allowed to seek spiritual instruction from any other person or institution outside of ISKCON without approval of the GBC body. That any member of ISKCON who willfully disobeys the above order will thereby sever his connection with ISKCON.” (Resolution 188.8.131.52)
Now, thirty years later (2012), the NA GBC Executive Committee influenced by Badri Narayana dasa circulates a directive (again citing GBC resolution 184.108.40.206) stating that Iskcon members are prohibited from association with Swami Tripurari; threatening retaliation if one does not comply.
Taking into consideration what Sri Jiva Goswami and Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura had to say on the matter the obvious question is–Was B.R. Sridhara Maharaja a more advanced Vaisnava than the Iskcon gurus who prohibited devotees from hearing Krsna katha from him?
If you believe that he was, then does BS 238 apply?
In the words of BSST, should one say farewell to the so-called gurus who banned Sridhara Maharaja knowing them to be the subject of the avaisnavopadistena verse?
The same question could be asked about Swami Tripurari. If you believe that he is more advanced than the members of the NA GBC Executive Committee who banned him, then does BS 238 apply? Should one just say farewell to the NA GBC Executive Committee, and leave it at that?
Or is there some middle ground here?
Having been dealing with this issue for over thirty years I don’t think that there is much in the way of middle ground unless the GBC comes to their spiritual senses and rescinds resolution 220.127.116.11. Until that day, for me, it’s farewell to the NA GBC Executive Committee and the entire GBC.
P.S. In 30 years they never contacted me about coming back to Iskcon so I know they don’t miss me.
Clearly, following the teachings of the Eternal Associates of Mahaprabhu, we should all say good bye to NA GBC. I am of firm conviction that their aparadhic statements will only help more people saying good-bye to them, which is an excellent outcome of something really bad.
This is mature. I respectfully thank you for these intelligent words.
I personally sent to the NA GBC members who authored this paper the below
email, unfortunately I have yet to receive a response from any of them. I did
enter into a dialogue with Hridayananda Goswami, but he never indicated he was
representing their opinion and unfortunately did not address the direct concern
of my letter.
———email of July 23rd to NA GBC——————-
Glorious Devotees serving Krishna Caitanya’s Sankirtan Movement,
Please accept my most humble obeisances at your feet. All Glories to Srila
Prabhupada, the fountainhead of the Krishna Consciousness movement in the
western world, and all our Glorious Masters.
Despite the GBC’s history of negligence when confronted with a legitimate call
to reason regarding their policies, I am taking responsibility to uphold the
legacy of Srila Prabhupada by contacting all involved and affected by the
release of the “North American GBC Policy Letter Regarding Tripurari Swami”
dated June 12th, 2012.
Romapada Swami recently wrote “good intention is not good enough…, good
intention does not justify basic transgressions of universal human etiquette,”
so how much more applicable when transgressions of vaisnava etiquette are made.
It is not my intent to call into question the management decisions of the NA
GBC, however the dutiful implementation, execution and release of GBC
decisions on policy must be done in a manner consistent with the vaisnava
etiquette displayed by ISKCON’s founder acarya. If this highest standard of
etiquette is not maintained then the blemish of such transgressions reflects
directly upon our beloved master, Srila Prabhupada.
yan-namani ca grhnati
.loko bhrtye krtagasi
so ’sadhu-vadas tat-kirtim
.hanti tvacam ivamayah
“A wrong act committed by a servant leads people in general to blame his
master, just as a spot of white leprosy on any part of the body pollutes all of
the skin.” – Lord Sri Krsna (SB 3.16.5)
Avoiding the misrepresentations of fact and deep rooted philosophical
misconceptions held by the authors of this GBC policy letter, I address the
blatant transgressions of vaisnava etiquette. The manner of presentation of the
core justifications of this policy letter bring into question Swami Tripurari’s
knowledge and realization of the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya sampradaya’s siddhanta,
the integrity and sincerity of his preaching, and foremost his loyalty to His
Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, his beloved spiritual master. While
respecting the GBC’s mandate to manage ISKCON, such duty cannot and should not
be performed in a manner that denigrates vaisnavas serving both inside and
outside of its institution. This policy paper constitutes obvious vaisnava
aparadha, reflecting upon not only its authors, the members they represent, and
the institution they manage, but also upon its founder that they serve.
It is said “two wrongs don’t make a right,” a wrongful action is not a morally
appropriate way to correct or cancel a previous wrongful action. The GBC Policy
Letter addresses what is perceived as wrongful action by Swami Tripurari in the
presentation, preaching and implementation of Krishna Consciousness in modern
society. Unfortunately it presents these perceived wrongful actions by
denigrating the good name and spiritual character of Swami Tripurari, and in a
manner unbecoming to the vaisnava tradition we must all dutifully represent. I
therefore humbly request the authors of this GBC Policy Paper to do “one right”
– retract this letter and apologize, lest their personal characters come into
question, atmavan manyate jagat. If the NA GBC feels the need to protect the
members of ISKCON by denying service opportunities to those who have taken
shelter of Swami Tripurari, let them do so in a manner and style appropriate to
acceptable vaisnava etiquette.
Dulal Chandra dasa
Now all of this innapropriate behavoir is being attributed to one N.A. GBC member. However I have not yet heard that other members of influence within the ranks of ISKCON have come forward to speak against this motion. Srila Prabhupada used to say that silence indicates agreement. Therefore it is not enough for one to say, “It wasn’t me.” Those who are silent are part and parcel of the assault.
The evidence brought forward indicates most strongly that Tripurari Swami has tried with utmost endeavor to avert this kind of precipitation. He has tried in every way to handle these isues with all diplomacy. He has obtained the go-ahead of some of the gurus whose initiates chose to leave them in favor of taking shelter of him. And he has given shelter to others only after they were rejected by their initiators.
In spite of the fact that all canvassing on Tripuri Swami’s behalf, within the walls of Iskcon, either by himself or by his students, is non-existant, and in fact the opposite is in place as a policy, still it is seen that the flow is in one direction only. And that direction is towards the shelter and inspiration that Swami Tripurari has to offer. The standads he sets are so very impecable. The communities that he orchestrates are so very admirable in terms of the level of humane interaction and devotional activity. His way of conducting his affaires, the work he is doing and the accomplishments he has implemented single-handedly should stand as instructional examples to the leaders of Iskcon. Not only should they applaud his work, but they should do everything in their power to align themselves with his efforts, with all the humility they can command. In that way their own efforts can become glorious.
Perhaps something wonderful can come out of all of this. It is never too late to have a change of heart.
“When a Vaishnava sees that another Vaishnava is a recipient of the Lord’s mercy, he becomes very happy. Vaishnavas are not envious. If a Vaishnava, by the mercy of the Lord, is empowered by Him to distribute the Lord’s holy name all over the world, other Vaishnavas become very joyful—that is, if they are truly Vaishnavas. One who is envious of the success of a Vaishnava is certainly not a Vaishnava himself, but an ordinary mundane man. Envy and jealousy are manifested by mundane people, not by Vaishnavas. Why should a Vaishnava be envious of another Vaishnava who is successful in spreading the holy name of the Lord? An actual Vaishnava is very pleased to accept another Vaishnava who is bestowing the Lord’s mercy. A mundane person in the dress of a Vaishnava should not be respected but rejected. This is enjoined in the shastra (upeksha). The word upeksha means neglect. One should neglect an envious person. A preacher’s duty is to love the Supreme Personality of Godhead, make friendships with Vaishnavas, show mercy to the innocent and reject or neglect those who are envious or jealous. There are many jealous people in the dress of Vaishnavas in this Krsna consciousness movement, and they should be completely neglected. There is no need to serve a jealous person who is in the dress of a Vaishnava. When Narottama dasa Thakura says chadiya vaishnava seva nistara payeche keba, he is indicating an actual Vaishnava, not an envious or jealous person in the dress of a Vaishnava.” Madhya 1.218
Dear Sarva-drik Prabhu,
Hare Krishna! Of course you and I are saying the same thing, but I am trying to leave an escape route for them, whereas you are calling a spade a spade. I tend to vacillate in that way. It is such an unfortunae situation.
I understand that Srila Prabhupada had to endure some of the exact same paradigm. The mission was floundering hopelessly. Srila Prabhupada went out on his own, and instead of receiving support, some of his god-brothers were openly envious, while other did nothing to help him. However, Krishna protected His devotee and made him successful in so many ways. I believe we will see this played out again.
so many nice points have been raised. it is inspiring to me to see how nicely sri tripurari maharaj has trained his disciples in vaishnav philosophy. i have also met a number of his followers who have always been very gentle in there behavior. when someone is learned and well behaved, it reflects well on their superiors. i recently heard a story about srila prabhupada that might fit into this discussion somewhere. i was told by tranakarta prabhu that one time sp was in a meeting with a few of his disciples and the disciples were complaining about other groups of devotees outside of our sanga for various reasons. after sometime sp grew tired of their complaints and slammed his fist down on his table and asked: do they chant hare krsna? yes, prabhupada was the reply. then very emphatically sp said: then they are on our side. that might be a good story for the na gbc to hear. also i have one concern. i am a very shameless person because i cross boundaries by sometimes giving donations not only to iskcon concerns but, wait for it, to his holiness sri tripurari gosvami maharaj and his preaching
efforts on behalf of our guru maharaj srila prabhupada. i am just wondering if my contributions to iskcon projects will now be banned? oh hari hari.
Now that I’ve had a few days to go over the GBC resolution and give it some thought, let me say this as a member of ISKCON:
The ISKCON GBC has a responsibility to protect the spiritual standards of ISKCON. Stipulating that there are boundaries of interaction between its members and those of other societies of Vaishnavas is within that arc of responsibility. This can be mandated without giving offense to others.
I submit that the ISKCON GBC should not, however, cast aspersions upon the character of anyone who has dedicated his life to Krsna. It is a grave mistake, there is risk of sadhu-ninda, and the offense can become multiplied because of the pain inflicted upon the disciples of that Vaishnava.
All of us must avoid sadhu-ninda with determination. Even if one is a leader of a Vaishnava society, he is not immune to the ill effects of this offense.
I am particularly disturbed by the claim made in the GBC resolution that Tripurari Swami does not accept Srila Prabhupada as his “pre-eminent instructing spiritual master.” A single quote, in appendix B of the document, is hardly conclusive evidence.
Tripurari Swami was initiated by His Divine Grace, and he served very faithfully in ISKCON for many years. His record of devotional service to His Divine Grace is extraordinary and, in some respects, unparalleled.
The fact is, some leaders of ISKCON made huge offenses to His Holiness Bhakti Rakshaka Sridhara Maharaja of the Gaudiya Matha after the disappearance of Srila Prabhupada. This is an unequivocal fact. Partly due to disgust at those offenses, which hurt the sensibilities of those ISKCON devotees who had consulted BR Sridhara Maharaja, some devotees left ISKCON altogether. To now blame them for leaving, as if there was no culpability on the part of the offenders, is not a fair position. We should not try to rewrite history via a policy of omission.
I do have some issues with His Holiness Tripurari Swami’s standards for Harinam initiation, which differ markedly from official ISKCON standards. And, although disciples of Maharaja have offered substantial evidence in support of the decisions of ex-ISKCON devotees who have taken re-initiation from Maharaja, I decline to “take sides” on those, because I don’t feel I have heard the whole story. After all, I don’t know what His Holiness Trivikrama Maharaja, for example, has to say about these matters – other than the very brief statements quoted in the appendices of the GBC resolution. That is best left to spiritual master and disciple to work out. It’s an easy trap-door for onlookers into sadhu-ninda. Let’s not go there.
I am unhappy that former disciples of Trivikrama Maharaja and their supporters on this forum have seen it necessary to find fault with him. Contrary to some previous claims made here, I did not ask for the details of re-initiations. I only asked if it had happened – and only addressed the matter in general principles. Some of the participants on this forum have criticized me heavily for not diving into the details. I must remain unapologetic, however. I believe that I took the right course.
I suspect that His Holiness Tripurari Swami would not approve of the harsh criticisms of Trivikram Swami made by his disciples.
Does the GBC have a right to address the matter of re-initiation of former ISKCON disciples by members of other Vaisnava societies? Of course. But there is a way to address this matter in terms of official policy, without ever going to the lengths demonstrated in the resolution, e.g., publicly quoting specific instances as corroborating evidence. All the GBC has done is open a pandora’s box of accusation and counter-accusation, hurting the feelings of the devotees even more. It wasn’t necessary.
I also find that the disciples of Tripurari Maharaja do not accept Srila Prabhupada in the way that members of ISKCON do; i.e., founder-acarya and param siksa guru. What ISKCON members regard as inviolable principles given by His Divine Grace, Maharaja’s followers see as mere details. This is one of the stark differences between our two groups, and one which makes co-operation “without borders” virtually impossible.
Nevertheless, with the appropriate adjustments, Tripurari Maharaja’s spiritual organization and ISKCON should be able to co-exist in harmony. I hope the leaders of both groups can come to an amicable understanding.
Pancha Tattva dasa
One more thing: I remember that in one of my messages, I had stumbled apon an appendix with alleged details of re-initiation and quoted them. So, contrary to what I just wrote, I do have to accept some responsibility for the hurt feelings here.
It was a mistake. Although they were already there in Madan Gopal’s link to the document, I was quite startled by the details and foolishly posted them to the forum along with my doubts. I sincerely apologize to all of you. It should have been left alone.
Pancha Tattva dasa
Pancha Tattva dasa,
Let me offer my obeisances at the feet of a Vaisnava.
Your inner flexibility is inspiring me. I personally do not think you have moved quite far enough because I still disagree with you on three counts.
The first is your idea that anyone with a substantial connection to the parampara line of Srila Prabhupada does not consider him param siksa guru. Our beloved Srila Prabhupada’s divine inspiration flows through Srila Tripurari Maharaja, so how could it be possible for he, or any of his followers, to disregard Srila Prabhupada in any substantial way?
The second is your superficial idea that the substance of initiation is found in a mathematical quantitative analysis of the number of japa rounds, and that this represents some sort of eternal standard of Mahaprabhu. I can never agree with this.
The third is your idea of re-initiation being somehow wrong when it should only be viewed as the continuation of the process of initiation and an evolution of the spiritual life of an individual devotee. It is not a failure of the first guru, nor a grab for power on the part of the re-initiator. It should not be seen as poaching people from one mundane institution to another. Such an attitude represents envy towards other Vaisnava’s. We are all on the same side and strive for the same high ideals.
But I very, very, much appreciated your attempt to soothe hurt feelings and find this to be inspiringly magnanimous and noble. In this attempt of yours I can recognise the true self-effulgent standard of Mahaprabhu. Srila Sridhara Maharaja has taught me to humbly bow my head whenever and wherever I find this divine standard.
I will take a valuable lesson from your actions and reciprocate by apologising for all the nasty things I said about Iskcon or it’s devotees under the influence of anger.
I hope and pray the misunderstandings and illusory wars between all the devotees will end soon.
Jaya Sri Radhe!
I have not seen Trivikrama Maharaja villified by any of his ex-disciples on this thread. The only thing I have seen is testimonials as to what drew them to hearing from Tripurari Maharaja and when they sought blessing from Trivikrama Maharaja for receiving such siksha they were fobidden by him due to institutional considerations and further rejected as disciples after following their hearts in the matter. The scriptural support for them following their hearts and taking siksha from Tripurari Maharaja has been provided and speaks loudly as to how these matters should be handled. When dealing with issues of faith it is always to be honored when it is being reposed in advanced devotees of our lineage. What to speak of that, we should also honor the faith of those who may feel the call to seek guidance from outside our lineage. Trying to dictate faith and control devotees hearts by legislation is a myopic policy at best.
You have also taken issue with Tripurari Swami’s disciples and followers for not accepting Srila Prabhupada the way Iskcon members do. This is a shallow criticism at best. We are not members of Iskcon and Srila Prabhupada is not our founder acharya. We honor and follow Srila Prabhupada in a similar manner as Iskcon members do their param guru Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Maharaja. Srila Prabhupada set up different standards for his mission from his param guru. You have been asked why you don’t find that to be an ‘issue’ but I have not seen a response. You have termed these standards as inviolable but have been shown historically that they are not so and that in fact the standard you follow is not the standard established by the param guru of Iskcon. Iskcon members have no issue with that and neither do we. In the same fashion we have no issue with our guru making adjustments to details of practice based on time, place and circumstance.
If you are really interested in how we follow Srila Prabhupada you can find many articles right here on the harmonist that will inform you of much deeper issues than the one you have raised up as problematic for you.
Dear Panca-tattva Prabhu,
I appreciated your balanced and fair post.
Although my arguments may not be convincing to you, I would like to make a few points about re-initiation. Re-initiation is obviously a problem if it is done whimsically, for wrong reasons, or as a way of a particular guru increasing the flock as much as possible. It does, however, still have a legitimate function, as well as a long history in our Gaudiya lineage (Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura re-initiated devotees and many of his disciples, such as Srila Prabhupada, Srila Sridhara Maharaja, B.P. Puri Maharaja, etc. re-initiated disciples—not on a large scale but for specific valid reasons that I outline below).
One obvious reason for re-initiation is when the guru was not qualified in the first place. Another reason is basically when a disciple feels that their true guru is not actually the person they were initiated by. Srila Prabhupada allowed re-initiation of a devotee for this reason. Basically the devotee had initially taken siksa from Srila Madhava Maharaja but then got involved in Srila Prabhupada’s mission and took initiation. He later felt remorseful because he realized that he had actually already given his heart to Srila Madhava Maharaja. Srila Prabhupada honored his faith and allowed him to get re-initiated by Srila Madhava Maharaja.
In every group, there are a small minority of devotees who for some reason or other strongly regret that they took initiation. This could be because they actually have an eternal connection with another guru or because they are incompatible with the personality and mood of the guru and the mission. Although it may look like a blemish on the guru if a disciple wants to take initiation from someone else, this is actually a small thing for a true guru because of not caring about pratistha. On the disciple’s side, however, this situation can have major ramifications on enthusiasm for spiritual life. A disciple’s spiritual enthusiasm is dependent on the guru in a way that the guru is not dependent on the disciple. Understanding this and truly wanting the best for the disciple, a guru may decide that it would be best for the devotee to be re-initiated if that devotee finds that his or her faith actually lies with another guru. Thus to appreciate the importance of a limited allowance for re-initiation, we have to look not from the guru’s perspective, but from the disciples’ perspective. We must be able to deeply empathize with the difficulty some devotees are faced with. It is for this reason that Srila Tripurari Maharaja has a few disciples that he allowed to be re-initiated by other gurus and why he has re-initiated a few disciples.
This may be hard to understand because in Iskcon the relationship with the spiritual master is often minimized because the connection with Srila Prabhupada is seen as being as important or more important than the relationship with one’s initiating guru. Therefore, if the relationship with the initiating guru isn’t very strong, one is advised to just develop one’s relationship with Srila Prabhupada. Without getting into this big topic in this post, suffice it to say that it is obviously ideal to feel that one’s guru is both one’s savior and best friend. It is for this reason that respected acaryas in our line have allowed for a limited policy of re-initiation.
You prefaced your original question in the comments by stating that you were seeking clarification of the “cryptic” statement that the disciples of Trivikrama Maharaja were left without shelter. Then you directly asked if they were in fact reinitiated.
What came out in the comments that followed were first hand accounts explaining when, how, where and who Trivikrama Maharaja rejected. But apparently you were not interested in these explanations. You were only interested if they had been reinitiated.
So I understand now that you don’t want to accept either side of the story because there is a discrepancy between them. If you were to take a side then you feel you might be implicated in an offence against a vaisnava on one side or the other.
I appreciate that you are reluctant to make any offence by taking sides.
However in your original post on this thread, after asking if the reinitiations had taken place, you stated that you “hope not”. This suggests that you already had an opinion about the matter.
Later on this tread you stated:
“It is a little disingenuous to dismiss the complaints of gurus who’ve had their disciples re-initiated as akin to the misunderstandings of a “telephone” game.”
“This, along with the material in the rest of the appendices, give rise to some serious doubts for me about the probity of Tripurari Swami’s actions toward ISKCON. It is not a wonder that the leaders of ISKCON would take a dim view toward those actions, and stipulate some distance between ISKCON and his program.”
“Whatever you may think the tradition used to be, Mataji, this is our tradition. And in ISKCON we are determined to keep to it. If someone comes and tries to change that tradition, going against the instructions of Srila Prabhupada, we are duty-bound to object – especially if they are busy re-initiating disciples of very nice Vaisnava gurus in ISKCON.”
It is telling that I had to ask a question to draw out the fact that ISKCON devotees have been re-iniated by His Holiness Tripurari Swami. It was not specifically stated in Madan Gopal’s original missive.
I should add that I was quite shocked and disappointed to hear that Tripurari Swami had done these re-initiations, and equally unhappy to hear of his lessened standards for initiation
My pranams Pancha-tattva prabhu,
As others have expressed I appreciate your flexibility and upright character. While I stand behind the substance of every point I have made, I also know that some of them were delivered with heavy language, which is rarely an ideal form of communication.
Others have responded to various points you have raised here, but there is one I would like to focus on (followed by a secondary point as well):
I would like to address this point-by-point, because aparadha is a very serious matter, as you have wisely recognized.
The former disciples of Trivikrama Maharaja have said nothing bad against him. If you feel they have, I would be very curious to see where. Quite contrary, Kalpataru wrote,
As for others finding fault with him, how can that be avoided given the nature of this subject? The policy finds fault with our Guru Maharaja, so even if one wants to say that they personally do not feel it pertinent that they stick there nose into this complicated situation, they cannot expect that both sides will not be finding some fault with the other. Such is disagreement.
While you say that you only asked if the reinitiation occurred, it would be unreasonable to fault me for my response including some details and sastric justification, especially considering that your final statement in that initial inquiry was a very obvious value judgment: “I hope not” (as in, “I hope there was no reinitiation because that would be wrong”). Of course my answer is not simply going to say, “yes there was” when I already know that you have certain ideas about such a reinitiation’s appropriateness (or lack thereof), especially considering that I had some sastra with which to validate my Guru Maharaja’s behavior. As Atmananda has pointed out, there was never any escaping specific details if one was to enter into this discussion.
Lastly (on this point), how would it have been possible for me to defend my Guru Maharaja against the policy’s accusations of impropriety without somehow casting a negative light on Trivikrama Maharaja? It simply was not. Should I then not have spoken and let a one-sided version be the final word? Of course not. Sastra does not condone such silence in relation to these kind of situations of one’s guru being attacked. The only thing I can think of that could have prevented me mentioning Trivikrama Maharaja is if the policy itself had never mentioned Trivikrama Maharaja by name. I would have similarly withheld his name as I did in other posts where I spoke of various people whose actions are objectionable to me. You seem to agree that the policy made a mishap in doing this.
Furthermore, while I agree that sadhu-ninda is a very risky thing, I only took my stance so strongly on the basis of sastra, which you have seen speaks quite clearly. You may not think that Bhakti Sandarbha citation applies here, but because we obviously do, my strong language is at least internally consistent/reasonable on that basis. In other words, if there were an error on my part, it would be the misapplication of Bhakti-Sandarbha, not the acknowledgment of its implications in this situation. That acknowledgment was unavoidable. So I do not really believe that inordinately harsh criticisms have occurred.
As far as getting both sides of the story, it is at least worth noting that there is much consistency among these reinitiated devotees concerning how they were treated by their previous guru. To invalidate that is kind of to deem this whole thing a conspiracy, which seems excessive.
And lastly, I would like to again invoke phalena pariciyate: These reinitiated devotees’ spiritual lives have been reinvigorated by their move. Apathy has turned to interest and dedication, doubts have turned to faith, despair to hope, stagnation to progress. This ought reflect on the validity of the reinitiation, too. Would this wonderful transformation be the case for everyone? No. Tripurari Maharaja and his followers understand the place and, actually, necessity of a variety of gurus and presentations, provided the siddhanta is in place. Contrary to what some may think, we do not think everyone should join us and bow to our guru, only those whose hearts mandate that and then time and experience validates that heart’s leap of faith. We do however think that nobody should stand in such a person’s way. ISKCON should not be too worried in this regard, for my Guru Maharaja’s presentation is not likely to ever be the most popular by dint of what it demands of the individual in terms of an essential comprehension of sastra and a “thoughtful independence,” as Srila Prabhupada put it.
om tat sat, thanks a lot Nitaisundara, Vrindaranya, Atmananda, Audarya-lila, Alex and Pancha Tattva for your discussion. It is truly a pleasure to read.
I have to say, I love our Sri Caitanya Sangha family. I find here just enough of the partiality that love for a person naturally causes, and yet I also find such balanced, fair, reasonable responses. You guys and gals are the best, and I just want to always remain in your company. Sorry I can’t contribute more, but you all are like transparent media of my own thoughts and feelings.
Okay, my gushiness is over, carry on!
Yes, Panca Tattva Prabhu, very well said.
It would be nice to ask each ISKCON guru (in private) what he would do if somebody initiated by a non-ISKCON guru would say that he lost his faith in his diksa-guru and wants to be initiated by that particular ISKCON guru.
Would that guru say “Just take siksa, since are already initiated”, or would he say “I will give you initiation and accept you as my disciple”?
As a matter of fact I knew one devotee previously initiated by a non-ISKCON guru who lost her faith in and connection with her guru. She got initiated again by an ISKCON guru. No problem.
The other way around seems to be the gravest offense, according to many.
Again, The basis of the problem is GBC Resolution 18.104.22.168
“Since all the spiritual knowledge and instruction required is available in Srila Prabhupad’s books and from ISKCON, no ISKCON member shall be allowed to seek spiritual instruction from any other person or institution outside of ISKCON without approval of the GBC body. That any member of ISKCON who willfully disobeys the above order will thereby sever his connection with ISKCON.” (Resolution 22.214.171.124)
This resolution was drafted by and put into effect by the 1982 zonal acharya led GBC specifically to keep devotees from hearing Krsna katha from B.R. Sridhara Maharaja. Why was it drafted? Supposedly to protect Iskcon.
Question—Is GBC Resolution 126.96.36.199 scripturally sound?
No, because while the first line seems to sound OK the intent of the resolution is to keep devotees from hearing Krsna katha from an advanced Vaisnava, which is clearly against Sri Jiva’s instructions in BS.238.
Question—Is GBC Resolution 188.8.131.52 Vaisnava aparadha?
Yes, prohibiting devotees from hearing Krsna katha from an advanced devotee is certainly Vaisnava aparadha, what to speak of the slanderous campaign orchestrated against B.R. Sridhara Maharaja, (and now Swami Tripurari) by the GBC in order to put this resolution in place.
Question– Is GBC Resolution 184.108.40.206 good administrative policy?
No, because it ostracizes and punishes devotees who have done nothing more than follow scriptural mandates to hear Krsna katha from advanced Vaisnavas. Iskcon devotees who disagree with the resolution are forced to abide by it and implement it in their congregation out of fear of losing privilege or position—thus they are also implicated in Vaisnava aparadha.
And of course the whole mess forever calls the integrity of the GBC into question.
Question– Is GBC Resolution 220.127.116.11 Krsna Conscious?
No, because an organization based of the teachings of Mahaprabhu and the Six Goswamis of Vrindavana cannot implement policy that institutionalizes Vaisnava aparadha and is against scripture. Vaisnava aparadha is not Krsna conscious—-Vaisnava aparadha is what kills Krsna consciousness.
So while its laudable to want to protect Iskcon, there has to be a better way than the misbegotten Resolution 18.104.22.168.
These Iskcon resolutions annoy the hell out of me. This just demonstrates that Iskcon hasn’t evolved past 1982. Please don’t tell me that number 22.214.171.124 hasn’t been revoked in the last 30 years!
This latest resolution against Srila Tripurari Maharaja is only an extension of their offences against Srila Sridhara Maharaja. They will never be allowed past the guardian of devotion until they wake up to themselves. I don’t think they ever will. The institution dies when the living soul who animated it departs.
It wouldn’t bother me so much if they were content to live quietly in their own fools paradise of being the pre-eminent controllers of the Supreme Lord. But why insist on dragging everyone else down to their level?
I can’t listen to these political agendas masquerading as Bhakti any more. I have to leave the Harmonist arena until this post sinks to oblivion. It makes me nauseous.
dandavat pranams, thank you all for sharing your realizations based upoon guru, sadhu, shasta and “direct personal experiences” being expressed through this forum of exchange to bring out the truth for all to accept. Truth, however unpalatable it may be, must still be spoken with a humble heart for the benefit of everyone. My gurumaharaj, Srila Bhakti Promode Puri Goswami Maharaj, especially known for his transncendental humility, has taught to see everyone in the light of love, kindness and compassion . A pure humble attitude is that golden key for all of us aspiring vaisnavas to imbue in our ways of communicating with each other. If your gurumaharaj is being offended then you must defend him with philosophical argument or run away. I am very enlivened on how beautifully and strongly in shastric evidence all the followers and disciples have defended Tripurari Maharaj from the aparadhas being made against him in the recent GBC policy. In light of defending exalted devotees there is one very specific sentence that didnt sit well with me in my heart in all these amazing exchanges, sort of like sand in the sweet rice…… “I beg you this is not the same as Narayana Maharaja or the ritviks at least look at this with an open mind”…. i really hope and pray that the devotee who wrote this is not somehow implying that Narayana Maharaj is on the same level as the ritviks to make this kind of reference. This seems like another aparadha being made and no one said anything to rectify this imature statement. I hope you all understand my point, because the new “banned” policy of the GBC for Tripurari Maharaj is a “repeat” in a sad history of aparadha that bans advanced devotees from speaking at the temples and their books being available. The sectarian camp mentality, as Srila Bhatkivinode warned us, is not the true spirit of vaisnavism which has four genuine channels going back to Brahma, Shiva, Laksmmi and the four Kumaras. We are all jivatma and that will never change. We are all the same inside made of the same eternal substance. Let’s not make our external ahamkar get in the way of our love and harmony with each other in this world of false pride. “Trinad api sunicena”
All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga!!!!!!!!!!
Thank you for pointing it out Jagadisa Prabhu. (Un)fortunately the sentence about Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja (my spiritual master) did not come to my attention. Certainly he is not to be equated with those who are popularly known as “ritviks”.
Otherwise, Swami Tripurari Maharaja and his disciples are in a similar position now as Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja and his disciples are since the 90’s.
Jagadish Prabhu, forgive me for my error, the sentence where I talk about Pujapada Narayana Maharaja was in no way meant to equate his holiness with the Ritvikvad apostasy. I have always had great respect for Narayana Maharaja and indeed I have hosted his disciples here at Bhaktivan many times. I was simply trying to point out to my old friend Panca Tattva that what the GBC did towards Tripurari Maharaja, while on the surface appearing the same, was not the same. I wanted him to read the details of the posts so he had a better idea and not jump to conclusions. I was talking about getting banned from ISKCON. The rationale behind banning Pujapada Narayana M and Tripurari S may be the same so in that sense there was no difference at least in these 2 cases. I did not mean to equate Narayana Maharaja w Ritvikvada, nothing could be further from the truth. Thank you for pointing out my error. Narayana Maharaja was a pure soul and I take the dust from his feet a thousand times. In the future I will be more careful to choose my words.
Thank you for sharing the humble mood of your gurudev Srila Bhakti Promode Puri Goswami Maharaja. It is very refreshing and pleasing.
Personally, I can only respond to these Iskcon resolutions with anger. It seems entirely appropriate to me. My suggestion is that we just pick up the big club and bring it smack down on the head of the issue and be done with it. All this polite diplomacy drives me crazy.
Let’s call a plow a plow, and not dignify Iskcon’s foolish resolutions by attempting to justify Srila Tripurari Maharaja’s, or any other non-Iskcon devotee’s position. I can’t forgive the pain to devotees these abusive Iskcon resolutions cause. Of course some may see it as ultimately beneficial, but I don’t care. It doesn’t justify it. I refuse to tolerate it.
I am powerless to change it, so my only option is to leave the field and run away. But the devotees words keep filling up my inbox. It is Harmonist all the way down! Would someone kindly enlighten me how to turn off this eternal feed emanating from the Harmonist because I have important engagements in the material world I should be attending to 😛
panca-tattva prabhu, dandavats, you may remember me from detroit yatra. i certainly remember you fondly. the politics got ruff in spots in those days, but we had a nice group of devotees working together for a common goal. a lot of good energy. unfortunately, at some point the atmosphere became overwhelmed with the negative energy coming from the top of our organization and that confusion produced from the top did not help produce continued strength among the rank and file and we scattered. i know you were,lets say, the victim of the fiasco that came to us as the appointed gurus of iskcon and then also re-initiation. i can understand how the experience could sour you while looking at other devotees as prospective spiritual masters. these experiences have closed off the hearts of many devotees and may have at least partially given rise to such concepts as ritvikism. so i was thinking that it may be difficult for you to accept sri tripurari swami as an advanced spiritual master sort of based on previous experiences. forgive me if i am overstepping here. obviously his disciples and many disciples of srila prabhupada accept him as such. one thing you may consider is that if maharaj is blatantly disobeying the instructions of sp, why hasn’t he become useless, impotent, out moded etc.. why is he flourishing? sp says in c.c. that a disciple who disobeys the instruction of the spiritual master becomes useless. yet swami maharaj appears to be far from useless in his preaching effort. also yasya prasadana gati kuto’pi. disobeying the guru causes havoc on a persons spiritual life. the displeasure of the spiritual master halts advancement. it would really be a stretch to think this is happening in this swamis life. with even a little association with maharaj, assuming the heart is open, it is easy to see that he is very fixed in kc.. he doesn’t have any other engagement. he exhibits all six symptoms of surrender. this is very difficult to fake especially over a long period of time. in my view,therefore, it is difficult to see any symptoms of his loosing the favor of sri guru that we would expect were he not following the instruction of sp. if this is so then it is reasonable to assume that he has the power to adjust things for his disciples with the full backing of our parampara. for me the explanations his disciples and supporters have given are quite satisfying. i also loved the way you brought the discussion down a notch by the exhibition of humility. especially in the company of devotees it is probably better to be fluid than rigid. it is a fact that as we advance in kc our neophyte conceptions will be challenged by madhyama considerations and then further challenged by the vision of the uttama realizations. we have to stay a little fluid (humble) always to avoid getting stuck in any particular level of advancement. i know you. you are a nice guy. this group is also full of really nice people. i’m willing to bet that if you would soften your position a little and get some association with these devotees with a willingness to be open you would naturally find so many good qualities there. they chant hare krsna. they are our friends. please offer my respect to your good wife. hope you are well.
Dear Prabhanu Prabhu,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
You are correct; I see many good qualities in these devotees. I think we can agree to disagree on certain points. You wrongly opine that concerns expressed here about Tripurari Swami’s differing standard for Harinama initiation and my questions about re-initiation stem from unwillingness to consider this for myself due to some sort of “sour” feelings. I am already initiated, and I have very nice siksa guidance within ISKCON. I don’t need to go elsewhere, I don’t have any sour feelings, but I thank you for your concern.
I don’t judge Tripurari Swami as deviated, fallen, offensive, etc. But he has his own Gaudiya Vaisnava society, different from ISKCON in certain ways in function and even on some points of philosophy. It is not surprising that the GBC should give guidelines for recognizing our differences. It is surprising that, in an effort which unfortunately repeats past mistakes, they do so by unnecessarily making lists of allegations, accusations, quotations, etc., which risk giving offense to Maharaja and his disciples and give a bad example for other members of ISKCON to follow. We must always be on guard against the dangers of sadhu-ninda.
I wonder if the GBC contacted Tripurari Swami before releasing the resolution to discuss the matter.
It’s so nice to hear from you! I hope you and your wife are well and happy in your devotional service.
Pancha Tattva dasa
Pranams Pancha Tattva Prabhu,
Your question was addressed in the last paragraph of Madan Gopal’s original response:
After the initial draft of the policy was circulated to a few people including Maharaja, some of them wrote a response to the GBC seeking to clarify the facts and discourage the act. That initial draft relied even more heavily on 3rd hand information (much of it from a rtvik) and attacked Maharaja’s stance on homosexuality, among other things. We did them the favor of giving them the facts so they would look at least a little less foolish. They wisely removed the part about homosexuality, perhaps realizing that it is a divisive issue within ISKCON and might undermine the rest of their case. The initial letter that accompanied the first draft was as follows (although it signed Nityananda dasa, it was sent from Badrinarayan’s email):
Note the fact that research has indicated that Badrinarayana did not receive multiple requests to deal with Tripurari Maharaja. Only complaints from Madhuha, an open rtvik, regarding Maharaja’s influence in Prabhupada Village. Maharaja has been visiting PV on invitation for years, long before it became an “Iskcon affiliate,” a change that Madhuha himself opposed on the basis of his animosity toward ISKCON leaders. The only other area in the US Maharaja visits where Iskcon is active is Hillsboro, where the GBC, Bir Krishna Goswami, has no problem with his visits and has spoken to Tripurari Maharaja on numerous occasions about cooperative preaching in the area. Tripurari Maharaja is also active in Northern California, where the local Iskcon guru, Vaiseseka Prabhu, has a long history and loving relationship with him, and has always been supportive.
Tripurari Maharaja responded to the above letter and policy as follows:
And lastly, Tripurari Maharaja’s response to the above (which was posted elsewhere in this discussion). Note that nobody every responded to the following letter (nor forwarded it to the other GBC members as requested):
panca-tattva prabhu, thank you for your response. sorry if i misjudged your feelings but when i suggested what i did , i did use the word could. happy to here you haven’t got any sourness to deal with. as far as you not suggesting that tripurari maharaj is fallen, deviant or otherwise not a bonafide disciple of srila prabhupad goes, you might want to revisit some of your posts. check out,for example, your response that comes after brajasundaris comment. there you imply that maharaj is not a bonafide disciple of sp. if such implications are not there why did you receive such a fire storm of comments from maharajas camp? it sure seems like they felt you were on the attack. sincerely, pd
Madan Gopal mentioned in his article, and it has been reiterated in the comments, that there are siksa disciples of Tripurari Maharaja for whom there is no question on reinitiation.
I would like to offer up myself as anecdotal evidence in support of this assertion as well as to defend against the idea that Tripurari Swami is busy reinitiating and his disciples are canvasing.
I have received both Harinam and diksa from His Holiness Radhanath Swami, an ISKCON GBC.
Far from rejecting Radhanath Swami I maintain a respect and appreciation for him on the same level as Swami Tripurari. He is equally my guru. I received incredible mercy from Radhanath Swami and I am forever grateful. My love for him still shines brightly.
As my life circumstances changed I came to North Carolina. No one invited me to come hear from Maharaja. I was more than eager to go because I had read a magazine that Swami Tripurari had published years before and was very impressed. Immediately upon meeting a disciple of Maharaja I asked him when he was coming because I would like to meet him.
As soon as I heard Swami speak I understood that this is Guru. It was as if my diksa guru had appeared here in a different form before me.
At the time I was under the care of a counselor who was in Mumbai. I wrote to him and asked if I could here from Tripurari Swami. He replied that I should ask my local GBC. So I approached Bir Krishna Maharaja. He gave his approval for me to hear from Tripurari Swami with the caveat that I should not canvas in ISKCON. (To this day I feel I have still honored that caveat)
As my relationship with Tripurari Swami developed further some of my Godbrothers came to know of it and they were concerned. Therefore I went to New Vrindavan and spoke with Radhanath Swami directly about the matter. He gave me his full and hearty blessings to take siksa from Tripurari Maharaja. Then he told me that I should offer my respects and greetings to Tripurari Swami on his behalf as well as a gift of his book which had just been published. When I met with Tripurari Swami he very happily received these greetings and gift. He then told me a story of how Radhanath Swami had actually taught him how to milk a cow in New Vrindavan.
For certain Tripurari Swami and Radhanath Swami do not see things in exactly the same way on every matter. They are both unique and independent individuals. But in essence they preach the Gaudiya Siddhanta both in words and example.
I will also add two more thing here which, although are not directly related, may be suprising to some. First of all I have encountered a considerable amount of criticism of Radhanath Swami in ISKCON. Case in point, there is a recent letter of apology to Radhanath Swami and his disciples from an ISKCON guru/sanyasi posted on dandavats.com. In fact it was one of the more troubling aspects of my association in ISKCON. The same has not been true in my experience with Sri Chaitanya Sanga.
Second, I would like to say that much of the glorification of Srila Prabhupada I heard in ISKCON was linked to an expectation for obedience. Something like this, “Srila Prabhupada is so wonderful and powerful and he left me in charge.” The real point is actually that I am in charge and I demand your obedience. If you obey me then you please Srila Prabhupada, if you disobey me then you offend Srila Prabhupada. This is the essence of all ISKCON law. This was one of the main things in ISKCON which I found to be utterly repulsive and which actually drove me away. In Sri Chaitanya Sanga I have heard more actual glorification of Srila Prabhupada,heartfelt, eloquently expressed and supported by sastra.
To the disciples of Srila BV Tripurari Maharaja I think I can understand your anger and pain as I have gone through this experience too, as I was the first person in Ireland to take diksha from Srila BV Narayana Maharaja.
When I returned from India in 1993 I was banned from my local Iskcon temple and had my character assassinated. It caused me a lot of pain. Three years later the GBC banned my Gurudeva and his disciples from Iskcon. I’m sure you know the history.
The only advice I would give you is focus on your bhajan and service to your Gurudeva. Don’t worry about the aparadha to your Gurudeva. I know it is difficult as you love him as I love my Gurudeva. Maintain a soft heart even to towards those who abuse us. Remember how Nityananda Prabhu, and Haridasa Thakura dealt with their abusers. We “win” by love not animosity.
Don’t waste your time discussing the banning issue. Instead, focus your energies on your Gurudeva’s instructions as they are more beneficial to you.
I don’t post too often here but I’m a regular visitor and I’m very impressed with the level of maturity shown by Srila BV Tripurari Maharaja’s disciples in many of the postings on this wonderful site.
Keep up the good work all of you!
Sree Sree Guru Gaurangau Jayatah!
Sree Chaitanya Mahaprabhu preached the All-Embracing and All-Accommodating Gospel of Divine Love, i.e. Love for Supreme Lord Sree Krishna and all in relation to Sree Krishna. The sincere devotees who preach this All-Embracing Gospel of Divine Love, how can they have incompatibilities amongst them? A real sadhu sees adjustment in all circumstances, even in contrary circumstances. Actually when we miss the target, everything becomes chaos. Target should be pure causeless devotion to Sree Krishna for His satisfaction only. There should not be any ulterior desire in the mind. Actually realized sincere souls are very scarce in this world. The novice who has started bhajan, can get this elevated state gradually, of course, by the grace of Guru, Vaishnav and Bhagavan. I am encouraged to know that the duties of different Maths or institutions gather together and are doing bhajan unitedly. This is good for them and also for the eternal benefit of others, who will be encouraged to see this ideal. Sree Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has emphatically said in His writing about, the four qualities of devotees to do Harinam – he should be humbler than the blade of grass, more tolerant than a tree, should give respect to all and should not desire to get respect from others. By only memorizing these we will not get the actual benefit if we do not practice. Example is better than precept”.
— His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Goswami Maharaj
I love this Vaisnava;he has always encouraged me in my service to Srila Prabhupada…
I would like to echo the wonderful post here by Atmananda Prabhu. He has presented very accurately the actual nature of Srila Tripurari Maharaja. I am in a very similar position as he so I also offer my experiences as a balance to all the siddhantic support in favour of Maharaja.
My wife and I have been mentioned indirectly on this thread a couple of times as being two ISKCON devotees who are for the past few months serving at one of the ashrams of Srila Tripurari Mhj. We are also both first and second initiates from Srila Radhanatha Mhj and I share a similar tale of seeking blessings for siksa. Whilst we are here primarily because of my love and appreciation for Tripurari Mhj, my wife has also grown to be deeply affected, although at first she is always cautious due to her experiences over almost twenty years in ISKCON including unfortunate guru falldowns. We have learnt so much from our diksa-guru, especially how to recognize and seek the essence over the form. For this we are most grateful.
The most wonderful thing for me is how Srila Tripurari Mhj is determined to honour the faith of whoever comes before him. In his words, “faith is the Deity, not the doormat.” Sraddha-devi is to be honoured and served, not manipulated and crushed. He has encouraged us immensely in our seva and glorified our diksa-guru considerably. There has been no question of any necessity for reinitiation, in fact we have been cooking all the meals here and performing a considerable amount of the arcana, further proving that Maharaja respects our diksa and does not feel threatened by our consciousness-laden cooking. We are not required to rehear or upgrade our mantras as has been required of us in other places. My regular giving classes is also quite telling of Mhj’s accomodating nature.
Whilst Tripurari Mhj exemplifies the tolerance that Sriman Mahaprabhu has requested of us, he still has an open door to anyone from any institution/sanga who comes seeking guidance or shelter. And that assistance is offered without the need to weaken anyones faith or of preying on the weak. And this is also wonderful because many of the false accusations against Mhj have actually been committed towards him by ISKCON but he does not feel the need to publicise this.
For twelve years I have strived to serve in ISKCON yet have become ever-increasingly disenfranchised by the higher workings. This recent policy has only furthered my distaste. Senior devotees attending GBC meetings relay to me that apparently SP was the last pure devotee, that ISKCON gurus are simply institutional posts to link the devotees to the institution which is the actual guru, that to become a guru is likened to diksa in that one is not qualified but through the process he gains the opportunity to qualify. When I hear these apasiddhantic words I can only recoil in disgust. After so many years in ISKCON I felt lost to who actually Srila Prabhupada is. Is my only hope to read the numerous biographies on offer? I think not. Something is amiss. Most of my seva has been in the front line field yet becoming utterly frustrated I felt I could no longer represent such an institution and resolved myself to retire from Srila Prabhupada’s mission, Mahaprabhu’s mission. However, upon contacting Srila Tripurari Mhj I have regained my enthusiasm and feel that I have been connected to such a dear representative of Srila Prabhupada. Retirement is no longer an option.
There is such an immense ocean of devotion for us to dive into and there is much to learn from those having fully submerged themselves therein. ISKCON has shot themeselves in the foot on so many occasions in regard to sadhu-ninda, and that troubles me deeply. There are many wonderful devotees there and there are many who covertly hear from Tripurari Mhj. Why don’t they speak up? Why should we let the misinformed fear of certain leaders intimdate us? I hope that I never again allow any kind of institutional upadhi to prevent me from contacting the current of pure essence wherever it graciously presents itself.
Dear Sanatana Goswami Prabhu,
Thank you for your hearfelt account (and all of those who came before you). I just want to say I feel so happy to have met you and have the fortune of your and your wife’s association (not to mention the best halava EVER that you made last weekend)!
I justed wanted to echo Vamsi’s appreciation for Sanatana and Nama Ruci’s seva at Audarya. My wife and I visited in early July and we were both inspired by them. Thank you Sananata and Nama Ruci!
hari bolo, dear Indranuja Prabhu, thank you for clarifying the statement you made that confused me. Please forgive any offense on my part. I just didnt understand. All glories to your bhakti seva!
in the service of Hari, Guru and Vaisnavas
I think upadeshamrta verse 5 says it all and is always overlooked in these discussions or rather resolutions.Unfortunatly it seems the science mentioned by Srila Rupa Goswami is the answer not which sanga one belongs to.How to interact with vaishnavas according to qualities of bhakti not instituion constitutes true vaisnava ettiquette and real advancement towards true bhakti not anything else,especially sentimentality.Sadhu sanga not institutional clicks is the process.If one is kanishta adhikari they are a beginner in bhakti no matter who ones guru is or what group one presently belongs to so similarily the same goes for uttama adhikari whos association is most desirable.That seems to be the missed point on the gbc ruling against any true vaisnava which misleeds their society unfortuatly.Sri Ramanananda Raya tells Mahaprabhu that when bhakti is found in the marketplace it should be greedily purchased immedeatly.
Dear Respected Vaishnavas,
Please accept my most sincere obeisances. All glories to each of you for your service and dedication to your Guru Maharaja, whoever that may be.
I came across this conversation by accident. From time to time I will check online to see what Tripurari Maharaja is up to. I am writing here as an admitted (and obvious) outsider, and as one who has been out of the association of devotees for a long time now, though I have never stopped chanting Krishna’s Names.
I first met devotees when I was 16 years old, one year after Srila Prabhupada left this world, and my journey as a some-time aspiring devotee has been sporadic, challenging and unsteady, even at the best of times. So, it is with indescribable respect to the Seasoned and steady Vaishnava’s on this forum, who have shared some of the most profound wisdom and realization that I have ever encountered, that I write these words.
Though I fully realize I have less than zero qualification whatsoever to be speaking here (and I am not saying that to be “humble”, it’s just true), I am choosing to let my inspiration override my better knowing. I can not quote scripture, and I really pray to do not make any offenses, so if I do, please overlook them. It is certainly not my intention.
I first met Tripurari Maharaja in Eugene Oregon, many years ago. after years of associating with Iskcon. From a young age I always was drawn to the Vaishnava Path, but never quite fit in, and was always too independent and opinionated to ever surrender to any organization. I did, however, stay with Maharaja in Eugene for sometime. It was there that I experienced a level of inspiration in Krishna Consciousness that I had never known before. Though my time was short,(and very challenging at times due to my own internal struggles), I never forgot the taste and depth of realization that Maharaja was always sharing.
I remember feeling an amazing joy, that I had actually encountered a being as Tripurari Maharaja, whose service to his Guru Dev, Srila Prabhupada, had matured into such an incredible depth. I wanted to shout it from the roof tops, that a realized devotee was here. I remember thinking, “if the devotees only knew!”, they would come from all corners of the earth. My realization at the time, (and this conversation strangely has re-awakened this) is the extreme rarity of the devotee in this world.
Since I am an outsider, do not have much “etiquette” (being away from devotees for so long), and have zero to lose, I will just share freely (Again, please do not take anything I say anything but the ramblings of a fallen friend of the Vaishnava’s. I do realize my opinion has no weight, and that I am stepping into territory I really do not belong in.)
Here we are in 2012, with Kali Yuga in full bloom, and from all appearances about to really do some further serious damage on this planet earth. The level of stress and hardship that souls are experiencing now is hard to fathom. It is a cold world, and one in a very precarious situation, to say the least.
I have read this entire conversation. It is the first time I had heard of this “ban” of Srila Tripurari Maharaja from the GBC. It is so painfully obvious what is going on here, and since I am not a practicing devotee, not known by probably any of you (accept a few :), I will speak freely.
There is no institution which can save us. Our lives are so tender, so precarious, like a drop of water on a lotus leaf, and time is so precious. People are checking out all the time, and so to have the opportunity to hear from a realized soul, who is connected, through the true Parampara, which is a spiritual lineage, not a material one, is a blessing that is rare indeed. If we should have the good fortune to have that opportunity, whenever, however it may arise, we cannot accept any external road blocks to our hearts fulfillment in Devotional Service. To do so is spiritual suicide, or painful spiritual stagnation at the very least.
The Gopis did not care for the rules of their parents when Krishna was around, they ran to Him.
The politics that have plagued Iskcon for so many years, is the dichotomy, the gap, between the external religions of this world, and the true, living, spirit of Bhakti, which is eternal, and can not be checked, stopped, or impeded, by even the most noble justifications, rationalizations, or attempts to control the living spirit soul.
We grasp at what appears to be our safety, our comfort, our familiarity and what we “know”, even if it compromises our eternal inner search and longing for reunion with The Beloved. Yet, this blockage, through rules, regulations, formalities, and party politics can never ever be permanent.
At some point, in some lifetime or another, that river of Bhakti within our deepest heart, will somehow become re-activated, re-kindled, re-enthused, and burst through whatever kind of prisons, internal or external, we may have previously accepted. The true happiness of the Jiva in reconnecting with the flow of Bhakti will break the walls of sectarianism, fear, and control, and re-unite with the spiritual world, and those representative here on earth, who are carrying that living spark, that living lineage, that Love of God that we long for.
I think of the christian churches, and what Jesus would say if he came back to see his followers now.
If Krishna Consciousness is alive, if Srila Prabhupada is alive, if the Parampara is alive, then it will effect living Bhakti in the hearts of the devotees. Love can not be stopped, regulated, controlled or manipulated. It is not of this world, but of the heart.
How can we put love in a box? To say to the devotees in Iskcon to NOT associate with Tripurari Swami, who has dedicated his life to preaching the glories of Mahaprabhu, is only going to kindle a curiosity.
And rightfully so. The more this “edict” is declared, the more the truth will come out. There is no stopping it!
Are the reasons stated for this edict the real reasons? Obviously not!
The respectful, intelligent, sastrically quoted, truthful responses in this thread, specifically in relation to “re-initiation” and adjustments according to time, place and circumstances, have been so eloquently shared, that any honest devotee can see the truth of what has transpired, and the profound depth with which these issues have been addressed.
The institutions of this world, no matter how pure their original intention, are often subtly or otherwise designed not to free people, but to control them. It is human nature to to want money, power, and conquest. But that is not the spiritual realm that I have heard about. It is most certainly not the realm that His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada came here to give us.
I do not remember much, but I do (in a simple generalized way) remember reading the words of Srila Sridhara Maharaja, when speaking of the spiritual world, and those words struck me. He said (something like), when the Jivas are serving Radha-Krishna, there is harmony, because they are each serving The Center. In this world, we are serving ourselves, and so greed, competition, control etc. is what we experience here. (Total neophyte paraphrase obviously).
I always remembered this. And it made such sense. Further, I always knew that if devotees were all serving the center, then where is the space for envy, and party politics. That sounds like this world, not the spiritual world that our Acharya’s have spoken of. And if we can’t live in the spiritual world, here and now, how do we expect to miraculously live there when we leave our bodies?! I mean, this is it. We have an opportunity now, to practice.
Obviously we are not perfect, but at the very least we should be practicing what we aspire toward! If we are practicing what we are not (supposedly) aspiring toward, then what is really going on here?!?
Where is the simple good will. I really think that Iskcon has totally and completely not only missed the boat terribly in this decision, but exposed themselves painfully. And not just painfully for them, not just painfully for devotees practicing within Iskcon, but ALL devotees?
Why? Because we are only here for a short time. Because this was, IS the opportunity to show who we REALLY are, as devotees. The paradox, is that what we are trying to “protect” guard, insulate ourselves from, is not sustainable, and not what we really want. It is certainly not what the devotees want,(if they even knew what they were missing.)
Yeah, I realize I am taking an approach here that is beyond just “formal” institutionalized “respect”, and even that would be a far cry from this “edict”. I am talking about the most profound opportunity that GBC leadership had the chance of actualizing, but as of now, has chosen not to. Bottom line, there are MANY shades of nuance and mature response that could have been expressed from Iskcon Corporate (it feels like that), but the opportunity was missed, completely. (Thus far anyway).
Imagine if the other path was taken, of respect, and honoring, and love, not fear. Rather, just as Maharaja said in one of his replies, this is like the build up to the Iraq attack: “WMD’s”! Not.
Similarly, these baseless “accusations” are just meant to hide what is really going on, to shift attention elsewhere. What is really going on? There is someone who has that matchless gift, and we don’t want you to know about it, so, we’ll tell you this story. What is that all about? Is that the spirit of Srila Prabhupada? Of Mahaprabhu? or some other spirit altogether.
I just can’t fathom how we can go from institutionalized religion on this earth, and think that just in the act of leaving this mortal frame we are going to end up in Krishna Loka because we chanted 16 rounds every day and followed the rules and regulations for so many years. Form is important, but only as a vehicle to hold the real substance, not as an end in itself!
If we have not love, if we have taken comfort in religious forms that are designed to hinder, not blossom our Bhakti, that imprison us instead of free us, that attempt to institutionalize our hearts and souls, how are we going to enter into the world of spontaneous love and devotion?
I do not believe that Iskcon is the legacy of Srila Prabhupada. I believe his legacy is in His living devotees, within Iskcon or outside of Iskcon, who actually carry the Bhakti seed in a flowered form, have Realized, and can impart to others this most precious, subtle and rare of gifts, the gift of Love of God, in His most Personal and Sweet forms.
Of course there are rules and regs to keep us on the path, but alone they are empty. It is the touch of the Realized Being who can truly impart, gift that world, that taste, that opportunity to the aspiring devotee.
To be stuck in sectarianism at this stage in the game is totally missing the Bhakti Boat. It is a disservice to the Jiva Souls who have taken shelter in Iskcon, thinking that Iskcon somehow “owns” Krishna Consciousness, Srila Prabhupada, and Bhakti Yoga. It is simply not the case, and to hinder the opportunity for sincere devotees within Iskcon to have the fortune of meeting a being such as Srila Tripurari Maharja, is, in my deepest, most unqualified opinion, going against what I know Srila Prabhupada would want.
At the very least, normal, respectful Vaishnava dealings could have been the case, as there is no need or desire to “merge” from any side, obviously, anyway.
Tripurari Majaraja is giving, by his very example, words, realization, and ability to impart these to others, with humanity, compassion and a unique and seasoned understanding of our individual karma and predicaments, the highest and greatest glory to His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada.
If Iskcon was truly representing the internal, spiritual realm, as manifested in an organization on this earth, this absurd “edict” would never have been conceived. Any truly spiritual organization would demonstrate that fact through mature, healthy, respectful and humble acknowledgement of ANY devotee who has such a depth of realization and service.
It is a blessing that this edict happened, as it makes things so clear, to those who are not under the hypnotic yoke of institutionalism and sectarianism, but instead still have the innocence of heart to recognize the real thing when it is staring them in the face.
We should celebrate the realization and service of any devotee, what to say when that realization, after years of dedication, blossoms into a flower, a tree that can provide true shelter and spiritual nourishment and guidance to those souls fortunate enough to find such a one.
The truth is, there is nothing to hide, nothing to fear, and nothing to protect. We are all in this together. To miss this opportunity to show mature spiritual understanding, and to give true glory to Srila Prabhupada, is sad indeed. This can only have been conceived from a very few at the top, as there is no way the innocent devotees would buy such a thing.
Fortunately, due to this edict, many more will come to know of Srila Tripurari Maharaja. The River of Bhakti can not be stoppped, by any material means, even if subtle.
Those respected and esteemed Maharaja’s within Iskcon will enoble themselves, their devotees and Srila Prabhupada, by not buying into this materialistic, fear based, unreasonable sectarianism, but instead celebrate the realization of a Godbrother, just as they too in turn will be celebrated for their honesty and truthfulness, and pure hearted dedication to all of our Grand Gurus, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada.
Your aspiring servant,
I want to say that how ever disconnected or disenchanted you might feel you certainly do not sound like an outsider, so keep pluggin in. 🙂
Thank you Namananda Prabhu, for your spontaneous outpouring which is saturated with the ring of sincerity and insight, devoid of hollow wrangling over WMD. Respectfully.
In regards to the issue of the number of rounds vowed at the time of initiation. There is ample precedent to establish that this is a detail which has been adjusted by many gurus including Srila Prabhupada. Of coarse ISKCON may require a particular number. That is not an issue.
However there is no precedent that I am aware of for requiring a vow of loyalty to an ecclesiastical body at the time of initiation. This is an initiation vow that has been added in ISKCON by the GBC. This vow was never required or mentioned by Sila Prabhupada. There is however a statement by Srila Prabhupada in the CC that one should not take initiation based on ecclesiastical considerations. In this case it appears that the GBC has made a far more radical change to the initiation vows than Tripurari Swami.
First off I apologize for barging into this discussion by not offering my respects to the vaisnavas first, so good visnavas please accept my humble obeisances all glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga!I have also encountered this exact situation and unfortunatly wasted years going back and forth in my mind and heart.I am duly initiated by H.H.Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja and with his permission approached Sri Srimad B.V.Narayana Maharaja(who insisted I ask permission from B.T. Swami first).I remember my first appreciations and influence of reading books of Srila B.R.
Sridhara Maharaja and also Sri Tripurari Maharaja(as a close friend was aspiring for his shelter also with typical iskcon drama.),I approached B.T. Swami about my inspiration and appreciation for my new found enthusiasm with outside instruction he told me he was happy about my inspiration due to their influence and also mentioned that he didnt care if his students were inspired by time magazine or wall street journal if it inspired their bhakti.There were other instances of his lack of institutionalization of spiritual growth which although he being a great example, iskcons policies have confused my faith in him at times(though made me realize we must learn to associate with devotees according to adhikara not group).I see this principle is always overlooked by these policies which instead of strengthening faith and communities it painfully divides them.I still live it today.It’s as if its scripted with the same exact propoganda just change the names.I wanted to agree with Atmananda Prabhus last point about loyalty to group not true vow of spiritual endevour.Before taking initiation by Iskcon guru their “law” requires taking a test which after reflecting on it certainly comes off as initiation into institution not initiation by guru they expect your faith in both hand in hand which burns one out eventually.They need to read Sri Guru And his Grace and see the true flow of faith.I offer my respect to Tripurari Maharaja for being true to the principles of real guru tattva.As Srila Prabhupada has purported in CC accepting a guru is not dependant on family lineage,zonal tract of land,or any institutional cosideration.Only on purity of guru guru tattva means siksa and diksa as they are one.It seems we offend guru tattva by ignoring a true vaisnava as they appear irregardless of where thy come from again as given by Srila Rupa Goswami in Upadeshamrta we arent meant to judge avaishnava by externals.I never saw a gun pointed at the head of any devotee who declared faith in any guru or institution,its truly a free flowing thing natural and leads to truth so again I ppreciate Maharajas work even if the world is against him and would like to cont him as one of my affectionte guardians.
I agree with Atmananda; the requirement of vowing loyalty to ISKCON at the time of initiation was never implemented or endorsed by Srila Prabhupada. At some point or other, Srila Prabhupada requested that an oath of loyalty be taken by GBC members. But that’s not the same thing.
For myself, I have tried to rationalize this oath of loyalty as an ‘ecclesiastical adjunct,’ for which the time of initiation simply serves as propitious – but it doesn’t sit well with me at all.
I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with requiring some sort of vow of loyalty, but to require its administration at the time of initiation is a peculiarly blunt and awkward intrusion on a critical point in the relationship of guru and disciple.
I suspect that the oath of loyalty was implemented to address a number of problems involving disrespect for the guidance of ISKCON leaders and the GBC, as well as a tendency for some devotees to misunderstand or discount the unique position of Srila Prabhupada in ISKCON as our founder-acarya and param siksa guru. I would offer that these kinds of issues are better addressed by education and culture than by signing on a dotted line or raising your right hand and swearing an oath.
In regard to the number of rounds required for initiation, I continue to firmly disagree; members of ISKCON take that instruction by Srila Prabhupada to be sacrosanct. It is our founder-acarya’s order – it is not disposable.
As far as a loyalty oath’s utility in dealing with members’ lack of regard for ISKCON’s leadership is concerned, I suggest that ISKCON could do much better by creating some system of checks that keeps the GBC, etc. from behavior and policies that naturally challenge honest devotees’ respect for the Society’s leadership. On a famous walk in Honolulu, Srila Prabhupada warned that if the devotees’ character, at least the GBC and temple presidents’ character was ideal, our society would become simply another fool’s paradise. Or at least seen as such. And I have heard from leaders in ISKCON that the policy under discussion here has already backfired.
I certainly agree with Pancha Tattva that education and culture is a far more effective way of addressing the difficulties faced by the Society and its leaders than signing some oath, or vowing at initiation never to leave ISKCON. I have made the same point for decades about initiation.
I’d also like to address the assertion that such an oath was intended to address some minimization of Srila Prabhupada’s position in our guru varga. We keep hearing this tired, old canard about devotees, especially those outside ISKCON, minimizing Srila Prabhupada and his contribution. In my experience, that just isn’t the case, at least in this sangha. ISKCON devotees like to praise Srila Prabhupada as a saktyavesa avatar. But where did that idea come from? It came from outside ISKCON, from Srila Prabhupada’s Godbrothers, whose imputed envy of him is supposed to be such a corrosive influence. I believe Yajavara Maharaja is supposed to have made a remark in this regard, and we know well that B.R. Sridhara Maharaja also said so, supporting his assertion with a well-reasoned argument. And Sridhara Maharaja’s disciple and successor wrote some pranama mantras for Srila Prabhupada, at Prabhupada’s request and under the direction of Sridhara Maharaja, glorifying him as, among other things, the best of millions of jagat gurus. I hope devotees will have enough curiosity and integrity to honestly investigate such baseless accusations and that we will be able to simply retire them some day soon.
where’s the like button Maharaj? 🙂
The issue at the core of this discussion of initiation vows is the guru parampara and its relationship with the ecclesiastical body. It is not so much an issue of more or less rounds. There is no universal standard in Gaudiya Vaisnavism for the number of rounds vowed to chant at initiation. What is universal is the fact that the guru can make adjustments to the number of rounds the disciple is to chant. Srila Prabhupada did not have the same standard for his own disciples as was required by his own guru.
For certain Srila Prabhupada required that his disciples take a vow to chant 16 rounds at the time of initiation. He made an adjustment according to time, place and circumstance.
Srila Prabhupada had left the institution of his guru and was initiating disciples independently, requiring a different number of rounds. Similarly, Swami Tripurari has left the institution of his guru and is initiating disciples independently, requiring a different number of rounds. For certain there were some in the Gaudiya Math who took issue with and even criticized Srila Prabhupada regarding how he was guiding his disciples. How might we respond to such criticism? Of course we would find no fault in Srila Prabhupada’s adjustment in the number of rounds. So why should we find fault in Swami Tripurari’s adjustment?
What has been proposed here is that Srila Prabhupada meant 16 rounds to be the standard for all initiations in ISKCON for all time to come, even those in the future who would not be taking initiation from him.
Let’s look at that point carefully. If this is the case, is there a direct statement to that effect by Srila Prabhupada? He would be essentially stripping all his disciples, grand-disciples and so on, who take up the seva of guru within ISKCON, from making any further adjustments to the number of rounds their disciples would chant. A possible caveat being that if they are initiating outside ISKCON then it is OK to adjust. I don’t have the veda-base but I think anyone would be hard pressed to find any direct statement in this regard coming from Srila Prabhupada.
I know of at least one guru in ISKCON, a GBC member in fact, who would like to be able to adjust the number of rounds required at the time of initiation. However, he is forbidden from doing this by the GBC. (And I think this gets to the heart of the issue here) An ecclesiastical body, the GBC, is dictating the standard of initiation. To be fair, the GBC claims that it is Srila Prabhupda who has made this edict and they are merely enforcing it. Even if this point is conceded, they still require that every guru in ISKCON ask his disciple to take a vow of loyalty to the GBC at the time of initiation. So they are dictating the initiation vows that the guru must ask of his disciple, at least in this regard.
On the other side a recommendation by the GBC is required in order for the guru to give initiation, regardless of the guru’s own opinion on the qualification of the disciple. There have been many instances in ISKCON where a guru was ready to give initiation to a disciple but they could not because the recommendation was denied by a GBC. There was even a recent case in which a disciple was denied recommendation because of his sexual orientation.
Now the GBC claims that this system of recommendation was required by Srila Prabhupada and they are only carrying out his orders. However, there is an essential difference between how it was carried out in the time of Srila Prabhupda and how it is going on now. Srila Prabhupada introduced this system because he could not personally assess the readiness of all of his disciples for initiation. Therefore he asked that his senior disciples make an assessment for him. If Srila Prabhuapda were to have personally assessed the readiness of a disciple and given initiation without a GBC recommendation would there be any problem there? Of course not. The GBC was acting as the servant of the guru in helping assess the disciple at the guru’s request. Now the guru’s assessment alone is insufficient and can even be disregarded all-together.
In summary, an ecclesiastical body, the GBC, dictates to the guru who may be accepted as a disciple and what vows are required at the time of initiation, including a vow of loyalty to itself.
On top of all this the GBC has also declared itself to be Srila Prabhupada’s successor.
All of this has zero precedent in Gaudiya Vaisnavism and good luck finding any support from sastra.
Very well stated Atmananda. The “parallel lines of authority” concept is problematic because clearly the GBC line is the one on top, effectively placing the guru and the faith of prospective disciples under it. As you stated, this has no previous precedent. It also reveals a fundamental lack of understanding of the nature of guru-tattva as well as sraddha and how to best facilitate its growth. A guru hobbled by institutional policy cannot fully discharge the service his or her post requires, i.e., the dynamic adjustment of details in support of spiritual principles. While I believe that the GBC body is doing what they think is correct in how they interpret and follow their Prabhupada, their actions (such as enacting the policy under discussion) reveal an hazy understanding of guru-tattva and the nature of sraddha–two basic and essential tattvas that form the very foundation of the entire philosophy. At the very least further siksa is required for them to upgrade their understanding and thus develop the capacity to deal with these issues appropriately.
Of course I forgot to mention that the GBC also decides who can become guru and who cannot.
So the GBC decides who can become guru, who can be initiated and what the initiation vows will be.
When did Srila Prabhupada ever give these specific powers to the GBC?
What is the sastric support for such ideas?
“So the GBC decides who can become guru, who can be initiated and what the initiation vows will be.”
If we translate this into common sense terms, it simply means that the “gurus” are front stage puppets of a power-oriented organization wherein the “gurus” and the initiates are under the thumb of these behind-the-scenes power-hungry administrators.
Iskcon will have to write a new verse to the Gurvastakum prayers:
BY THE MERCY OF THE GBC, THE GURU AND HIS INITIATES ARE BENEDICTED BY THE MERCY OF KRISHNA. WITHOUT THE GRACE OF THE GBC, NO ONE CAN MAKE ANY ADVANCEMENT. THEREFORE I SHOULD ALWAYS REMEBER THE GBC. AT LEAST THREE TIMES A DAY LET ME OFFER MY RESPECTFUL PRAYERS TO THE GBC.
Atmananda Ji – A small correction, when Srila Prabhupada received a recommendation for initiation it came from the Temple President not the GBC. This was a fundamental issue in ISKCON (before SP left) as Srila Prabhupada saw the Temple President as being independent from any centralized body. When TKG and others tried to centralize ISKCON management (in 1975) SP was furious and in effect kicked TKG out sending him to China. Now look at ISKCON today and I doubt there are few independent TP’s who recommend devotees for initiation what to speak of just about any actual management free from GBC interference. In the GBC’s drive to stop any kind of deviation they have become deviants. Oh how the pot is calling the kettle black.
I appreciate the correction.
The Wikipedia entry for Iskcon Guru System says, “In most Indic traditions spiritual authority rests in one person, or acharya, head of a monastery or a whole sampradaya. ISKCON is sometimes described as the “first global Vaisnava movement” and is different. ISKCON is a multi-guru organization that places the ultimate managerial authority in its Governing Body, a group rather than a single person. Current ISKCON Guru System is developed by the group of leaders, Governing Body Commission, (GBC), the managerial authority of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. ISKCON Guru system was originally initiated and put in place by ISKCON’s founder, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada…. Currently the GBC is entrusted with both spiritual and secular leadership of the ISKCON communities, as well as the power to appoint new gurus.”
The Guru System described in this entry doesn’t sound like the system that Srila Prabhupada intended. Srila Prabhupada said, “[Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura’s] idea was, acarya was not to be nominated amongst the governing body. He said openly ‘You make a GBC and conduct the mission.’ So his idea was amongst the members of the GBC who would come out successful, a self-effulgent acarya would be automatically selected.”
Out of the GBC, a self-effulgent acarya is supposed to be automatically selected by whoever comes out successful. Why hasn’t a self-effulgent acarya been selected? Why is the GBC the “spiritual and secular” leader of Iskcon and not the self-effulgent acarya? Srila Prabhupada says that the acarya was not to be nominated by the GBC. Therefore, why should the GBC have the “power to appoint new gurus”? In the Wikipedia entry the GBC sounds like the acarya, but where does Srila Prabhupada say that the GBC will be the acarya of Iskcon? He clearly expected that a self-effulgent acarya would naturally emerge, which is the traditional system followed for thousands of years and backed by sastra. This new-fangled system is a concoction based on a piecemeal attempt to rectify the fact that the so many of the original gurus in Iskcon were self-eclipsed rather than self-effulgent.
Thanks for highlighting what should be obvious (self effulgent), Vrindaranya. Your last line had me looking for a rim shot app on the site. (Alas, there is none, so we’ll have to imagine our own.)
A recent paper put out by a GBC committee seems close to asserting that the GBC is Srila Prabhupada’s successor, but that body’s record of blunders, however well intended, seems to undermine any such claim. Srila Prabhupada named the GBC as ISKCON’s ultimate managerial authority, and now these devotees have made the group ISKCON’s ultimate spiritual authority as well, declaring who is and is not guru, and which of Srila Prabhupada’s positions on any given issue may or may not be repeated in public by ISKCON speakers.
Your use of “self effulgent” reminded me of an essay written years ago by my Godbrother Tusta Krishna das. I thought I’d include an excerpt here for consideration.
Heres some food for thought–Sridhar Maharaja said that the Iskcon GBC could appoint new gurus. In fact he encouraged it, he said—not lavishly– but extend to senior devotees that the GBC deemed qualified.
When confronted with a Prabhupada quote saying that gurus could not be appointed SM replied that this referred to appointing unqualified persons saying–the GBC cannot appoint unqualified persons to be guru but can formally recognize devotees that are qualified to initiate.
In support, he related that the goswamis all appointed successor acharyas for their temples and Mahaprabhu personally appointed Gopal Batta Goswami as the initiating guru of Vrindavana giving him a cloth and a chair for the function–saying this is something like zonal guru.
Overall, he said there is no scriptural prohibition against zonal guru, temple guru, family guru, etc. as along as the guru is qualified—if the guru(s) are not qualified there will be nothing but problems
When asked about “self effulgent’ he chuckled and said self effulgent for one person or group is not necessarily self effulgent for another–a dilemma.
Yes, I am sure many devotees have a problem with that system.
Understanding Srila Prabhupada’s unique position and appreciating his preaching, the books and so much more, I need to say that I am most grateful for his disciples. They are the ones who are my teachers and ones who are here to lead and inspire me. They are my gurus and I see SP represented there.
I was born after Prabhupada had already gone to nitya-lila and I cannot experience him firsthand as some of his disciples had a chance to. They are my Prabhupada, and I am saying “they”, because I had several helping me along on my journey so far. But, they are all individuals, not a governing body. Srila Prabhupada is not properly represented by the governing body and I am surprised to see how far they’ve gone this time and how poorly they have managed other things in the past.
I wonder what would be the future of the GBC? I mean, SP is already a previous acarya to me, as he is to all these devotees I get to “hang out with”. Our peers are going to be the gurus of our kids and so on. Are they all going to vow to loyalty to GBC and Srila Prabhupada?
Let the gurus be the Acaryas in their own missions and let them inspire, adjust the principles and take the role of Prabhupada for the future generations. Some have it in them; we just need to recognize that and let them shine, not trample upon them.
I LOVE the “self-eclipsed” adjective. Very true 🙂
“…. where does Srila Prabhupada say that the GBC will be the acarya of Iskcon? He clearly expected that a self-effulgent acarya would naturally emerge, which is the traditional system followed for thousands of years and backed by sastra.”
The self-effulgent acharya has emerged! But the process of recognizing him may take some time.
Just as, amongst the god-brothers of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who were floundering, they could not immediately recognize Srila Prabhupada, who HAD TO step outside of their ranks in order to do the real work of spreading Krishna consciousness, similarly, the Iskcon GBC and all who pledge blind allegiance to that GBC, cannot yet recognize Swami Tripurari as one who holds the torchlight for distributing Lord Caitanya’s mercy.
Srila Prabhupada gave brahmana initiation to WOMEN! This was unheard of. Srila Prabhupada implemented changes in the FORM of practicing Krishna consciousness, while nurturing the living spirit of Krishna consciousness. We have the same parallel situation here.
Iskcon becomes an empty shell of a form while it rejects the one who nurtures the living spirit of Krishna consciousness while making minor adjustments for the sake of nurturing that spirit.
It will take time. But Swami B.V. Tripurari will come to be recognized. And all of this nonsense will simply serve to bring us to that point more quickly. Let us take it as growing pains.
Eventually they will come to understand:
What is the point of protecting Srila Prabhupada’s movement from the person who is giving his life in Srila Prabhupada’s service and doing it so successfully, in every way? Let us offer him all respect.
This is a reply to Brahma’s comment of Sep. 4. Although the site only allows responses to a certain number of levels, I don’t want him to think he got away with the last word here. 😉
I don’t think there’s a real controversy about whether ISKCON’s GBC has the authority to regulate initiations in the institution. Of course any acharya has the power to appoint a successor, and there’s plenty of precedent for that. But the plain fact is that both Srila Sarasvati Thakura and our Srila Prabhupada actively chose not to do so. There may be an implicit approval in the appointment of the ritviks made in 1977, but Srila Prabhupada made it pretty clear for a long time that he intended that all of us become qualified to carry out this service. Moreover, I’d suggest, as I have for decades, that the regulation of initiations would be better accomplished by education than by regulation. What we have seen is that the regulation has amounted to a de facto appointment, a GBC imprimatur bestowed on devotees who, despite external accomplishments, may or may not be qualified to bring disciples to the desired goal. And the GBC has tried a number of dances in order to dodge its responsibility in such de facto appointments. Unfortunately, the dances appear progressively awkward.
Experienced devotees who understand Gaudiya vaisnavism should be encouraged, even nudged, by the leadership to accept more and more responsibility, eventually even for giving siksa and diksa. But the process should be natural, in the same spirit of affection that we hope advice regarding the equally personal business of marriage would be given in. This would organically give rise to some gurus whose influence is rather local, some whose influence may extend to a broader, regional scope, others who may end up being invited to teach to more global audiences. The kind of heavy-handed quasi appointments that we see now put the guru in the position of being subordinate to an ecclesiastical bureaucracy in a way Srila Jiva Goswami warns against. And it also shows up in the kind of ecclesiastical fiat under discussion here. In other words, it gives the bureaucrats the power to warn members away from qualified gurus who have not been certified by that bureaucracy. If the guru is reduced to being simply an institutional functionary, someone who just dispenses mantras and cool names on behalf of an institution, as suggested recently by one member of the GBC, how is he or she saksaddhari? Why not just dispense the mantras from a Web site to anyone who can pass a multiple-choice quiz, rather than bother with all this personalism humbug and its attendant complications?
With regard to a guru or acarya’s self effulgence, I quoted Tusta Krishna’s article mainly because Vrindaranya used that term, following our Srila Prabhupada, in her comment. Srila Prabhupada used the term twice, I think, with regard to the guru or acarya—once in a Caitanya-caritamrita purport and once in a letter. I think the point Srila Prabhbupada and Tusta Krishna intended to make is that one becomes guru by virtue of his or her understanding of Krishna consciousness and ability to share that understanding with others, not by virtue of the recognition of courts of law or ecclesiastical governments. Srila Prabhupada directly warned against proliferation of bureaucracy and centralization, asserting that he wanted only book publishing and distribution to be centralized. Of course, especially in this age, it’s likely that not everyone will be able to recognize that. Those whose hearts are open will be able to recognize such qualified devotees, whether they’re certified or not.
If ISKCON wants to criticise Tripurari Mhj about his standards then I think they should first be sure that they can maintain their own. Setting a standard is one thing, but ensuring devotees are following or even inspired to follow is more essential. I know of at least six ISKCON devotees in one city, four being twice-born, that regularly participate in Ayuasca ceremonies. Now what’s that about? There is even one European ISKCON temple where some devotees hold regular secret public Ayuasca ceremonies, albeit unknown to the leaders there. Then what to mention of the numerous devotees I know performing arcana whilst neglecting their japa vow. Of course certain things these happen everywhere but I also wonder if the initial enthusiasm of being a young celibate temple resident with no other responsibilities leads many to make vows that actually they will be unable to follow when reality hits home. Then on the otherside, there are devotees serving and distributing books for 12 years or more, chanting 16 rnds but are unable to make the grade for initiation because of even higher requirements placed by local authorities, higher than even Srila Prabhupada’s.
As far as Tripurari Mhj’s initiation standards, I am sure everyone can appreciate that whatever standards he individually chooses they do not seem to diminish the standard of devotee that is produced. Just from the level of discussion from the disciples of Maharaja showing their high level of learning not to mention their overall service attitude and guru-nistha, it appears that a powerfully connected tree is producing highly influential contributors to our parampara. That’s the sanga that I both need and want.
In regard to taking a vow of loyalty to ISKCON, I am just so happy that at least I received diksa before this was implemented.
ALL GLORIES TO HIS DIVINE GRACE A.C.BHAKTIVEDANTA SWAMI SRILA PRABHUPADA!– Sanatana Goswami dasa,in your above post you stated that “There is even one European ISKCON temple where some devotees hold regular secret public Ayuasca ceremonies”- Prabhu,”secret” and “regular public” seem to cancel each other out,don’t you think?I,for one,would like to know the name of this ISKCON temple,whose devotees seem to be a latter-day incarnation of Jayatirtha Swami.Please enlighten us… ALL GLORIES TO ALL THE VAISNAVA DEVOTEES OF THE LORD!–JAI RADHE!
Let’s not let the technicalities of language distract us from the point that ISKCON standards are not quite as they hope in all places, whilst accusations are made against Tripurari Mhj. All is not perfect and there is much to improve.
Anyhow, “secret” in this sense means performing an illegal ceremony (for what I am aware in that country) and also unaware to the temple authorities.
“public” means they have they have their “outside” clientèle.tis
As for the name of the temple, this is for your own investigation if you so desire.
Sanatana Goswami dasa–ALL GLORIES TO SRILA PRABHUPADA!–Thank you for your reply.After sending you this question,I regretted having done so.Certainly it is none of my business.Also I have no desire to hurt the lives of any devotees.Reveiling which temple was involved would serve no purpose.My only excuse was this–I,like many foolish people,like to engage in gossip.Most certainly your reply was the correct one and I must thank you for setting me straight.You make a good instructor Prabhu.ALL GLORIES TO ALL THE VAISNAVA DEVOTEES OF THE LORD!—JAI RADHE!
“In regard to taking a vow of loyalty to ISKCON, I am just so happy that at least I received diksa before this was implemented.”
Iskcon is the organization of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. That organization has a heart and a context. Those who claim to be protecting Iskcon are out of touch with that heart and with that context. Although they are posing as the guardians of Iskcon, in fact they have usurped that position of authority while they administer according to their own agendas.
Therefore the “vow of loyalty to ISKCON” is a misnomer. It is a vow of loyalty to these misguided agendas.
Loyalty to Iskcon is loyalty to he who created and gave shape and texture to Iskcon. That loyalty to Iskcon exists, but it is no longer to be found within the walls of Iskcon.
Therefore those who take and begin to understand that vow will continue to abandon those artificial confines. We came because we were fatigued with the empty pose of officialdom ad nauseum. We came seeking tangible fulfillment over hierarchical sterility. The vow of loyalty to show bottle spirituality will not endure as the real medicine that provides the strength is found to be lacking.
Thank you for this article Madan Gopal. I appreciate your balanced, logical, and heartfelt response to this mandate. I think one of your strongest points was that these unreasonable and ill-founded mandates create unnecessary stress on the natural loving bonds Vaisnavas feel for one another and which are essential to our devotional progress.
I had personally been involved in ISKCON management and preaching under a current NA GBC for over a decade and a half from 1987-2000. Devotees during those years would often address my concerns about the state of ISKCON affairs by saying that ISKCON was getting better. Yet to date, and especially after reviewing this mandate, my conviction to leave ISKCON years ago is once again validated. ISKCON has not gotten better and from where I sit reading this mandate, it has clearly gotten worse and blatantly so.
Since taking shelter of Sripad Tripurari Maharaja many years ago with the blessings of my guru in ISKCON, I have felt no need to look back. I feel I have made the most advancement of my life under his guidance and in his mission. I feel grateful and blessed that my ISKCON guru acted in my best spiritual interest.
Here are a few things that come to mind that I think would be helpful for the NA GBC to contemplate:
1) If your own constituents which include sincere disciples of Srila Prabhupada in good standing have concluded your mandate is unfounded and thus choose to ignore it and/or ask for its repeal then are you actually representing ISKCON? Furthermore, how do you consider those constituents part of “your” ISKCON? Or perhaps even more accurately how are you considered ISKCON? It seems like a clear case of emperors without clothes. It’s embarrassing, sad, and pathetic to watch and seriously offensive on your part toward your own constituents as well as other Vaisnavas in other missions.
2) As described in many of the comments here, sincere students of bhakti have been subject to tactics of faith breaking, criticism, aparadha and just plain unbecoming proselytizing by ISKCON leaders. If any of those being hassled had agreed to succumb or join ISKCON as a result, I would bet my whole bhakti bank account (as measly as it is) that they would have been reinitiated by a number of ISKCON gurus without question. Actually, I know personally of one case where this would have definitely taken place. Why isn’t this happening though? Why aren’t students in others missions leaving readily and yet people are leaving ISKCON and looking elsewhere? Why are they uninspired? Could it be that they are sincere and when they meet a sadhu who is providing volumes of siksa, is training his or her disciples in a loving manner, who is writing commentaries and developing successful communities in North America they naturally feel revived and as a result act properly as sastra dictates and take shelter of that sadhu.
Spiritual substance cannot be legislated or fabricated as much as genuine faith based on sastra yukti cannot be broken.
3) I resided in California for 9 years and in ISCKON Berkeley, it was common knowledge that Trivikrama Swami would not call gurukulis who had taken shelter of Narayana Maharaja by their initiated names. I would consider this act of indignance as outright offensive behavior and something ISKCON should be very concerned about. ISKCON seems to be full of loose cannons in positions of authority and who feel they can just freely abuse Vaisnavas including their own students. Yet, they choose to ignore that and instead meddle into affairs of thriving and inspired missions. Sometimes leaders will respond and say they can’t control these “loose cannons” devotees and yet they want to control those who act sincerely and appropriately toward advanced sadhus.
4) ISKCON is the only Gaudiya mission plagued with deep rooted rtvik contamination. ISKCON has also promoted decades of aparadha against acaryas. ISKCON has published mandates that were clearly apa-siddhantic.
Logic, reason, siddhanta , good will, sadhu’s kindness and advice as well as Srila Prabhupada’s own siksa seems to have no apparent affect on the downward spiraling of ISKCON or on the heart and minds of those who spend their time writing, discussing and publishing these offensive mandates.
Jayadvaita Maharaja once said years ago in my presence and that of an assembly of devotees that what ISKCON needs is grandmothers. Meaning those who can give some mature, experienced, and loving guidance. Perhaps he’s right and in this case maybe some scolding from a Bengali ma with a switch would help. Go to your rooms and study the basic tenets of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. Clean your own house because it’s filthy. Above all, mind your own business as we are doing just fine over here.
“Jayadvaita Maharaja once said years ago in my presence and that of an assembly of devotees that what ISKCON needs is grandmothers. Meaning those who can give some mature, experienced, and loving guidance.”
So where is his voice of loving guidance now, in this instance? It is one thing to posture as sanyasi, head of BBT, carrying the big stick. What is the big stick doing about all of this? Srila Prabhupada and the vedas teach that silence means agreement.
When Sisupala was speaking against the entire assembly giving first worship to Krishna, Sisupala was standing in the assembly and speaking all manner of offensive and false things against Krishna. And those who were not prepared to counteract those poisonous words with their swords were forced, by their own feelings of indignation, to leave the assembly.
So that maharaja that you are mentioning, the one who carries the stick, who has been a guest speaker at Audarya (so I have read), where is his indignation? Has he kept his seat in the Iskcon assembly? Or is he standing up to object to these proceedings? He and all the rest. Silence means agreement.
But why should they agree to such an affront to such a repectable and illustrious vishnava? Just like Sisupala. Envy.
Ishan prabhu, from what I understand, Jayadvaita Maharaja is one of the more vocal opponents to a number of objectionable trends within ISKCON. He has also spoken very strongly about the risk and dangers of Vaishnava aparadha. I appreciate your point about “silence meaning agreement” but would also like to point out that we cannot expect everybody to react in the same way, even if they feel the same about a situation. Some people have more or less capacity to campaign against a bad thing, but it can be risky to use that alone as the measurement of their personal sincerity/integrity. That being said, these are real issues that need addressing and if too many people sit on the fence, it only ends up getting taller… Tripurari Maharaja likes to quote Martin Luther King, Jr.: “It is always the right time to do the right thing.”
Dear Nitaisundara Prabhu,
Obeisances. I had a feeling that maybe I was going too far when I spoke against Jayadvaita Maharaja, simply because, as you are pointing out, I don’t have all the information. I rubbed shoulders with him in Iskcon, here and there, and it was not all that pleasant. So I have to get over that and take it as Krishna’s mercy on me, if only so as not to hurt myself by holding innappropriate feelings towards someone on the path. Guess I have some homework to do.
It is always the right time for the revolution!
Dear Rasasundari Prabhu,
Obeisances, all glories to Sri Sri Guru and Gauranga!
Re: “I was born after Prabhupada had already gone to nitya-lila and I cannot experience him firsthand as some of his disciples had a chance to.”
I would bank my entire future in Krishna conscious developement on the following statement:
If you watch and listen to a DVD wherein Srila Prabhupada is singing Jaya Radha Madhava with the devotees, at the start of Bhagavatam or Gita class, and notice at points where Srila Prabhupada switches from his official guru exterior, to reveal his inner feelings for Krishna, which you can experience in his facial expression, hearing his voice at the same time – then you can be as close to Srila Prabhupada as anyone who ever met him. In those brief moments, the heart of the pure devotee, saturated with overwhelming love for Krishna, is there to be imprinted in our hearts, to act as material for a lifetime of meditation.
I was alone with Srila Prabhupada on a walk one morning in England when he explained to me that the formal exterior that he projected, as an authoritative personality was something that he did in order to play the role of preacher/teacher. He explained that if he did not do this, the students would not follow. So for the sake of instructing students he adopted this pose. He said, “I am not anyone’s master – but for preaching, I do this”.
In those same walks (it was at John Lennon’s estate, where there were only a few devotees and I was somehow the one to accompany Srila Prabhupada on his walks), that Srila Prabhupada jokingly asked me why the acorns on the grass jumped into his high rubber boots, mischeiviously jumped up onto the 16 inch high wall that bordered the outdoor swimming pool (while wrapped in his long dark overcoat and with his large rubber bbots on) and walked the length of the pool playfully, like a marching soldier, and then jumped off the far end into the wet morning grass, and then entered a thicket of 7 foot high brush and began to fence with the branches of the bushes with his cane in a very annimated way – just like a young boy playing – it was during those walks that he told me that he plays the authoritarian role for preaching puropses but that he is not anyone’s overlord.
That overlord role was always there, and many came in contact with it. But that look of longing on Srila Prabhupada’s face as you can see in his DVD’s while singing Jaya Radha Madhava, that is there for you and anyone else who cares to drink pure love of God through the ears and eyes, and carry that in your heart. That is available. One may say that the DVD is material, a recording. But I will say that one can think of the Deity that way also. In fact the acharyas write that the external energy is ultimately spiritual because it comes from Krishna and is pervaded by paramatma, but our vision is material because we see it as separate from God. Srila Prabhupada wanted all these recordings very much, his words, his singing, his walks, his books, all as non-different from himself. So much of the presentation is formal, with the tattva orientation. But in Jaya Radha Madhava love of God is so softly, tenderly, lovingly visible. In Bhagavatam when writing about Narada Muni’s previous lifetime, Srila Pabhupada used the phrase, “imbibe the taste of the Bhaktivedantas.” It is a gift for all of us, that he has left for us. Especially for sincere devotees like you.
Thank you prabhu for sharing your story and experience.
Of course, I see Srila Prabhupada as a pure devotee and I see Krishna in/through him.
I had more then 7 years to develop my deep attachment to SP while I was waiting to receive diksa. I read his books and thought of him as I chanted japa. He was very sweet and endearing, no doubt.
My point though, is that I see Krishna in and get inspiration from my gurus and that’s my personal experience, that’s my guru-disciple connection and it is as real to me as yours is with SP.
I didn’t intend to minimize his role and importance, I just meant to emphasize the role of our individual gurus over that of a Governing body.
I didn’t see the problem as a new devotee in Europe back in the 90’s, but as I matured and have made my home here in the US, I definitely see more and hear more of how the GBC handles the matters discussed in this article.
I hope I clarified what I meant to say in a previous comment. English is not my first language, so forgive me for not being as eloquent as other posters here.
Please accept my respects and I pray you take no offense.
I very much appreciate your point and share your experience, Rasasundari. I am reminded of Atmananda’s wonderful article from a couple years ago: https://harmonist.us/2010/10/prabhupadanuga-or-prabhupada-abhasa/
Dear Rasasundari Prabhu,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Sri Sri Guru and Gauranga!
I feel that we are missing each other’s points to some degree.
I am hearing you say that:
” my guru-disciple connection … it is as real to me as yours is with SP.”
Prabhu, I never thought otherwise. You are probably ahead of of me in this respect.
“I didn’t intend to minimize his role and importance,…”
Prabhu, I never felt that you were doing that.
“. English is not my first language, so forgive me for not being as eloquent as other posters here.”
If you did not reveal this, I would not know it. From my point of view, your ability to express yourself is very nice.
“Please accept my respects and I pray you take no offense.”
I cannot see anything in what you have written that would cause me to feel any disturbance.
Please accept my respects as well.
I take comfort in the written words of Tripurari Swami, in his Bhagavad-gita commentary:
Bg ch 4, vs 34 Purport Excerpt (c) SwamiB.V. Tripurari 2001
“Although the scripture mandates that one must learn from the guru, this scriptural law has love at its heart. The sincere disciple genuinely feels that his highest prospect lies in hearing and serving the knowledge imparted by the guru: “I must surrender here, for my life’s highest prospect will be realized in this.” This feeling arises within when we hear from one who has been commissioned to collect our soul for divine service. It is love that forms the bond between guru and disciple, not law.”
Excellent Ishan. Very comforting words indeed!
I received diksa initiation from Srila Prabhupada in 1968. I was in Montreal and Srila Prabhupada was in New York. The temple president sent my beads to Srila Prabhupada, by mail, to be chanted on. His Divine Grace returned my beads by mail, with a note saying that my new name was Ishan das. He never spoke the mantra into my ear, and there was no GBC to whom I could offer a vow of allegance. My God, maybe my initiation isn’t bonafide!!! (joke).
Mine is a very unscientific, poorly considered, and sentimental comment.
Prabhupada’s mission was for America to find, love and serve Krsna and the servants of Krsna. He founded ISKCON to facilitate the achievement of this goal.
Myself, along with many others, find the writings of Sridhar Maharaja and the talks, writings and association of Swami Tripurari to inspire us to search after Krsna. Can anyone seriously imagine that Prabhupada is displeased with this? That he would chastise us for chasing after Krsna in the “wrong” way? Especially when this “wrong” way conforms to centuries of the gaudiya tradition, although deviates in externals from the past 70 years of the ISKCON tradition?
I can’t picture that. Maya is so big and so powerful, shouldn’t all gaudiyas be celebrating any tradition that helps people find Krsna?
As brought up in my article and several of the comments that followed, the spiritual master has the obligation to prescribe the sadhana practices for any individual disciple. Some ISKCON devotees have questioned how any successor acarya could adjust the number of rounds of Harinama required at initiation to anything other than the magical number of 16 that Srila Prabhupada settled on for his disciples. The following excerpts from Pujyapada B.R. Sridhar Maharaj, Prabhupada’s godbrother and a senior member of Gaudiya Matha, point out how such adjustment has been going on in parampara, how ISKCON’s founder also adjusted it and I think puts in perspective the value of flexibility of the spiritual master in expertly guiding the disciple rather than applying one standard for all time and circumstance.
Srila Sridhar Maharaj: “So Prabhupada (BSST) told us that our tulasi beads should not fast. His minimum advice was that we must do some service in the form of chanting Hare Krishna while counting on beads, at least once daily. His exact words were, malika upabasa na – ‘the beads should not fast.’ And his general instruction was to preach as much as possible…(SSM goes on to explain that preaching is no less important and possibly more absorbing than sadhana.)
…Although he (Caitanya Mahaprabhu) has advised us to chant one hundred thousand names, or sixty-four rounds daily, that is a provincial saying. What is really all-important is the spirit of service. We are not told that the gopis always count the name on tulasi beads, yet they possess the highest position in the service of Krishna in Vrndavana…
Student: How many rounds did your guru maharaj ask his initiated disciples to chant each day? Did he prescribe any set number?
Srila Sridhar Maharaj: His general recommendation was to chant twenty-five thousand names, sixteen rounds daily, or at least four rounds minimum. When someone had no work, he could chant one hundred thousand names, or sixty-four rounds.
Student: Would Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur give harinama initiation to someone who could only chant four rounds daily?
Srila Sridhar Maharaj: There was no such consideration. Formally, one had to do some counting, but there was no rigid limitation. What he wanted from us was intense engagement in the service of the Lord, under the guidance of a Vaisnava, because the all-important point is service. Our attainment of the goal is not insured simply by increasing the number of times we repeat the name; only by increasing the quality will we reach success…
A gun that has no bullet, but only a blank, may make some sound, but no bullet is actually fired. Similarly, chanting the name of Krishna without an attitude of service produces sound, but that is only tongue deep. It is like firing a gun with blanks instead of bullets. Our chanting of the holy name of Krishna must be surcharged with a serving temperament, the tendency to satisfy Krishna. Otherwise the sound we produce is bogus.
This thread is now quiet but I have come accross a nice clarification on the point of “improvisation” by spiritual masters when considering the way of guiding their students:
CC ML 23/105 Purport excerpt: (A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada)
“……… To broadcast the cult of Krishna consciousness, one has to learn the possibility of renunciation in terms of country, time and cndidate. A candidate for krishna consciousness in the Western countries should be taught about the renunciation of material existence, but one would teach candidates from a country like India in a different way. The teacher(acarya) has to consider time, candidate and country. He must avoid the principle of niyamagraha – that is, he should not try to perform the impossible. The acarya’s duty is to accept the essence of devotional service. There may be a little change here and there…… and we have also learned this from our spiritual master. …… The essence of devotional service must be taken into consideration, and not the outward paraphernalia.
………. Srila Sanatana Goswami had to keep pace with this, and his hari-bhakti-vilasa was compiled with this in mind (the smarta caste conscious orientation).
……..It is not necessary that the rules and regulations followed in India be exactly the same as those in Europe, America and other Western countries. Simply imitating without effect is called niyamagraha. …. What is required is a special technique according to country, time and candidate.”
Obviously, for example, being given the instruction to chant 16 rounds did not eliminate the possibility of fall-down even amongst the foremost Iskcon leaders and those posing as guru, what to speak of the common devotee. Srila Prabhupada is clearly making the point that as long as we keep the siddhanta intact and strive for the highest result in terms of the students spiritual advancement, the intelligent spiritual master is obligated to make the necessary practical adjustments out of kindness, for the benefit of his/her students.
I thought some would enjoy seeing Srila Prabhupada’s considerations in this connection, even as they are presented in the so-called Iskcon “law books”, those teachings that are to be the basis of Krishna consciousness for the next so many centuries.
Dandavat pranams to all participants.
As I’m reading through, I’m thinking that Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s mission, which cannot be confined to any one institution, is so magnanimous that it includes all, even the animals and no one can be excluded. He extended mercy to birds, beasts, great offenders like Jagai and Madhai as well as Mayavadis and everyone else. He inundated the universe with the Holy Name for the benefit of all souls. If someone is following that same line of thought and assisting their Gurudev in the service of the Lord, then what is the harm if they are not part of the group that I claim is mine? Krishna is infinite and thus there is need for many societies of Krishna consciousness. How can we box him in? He is very tricky and fully independent and can go anywhere He pleases whenever He desires to do so. If we are very, very lucky, we may be there when He decides to spread His grace through the lips of any Vaishnava and we may become inspired in ways we could never have imagined. There should be no attempt to stop this divine dispensing of mercy, which comes at a time when the individual most needs it, and may not even be visible to any onlookers and perhaps even also, the speaker is unaware as in “vyaso vetti na vetti va”. For the disciple it is a manifestation of “golokera premadhana” and we have no authority over that wonderful descent from the transcendental plane. If any Guru has lost the faith of the disciple, better to think in terms of trnad api…”I have failed in my duty to give sufficient inspiration.” There is no poaching or stealing involved. It is a matter of faith, the movement of the heart towards inspiration and direction to attain the ultimate goal of life. I have never heard of any incident where anyone was carried off in a box and forced to accept initiation.
I’m not in anyway advocating a whimsical free-for-all scenario. In the ideal situation the Godbrother Gurus should communicate but it is not always possible if there is too much institutional consideration. Anyway, just some things for consideration.
attention; atmananda das, hare krishna prabhuji. so nice to hear that you are still happily engaged in devotional service. i spent decade 90% blooped out, but back in may gad a spiritual revival and am feeling more fired up than i have in 20 years. please email me your contact info, i’d love to hear from you. all glories to srila prabhupada and to srilas radhanath and tripuari maharajas! your servant sevananda das: firstname.lastname@example.org
Upon hearing that Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada said “ISKCON is my body,” anyone having the slightest acquaintance with Krishna-bhakti will recognize the corollary truth: Srila Prabhupada is not his body. Indeed, several of Srila Prabhupada’s early followers from the 26 Second Avenue days remember him saying that if the institution ever became an encumbrance he would happily disband it or leave it behind (as he left behind the institution of his own spiritual master, as well as the first two institutions of which he was a founding member — the Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti and the League of Devotees).
As such, I cannot comprehend how today’s ISKCON devotees can in good conscience add to their vows a fifth regulative principle of never leaving ISKCON. By taking such a vow, they are declaring greater faith in an institution than in a person, even though that institution has a history of displeasing Srila Prabhupada during his presence, and then of changing its guidance contradictorily after his disappearance.
Then again, everything in Goloka Vrndavana is conscious. Maybe those whose bhakti is directed toward buildings and bylaws will find that in Goloka their eternal spiritual form is that of the brick and mortar of a building? Just kidding, but…