Embracing Unity in Diversity

By Bhakti Abhaya Ashram Swami, originally published on Feburary 28, 2012.

When I was teaching in gurukulas, the students would occasionally find out that another child didn’t like one sort of food or another and would tease them: “Eww—you don’t like mangoes? That means you don’t like Prabhupada and Krishna!” These eight- or nine-year-olds were probably joking, or half-joking, to the extent that kids are capable. But when adults insist, in the rudest language, that other devotees who don’t share their opinions on one detail or another regarding devotional practice or association are faithless, or even demons, they are not joking. And it’s not funny.

Rather, they are simply demonstrating the narrow-minded attitude and cramped thinking discouraged by Srila Prabhupada himself. Unfortunately, we see a great deal of such narrow-mindedness in discussions among devotees over the course of our association, both face to face and in online discourse. I have found it to be perhaps the most discouraging, most corrosive attitude among devotees. I believe it would immeasurably improve the quality of devotee association, and perhaps even the devotees’ preaching efforts, if, rather than seeing other devotees of Krishna in such a pinched, miserly way, we tried instead to imbibe and exhibit the kind of broad, generous vision of others that Srila Prabhupada himself exemplified.

Those devotees who have spent any time on the internet over the last few years have most likely observed a number of controversies that often appear to be focused more on approaches to preaching than anything else. Sannyasi A rips into Sannyasi B for having the temerity to write on Bhagavad-gita. Sannyasi C conducts a campaign against Sannyasi D, accusing him of being infected with “New Age” ideas. Then he goes after Sannyasi E for engaging in mundane welfare work in the name of preaching. Others in turn criticize Sannyasi C for being stuck in the Middle Ages with regard to a number of social issues. A good number of ISKCON leaders consistently vilify those who have accepted instruction from preachers outside the GBC’s control, calling them guru-tyagis or worse, often pushing them outside ISKCON altogether. Many devotees criticize the BBT and its staff for continuing to edit Srila Prabhupada’s books. Defenders of the BBT’s managers and staff, on the other hand, sometimes belittle those who see themselves as simply standing up for the purity of Srila Prabhupada’s books.

And I don’t want to give the impression that this problem is exclusively, or even primarily, a problem among ISKCON’s devotees. It’s no secret that many preachers from one mission have over the years disparaged pretty much everyone who didn’t surrender to their guru, whom they touted as the most advanced devotee on the planet, sometimes as the only pure devotee around. And leading preachers in another mission used their blogs for years to harass preachers from other missions who did not serve under their guru, using downright cruel facsimiles of humor. More recently, these same leaders now find themselves embroiled in succession conflicts, which some of them broadcast all over the Web, publicly accusing their perceived opponents of all sorts of impropriety and a laundry list of offenses. And then we have a number of Web sites whose specialty seems to be publishing any and every complaint against leaders of ISKCON and pretty much every other Gaudiya mission. And so it goes, ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

What’s more, we engage in all this bickering in public, across the internet! What does this say to the countless students who type “Hare Krishna” or some such search phrase into their search engine as they work on that term paper? To someone who might have purchased a book about Krishna consciousness, or to the father wondering if he should let his child visit a temple or stay at an ashram? It seems we can establish dialog and discuss contentious matters cordially with academics, with Christians, with Jews, perhaps with some Muslims and Buddhists, and even some atheists, but we can’t talk with another devotee who disagrees with us by even less than one percent without getting into a fight. And sometimes we do so in the most intemperate language. One can only imagine how Gaudiya Vaishnavism must look to those whose experience of it is limited to what they see on the internet.

What seems to be missing here is discourse driven by the kind of vision Srila Prabhupada showed throughout his lifetime of spreading Krishna consciousness. Let us see, for example, how he responded to discord among devotees in a letter he wrote to Kirtanananda in 1973:

Now this displeasing of god brothers has already begun and gives me too much agitation in my mind. Our Gaudiya Math people fought with one another after the demise of Guru Maharaja but my disciples have already begun fighting even in my presence. So I am greatly concerned about it. . . .

Material nature means dissension and disagreement, especially in this Kali yuga. But, for this Krishna consciousness movement its success will depend on agreement, even though there are varieties of engagements. In the material world there are varieties, but there is no agreement. In the spiritual world there are varieties, but there is agreement. That is the difference. The materialist without being able to adjust the varieties and the disagreements makes everything zero. They cannot come into agreement with varieties, but if we keep Krishna in the center, then there will be agreement in varieties. This is called unity in diversity. . . . But, if we fight on account of diversity, then it is simply the material platform. Please try to maintain the philosophy of unity in diversity. That will make our movement successful. One section of men have already gone out, therefore we must be very careful to maintain unity in diversity. . . .

What we see here is an exhortation to a broader, more generous vision of how diverse devotees may serve the Mahaprabhu’s mission than some may be accustomed to. The basis of this generosity, Srila Prabhupada explains, is the generosity of spirit Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu teaches:

Following in the footprints of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu:

trnad api su-nicena taror iva sahisnuna
amanina manadena kirtaniya sada harih

“One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street; one should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige and should be ready to offer all respect to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly.”

We must always remember this verse and be as tolerant as the tree, as we execute the Krishna consciousness movement. Without this mentality we cannot be successful.

Srila Prabhupada’s letter suggests that tolerating difference is essential to the broad vision he urges his disciple to develop here. The word tolerance is well worth examining.

Devotees generally use tolerance in the sense of forbearance, putting up with something we see as unfavorable. We often speak of tolerating the urges of the mind and senses, of tolerating abuse from an unappreciative public, of tolerating the devotees who get on our nerves, of tolerating bodily pain or the itching of bug bites. This certainly answers to one of the two meanings the word has in English; moreover, it’s a useful understanding for practicing devotees. But it is neither the sole nor the primary meaning.

Most English dictionaries give the primary sense of tolerance as fairness toward practices, opinions, and perspectives different from our own; freedom from bigotry; a liberal, undogmatic attitude. This is certainly the sense in which Srila Prabhupada uses it in his letter to Kirtanananda, and it is the most useful sense of tolerance for truly progressive devotees in a diverse, worldwide movement. Unfortunately, this kind of tolerance among devotees is too uncommonly found.

Instead, we encounter scenes such as this: When visiting an ISKCON temple in a large US city a few years ago, I was subjected to one of ISKCON’s more prominent sannyasis asserting that all but one of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s disciples failed to appreciate their guru’s innovation of an organized institution for systematically propagating the teachings of Lord Caitanya. Therefore, he said, they all became either mayavadins or sahajiyas. (And he made such a blanket condemnation of Srila Prabhupada’s Godbrothers by way of ostensibly glorifying Srila Sarasvati Thakura on the anniversary of his disappearance.) Or we find ourselves embroiled in endless squabbles with members of another mission, who seem to regard everyone who does not share their degree of faith in a particular sadhu as the lowest of offenders. More recently I was involved in an online discussion with a number of my Godbrothers and sisters in which a couple of participants conducted protracted campaigns of vilifying another Godbrother and everyone who associated with him in the harshest imaginable language because he declines to submit to ISKCON’s GBC, including ISKCON policies contrary to Gaudiya Vaishnava siddhanta.

Srila Prabhupada sometimes told us that one definition of a brahmana is liberal, broadminded, generous, as opposed to the narrow-minded kripana, who is miserly and grudging—at best—in appreciating others with whom he does not closely identify. And he made it abundantly clear throughout his teaching campaign that the dominant attitude in our movement should be that of the brahmana.

We should note carefully, though, that the generosity expressed should not be a kind of Pollyannaism that pretends away the differences between different groups of devotees. I suggest, rather, that we behave, as Srila Prabhupada often exhorted, as a society based on love and trust. The problem is that leaders too often insist that we love and trust them, but they treat us as if we had little intelligence or sincerity. Love, trust, and cooperation are reciprocal activities, two-way streets. But if love and trust seem too lofty, too inaccessible, perhaps we could begin with simple mutual respect.

We need, of course, to be able to discuss the issues that seem to divide us, but we should discuss them respectfully. We can only do that, however, if we begin to turn away from a Manichean view of the world, including the world of devotees. That is a black-and-white view that my perspective, my approach, my mission, my guru, is good, and all others are inferior, if not bad, perhaps even evil. We see that, in American political discourse, this perspective has led to such toxic rancor and demonization that government has been all but crippled. And the same thing has happened in discourse among devotees. Embracing unity in diversity, on the other hand, means accepting and openly acknowledging that devotees whose approach to service may appear more liberal or conservative, or different in any way we find significant, may also desire to make the perfection of Krishna consciousness available to everyone. It means moving from black and white to shades of gray, but also beyond that to a full-color spectrum of approaches to preaching and practicing, as long as they don’t challenge the siddhanta established by our acaryas.

We should note that even discussed in a more civil manner, some ideas and policies will be rejected. As much as I may respect your sincere desire to serve Mahaprabhu’s mission, I may still find a particular policy ill advised, or even contrary to the siddhanta established by our acaryas. You may also find my reluctance to bow to your institution’s leaders’ authority narrow or short sighted, even obstinate. And we may very well feel compelled to say so. Moreover, our discussion may be quite vigorous because of the strength of our convictions. But we should be able to discuss these issues vigorously without casting aspersions on each others’ faith, denigrating each other’s accomplishments, or calling each other names. We should be more interested in generating light than heat. Perhaps we need fewer lessons in logic and argumentation and more guidance from Miss Manners!

So let us by all means discuss those differences, but let us strive to do so with a more nuanced approach than we too often see these days. After all, discussion aimed at understanding the conclusions of the scriptures strengthens our faith. Moreover, the focus of our disagreements is usually how to serve guru and Gauranga. I hope we devotees can learn to discuss with real respect, not the sham respect we see among today’s politicians. Doing so would be easier, of course, if we learn to respect each other’s service and contributions, regardless of institutional affiliation or differences in approaches. We must respect boundaries, as well. Good fences, the proverb says, make good neighbors. How far this is true is another discussion altogether. Where I’m from, on the island of Hawaii, we build rock walls, but they’re usually only a foot or two high, not sky-scraping walls topped with broken glass or razor wire. It’s easy to step over them to visit, as the mood there is “e komo mai”: come on over. My kuleana (responsibility) is taking care of what’s on this side of the wall, and yours is what’s on that side. And if bananas, avocados, or mangos from trees on my side hang over the wall, they’re yours. We devotees of Caitanya Mahaprabhu should be able to behave similarly, accepting responsibility for our own service, sharing generously, and respecting—but not worshiping—boundaries. Intruding on other missions’ affairs simply to break devotees’ faith should be avoided.

In our attempts to create a discourse of love and trust, we may recall Krishna’s praise of speech that does not cause distress, is truthful, agreeable, and beneficial as austerity of speech. And, bearing in mind that Krishna repeatedly praises nonviolence in Bhagavad-gita, devotees may want to consider approaches such as nonviolent communication. This helps us both express our own perspective honestly and clearly, while at the same time paying others respectful, empathetic attention. And when we do write, whether a book or an email, we should consider carefully a couple of things all conscientious writers learn: how we want to present ourselves, who our audience is (both our intended audience, and, given the reality of the digital world, who our audience is likely to become), and our purpose; what we hope to accomplish by writing a particular text. If we can do such things, we may find it possible to work together and realize Srila Prabhupada and Mahaprabhu’s ambitions for the sankirtana movement. Otherwise, we’re likely to find ourselves as divided by recrimination and name-calling as the leaders of the two main political parties in the US are today. And our efforts will likely prove no more effective.

I don’t intend that this brief essay serve as a manifesto, or that it be read as a comprehensive treatment of the problem I identify here, which is not that we devotees disagree among ourselves, but that the manner in which we publicly express our disagreement poisons our relationships and undermines the culture of bhakti. This is merely an essay, in the more formal sense of an attempt—here, an attempt mainly to begin a conversation. Read it as an opening gambit, if you like. It will also likely serve as the beginning to a longer, more comprehensive project I have been considering for some time. Meanwhile, I hope devotees will feel free to continue the conversation by offering their own insights and experiences.

Let us imagine together how much more easily the world may be able to appreciate the teachings of Sri Caitanya when his followers no longer publicly bicker like eight-year-old children. I hope we can all become humble enough to accept that devotees with perspectives different from ours may certainly love and honor Srila Prabhupada, our guru-varga, and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as much as we—and to treat them as such. A broader vision, colored by the love and trust that should come naturally to progressive Vaishnavas, will show that diversity of perspectives and approaches to be an asset, not a liability. At least addressing each other as if we had such a vision may be a step in the right direction. We may then begin to see how Mahaprabhu’s sankirtana movement is enriched by that diversity, which may provide a broader range of appeal to the larger society, which is in such dire need of the Vaishnavas’ mercy.


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94 Responses to Embracing Unity in Diversity

  1. Bravo Babhru Prabhu!! Bravo!! It’s really shocking how liberal and open that Prabhupada REALLY was, compared to the kind of narrow-minded attack-dog attitude that many ‘devotees’ are so quick to show to anyone who steps out of line with their pre-fabricated immovable dogmas.. I heard a Sufi teacher say that those Muslims who only focus on judgment and killing infidels are not real Muslims because they have no place in their hearts’ for God’s Mercy.. Likewise.. a devotee who claims to love an All-Merciful Lord but then proceeds to attack and vilify with nasty language anyone who disagrees with them clearly has no CLUE about their Lord.

  2. Some readers have objected elsewhere that I’m overreaching by focusing on the broader meaning of “tolerance.” They suggest that I should limit myself to the narrower sense, that of putting up with something we don’t like or are uncomfortable with. To do otherwise, they say, makes my argument appear specious. They also say that, although the broader sense I use in my essay does indeed appear first in most English dictionaries, I should follow what they say is the most used sense.

    I certainly anticipated precisely this objection and researched it pretty thoroughly. (It would be just silly to think that I hadn’t, considering my experience as a writer and a teacher of serious writing.) That included asking devotees with PhDs in Sanskrit whether that broader meaning could be found in the Sanskrit word. I didn’t get what I wanted, so I deliberately kept my argument from overreaching. However, that broader sense is clear to me in Srila Prabhupada’s remarks to Kirtanananda in the letter I cite. As much as I tried, I could not at all reconcile myself to the idea that Srila Prabhupada used that verse to tell Kirtanananda to, in effect, just hold his nose and put up with devotees who had a different approach, different sensibilities, or whatever. There were other things I could have used to enhance my case here, such as a well-known letter to Tusta Krishna, or the festival at Kheturi. But the piece is already longer than I wanted.

    When tolerance is discussed in the context of diversity, writers and speakers often complain that it’s too small a word. What I found in Srila Prabhupada’s letter, backed up by several dictionaries I consulted, is that the broader sense, which is in fact the primary sense, is what he intended, and the most useful for the point I intend to make.
    I strongly disagree with any suggestion that I should restrict myself to the narrower and perhaps most widely used sense of the word. I do so after careful consideration (which consideration was an important part of the process of writing this piece). I’m accustomed to working with at least six dictionaries (including OED) and as many usage guides. I chose to make this point very deliberately. (Starting to see a theme here, folks?) Every good usage guide includes what some refer to as “frequency of use” by educated writers as an important consideration, but certainly not the only, or even overriding, factor. Here’s what Bryan Garner, whose Modern American Usage I have long found the most useful guide on my shelves, says: “[W]hile actual usage can trump the other factors, it isn’t the only consideration.” Please note that he doesn’t say “actual usage” does trump, or even should trump, other factors; instead, he says, it can. That’s all.

    Here I’m deliberately trying to prod devotees into considering that broader meaning in some contexts, not to discard the other. In the context of discussion of tolerance of diversity in the broader society, many writers and speakers have opined that tolerance is too small a word. That’s because they read it in the sense of just putting up with what’s different or not comfortable. However, it appears that too many are simply unaware of that broader meaning or afraid of having their case labeled specious (or whatever) by small-minded readers. I am neither. I intend to change–more accurately, I think, to stretch–the perceived meaning of the word, at least among followers of Lord Caitanya, and I think I have good bases for doing so. You may call it hubris; I’m not afraid of that, either. I’m not a Nobel laureate, and I’m no celebrity guru, but I am an experienced sadhaka, an educated person, and an experienced writer. I’m making a philosophical point, not playing to the crowd. I intend to plant a meme here. Some will resist. If they do so in writing, that simply plays into my hands because I get to respond to it.

  3. In his Sri Sanmodana-bhasyam commentary on Sriman Mahaprabu’s Siksastakam, the illustrious Bhaktivinode Thakura describes tolerance as pure compassion free from envy.

  4. Of course above and beyond trying to base this whole premise on the sheer meaning on the term “tolerance,” there is also the premise of “not fault-finding” which directly falls under the the control of the mind and speech {tongue}

    Without performing this “voluntary austerity” {tapa} furthered sukriti will simply not develop. Beyond mere moral or psycho-socio “modes of consideration” such restraint from such “indulgences” is an intrinsic aspect to the very science of self realization as it relates to actual consciousness .. the very “proof of the pudding” of the actual advancement being made. {Nectar of Instruction}

    Gopal Bhatta Goswami never would find fault, even when other Goswamis were {in the name of preaching} Hanuman thought the little spider was “not up to snuff” in relation to his own service … Gadadhara Pandit mistook Pundarika Vidyanidhi as a sense enjoyer based on “lower adhikari” {kannistha/madhyama etc} .. both had to suffer some chastisment … even at that level … as inconceivable, simultaneous, oneness and difference exists at infinitely subtle and refined levels, which ultimately take an ominscient being {God/Krsna} to reveal.

    There is a difference between discernment and judgement {judgement between differences the original sin [Adams apple] of Biblical Mysticism .. what takes one out of Eden} … All throughout Vaisnavism faultfinding is considered atrocious.

    To discern is a function of the intelligence {buddhi} … to judge is a function of the ego {ahankara} It is said that Sanatana Goswami was so equipoised that even lowly theives and rogues respected him for not being judgemental even before very sinfully engaged personalities.

    Acintya-bheddha-abheddha-tattva is all one has in this most fallen age to save one from quarrel and hypocrisy, which knows no boundries outside of one who is actually accomplished in controlling his mind and senses … surely above and beyond the basic mental urges to criticize and blame.

    It is said that when Sri Krsna strode down the streets of Mathura “everyone” saw him uniquely according to their own “constitutional desires” … simlilarly to in the rasa dance how each Gopi thought Krsnsa was only dancing with her.

    Still Krsna had to show Lord Brahma that there were other Brahmas when he became lost unto the infinite potential of Krsna to engage in service unlimited variations on the Bhakti theme.

    But like Gopa Kumara {Brhad-Bhagavatamrita} ultimately felt uncomfortable everywhere until he found his ultimate home, still he was accomodated and accomodating to varing degrees of congeniality as best as could be expected without ever really allowing the difference to override the oneness.

    Such faultfinding propensity is eternal, potentially found in everyone at any/every level … it just is not pleasing to Krsna as he has his own unique and confidential relationship to each of us including awareness of all of our discernable differences as they relate to general disposition, attitude and service … one cannot be angry and pleased at the same time … the pleasurable bliss of Ananda will simple not be found outside of introducing and supporting each other in our unique relationship with God … the oneness and difference forever being “inconceivable” and “simultaneous”

  5. “I believe it would immeasurably improve the quality of devotee association, and perhaps even the devotees’ preaching efforts, if, rather than seeing other devotees of Krishna in such a pinched, miserly way, we tried instead to imbibe and exhibit the kind of broad, generous vision of others that Srila Prabhupada himself exemplified”.

    Babhru prabhu ji, thank you for your posting and for your sincere words. It’s time we grow up and stop behaving like ill mannered children. Even in kindergarten children learn the basic rules of proper interaction. And we call ourselves “advanced”? But there is always hope.
    Jai Srila Prabhupada and all the acaryas, beloved of the Lord! Hare Krsna.

  6. A much-needed article so thanks for writing it! I always try to remind myself that even though quite a few of my Godbrothers are very anti-gay and don’t even understand gay issues–they are nevertheless doing good preaching work in other areas to the best of their ability. None of us are perfect…we should see the moon for its brilliance and not its craters.

  7. Thanks for this article Babhru prabhu. I’ve experienced similar problems in associating with some devotees, and I’m sure I have been at fault as well.

    Although there are disagreements in Krishna-loka, such disagreements are purely spiritual and are transformations of Krishna-prema.

    In the material work, unfortunately, disagreements are but a perverted reflection or shadow of the disagreements and quarreling in the spiritual world. As Gaudiya Vaishnavas and aspiring Gaudiya Vaishnavas, it’s definitely best to avoid conflict to the best of our ability.

    Again, thanks for the lovely article. The subject matter is quite newsworthy for Gaudiya Vaishnavas. Harmony and cooperation are very important.

    All glories to the Sri Gauranga Samaja! Hare Krishna.

  8. Dear Babhru Prabhu, thank you for such an inspiring article on this important topic. Well done!
    You are right in emphasizing correct understanding of the word ‘tolerance’. The way I understand Srila Prabhupada’s letter to Kirtanananda you quote, has to do with the overall functionality of ISKCON as a preaching organization, requiring great cooperation of various leaders in order to accomplish it’s mission. Splintering the organization is what must be avoided, and SP writes in this letter: “One section of men have already gone out, therefore we must be very careful to maintain unity in diversity…” So it seems that SP advocates unity in diversity on the level of the mission. That was something SP tried to implement all along, even as in most cases he demanded full surrender and obedience from his disciples. In that regard one could quote the rather famous SP conversation with Kanupriya and Jamadagni (Los Angeles, June 26, 1975) where the obedience of the individual devotees to local ISKCON managers is emphasized. You will not find much tolerance there when it comes to individual beliefs or rights – it is all focused on what is good for the mission. Thus it can be easily argued that SP was not championing tolerance on an individual level, and only to the point where it was used to maintain the organizational unity of ISKCON.

    Of course the Vaishnava world today is very different than it was in 1973, 1975, or 1977. As these realities have changed rather profoundly, the initial premise of tolerance in the name of Mahaprabhu’s mission, or unity in diversity, is still just as relevant, if not more. In many ways we Western Vaishnavas have become like a very dysfunctional family, incessantly feuding and bickering among ourselves. People on the outside see it very clearly and thus have little desire to join such a family.

    • Kula-pavana wrote,

      So it seems that SP advocates unity in diversity on the level of the mission. That was something SP tried to implement all along, even as in most cases he demanded full surrender and obedience from his disciples. In that regard one could quote the rather famous SP conversation with Kanupriya and Jamadagni (Los Angeles, June 26, 1975) where the obedience of the individual devotees to local ISKCON managers is emphasized. You will not find much tolerance there when it comes to individual beliefs or rights – it is all focused on what is good for the mission. Thus it can be easily argued that SP was not championing tolerance on an individual level, and only to the point where it was used to maintain the organizational unity of ISKCON.

      Kula-pavana, I’m not sure I see the same distinction you do between what you call unity in diversity on the level of the mission and tolerance on an individual level. The very premise, to the extent that I can discern it, puzzles me. The incident with Jamadagni and Kanupriya was a singular event with a particular context. Srila Prabhupada had apparently been prepared for the meeting by being told that these two men were unsubmissive, challenging even the words of the guru. It has always seemed to me from the tone of the conversation that Srila Prabhupada entered it with little interest in the concerns they raised. He was neither quashing individuality nor expressing intolerance of individual rights; rather, he was castigating what he saw as wayward, disruptive disciples. Had these two men not created such a stir beforehand and approached their concerns with a different attitude, he may have received them differently, and the conversation may have taken an entirely different course.

      As far as that tolerance of distinctive approaches to service is concerned, Srila Prabhupada expressed what seems to me a different perspective from yours when I was in a private meeting with him in 1973. Srila Prabhupada told my friend Tarun Kanti, my wife, and me, “Devotees and devotional service cannot be stereotyped. There is nothing that cannot be engaged in Krishna’s service. Simply we require guidance from the expert spiritual master how to engage everything in devotional service. That is the only catch.” We see this in his own service. Although no one encouraged him to do so, he never wavered in his determination to follow his odd proclivity for taking Lord Caitanya’s teachings to the world beyond India.

      And when his disciples had ideas for service, regardless of how different they may have been from others’ service, he usually encouraged them to take a shot.(Sometimes, after seeing how they played out, and/or getting feedback from other disciples, he may also have ended the experiments, as he did with the road show.) And he did actively accept service offered in ways some of us may see as intolerable. For example, when he visited Honolulu in May ’72, we had kirtans in the temple every evening with electric guitars. Srila Prabhupada apparently did not object, since he was there for about twelve days, and we had such kirtans every night. I have a recording of an electric kirtan at Honolulu’s Church of the Crossroads, and as the ringing of the amps died down, you can hear Srila Prabhupada chanting prema-dvani.

  9. Hare Krishna! Babhru,

    Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Sri Sri Guru and Gauranga!

    I like the spirit of your writing very much. Thank you.

    Your servant,

    Ishan das

  10. Haribol Babru Prabhu,


    Sorry, I totally disagree. I would rather associate with meat eating karmis who have accepted the pure devotee, Jesus, as the person who could deliver them from the ocean of birth and death than accept the association of followers of someone who has blasphemed my spiritual master. And I don’t care to associate with people who are followers/disciples of conditioned souls who preach that a conditioned soul can deliver someone from the ocean of birth and death.

    Our spiritual master taught us that the lotus feet of the spiritual master is the only way to achieve pure devotional service. In the Isopanisad it says:

    “The pseudo religionists have neither knowledge nor detachment from material affairs, for most of them want to live in the golden shackles of material bondage under the shadow of philanthropic activities disguised as religious principles.

    “By a false display of religious sentiments, they present a show of devotional service while indulging in all sorts of immoral activities. In this way they pass as spiritual masters and devotees of God. Such violators of religious principles have no respect for the authoritative acaryas, the holy teachers in the strict disciplic succession.

    “They ignore the Vedic injunction acaryaupsana—”One must worship the acarya”—and Krsna’s statement in the Bhagavad-gita (4.2) evam parampara-praptam, “This supreme science of God is received through the disciplic succession.” Instead, to mislead the people in general they themselves become so-called acaryas, but they do not even follow the principles of the acaryas.

    “These rogues are the most dangerous elements in human society. Because there is no religious government, they escape punishment by the law of the state. They cannot, however, escape the law of the Supreme, who has clearly declared in the Bhagavad-gita that envious demons in the garb of religious propagandists shall be thrown into the darkest regions of hell (Bg. 16.19-20). Sri Isopanisad confirms that these pseudo religionists are heading toward the most obnoxious place in the universe after the completion of their spiritual master business, which they conduct simply for sense gratification.” (from Srila Prabhupada’s Sri Isopanasad Mantra 12)

    I think that Srila Prabhupada is referring to the so-called gurus in pseudo-ISKCON and I don’t care to associate with them or their followers.

    Let’s not be sentimental, but rather discerning and get on with the real business of serving the pure devotee.

    Wishing you the best,

    Anuttama devi dasi

    • Mother Anuttama, with all due respect, who do you think personally selected people like Kirtanananda, Bhavananda, Jayatirtha, Hansadutta, and others to be the ‘officiating acharyas’ and leaders of ISKCON?
      When I accepted Harikesa Swami as my guru in 1979 I did so because he was one designated by Srila Prabhupada to carry on initiations in my part of the world. And there were thousands of devotees like me back then. We trusted Srila Prabhupada’s judgement, that’s all.
      Now you are telling me that you do not care to associate with people like me only because we did what Srila Prabhupada wanted us to do: accept as guru a conditioned soul he personally designated for that task. Very, very curious logic…
      I think that people like you try to rewrite what happened because you really do not understand what happened. You create myths and fabricate bogus philosophies because the reality eludes your understanding. And thus the feeling becomes mutual: I do not care to associate with disciples of Srila Prabhupada who think they have a patent on purity, patent on correct understanding, and patent on the only ‘real’ guru in the world, and you do not care to associate with me.
      I do not now consider Harikesa my guru, but he was my guru at one time and I have learned much from him, and benefited greatly from his association. And I am eternally grateful for that. You may not understand that either.
      I pay my respects to you from a distance, and pray that you will not be offended by my frankness.

      • Kula Pavana Prabhu,

        PAMHO. AGTSP.

        The letter where Srila Prabhupada appointed 11 disciples did not appoint them as “acaryas” but rather as rtviks. If the instruction in that letter had been followed, you would now consider yourself to be a disciple of a pure devotee capable of delivering you from the ocean of birth and death, Srila Prabhupada. You can see a photo copy of the letter here: http://www.harekrsna.org/gbc/themes/july9.htm

        Srila Prabhupada is still with us and capable of delivering his sincere followers.


        • The letter itself speaks only of appointing ritviks during Prabhupada’s continued physical presence, a common procedure in vogue throughout the sampradaya. Unfortunately the analysis that follows it seeking to extend the ritvik’s function into a time—and for all time—after the departure of Srila Pabhupada, stretches far beyond the pale of Gaudiya siddhanta. Such matters have been discussed here at some length in comments relating to other articles.

          But even if one cannot grasp the siddhanta and on the basis of sentiment continues to disagree with the points Kula Pavana has raised, one cannot escape the fact that Prabhupada put these eleven gentlemen in positions of spiritual leadership and in most cases gave them sannyasa. He also taught that the sannyasi is the guru of a varna and ashrama system. Indeed, even a ritvik acarya is a spiritual leader in whose hands one’s faith lies, for if he is not competent to maintain the sannyasa given to him by Prabhupada, for example, does not his further competence to act as the go between—the ritvik—come into question? And once the eleven so called ritviks leave the field for one reason or another, what clear mandate does the rivikvada advocate have to continue on with from there? None. He or she is left to speculate and argue as to how to proceed with the spiritual succession, while those who have pursued a qualified representative of the parampara beyond institutional limitations, as scripture mandates, stand on sacred ground.

        • The precise, and his very own, recorded words SP used in this situation were: “I shall recommend some of you to act as officiating acharya”. The rest is interpretation of his disciples, including the letter you refer to. And SP personally chose to give this function to these 11 people, out of some 5000 disciples he had at his disposal. Obviously, it was not a minor or ceremonial function. Don’t kid yourself.
          People like myself followed the people and the system SP put in place. Plain and simple. And that system worked reasonably well until these men completely disqualified themselves one after another.
          Without question, I consider myself a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, in a way of following his instructions and obtaining knowledge from him. You ritviks have no patent on the only ‘proper’ way of being a disciple of SP.
          As to who is actually ‘delivered’, and by whom, I will leave that to Lord Krsna, the Ultimate Deliverer, as per His Bhagavad Gita promise.

        • Anuttama wrote: “And I don’t care to associate with people who are followers/disciples of conditioned souls who preach that a conditioned soul can deliver someone from the ocean of birth and death.”

          In my view it is so that you are following a false logic here revered Anuttama. There is no-one who can ever do such a feat to YOU, that you have to accomplish yourself if you so desire. If the so called scriptures mention by using highly metaphorical language that there is a need for you to come out of the so called ocean of birth and death it is preconditioned or it is assumed therein that you deliver yourself out of that so called ocean by taking and following the advise which may given to you by someone who knows the “know how” of doing such a task. By accepting and using this “know how” or the tools given to you by the one who may know that out of his own experience you may succeed yourself in escaping that “ocean of birth and death.” To this I would like to add that whatever advise or information we might gather from someone or somewhere the decision to take some action on the basis of that advise lies within our own responsibility since we are the one who also have to come to terms with its consequences and outcome, not Prabhupada or any other author or spiritual adviser or guru as you would call that person.

      • Honorable Kula-pavana, you can still learn a lot from this personality who initiated you ones into the path of discovering your spiritual self and that of the Supreme. Like he said ones at the time I got initiated by him in March 1987, “initiation means to start.” Starting the process of discovering who you really are … Watch and listen to this talk he gave ones. A Lecture about Love given by Robert Campagnola (Hari)
        http://divineharmony.eu/content/lecture-about-love You can find more in the conversation I had with him ones in 2010 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzhDhluYYuk

  11. Babhru Das,

    Thank you for writing this wonderful article in the spirit of love. I especially appreciated the lines, “We should be more interested in generating light than heat” and “We devotees of Caitanya Mahaprabhu should be able to behave similarly, accepting responsibility for our own service, sharing generously, and respecting—but not worshiping—boundaries.” It inspires me to hope that a more meaningful dialogue amongst devotees can take root.

    Thank you, prabhu!

  12. Hare Krsna Babhru Dasa,

    Your articles seems like a heartfelt and sincere plea for unity amongst diversity to me. Having never been anything more than a sincere admirer of Prabhupadas books I have honestly listened to these debates for years and have always been curious if there will ever be a resolution and if so on which side would Krsna favor, or if Krsna is destined to remain neutral in this modern epic Vaisnava battle for authority in the realm of spiritual initiation.

    My heart has always naturally been most sympathetic to those that are termed ritviks mainly because I have viewed them as the underdogs in the fight and it seems the people that Krsna favors most are the ones who generally have to endure the most ridicule and adversity but on the issues of deep siddhanta I admittedly have attention deficit disorder and quite honestly I have come to the conclusion my brain is incapable of fully understanding the intricacies of the deep siddhanta but for the most part I can appreciate the beautiful essence of Srimad Bhagavatam so hopefully that counts for something with Krsna.

    I don’t know if your sincere effort to bring unity in diversity within the realm of the followers of Srila Prabhupada will work or not but I can appreciate the sentiment and I can recognize the intelligence of your efforts so I am wishing you well in your endeavor.

    • It is the siddhanta within any sampradaya that determines whether sentiment is spiritual, material, or in between. Prakrtya-sahajiyas are also underdogs. Otherwise, ” . . . Time will tell just who fell and who’s been left behind, when you go your way and I go mine.”

      And it is difficult to have dialogue with a group that’s very philosophy insists that your guru is bogus and their guru is the only way, even after he has departed. Very difficult. Still respect from a great distance on some level is possible.

      • Hare Krishna,

        It seems to be a complex situation, like I said I have listened to arguments of both sides for years and have heard decent arguments from both sides but I have a conceptual mind not a legalistic mind so I will probably never completely understand the controversy in any real deep manner. I can appreciate the sincere service of anyone from any side and I bought the Gita and Gods and Goddesses from Mandala Publishing with artwork by B.G. Sharma I think but I think your wrote a book with B.G. Sharma? so if you had anything to do with the making of the card decks they are beautiful and fantastic, so if that was your work they are much appreciated.

    • Thank you, Theist, for your kind words of encouragement. Actually my effort is more modest, at least immediately, than actually effecting unity in diversity among Srila Prabhupada’s followers. Rather, I hoped to spark discussion among Mahaprabhu’s followers, whether or not they ever had a connection with ISKCON (in which sense perhaps my ambition is even grander), to bring a growing awareness of the nature of the problem and its effects on our personal culture of bhakti, as well as on our efforts to spread her influence. Perhaps from that we may see changes in the way devotees deal with those in other missions.

      Since this was published we have seen signs that don’t encourage me. There have been efforts by the leadership of one well-known mission to bar a particular teacher of bhakti from influencing its members, accompanied by a campaign of rumors, innuendo, misunderstanding, and falsehood. Leaders of the same mission have also been trying to censure or censor another teacher, this one a member of their mission, because he finds it difficult to refrain from addressing what he sees as problems in the institution.

      There may yet be hope, though. A personal friend just told me that her 18-year-old son, who has just embarked on a months-long visit to India with eight of his friends, assured her that his generation of devotees has little respect for or interest in such attitudes. Indeed, that group includes young men whose parents seem to belong to a few of the different “camps” among Lord Caitanya’s followers. I also see more tolerance of diversity (in the sense that I mention in my article) among devotees who grew up as children of my Godbrothers and sisters. But awareness, progressive awareness, of the problem and its implications is necessary, I think, before the real efforts to deal with the boundaries I write of can manifest.

  13. Perhaps this quote is not totally on topic, but it’s a great verse and purport nonetheless. (Cc Adi 9.29)


    Not considering who asked for it and who did not, nor who was fit and who unfit to receive it, Caitanya Mahaprabhu distributed the fruit of devotional service.


    This is the sum and substance of Lord Caitanya’s sankirtana movement. There is no distinction made between those who are fit and those who are not fit to hear or take part in the sankirtana movement. It should therefore be preached without discrimination. The only purpose of the preachers of the sankirtana movement must be to go on preaching without restriction. That is the way in which Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu introduced this sankirtana movement to the world.

  14. All glories to His Divine Grace A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada, our only hope in this age of cheaters and rascals.

    “Śrī Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī, at the time of his passing away, ordered all his disciples to work conjointly to preach the mission of Caitanya Mahāprabhu all over the world. Later, however, some self-interested, foolish disciples disobeyed his orders. Each one of them wanted to become head of the mission, and they fought in the courts, neglecting the order of the spiritual master, and the entire mission was defeated. We are not proud of this; however, the truth must be explained. We believed in the words of our spiritual master and started in a humble way-in a helpless way-but due to the spiritual force of the order of the supreme authority, this movement has become successful.”-Srila Prabhupada purport Adi 7.95-96

    “Nowadays it is the days of vote. Any rascal, if he gets vote somehow or other, then he acquires the exalted post. That is also written in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, that in the Kali-yuga there will be no consideration who is fit to occupy the exalted post of presidentship or royal throne. Simply somehow or other, by hook and crook, he’ll occupy the seat. Therefore people are suffering.”-Srila Prabhupada, Los Angeles, December 15, 1973

    “Most of you will fall. Actually I haven’t given any of you sannyasi, but I am in a war with Maya, the material energy and I need leaders. It is called in wartime Battlefield commission. There are no qualified leaders but someone has to lead the charge. So you take every fifth man, now you are lieutenant of the squad. He really is a private but we make him lieutenant for the day and he leads the charge. It is to be understood that you are not sufficiently equipped for this fight and most of you will go down”

    (Srila Prabhupada Conversation with Tamal Krishna 1976 after Mayapur festival

  15. padmagarbha dasa

    Apparadhis and Mayavadis can tolerate and find common ground in every viewpoint, and in every philosophy, except in the truth!

    For those of you who have even the slightest degree of gratitude for the matchless gift given to us by His Divine Grace, Srila Prabhupada kindly consider the following opinion expressed by Triburari, and then evaluate whether or not you are in favor of accepting such “diverse” opinion. Whether or not you ought to intimately associate and search for “unity” with those who show respect and adoration for such an indivitual!

    “Let me share with you what I believe to be the greatest problem facing ISKCON today.
    ISKCON is suffering from, of all things, over-glorification of Srila Prabhupada” {from letter by Triburari to the GBC in 1994]

    • One has to wonder if context maters to religious fanatics. It seems not from Padmagarbha’s quotation of my 1994 letter. Here is the context for the more discerning reader.

      “Iskcon is suffering from, of all things, over-glorification of Srila Prabhupada. Of course we cannot glorify him enough, but when glorification is not founded in philosophy it turns to fanaticism. I realize that in bringing this out I may have lost the interest of many of you. These days practically anyone who waves the banner of ‘All Glories to Srila Prabhupada’ is, in the minds of many, beyond reproach. Our Prabhupada, however, taught us much differently, rupanuga viruddhapa siddhanta dvanta harine. Padma Purana states sruti smriti puranadi pancarartra viddhim vina aikantiki harer bhaktir utpatya eva kalpate. In Prabhupada’s words, ‘Religion without philosophy is fanaticism.’ That philosophical issues such as the origin of the jiva soul, its “fall down,” the principle of accepting a siksha guru, etc. are major controversies in Iskcon stems from this fanaticism, which results in quoting and understanding Srila Prabhupada out of context. This threatens the very foundation of Iskcon. Statements like, ‘Prabhupada siddhanta,’ ‘Prabhupada’s sampradaya,’ ‘Prabhupada is greater than Rupa Goswami’ and so on at some time and place may be remotely appropriate, yet when institutionalized, they are Prabhupada’s greatest nightmare.”

      • Maharaja, PAMHO. AGTSP.

        I don’t think it is fanaticism to expend any amount of energy and feelings in glorification for the sum total of all the demigods, Srila Prabhupada! The philosophy that he gave us is that the only way to achieve pure devotional service is through the mercy of the pure devotee, the spiritual master. Knowing lots of scripture, historical references and protocol is not the qualification for pure devotional service, but rather being granted the mercy of the pure devotee is the only way to know Krsna. To say that a conditioned soul can bring another conditioned soul back to Godhead is a “change up” of the philosophy.

        • My point is that glorification to be so must be grounded in siddhanta. Otherwise it is merely fanaticism in the name of glorification. Many devotees offered glorification of Mahaprabhu, placing their offerings in the hands of his secretary Svarupa Damodara. However, if that glorification was not grounded in siddhanta and did not fall within the parameters of rasa tattva, it was rejected. Let me be as clear as possible on this point. If I were to “glorify” Prabhupada by saying that he is God—Krsna himself— would you reject my glorification? I hope so. Why? Becausue such so called glorification falls outside of the siddhanta of Gaudiya Vaisnavism.

          Furthermore, I would not make light of “Knowing lots of scripture, historical references and protocol,” for such may also be evidence that one has received the mercy you speak of. And Prabhupada wrote his books that we might know then well. I do not think anyone here has said that “a conditioned soul can bring another conditioned soul back to Godhead.” Nonetheless Prabhupada himself has said it is the duty of the madhyama adhikari to make disciples. Here is a reference:

          “The second-class devotees are therefore meant for preaching work, and as referred to in the above verse, they must loudly preach the glories of the Lord. The second-class devotee accepts disciples from the section of third-class devotees or nondevotees. Sometimes the first-class devotee also comes down to the category of the second-class devotee for preaching work.” (SB 2.3.21)

          So again, it’s good to know the books. Now who is changing up the philosophy? And who is to say who has received the mercy you speak of? Or does only Prabhupada have it keep it to himself, not giving it to anyone else?

          That said, Babhru’s article leaves plenty of room for devotees to disagree and disagree strongly. He merely asks for civility and integrity in doing so. But who knows, maybe one’s long held convictions might be wrong and holding one back from advancing in spiritual life. The real and most honest question we must ask is how much taste for Harinama our convictions have afforded us. Having asked this we should go forward with humility. Some openness may be helpful, and in approaching issues with such openness and humility we should listen well with an ear to how well another’s points are supported by scripture and an eye to the measure of another’s character. And I realize that there is a lot of appasiddhanta and bad character out there. And I do not defend it, nor does Babhru’s article.

    • Apparadhis and Mayavadis can tolerate and find common ground in every viewpoint, and in every philosophy, except in the truth!

      Actually Guadiya Vaisnavism is one of the more accommodating spiritual traditions, for it acknowledges that many spiritual possibilities lie within its notion of svayam-bhagavan. Indeed, it even accommodates and validates the spirituality of positing the Vaikuntha idea that Narayana is the source of Krsna!—the very opposite of the Gaudiya theme “krsnas tu bhagavan svayam.”

      As for Mayavadis, they accommodate no one, for in this worldview every religious conception ends up in their nirvisesa-brahma. They accept no other spiritual reality. And aparadhis can be quite inhospitable. Case in point, when I was first invited to “Prabhupada Village,” Padmagarbha stuffed everyone’s mailbox with hate mail, encouraging residents to shun me.

      Note also that among those who have commented here it is only rivikvadis that disagree with Babahru’s call for tolerance.

  16. padmagarbha dasa

    Yes, I confess to Tripurari’s charge. I did “stuff” everybody’s mailbox with hate- mail. I put a copy of Tripurari’s 1994 letter to the GBC into to every PV residents mailbox

    • Given the context of this discussion, I think Padmagarbha das’ last comment is an example of lack of civility and integrity that Babhru’s article calls for.

      But I stand corrected. Padmagarbha das stuffed mail boxes with my letter—motivated some say by hate for me in the name of love for Prabhupada—with the hope that it would lead to others shunning me. Not a well thought out strategy, nor hospitable, nor did it work.

      Incidentally, I will be there again in April.

  17. I find it very interesting how when Srila Prabhupada was present, to the best of my knowledge he only spoke of one person actually having succeeded in going back to Godhead. That was Jayananda prabhu, he was the only pure devotee that Srila Prabhupada confirmed had actually attained the ultimate goal.. But now it seems like it has become so cheap thing…every GBC elected guru is a pure devotee all of a sudden? Consider these two quotes from His Divine Grace, Srila Prabhupada-

    “One should not become a spiritual master unless he has attained the platform of uttama-adhikārī. A neophyte Vaiṣṇava or a Vaiṣṇava situated on the intermediate platform can also accept disciples, but such disciples must be on the same platform, and it should be understood that they cannot advance very well toward the ultimate goal of life under his insufficient guidance. Therefore a disciple should be careful to accept an uttama-adhikārī as a spiritual master.”
    The Nectar of Instruction : NoI Texts : NoI 5 :Srila Prabhupada’s PURPORT

    “Therefore having a bona fide spiritual master and serving him and pleasing him and getting his mercy is essential. Otherwise there can be NO advancement in Krishna consciousness. And unless the spiritual master is a pure devotee of Krishna then he has no potency to give you Krishna. He is simply a chea……ting rascal.
    So in fact above all the rules and regulations and offenses I have mentioned the most important thing, the essential thing, which is required if you want to come to the stage of purely chanting the Hare Krishna mantra is you must have a bona fide spiritual master who is a pure devotee of Krishna. Without having a bona fide spiritual master you can chant Hare Krishna forever but you will not be able to advance because Krishna does not reveal Himself in this way. He only reveals Himself to those devotees who surrender to and serve and please His pure devotees.”

    Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja Prabhupada
    Letter to his London disciples, July, 1969:

    • Very good, and how will you determine who is a “pure devotee?” Subjective faith is not enough for making your case to objective listeners. Hence some sastra would be in order. Sastra tells us that one who has attained ruci is a suddha bhakta, a pure devotee (see Bhakti-tattva-viveka and Siksastakam 4 and the relevant commentaries). Sastra also tells us that there are three types of mahabhagavatas, not all of whom have attained prema (See Bhakti-sandarbha). And how does sastra define an uttama adhikari? The very term comes from Bhaktirasamrita-sindhu. Here is Sri Rupa’s definition and relevant comments from Sri Jiva Prabhupada:

      sastre yuktau ca nipunah sarvatha drdha-niscayah |
      praudha-sraddho ’dhikari yah sa bhaktav uttamo matah ||

      “The uttamadhikari is defined as follows:

      The person who is skilful in scripture and logic, completely
      firm in his belief, with deep faith, is considered qualified as

      Sri Jiva Gosvami comments”

      ” . . . The root cause of a person’s
      bhakti is faith in the content of scriptures. Conviction in the contents
      of the scriptures is called sraddha or faith. According to the
      degree of faith in the scriptures, there will be classifications of
      persons possessing that faith. . . . Here sastre yuktau nipunah means “conversant with scripture
      and logic.” This person developed firm conviction (drdha-niscayah)
      through studying thoroughly the principles of philosophy
      (tattva), the sadhana, and the goal (purusartha). That is the
      meaning of sarvatha (in all ways). Logic (yukte) should here be
      understood as logic following the statements of scripture, because
      independent logic is condemned . . .”

      And how will you deal with the apparently contradictory instructions of Prabhuapda that have been cited in this discussion. Again, this requires sastra—sastra-yukt in particular. And as we have seen from above, this is not something that anyone and everyone can provide.

      That said it remains apparent from what has been cited herein from Prabhupada’s conversations and books that Prabhupada himself has not taken the position of vilifying gurus who are neophyte and intermediate devotees. In some places he recommends the intermediate and in others he recommends the superlative devotee. Obviously the latter is preferable. But he does not advocate being somehow initiated by a predecessor guru, a purvacarya like himself (the ritvikvada notion). Nor does he teach that one’s guru must come from a particular institution. Thus if one concludes that after his departure guidance is lacking in the institution he formed, look elsewhere. That is the teaching. And look with sastra caksus, eyes of sastra.

      • Another way to see the qualification of the madhyama bhakta for serving as guru comes from Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura’s Madhurya Kadambini, where he says plainly that, although bhakti is completely independent and goes wherever she wants, she does so through the madhyama devotees, who act as the Lord’s kripa shakti. This is appropriate, Visvanatha argues, because the madhyama-adhikari devotee’s natural characteristics include love for the Lord, friendship with his devotees, mercy for the innocent, and indifference toward those inimical to the Lord. Bhakti takes shelter, he says, in the hearts of the devotees and distributes herself to those to whom the intermediate devotees show mercy.

        I find it interesting that devotees whom I’ve known as friends for a number of years have chosen to use my essay about Srila Prabhupada’s broad vision to rail against devotees whose vision is different from theirs. Like them, and like Swami Tripurari, I feel that the misunderstandings around the subject of guru tattva have done much to cheapen what it means to be a guru, especially in ISKCON.

        It’s no secret that I have long shared their concerns about the misbehavior of ISKCON leaders that sparked the ritvik approach in the late ’80s. Because of that shared concern, and my friendship with and respect for many of its proponents, I examined their arguments carefully over a number of years, discussing them with some of the leading proponents. Although I remained unimpressed with ISKCON’s ideas, I found no real substance based in guru, sadhu, or shastra in the ritvik arguments, despite my sympathy. I even attended the entire “ritvik debate” in San Diego in the early ’90s (I lived only a block away from the temple, so it was not a hardship) and listened carefully to both sides. I left quite disappointed in both. What I saw was devotees arguing like high-school debate students, or perhaps caricatures of lawyers. It seemed they listened to the other side only to find openings for scoring points. Winning was more important, I felt, than finding the truth.

        So my main complaint about the ritvik approach has mainly been that they simply have not made the case to my satisfaction. Even their overriding argument that Srila Prabhupada intended to continue accepting disciples indefinitely has simply never been established unequivocally. (And I have no intention of getting into this argument here. My point is that I approached the topic with an open mind and heart but was unconvinced anyway.) To that, however, I must add an apparent lack of civility. They seem to think that everyone who does not accept their version of the truth fails to do so simply because of their envy of Srila Prabhupada. So “we” are good, Srila Prabhupada’s champions, and everyone else is anti-Prabhupada, therefore evil. This cannot be a happy way to live. I just can’t see how such a Manichean view of devotees can foster the “maitri” attitude toward the Lord’s devotees that defines progressive bhaktas.

    • I find it very interesting how when Srila Prabhupada was present, to the best of my knowledge he only spoke of one person actually having succeeded in going back to Godhead. That was Jayananda prabhu, he was the only pure devotee that Srila Prabhupada confirmed had actually attained the ultimate goal.. But now it seems like it has become so cheap thing…every GBC elected guru is a pure devotee all of a sudden?

      Well not too many of Prabhupada’s disciples died before he himself passed on. Jayananda was a rare exception in this regard. So . . .

      But otherwise I agree with you that Iskcon has very much cheapened the standard of guru, suddha-bhakta, etc. with elections, fall downs, apasiddhanta and so on, unfortunately. Better to follow sastra. And it is also better to move on if one disagrees with a particular institution’s policies, move on and try to set a better example oneself. This is what Prabhupada personally taught me. So by his grace I am endeavoring to do that. And in the end we will be judged by not by our peers necessarily, but by the fruits of our efforts that any objective person can see.

  18. Janardana Prabhu wonders: “…every GBC elected guru is a pure devotee all of a sudden?”
    One could similarly wonder: “was every one of those 11 officiating acharyas Srila Prabhupada personally chose to initiate disciples all of a sudden a pure devotee in 1977?”
    Srila Prabhupada personally picked each and every GBC and gave them that position for life, barring an obvious fall down of course. SP wanted the GBC to perform all general oversight functions for his beloved ISKCON. That would include choosing people entrusted with initiating newcomers, just like he chose the 11 disciples in 1977. We all know that these 11 were not pure devotees, and some were actually great rascals. So the GBC is doing now what SP has done in 1977 when he authorized less than perfect devotees to initiate disciples. Of course SP wanted these 11 to eventually become perfect, pure, and truly qualified. But at the time of the assignment they were clearly not there yet. Thus we should read the text quoted by you in a proper context: “One should not become a spiritual master unless he has attained the platform of uttama-adhikārī. A neophyte Vaiṣṇava or a Vaiṣṇava situated on the intermediate platform can also accept disciples, but such disciples must be on the same platform, and it should be understood that they cannot advance very well toward the ultimate goal of life under his insufficient guidance.
    There is no need to criticize those who try to provide guidance to their disciples while themselves not being perfect. To the contrary: we should ALL be helping them in this task. This is what the society of devotees is for.

  19. The bottom line is that different devotees will have different “interpretations” of Srila Prabhupada’s instructions. The difference between a spiritual movement and a religious organization is that in a spiritual movement different understandings of a point in philosophy are accepted (within the context of accepting the instructions as being perfect). Just as many Christians read “Do unto others…” to mean do unto other humans, similarly a devotee might read when Srila Prabhupada instructs one to accept an uttama adhikari as a spiritual master, that he/she might be that uttama adhikari. Another devotee might consider himself unqualified to accept disciples even if he/she thinks of Krsna in love 24/7.

    So if some devotees read a transcript of the May 28th conversation where Srila Prabhupada is asked about initiations when he is no longer physically present and then read the July 9 letter that supports that conversation and decide to accept the instruction without interpretation, in a spiritual movement, such acceptance would be tolerated. In ISKCON a person accepting the instruction without interpretation is banned, meaning that ISKCON is a religious organization, not a spiritual movement.

    • I agree that Iskcon tends to be more religious than spiritual in many respects. But I am not sure how Iskcon could embrace ritvik and non ritvik positions at the same time. However, that is their/your problem. I hope you two work it out. That said, there is no way one can arrive at a the ritvik position without interpretation, as I have conclusively demonstrated elsewhere on the Harmonist. And when we do interpret, as we often must, there is a standard way to interpret in order to arrive at a spiritual conclusion—siddhanta. We can’t for example pickout one verse spoken by Hiranyaksipu in the Bhagavatam and cite it and call it Bhagavata siddhanta, but perhaps here I state the obvious.

      • Hare Krishna. Obeisances to all the real sampradaya acharyas and their true followers. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. The way I see unity and diversity as presented in most cases, is mainly sentimental. However, I do agree that there has to be a stop at low class language, like name calling, personal attacks and such as it has been described. I was called a crow recently in a chakra comment respond of a Change of asharam is not guru fall down article.

        I don’t see emphasis placed on unity in diversity by Srila Prabhupada and previous acharyas. Srila Prabhupada by in large did not advocate Interfaith dialogue for example. He mainly discouraged it. But we do see in Vaisnavism, that the emphasis is on not compromising.

        The way things should be interpreted, in addition to writings from Srila Prabhupada as is the July 9TH 1977 for ritvik, which is enough since it has his signature and is most clear, is also to see the factual and historical arena before, during and after the writing of a document like the July 9TH directive. We all know that Srila Prabhupada said it more than once and even included it in his books, that his God brothers did not obey their guru to form a GBC and preach, but they decided to become “diksa gurus” with horrible results. He said that none of his God brothers were qualified to be gurus and have their own disciples. He also said, we should not associate in any way with them. Later, Srila Prabhupada followed the order of his guru and established a GBC in ISKCON. But the GBC has not followed Srila Prabhupada’s desires in the Direction of management since 1970! This is guru aparadha! One of the resolutions never followed, is that temple Presidents would be elected by temple devotees, and I think also the congregation, and that temple Presidents, would elect the GBC for their zones every 3 years. Since then however, the GBC have not follwed this order and have placed their yes men as presidents, and both have accumulated material power and it has not been possible to change this back to the original desires of Srila Prabhupa expressed in the Direction of management.

        After that, there is forensic (scientific) analysis, that advised in writing, for a criminal investigation on the passing of Srila Prabhupada. Before the “passing” of Srila Prabhupada, Srila Prabhupada asked for “all” his disciples to come to Vrndavana when his body laid ill. But this desire of Srila Prabhupada was also not fulfilled. This is another mad elephant offence. Then, he asked to be taken around Govardhan Hill, but again, this order was not followed. His secretaries said., “If we take you, you may die.” To what Srila Prabhupada interestingly responded., “Better to be killed by Ram, than be killed by Ravana.” Very significant response in my opinion.
        Then and sure enough, just 3 months later, the people who had disobeyed Srila Prabhupada’s orders, committing mad elephant offences since 1970, were elected by the GBC to be “as good as Krishna gurus” officially! Of course, it is well marked in the history, that these “diksa gurus” behaved horribly. One was jailed. One shot a machine gun with no discrimination. One was killed as a result of the drug cult he had formed, etc, etc.

        Then, these “diksa gurus,” did not soon enough made by vote ( guru by vote is against Srila PRabhupadas teachings)others “diksa gurus,” who also wanted to be worshipped as a., “good as Krishna gurus.” So those people went to Sridhra Swami of Navaduip and became., “diksa gurus.” But Srila Prabhupada had said or written, that Sridhar Swami, was one of the main ones to not have obeyed the orders of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Maharaja, to form a GBC and preach! This is the actual history!

        Srila Prabhupada was protected by Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Maharaja, from his God bothers. When Srila Prabhupada’s God brothers suggested that Srila Prabhupada live in a mandhir of theirs, Bhaktisiddhanta Maharaja advised them to leave him alone. Bhaktisiddhnata Maharaja also said about Srila Prabhupada., “He will do everything.”

        Now, a good question. If Srila Prabhupada teaches very clearly, that it’s best to accept an uttama as diksa guru and not a madhyama guru, and if he says in the purport of C.C Madhya chapter 7 Lila Volume 3., “It is best not to accept any disciples.” Why is it that so many people continue to not take the advise of Srila Prabhupada on these points and continue to elect or become “diksa gurus?” Personally. I am convinced, that this is yet another lack of regard and fail to obey the teachings and orders of Srila Prabhupada, due to superiority complex.

        In my observation. It is this lack of obeying Srila Prabhupada, that has caused so much division in our movement, including in the ritvik camps. But it is most significant, that the rivik camps are following the orders and are having great results in book and Prasada distribution and temple building. Of course, one judges actions by their fruit.

        I sincerely feels, that I have been saved by Krishna from lower gurus. I am the first ritvik ceremony Prabhupadanuga, with the ceremony held in May of 1986. It must be in part the sincere prayers of my spiritually inclined mother, since I don’t have any personal qualification.

        I write not to put down others decisions, but mainly for others to understand why I have chosen to be a ritvik ceremony Prabhupadanuga. I will always try my best to be a gentleman in dealings with all, since I was taught that by my family upbringing and Srila Prabhupada. I just hope, I also get the same gentle treatment by those who do not agree with me. I have the right to share my views with the main aim of helping others, at least understand why I have taken my ritvik ceremony Prabhupadanuga position.

        It is most important to know the philosophy, the arena of events, the history and who is who in the movement. Then only, one can get a better footing in Krishna Consciousness. All glories to my spiritual master, A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada!! Thanks for your attention.

        Most sincerely,

        Mahatma dasa

        • I don’t see emphasis placed on unity in diversity by Srila Prabhupada and previous acharyas. Srila Prabhupada by in large did not advocate Interfaith dialogue for example. He mainly discouraged it. But we do see in Vaisnavism, that the emphasis is on not compromising.

          Babhru’s article is about acknowledging unity in diversity within today’s Gaudiya Vaisnavism, and there is a very long standing tradition of unity and diversity within Gaudiya Vaisnavism. Indeed, we find numerous and diverse sects—all Gaudiyas—differing in everything from tilaka markings to rasa. But it is obviously also useful to find common ground wherever it is. And Thakura Bhaktivinoda certainly looked for common ground outside of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. Rupa Goswami also expressed unity despite diversity when he twice acknowledged Vallabha’s lineage in his Bhaktirasamirta-sindhu by saying that the Vallabha sampradaya is more or less the same with its maryada and pusti margs in comparison to the Gaudiya’s vaidhi and raga margs. He also oversaw the building of the Radha Govinda temple in Vrindavana and approved its blend of Mogul and Hindu architecture with a view to create religious unity. Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada also was keen to acknowledge the four Vaisnava sampradayas and sought unity with them for preaching. And lastly Prabhupada repeatedly expressed his desire to preach unitedly with is Godbrothers.

          1. The letter you refer to is not clear evidence for the doctrine you espouse even if you take it out of the entire context of what he wrote and taught. And if you study it in light of the various letters and statements concerning his succession, your “clear evidence” is an interpretation that many do not buy for good reason.

          2. In Prabhupada’s books and letters, among other things, we find praise of his Godbrothers and the honoring of many of them who initiated disciples. Just one example: he wrote that he considered Pujyapada Sridhara Maharaja his siksa guru, referred to him as a “pure devotee.” He also very much honored SM’s disciple and successor B.S. Govinda Maharaja. And he wrote that at one point when he and SM were living together in Prabhupada’s house (for six years) he desired to start a mission with SM as the acarya. Finally he made it abundantly clear that he desired that his disciples to hear from SM. Unfortunately extenuating circumstances got in the way until after Prabhupada’s departure. I am surprised that you are so unfamiliar with the history.

          3. You have much of the rest of your history wrong.

          4. The problem is not a management problem. It is a spiritual problem—the lack of dynamic spiritual authority in both of your camps, Iskcon and ritvik.

          5. You entirely misrepresent the environment in the days leading up to Prabhupada’s passing, assigning aparadha where there was none. I was personally present for some of the events you misrepresent. Someone misinformed you.

          6. This is not the place to debate Iskcon vs ritvik in such detail, and it has already been discussed elsewhere on the Harmonist in greater detail. Please look there first before commenting here. All of your points have been discussed on those pages. Note that this site is not an Iskcon or ritvik site. It disagrees with both of there sects in some respects and tries to honor them from a distance. In the case of ritvik, which we consider apasiddhanta, we nonetheless honor the sincerity of persons like you. So I really think your first point is what is relevant to the article, and I have addressed it above.

          But you also ask this:

          If Srila Prabhupada teaches very clearly, that it’s best to accept an uttama as diksa guru and not a madhyama guru, and if he says in the purport of C.C Madhya chapter 7 Lila Volume 3., “It is best not to accept any disciples.” Why is it that so many people continue to not take the advise of Srila Prabhupada on these points and continue to elect or become “diksa gurus?”

          Maybe some of them are uttama adhikaris. Did you read Rupa Goswami’s definition I posted? But there could be any number of good reasons why madhyama adhikaris would initiate, especially in the absence of an uttama adhikari or even under an uttamadhikari’s direction ( I have seen examples of this). And of course because they do not agree with ritvikvada. But here is the quote you reference in context:

          “One should not try to be an artificially advanced devotee, thinking ‘I am a first-class devotee,’ so it is best not to accept any disciples. Such thinking should be avoided. One has to become purified at home by chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra and preaching the principles enunciated by Sri Caitanya Mahäprabhu. Thus one can become a spiritual master and be freed from the contamination of material life.”

          As one can see, he is saying that it is best not to accept disciples by trying in some artificial way to become advanced. Rather then being a false renunciate, one can remain as a householder and eventually take op the seva of initiating when one is qualified. And in fact Prabhupada even indicates that this can be done in the context of further purifying oneself!: “Thus one can become a spiritual master and be freed from the contamination of material life.” Sounds like a madhyama adhikari guru is what he is referring to.

        • Swami B.V. Tripurari wrote:

          “one can remain as a householder and eventually take op the seva of initiating when one is qualified.

          And in fact Prabhupada even indicates that this can be done in the context of further purifying oneself!: “Thus one can become a spiritual master and be freed from the contamination of material life.” Sounds like a madhyama adhikari guru is what he is referring to.”

          That quote, when read in context of the entire purport from which it was plucked, does not really support that he indicated the “seva of initiating”.

          Madhya 7.130 : PURPORT :
          The cult of Srī Caitanya Mahāprabhu is explained here very nicely. One who surrenders to Him and is ready to follow Him with heart and soul does not need to change his location. Nor is it necessary for one to change status. One may remain a householder, a medical practitioner, an engineer or whatever. It doesn’t matter. One only has to follow the instruction of Srī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, chant the Hare Krsna mahā-mantra and instruct relatives and friends in the teachings of the Bhagavad-gītā and Srīmad-Bhāgavatam. One has to learn humility and meekness at home, following the instructions of Srī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, and in that way one’s life will be spiritually successful. One should not try to be an artificially advanced devotee, thinking, “I am a first-class devotee.” Such thinking should be avoided. It is best not to accept any disciples. One has to become purified at home by chanting the Hare Krsna mahā-mantra and preaching the principles enunciated by Srī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Thus one can become a spiritual master and be freed from the contamination of material life.


          Here is the direct sequence of statements.

          1. “It is best not to accept any disciples.”

          Instead the next sentence states what TO DO.

          2. “One has to become purified at home by chanting and peaching”

          Thus he indicates one should take the position of Siksa Guru, also known as Instructing Spiritual master, while at home. And it will be purifying. Which supports the very next statement.

          3. “Thus one can become a spiritual master and be freed from the contamination of material life.”

          So staying at home and becoming a spiritual master is purifying and will free one from contamination.

          It is not incumbent upon a Siksa Guru to formally initiate and accept disciples as Diksa Guru. Especially when the instruction from the Acarya is to NOT accept disciples. Since one can discipline some one without formally considering them “my disciple”, this instruction harmonizes the apparent contradiction.

          The ritvik system was meant to be a safeguard. Within the institution of Iskcon, No-one was to be able to claim that anyone was “their initiated disciple”. The safeguard was that each newcomer was to understand that they are the disciple of the acarya. Simultaneously they were to follow every instruction that their local Siksa Guru was to give them, and be under their discipline.

          The safeguard was in the understanding that by reading Srila Prabbhupada’s books, hearing his lectures and conversations, every one of his initiated disciples would gain a body of knowledge they could use to hold their Siksa guru accountable. No Siksa Guru was to instruct anything that would contradict an instruction already given by the Founder Acarya.

          There was plenty of room for meaningful and creative instruction to come from every Acarya that Iskcon would produce, without ever needing to countermand any of the time, place, and circumstance adjustments already establilshed by the founder.

          The essence of Diksa, which is the transmission of Spiritual knowledge, is not hindered if I do not claim you to be my initiated disciple as your Diksa Guru. It is not an impediment. It was an adjustment to formality, and there is a spiritual component which many miss as well.

          Vasudeva Datta offered to take and suffer the sins of everyone in the universe if the Lord would take them home.

          Are we to restrict Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s desire to remain the initiating Spiritual master of his institution? Can we say with certitude that he is not empowered to do so?

          His special ritvik authorization was to empower his disciples, regardless of their adhikari, to instruct every newcomer, and continue the disciplic succession according to Bhagavati Diksa, thus emphasizing the essence of Diksa in the face of hundreds of years of the opposite, which had crystallized into the very abuse of Diksa formality which had forced the Sankirtana movement underground.

        • Thus he indicates one should take the position of Siksa Guru, also known as Instructing Spiritual master, while at home. And it will be purifying. Which supports the very next statement.

          That is not at all clear from the text itself. You have clearly inserted this distinction. And for that matter the siksa guru is not different in qualification from the diksa guru, but rather the functions of the the two differ. It’s not that a siksa guru is a less qualified guru than a diksa guru. Just wanted to make that clear (see Cc.).

          And “the instruction of the acarya,” in this case Srila Prabhupada, is not what you think it is, for in numerous places he told us that he wanted his disciples to initiate and of course qualify themselves to do so. You can’t take this one statement and make guru-tattva theology out of it. We already have one, and it states that diksa gurus are required and that they differ from purvacaryas. Prabhupada is a purvacarya, not a diksa guru in the present. But I agree with Prabhupada when he says that it is best not to initiate, especially if one is not qualified, which is his emphasis here. And furthermore it makes life easier not to initiate. And Prabhupada himself felt that way, but nonetheless he took up the seva owing to the circumstances. Prabhupada is not instructing or ordering his disciples not to make disciples themselves in this paragraph, and certainly not in a manner that overrides his numerous encouragements to the contrary and stated preference that his disciples initiate.

          The value of the balance of your comments rest on your interpretation of what Prabhupada wanted for Iskcon. You state your interpretation as if it were a matter of fact, rather than a subjective call on your part. Apparently the present authorities of Iskcon have a different interpretation. But I also do not agree with your interpretation, nor do I entirely agree with Iskcon’s approach.

          Overall if we are to discuss guru tattva we need to reference our positions with sastra and endeavor to understand Prabhupada’s statements in light of the entire Gaudiya position on the subject explained in the core texts. He is not making up anything new, as he many times stated. His credibility derives from accurately representing the tradition, as he also taught.

  20. Babhru Das,

    A very good article. Thanks for writing! Here is my take on this issue of “bickering like children”. If we look at small children, we see that they fight for trivial things, but for them those things are very very important. When we take a kid for shopping, if he/she sees a cereal box with some animated cartoon figure which the he/she likes, he/she will want it like anything else and the he is convinced that it is excellent. We cannot ask why? The kid won’t give any reason, he/she just wants.

    We see very similar things among most religious people. If you take a look at the history of Christianity, people fought with each other for seemingly trivial things. And they still do. Imagine a nuclear holocaust arising, due to some foolish religious dogma about some special land in the middle east(which dosen’t even have oil).

    The cause of this is dogma. A dogmatic person will never be inclined to revise/take a critical look at ones opinion/belief. And I don’t think Gaudiya Vaishnavism is wholly undogmatic. In fact many aspects of it reinforce dogma. Again, I am not attacking Gaudiya Vaishnavism as a whole, but the dogma in it.

    The idea that the Vedas/Bhagvatam is absolute and after studying it nothing more needs to be done is a bad idea. It stifles critical inquiry and reason and encourages dogma. Such dogmatic understanding stifles the exploration of ones identity and the mystic religious experience of service to Shri Krishna.

    I am not condemning the Bhagavatam, it is an excellent book, but why shouldn’t one question certain parts of it. Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s approach to this entire thing was exemplary, it was extremely sophisticated and un-dogmatic.

    I quote him from the famous book Bhagvata:Its Philosophy, Its Ethics, and Its Theology

    “Thought is progressive. The author’s thought must have progress in the reader in the shape of correction or development. He is the best critic, who can show the further development of an old thought; but a mere denouncer is the enemy of progress and consequently of Nature.”

    In my experience of Gaudiya Vaishnavism (through ISKCON), it is extremely difficult to question. Voicing disagreement with some Swami or questioning some dogma is frowned upon. Rational and scientific conversation are discouraged. Most devotees(thankfully there are exceptions) dogmatically cling to some passages or some sentences uttered by some Swami in a lecture, without thinking/processing it. Such things are dangerous, at best it may only result into bickering as you mentioned and at worst it may result in taking crazy decisions which hurt lot of people.

    Many scientists are much better than this. Some of them may be dogmatic, but most of them are willing to admit, that they can be wrong. Einstein admitted it. Even without knowing, they follow Trinad api suni cena better than some religious devotees.

    One can reduce this childish clinging to dogma by the aid of some kind of meditation (which is a sort of tool which enhances introspection) which enables one to face ones own limitations, faults and foolishness and reduces self absorption.

    Ranking in terms of least amount of dogma. The best are the genuine mystics, then come the scientists and the last are religious people, for most of them cannot live without dogma.

  21. To bring the subject of tolerance back into focus, one can ask: What can be tolerated in any given situation? Can we tolerate devotees with a radically different take on any given subject coming to our temple? Why not, if they actually come to associate with other devotees, perform service, chant the Holy Name, and honor prasadam? But what to do if they come to our function merely to challenge our sanga, disrupt the function, and canvass our guests to join their camp? At that point tolerance might be politely but firmly asking them to leave, since they obviously have very little culture to act in such a low class fashion.
    A lot can be tolerated provided that there is good will and good culture on both sides. If we actually care about the other person, we are more likely to be tolerant of what we perceive to be their transgressions. We should care about one another – devotees are very precious and rare.

  22. Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada once suggested that if his disciples were able to meet certain criteria that they would be allowed to initiate disciples. This was in 1969 in a personal letter to Hamsadutta.

    The Process that would inculcate that criteria never even came close to becoming implemented, and to this very day has not.

    ** “Another examination will be held sometimes in 1971 on the four books, Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Teachings of Lord Caitanya, and Nectar of Devotion. One who will pass this examination will be awarded with the title of Bhaktivedanta. I want that all of my spiritual sons and daughters will inherit this title of Bhaktivedanta, so that the family transcendental diploma will continue through the generations. Those possessing the title of Bhaktivedanta will be allowed to initiate disciples. Maybe by 1975, all of my disciples will be allowed to initiate and increase the numbers of the generations. That is my program.” **
    (Letter to: Hamsaduta — Los Angeles 3 January, 1969)

    The larger point here is that Swamiji changed his version of standard procedures for his institution over time as he was able to discern the actual qualifications of his disciples. We need to keep up with his current orders on any given subject.

    Let’s remember that the above letter was written before he was held captive in Los Angeles in 1970 and forced to conceed certain powers to the great sinister movement already within his society.

    From 1970 – 1974 his efforts to implement the Direction of Management were mutinously and wholly ignored.

    He gave direct and detailed instructions to form Varnasrama colleges in March 1974, orders which he continued to refine up to Feb 1977. They were never implemented in the least, and even today the token attempts by Iskcon toward this end in the last few years do not slighlty resemble what was instructed.

    Let us give Srila Prabhupada credit for knowing who he was dealing with, and that means all of us. Wanting us to become qualified, would not blind him to what we were actually qualified to do at any given time. Part of his mission was to develop protocol that we could follow in the future, and he had to abandon and adjust such protocols many times along the way.

    By late 1977 he flat out said that no one was qualified, and his last orders on the matter were that he would mercifully continue to empower his ill-qualified disciples by authorizing them to offer both initiations on his behalf which “bound newcomers to him”, including empowering them to transmit the Gayatri mantras, as he did in the past when he empowered a devotees wife to speak the mantra at 2nd initiation when they had no tape recorder.

    It is best that we understand how the Acarya was able to adjust the formality to extend his mercy in a wonderful and astonishing way.

    The bona-fide acarya creates sastra.

    ** “Sarasvati Thakura responded by explaining the concept of bhagavata-parampara, or siksa-parampara. He maintained that the essence of parampara lies in the transmission of transcendental knowledge, not merely in a list of contiguous names. The life of the parampara is maintained by the maha-bhagavatas, who embody the essence of scriptural knowledge. Therefore, to trace the parampara through such maha-bhagavatas truly represents parampara.

    “He said, ‘Bhaktivinoda Thakura is Kamala Manjari, a personal associate of Radharani. He ordered me to establish daiva-varnasrama. I must obey his order. The acarya is not under the sastra. The acarya can make sastra. Bhaktivinoda Thakura, the acarya, has inspired me in various ways. By his mercy and that of Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji Maharaja and the previous acaryas we are going on, not caring for the precise technicalities of smartas.” **
    (Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Vaibhava)

    The Acarya’s creative adjustments do not interfere with the essence of scripture. It is a fact that transcendenal knowledge of the particulars of both Bhagavat marg and Pancaratrik or Vaidhi marg are transmitted successfully by Siksa instruction, ceremony not withstanding.

    One who practices the standard Bhagavata marg while accepting the supportive role of the Vaidhi marg as particularly adjusted by the Acarya, falls under His discipline, and the disciplic succession of the parampara continues unabated.

    ** “The Spiritual Master must be bona fide representative of Krishna, by disciplic succession, receiving orders from the superior, and the disciple must agree to abide by the orders of the Spiritual Master. This is the simple method of spiritual advancement; if you remember this principle it will be very nice.” (Letter to: Nathan Baruch — Montreal 7 August, 1968) **

    The essence of Diksa remained intact under the Ritvik system for those who became his initiated disciples in the 70’s who never “met” or “heard from” Srila Prabhupada in his Vapu form.

    The Siksa and Diksa guru are one in qualification. That qualification is dependent upon authorization, as well as individual capablities due to advancement in realization of the science.

    A disciple will not countermand the system the Acarya ordered them to follow based on his opinion that the formal tradition is not being followed now that his Acarya is no longer present.

    The acarya gave no order for the system to stop, he explicitly ordered in his last will and testament that there be no change in management, and that future directors of his India properties be his initiated disciples.

    If a disciple sees fit to leave Iskcon and play the role of Diksa Guru, I pray they are qualified to do so for their own sake as well as those they instruct, and give them my blessing for what it is worth.

    Those who do so while claiming to represent Iskcon are lacking understanding of the will of the Founder, and are either naively or purposefully committing offenses.

    • When Srila Prabhupada appointed some of his disciples to act as “officiating acharya” he also clearly said that disciples of these officiating acharyas are their disciples, and his grand disciples. That is clearly disciplic succession. No amount of world jugglery and pseudo-logic can change that. Despite these 11 clearly not being qualified, Srila Prabhupada authorized them to accept their own disciples. The rest is history.
      Incidentally, the concept of ‘officiating’ or ‘institutional’ acharyas go back to Gaudiya Matha, where the senior sannyasis were supposed to be initiating gurus within GM after the passing of BSST. For a while at least that system worked quite well. Officiating acharyas are acharyas who are not a singular head of the mission (acharya), as is typical in India, but who work within one preaching mission. In my opinion, that was the vision SP had, not some perpetual ritvik system turning the Bhaktivedanta line into yet another apasampradaya.

      • Kula-pavana,

        You claim that the regional ritvik representatives were to become gurus of new disciples based on evidence from the may 28th 1977 conversation.

        In that conversation the Founder-Acarya clearly states that in the future, when things are settled up, he will be RECOMMENDING some “officiating acaryas”, or “ritviks”.

        Srila Prabhupada continues to assert that the ONE INITIATING will be the new disciple’s guru, and simultaneously Srila Prabhupada’s Granddisciple. The one initiating would almost never be the regional ritvik, but almost always be the local TP or secretary.

        Srila Prabhupada then states three times that BY HIS ORDER one becomes Regular guru, but ONLY by his order, and that HE will select.

        2 months later, he decided on a complete policy regarding initiations, based largely on what had been done up to that present moment, and made recommendations in a formal document. He never selected or ordered any individual to be guru in that document.

        Instead he selected “ritvik representatives” FOR THE PURPOSE OF PERFORMING THE 2 FORMAL INITIATIONS. He further stated “The newly initiated devotees are disciples of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad, the above eleven senior devotees acting as His representative.”

        The regional ritvik representative was likely little IF ANY interaction with the hundreds of newcomers in any given locality. How it could be construed that this ritvik would be their regular guru is beyond logic. They were never selected as such, nor would be in a position to act as such in any meaningful way.

        The local Temple president, secretary, or other leading brahmana who would have the most chance to instruct the newcomers would likely be the one “initiating” them in both ceremonies, and thus those newcomers would obviously be THEIR disciples AS PER SRILA PRABHUPADA’S IMPLIED ORDER.

        But, as Srila Prabhupada indicates, the newcomer is simultaneously HIS initiated disciple, or call him granddisciple if you will. This is the caveat to assure that the local Guru has no authority to instruct outside of Srila Prabhupada’s already established instructions.

        A bona fide instructing guru is an acarya and has the license to make adjustments to formalilties, except those which his Guru told him NOT TO CHANGE. Any deviation from that and he falls.

        There were many areas of daily spiritual life which required creative independent thought of the local leaders. Srila Prabhupada did not instruct what colors the Deities dresses must be on monday and tuesday. He did not instruct that only devotees 40 years old or older could set up a Bhakti yoga club at the local college. But there were many parameters he did give that are sacrosanct.

        In addition, this ritvik system made it so that a local man did not need to be an uttama who was expert in scripture in order to formally initiate newcomers into the Iskcon fold.

        Whether a neophyte or madhyam adhikari, just so long as he followed the ritvik system, he was authorized and empowered to “bind” or link newcomers to the uttama Founder-acarya through Diksa, while instructing the new disciple to the best of his ability.

        “but you will be empowered by me to chant their beads and that is the same effect of binding master and disciple as if I were personally chanting.” (letter to Revitananda, 1/4/73)

        To your citation of past practices of the Gaudiya Matha, they are irrelevant, not to mention that the nomenclature used was different, therefore further rendering that history irrelevant to the explicitly defined system for Iskcon.

        The Iskcon ritvik system is really is a beautiful masterpiece, not detracting or contradicting any meaningful traditon, and does not contradict the essence of Diksa by disciplic succession which is to insure accurate transmission of instructions.

        It simply has not been presented accurately, but is always construed by mis-interpretation, intentionally or not being besides the point. Is it clear now?

        • Yes, it is very clear to me, but not the way you explain. All of Srila Prabhupada’s recorded instructions in regards to continuation of disciplic succession fit quite nicely into the general Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition of disciplic successions as practiced since the dawn of time. This is what he wrote in his books, letters, and said in his conversations for over a decade. The way I see it, Srila Prabhupada did not all of a sudden invent a new system, where he is to be a diksa guru forever… and what was good for him (as practiced in GM), is also good for his disciples. But if you think he did indeed devise a completely new system in the middle of 1977, and placed it in just one letter composed by his disciple and merely signed by him, you can certainly follow this system to your heart’s content, along with others who also think like that.
          Yes, at times SP would change his mind about something, but it was always in regards to some practical details of executing the main preaching strategy, not the fundamental principles, and never to go contrary to “the laws of disciplic succession”.

        • Yes, the scriptural support for this idea is that “the guru’s words are scripture,” which is no scriptural support and a very slippery slope indeed. Still there is truth to the idea that the guru’s words are scripture in a sense, but it speaks of the ability of the guru to adjust details. The traditional guru parampara is Krsna’s own answer to spiritual deficit. It is not a detail. And regarding the guru’s ability to adjust details, find new light, and innovate, this is why the traditional parampara exists and can’t be done away with. To say that such essential adjustments will be done by qualified siksa gurus who won’t initiate because Prabhupada did not authorize them is to not understand the system of authorization that Prabhupada himself followed. And how in any way does it help to have qualified siksa gurus who cant initiate because Prahupada wanted to be the only initiating guru for Iskcon? The clarity Bala das seems to think he has brought to light is extremely convoluted and without scriptural support. And you are correct Kula Pavana, every other Gaudiya sect will label the sect Bala dasa envisions as apasampradaya, and appropriately so. The clear and straightforward conclusion would be, “Iskcon has no guru parampara.” If we say to another Gaudiya sect that our guru decided that he would remain the initiating guru for 10,000 years in his society after he passed away and thus he conjured up a ritivik program like that of Bala das (which incidentally differs fro other ritvik notions), they will simply think that Prabhupada did not know the siddhanta. That is an objective reply. But most ritviks seem to care little about the insights of other Gaudiya sects to their detriment. There is much to learn from venturing out of the nest, and this is exactly what the disappearance of the guru affords us the opportunity to do. It can be very helpful in sorting out the relative from the absolute with regard to the guru and his instructions.

        • Sorry, I just read alot of personal opinion and mis-characterization of the position I exposited. If you aren’t feeling up to debating properly that is Ok by me, but such generalized dismissive patronization is really unbecoming.

  23. Haribol

    Who is speaking
    with a view to effect change at all points in time
    Is it tolerable that everywhere one or another character
    speaks for change
    A change is as good as a rest they say
    well giving it a rest is of equal value i’ll warrant
    one meditative base is nice and
    at any rate
    so many camps with institutional
    character and various affilliated and equally disinterested characters living out
    step the facility
    another has
    for getting around things that change from this or that
    perspective has to
    seen as remarkable enough already for
    sure where individuals
    strength one must be exceptionally
    tolerant or mighty beyond the norm
    willing i’ll settle into one meditative base as is
    yes as it
    is no doubt evident day after day
    i am not tolerant in a
    very exemplary way
    no and though one most certainly can
    think of participating
    in harer nama sankirtana with a view to being
    in kali-yuga there is such a
    perceived need for change in the great
    outdoors one can expect the dynamic
    of congregational chanting will broach
    fields of strength
    Now let us ask who is there
    tolerate on that level any weakness
    carry on carry
    on carry on

  24. Citta Hari dasa


    Are we to restrict Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s desire to remain the initiating Spiritual master of his institution? Can we say with certitude that he is not empowered to do so?

    Can we say with certitude that to remain the diksa guru of Iskcon forever was his desire?

  25. It is interesting to note that just as the Christians who argue that the Bible promotes meat eating are usually meat eaters, the devotees who argue that they are qualified to give diksa are usually people who want to be “spiritual masters.” My understanding, from Siksastaka, is that the advanced devotee thinks himself to be lower than a straw in the street. Such a person, it would seem, would think himself unfit to take up such an exalted position which is equal to the sum total of all the demigods. I’d think that an advanced devotee would only accept disciples if he were directly ordered to do so by his spiritual master.

    Srila Prabhupada is still with us and still interested in how we’re doing. If an advanced devotee is personally ordered to accept disciples by Srila Prabhupada, then he is qualified to accept worship as we’ve been instructed to worship the spiritual master. If he hasn’t been personally ordered, he’d be better off serving in another capacity.

    • But mataji, Srila Prabhupada ordered his disciples, by implication, to become spiritual masters, or gurus, many times.

      ** “There are two kinds of instructing spiritual masters. One is the liberated person fully absorbed in meditation in devotional service, and the other is he who invokes the disciple’s spiritual consciousness by means of relevant instructions.” (CC Adi 1.47 purport) **

      If you look at the various quotes given in multiple comments prior to this one, you will see the full authorization given to His disciples to become the second sort of instructing spiritual master referred to here.

      What he did not authorize them to do was to take the role of initiating spiritual master or Diksa Guru.

      Given the balance of that purport from CC Adi 1.47, this may seem contradictory.

      ** “There is no difference between the shelter-giving Supreme Lord and the initiating and instructing spiritual masters. If one foolishly discriminates between them, he commits an offense in the discharge of devotional service….

      … The initiating spiritual master is a personal manifestation of Śrīla Madana-mohana vigraha, whereas the instructing spiritual master is a personal representative of Śrīla Govindadeva vigraha.” (CC Adi 1.47) **

      How can one be qualified to be one type of spiritual master, but not the other? This requires reconciliation.

      It is a matter of authorization. When one is authorized to do something by his Guru, and is following those orders strictly, they are to be considered pure, and thus they can be a transparent via media through which the Vigraha of Krsna may manifest. Even a person not yet fully liberated may do this when authorized and empowered, as the following quote indicates.

      ** “On the whole, you may know that he is not a liberated person, and therefore, he cannot initiate any person to Krishna Consciousness. It requires special spiritual benediction from higher authorities.

      The statements of Thakura Bhaktivinode are as good as scriptures because he is liberated person. Generally the spiritual master comes from the group of such eternal associates of the Lord; but anyone who follows the principles of such ever liberated persons is as good as one in the above mentioned group. The gurus from nature’s study are accepted as such on the principle that an elevated person in Krishna Consciousness does not accept anyone as disciple, but he accepts everyone as expansion of his guru. That is very high position, called Maha-bhagavata. Just like Radharani, sometimes thinks a subordinate of hers as her teacher, to understand devotion of Krishna. A person who is liberated acharya and guru cannot commit any mistake, but there are persons who are less qualified or not liberated, but still can act as guru and acharya by strictly following the disciplic succession. (Letter to: Janardana — New York 4/26/68) **

      So “strictly following the disciplic succession” means to follow the orders of one’s spiritual master, and in doing so a less qualified devotee is empowered to act as guru and acarya, which directly relates to the 2nd type of instructing spiritual master indicated in the purport to Adi 1.47.

      So, in sum, Srila Prabhupada did not authorize or order anyone to become initiating spiritual master within his Iskcon institution.

      He authorized his disciples who were strictly following to act as instructing spiritual masters. These men can ALSO become transparent to the patron Deity of Diksa (Sri Madana Mohana Vigraha), but ONLY when acting in the manner he was authorized to do, which is to assist in the Diksa ceremony that binds the newcomer to the Founder-Acarya. First by writing to the regional ritvik rep. to submit the newcomer’s candidacy, and then upon approval, to perform the yajna and the related details.

      As soon as he falsely claims that disciple to be his own exclusive disciple, or instructs that disciple in a way that contradicts the disciplines given by the Founder, that transcendental link is lost, and false ego gets in the way of any Vigraha which might want to use that disciple to act in the world.

      Inspired by the Lord within, Srila Prabhupada crafted this Ritvik system over time in Iskcon and the Lord never guided him to repeal it, nay the Lord guided him to set it in stone, as it’s use never interfered with his disciples’ ability to transmit the teachings of the Founder-Acarya to a new person who never met the founder, and couldn’t possibly hinder such teaching after the founder disappeared, because for so many he never “appeared” in that way to begin with!

      They attempted to forever shut the loophole by which formal Diksa gurus in the Gaudiya lineage took the liberty to neglect the essential teachings of the the Goswamis and instead instruct according to their whim, becoming fallen caste gurus who perpetuated smarta lineages. Such smarta castists had no strong checks and balances against them.

      Which is why the only way anyone could instruct differently within the walls of Iskcon was to proclaim himself an independent liberated soul who could exclusively accept and instruct discples according to his own divine wisdom. As if all the time place circumstance adjustments carefully made by the Founder were null and void simply because he could no longer show up and beat you with a stick for introducing something new. What a shame.

      Hare Krsna!

      • It is odd that such a so called God ordained empowered system you imagine has been so marginalized and dismissed by every other Gaudiya sect, including Iskcon itself. Where is its power? If Prabhupada is so present in it, why do we not see it reigning in Iskcon? Surely darkness is not more powerful than light after 40 years. Indeed it is said to be an empowered plan carefully crafted by SP over years. All of that only to have it declared a heresy by his GBC? . . . “and they are still fighting in the courts 40 years later.” Sounds familiar.

        • It is remarkable that the evidence I put forth and commentary that strictly deduces from that evidence is labeled a product of my imagination, yet not countered by any other evidence from the explicit instructions of the Acarya I quote.

          Instead an attempt is made to counter by citing the opinions of other Gaudiya sects who did not accept Bhaktivedanta Swami as their instructing Guru, and the opinions of the speculative neophyte leaders of a deeply deviant institution passing itself off as the Founder’s Iskcon.

          The system does not reign due to the exercise of independent free will by extremely motivated neophytes who disregarded the orders of the Founder in order to satisfy their inordinate need for fame, adoration, and distinction.

          The order to continue managing initiations as they were smoothly being managed, was largely kept hidden and not displayed in many temples. Like the tapes containing the orders to divide duties by guna and karma, varna and asrama, were completely suppressed well into the 90’s. According to Rameshwara the DVD order would “ruin the whole thing”, as he said to Ameyatma das.

          Iskcon was already long gone into deep sahajyism, and the reasonable disciples of conscience living in exile, before the facts began leaking out significantly and were able to be cobbled together by those who were kept in the dark about these things.

          In the light of this plainly evident sequence of events, it is not odd at all that the truth has been marginalized and dismissed now is it?

          The dismissed, marginalized, and exiled loyalists have had a long row to hoe, needing to scrape themselves off the streets, and fend for themselves bereft of institutional support, often being separated from other disiples of conscience by hundreds of miles. Never the less, they gradually woke up, stood up, and have educated themselves in the desires of the Founder.

          While those who look to the formal “traditions” which were already considered and adjusted by the Founder, to justify the continuance of their speculative endeavors, will continue to flounder and their weak branches will eventually wither and die.

          A loyal disciple cares not for the thoughts and opinions of any sect from any sampradaya, expecially as the Essence of the Gaudiya tradition is non-sectarian. He knows that all that needs to be understood regarding the specific Vaidhi sadhana dispensation can be done so from examining the Founder Acarya’s own words.

          The only Gaudiya literature of past acaryas which has value as supplementary to the Founder’s writings is that which elaborates the advanced study of tattvas relating to the Bhagavata viddhi.

          There are still 9500 years left in the golden age of Iskcon. Once enough loyalists are on the same page a critical mass will be reached, and the glory of the Iskcon that was meant to be, will be, whether any currently within the walls of the misguided Iskcon assists, or not.

        • Conspiracy theories like yours are aways billed as “just the facts,” when in fact they represent but interpretations of facts. And you have interpreted statements of SP in a manner that is not consistent with sastra concerning the nature of guru parampara. Meanwhile there is another way to interpret them such that they are supported by guru parampara. So I go with the latter. Simple. And my interprettion is supported by all other Guadiya sects and acaryas, by the balance of the sampradaya. The fact that these sects do not accept SP as their siksa guru is of no consequence. They are bound to accept him as an acarya and offer due respect to the extent that he follows sastra. This is what he taught. You seem happy to live in a world where there are no other Gaudiyas with other gurus and no present acarya in the traditional sense. You do not care for the philosophical opinion of Pujyapada Sridhara Maharaja, Prabhupada’s stated siksa guru, etc. Your choice. Best wishes with your interpretation.

          While those who look to the formal “traditions” which were already considered and adjusted by the Founder, to justify the continuance of their speculative endeavors, will continue to flounder and their weak branches will eventually wither and die.

          Oh come now prophet. As you speak it is ritvikvada that is withering and dying. Indeed, it can only flourish in a spiritual vaccuum. There are hundreds of Gaudiya sects following the Bhagavad gita’s solution to spiritual deficit—guru parampara—and they are not all going to fold as ritivkvada comes to dominate the landscape as the new adjusted true form of Gaudiya Vasinavsm. Talk about gurus suffering from grandiosity!

          A loyal disciple cares not for the thoughts and opinions of any sect from any sampradaya, expecially as the Essence of the Gaudiya tradition is non-sectarian. He knows that all that needs to be understood regarding the specific Vaidhi sadhana dispensation can be done so from examining the Founder Acarya’s own words.

          So much for the plurality of gurus that Cc speaks about, as does the Bhagavata. You clearly fail to recognize that you are an initiated (I hope) member of a sampradaya, not merely a particular sect within it. And it’s raga marga sampradaya. kiba vipra kiba nyasi . . . yei krsna tattva vetti sei guru hay.

          The only Gaudiya literature of past acaryas which has value as supplementary to the Founder’s writings is that which elaborates the advanced study of tattvas relating to the Bhagavata viddhi.

          Interesting idea here. The foundational texts become subordinate to the texts derived from them. So Bhaktirasamrita-sindhu becomes subordinate to its summary study, Nectar of Devotion. The Bhakti-sastra for the entire sampradaya becomes subordonate to the texts of a particular Gaudiya sect. I suppose you mean for that particular sect, but even then this is not what SP taught. He tught that his authority derived from the extent to which his books represented the foundational books. You suggest a very insular approach at best, which I agree is good in some respects for kanistha adhikaris.

          There are still 9500 years left in the golden age of Iskcon. Once enough loyalists are on the same page a critical mass will be reached, and the glory of the Iskcon that was meant to be, will be, whether any currently within the walls of the misguided Iskcon assists, or not.

          I do encourage dreaming. It’s 50% of life. At any rate best wishes.

    • I certainly not consider myself qualified to give diksa to anyone, but I’m also not delusional to think that the only person qualified to give diksa at the present time is Srila Prabhupada, who has departed from this mortal world more than three decades ago. If none of his disciples have become qualified to give diksa even after some 40 years of practicing Krsna consciousness under his guidance, than we might conclude that his mission has failed when it comes to training his followers. I certainly do not think like that. Over the years many of SP disciples developed more than enough qualifications to give diksa. And by now they have many disciples whose spiritual progress is a testimony to the potency of their diksa. We judge by the results, as SP often said.

    • Anuttama devi dasi,

      In the interest of keeping with Babhru’s call for civility in discussions of this sort it is important to acknowledge when points you have raised are proven to be incorrect. If you do not do so and just continue to make new arguments, you appear uninterested in getting to the truth and thus have no place in a civil discussion.

      As for your most recent post, who personally ordered Prabhupada to initiate? His guru Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura did not see anyone among his disciples to be qualified to serve as acarya, according to Prabhupada himself. Still we see that Prabhupda initiated in due course. By your own logic he would have been better off serving in another capacity and we would not be having this conversation. And for your information, neither BSST nor BVT received such a personal, verifiable order to initiate from their initiating gurus. Nor was the order given to any of Prabhupada’s Gobrothers, one of whom he was initiated into the sannyasa order by. And Prabhupada honored the disciples of his Godbrothers and thereby his Godbrothers serving as initiating gurus despite his differences with some of them. He even personally sent me to represent him one year in honoring B.H. Bon Maharaja on the day of his appearance. I was personally encouraged to initiate by his siksa guru, Pujyapada B.R. Sridhara Deva Goswami, whom Prabhupada’s sister approached for mantra diksa. But the authorization to initiate could be on the basis of such an order or it could be on the basis of scripture, meeting that is, the qualifications mentioned therein. Sastra states no other qualification.

      • the implication is

        recognizes his divine
        grace Srila Prabhupada as the
        one for one
        and whomever actually
        around to doing so recognizes


        one else now
        there is no

        one else in the right

        Krsna consciousness

        as such one considers oneself


        being in maya in a way

        that makes


        tell the way everyone else



        is a kind of it

        one to know

        approach i find


        but not very



        emotional beauty of Krsna consciousness

        is that

        really a very tolerable nod to
        in diversity

        Haribol !

      • Maharaja,

        Regarding my response to “incorrect” points, I have had e-mails from godbrothers who indicated that they thought my “points” trumped your response. Not to be cynical, but I’m doubtful that there is anything that I could possibly say that would convince you that Srila Prabhupada is still willing and able to accept disciples. But I’m just a pre-khanista adhikari mataji and it isn’t my place to instruct you.

        The reason that I responded to this article by Babhru Prabhu is because it really irked me that he thinks I should have any level of civility to the current pseudo-ISKCON leaders. When Srila Prabhupada left his body I was just barely 19 years old. I was told that Srila Prabhupada had appointed 11 “pure devotees” to take over the movement. Then over the course of the next few years I was spiritually devastated by Hansadutta, Hrdayananda and Ramesvara. After a few years of living under the regimes of those clowns, I certainly didn’t have any desire to bring new people to Krsna and I also seriously doubted Srila Prabhupada for having appointed them as pure devotees.

        It has only been in the last few years that I found out about the July 9th letter and the fact that the original 11 were never appointed as pure devotees, but rather that Srila Prabhupada tried to install a very different system.

        If you go by the premise that everyone was acting honorably and just doing his best to serve Srila Prabhupada, this just doesn’t make sense. If you consider that there was something very sinister going on, it does. It is an indisputable fact that Srila Prabhupada asked for all his disciples to come for his passing. It is an indisputable fact that the order to come was hidden from most of his disciples. It is an indisputable fact that Srila Prabhupada talked about the possibility that he was being poisoned. It is an indisputable fact that the devotees were lied to about the appointment of the original 11.

        There are other fishy things such as the existence and disappearance of a letter instructing all of the householder disciples to move to farm communities, the disappearance of the Direction of Management and the fact that an inquest into the circumstances of Srila Prahupada’s passing was not investigated even though there was ample forensic evidence to warrant such an investigation.

        I was invited to a reunion of the Berkeley Mothers’ Party being held at last year’s Ratha Yatra and declined to go because I didn’t want my mind disturbed by seeing people who let the above undisputed facts go unchallenged. Such people are sinister. And they’re not even good leaders.

        Our spiritual master instructed us to live a lifestyle where we live in communities, protect cows and produce our basic necessities. He also warned us that the materialistic civilization would be destroyed by atomic weapons. At this point in history, any person with an IQ over 50 can see that atomic war is a distinct possibility in the very near future. If the leaders had followed Srila Prabhupada’s instructions regarding the proper lifestyle for devotees, the devotees would be in a position of strength for the coming economic collapse and world war. People would come to us for material guidance and spiritual guidance, too. As it is, most devotees are likely to be caught up in the chaos and have to put all of their energy into just keeping body and soul together.

        I am very disappointed with my godbrothers. Krsna has been very kind to my husband and me and has given us top farmland, 15,000 sq. ft. of buildings and really wonderful bovine family members. We have the tools, skills and knowledge to be in a position to help people when TSHTF, but we’d be so much better off if my more intelligent godbrothers had believed Srila Prabhupada and lived the life he instructed. Our blog: http://www.billyandanuttama.wordpress.com

        • Anuttama devi,

          You stated that the philosophy teaches that conditioned souls cannot be gurus and that thinking so involved changing the philosophy. Such would include madhyama adhikaris. I demonstrated from Prabhupada’s books that he disagreed with this, that your idea constituted changing the teaching, not mine. if your friends think your original point trumped mine, they failed to read my response. Best wishes.

        • Maharaja, I doubt that I wrote that, but if I did it is blatantly wrong. Of course madhayama adhikaris can accept disciples. We’ve seen practically that homosexual pedophile murderers can and do accept disciples. The quote is that the disciple will make insufficient advancement under such guidance.

          So as a neophyte devotee, I realize that in order to earn the mercy of my spiritual master, I’ll need to please him. Lord Caitanya’s movement is about bringing the conditioned souls back to Godhead. If I’m to have any level of enthusiasm about spreading the philosophy, I need to be able to point potential devotees in the direction of a spiritual master. If I point them to a self appointed guru who has not been personally ordered to do that service, we can see statistically that that guru is likely to fall down. How can I have any level of enthusiasm for spreading Krsna consciousness if I’m likely sending people to a fraud? Isn’t it better to point people to the pure devotee who can take them back to Godhead in this one lifetime?

        • You did say it. Check the record. Are you reading my responses? It does not seem so from this reply. Prabhupada was self appointed! But I agree with you that you should point new people in the direction of someone who can deliver them, a realized soul. Look for one. They are out there. You might even find that one of them can serve as a suitable siksa guru for you. Meanwhile Prabhupada is not giving diksa anymore. He entered the nitya-lila. It is important to understand the implications of that.

          Otherwise if you and others do not want to budge from your particualar ritvik ida (again there are many out there), my humble suggestion is that you forget about iskocn and stop fighting with them. You risk Vaisnava aparadha.

          I wish you well an do not wish to debate the issue with you.

        • Maharaja,

          Where’s your compassion? I was opening my heart about how I’m uninspired to brings new people to “gurus” who may well be debauches and you “don’t wish to debate” the issue? Please give me the name of one person who you have determined to be an uttama adhikari. I’m also curious why you don’t send people to that uttama adhikari for initiation. Are you an uttama adhikari?

        • I do not wish to debate the spiritual incorrectness of ritvikvada with you. But I would be happy to point out an uttama adhikari to you. However, first of all I took the time to give you Rupa Goswami’s definition of an uttama adhikari so that you would have this objective, sastra-based criteria to work with yourself in your ongoing spiritual pursuit.

          Pujyapada B.R. Sridhara Maharaja was an uttama adhikari. Prabhupada called him a “pure devotee of Krsna.” Pujyapada B.P. Puri Goswami was also and uttama adhikari. I served both of them while others in the rivik camp were vilifying them, as they continue to do today. Of course they have now passed on. But today you can approach Bhakti Gambhira Giri Maharaja of Vrindavana. He is an uttama adhikari. There are others as well no doubt, but it is up to each individual to seek with a scripturally correct understanding of the term and determine for themselves who is a superlative devotee.

          As for myself, you ask if I am an uttama adhikari. That’s an old, tired question that usually does not say much for the questioner. If I say I am, typically the questioner dismisses me as proud. If I say I am not, the questioner dismisses me for not being an uttama adhikari. Take the criteria I have supplied you and come and spend some time with me. I welcome your visit. Then we can discuss all of these things in greater detail and you can make your own decision as to my adhikara. Incidentally, Prabhupada never claimed to be an uttama adhikari, we claim that.

          You also ask why I do not bring devotees to an uttama adhikari if I know of one. Twenty seven years ago an uttama adhikari told me to initiate and start a mission in the service of Srila Prabhuipada. His name is Pujyapada B.R. Sridhara Maharaja and I followed his order. B.P. Puri Maharaja honored this service on my part and further encouraged me. I also have the blessing of Bhakti Gambhira Giri Maharaja.

        • Anuttama devi, would you recognize an uttama adhikari if you met one?

          Many people did not recognize Srila Prabhupada and therefore did not become a his student. Many still do not recognize Pujyapada Sridha Maharaja and have in fact committed aparadha against him.

          My point is that not everyone has the eyes to see an uttama adhikari. Rather than being critical towards other devotees you should be asking yourself what qualifies you to pass judgement. Your claim to be a “pre-khanista adhikari” certainly doesn’t qualify you. Discrimination is the domain of the madhyama adhikari and he/she is also well-versed in scripture, which you appear to be ignoring.

        • Very intelligent points you rise, Gauravani. I would add that one who recognizes Prabhupada as an uttama adhikari but then fails to recognize another may in fact not have really recognized Prabhupada as one. Perhaps they have some other idea in mind that is not scripturally based and psychologically driven, especially when their glorification of him in the name of recognizing him as an uttama adhikari involves the vilification of another uttama adhikari you mention.

        • I have delayed responding to Anuttama’s comments for a couple of reasons. One is that, after having studied and discussed the so-called ritvik system for initiation since it first appeared in the late ‘80s, I prefer not to engage in debate with its proponents. I simply don’t see any point in such discussion because it never advances anyone’s understanding of the issue. When I’ve asked proponents honest questions about some of their arguments, the conversation devolves quickly to some sort of ad hominem tirade, a laundry list of the shortcomings of ISKCON’s gurus after Srila Prabhupada, and slander of devotees such as Srila B. R. Sridhara Maharaja. All that despite the fact that I’m sort of an original proto-ritvik, having been a vocal dissenter since the early ‘80s.

          My sympathies with the hurt expressed by Anuttama here and others elsewhere run deep and broad. As I’ve mentioned sometimes, I was told as far back as 1973, “You are not one of us! You are not ISKCON!” I was as surprised as anyone when one of my friends returned to Honolulu from the ’78 Gaura-purnima festival and told me that the GBC had announced that Srila Prabhupada had appointed 11 successor gurus. He asked what I thought of that, to which I could only stammer something like, “Well, that’s different from everything he has said since he started preaching.”

          I came upon the July 9 letter long before Anuttama, saw that it didn’t say what some were claiming it did, and even discussed it with Tamal Krishna Maharaja. Later, when it became a sort of trump card for the ritvik proponents, I had to point out that it doesn’t say what they claim, either.

          Essentially, the ritvik system is a reaction to difficulties caused by ISKCON’s leaders’ shortcomings. I get it, and I sympathize. I always have, since way before there were even ritviks. But there simply isn’t unequivocal support for it in sastra, from sadhus familiar with Gaudiya vaisnava siddhanta, or even Srila Prabhupada. If he had intended to establish a system so different from that practiced by all our acaryas, so different from what is given in the scriptures (evam parampara praptam), so contrary to what he taught throughout his career, he would have done so unequivocally. But after examining all the evidence from as many angles as I find there seems simply to be no there there.

          The other reason I’ve delayed responding is that I was taken aback by what seemed to me to be a hijacking of the topic. Rather than discuss the merits or demerits of my argument, Anuttama just complains that I suggest we discuss these things civilly. How, after all, she suggests, can you discuss something civilly with people motivated by evil intent? Then I realized that my old friend did not in fact hijack my topic; rather, she is setting me up to point out one of my main points: in order to discuss such things, even when we vigorously disagree with someone, we can do so only when we try to understand why they have such an unreasonable position even though they also have faith in guru and Krishna. But too few of the ritvik proponents seem able to do so. Instead, they insist on demonizing those who don’t surrender to their obviously superior arguments.

          As I wrote in my first comment, those who resist the meme I’m trying to inject into the culture, and who do so in writing, simply play into my hands by giving me a change to point out how this Manichean mindset works against the real interests of Mahaprabhu and Srila Prabhupada’s mission. So I owe Anuttama and the other ritvik proponents here my thanks.

  26. “It is odd that such a so called God ordained empowered system you imagine has been so marginalized and dismissed by every other Gaudiya sect, including Iskcon itself. Where is its power? If Prabhupada is so present in it, why do we not see it reigning in Iskcon? Surely darkness is not more powerful than light after 40 years. Indeed it is said to be an empowered plan carefully crafted by SP over years. All of that only to have it declared a heresy by his GBC? . . . “and they are still fighting in the courts 40 years later.” Sounds familiar.”

    that is pretty offensive maharaja.. This ordained Initiating system in which Srila Prabhupada set up to go on henceforward after his departure has been marginalized and dismissed premeditated and by design by those who seek to usurp Srila Prabhupada, change his books in which Prabhuapda said himself he did not write but rather Krsna wrote. We do not see this system reigning in ISKCON after 40 years, Maharaja, because of the infiltration of so many kali chelas who would minimize Prabhupadas legacy and potency . Instead of propagating and spreading Krsna Consciousness around the world these infiltrators in the dress of vaisnavas are rather reversing Srila Prabhupadas success, temples are closing, people in general have lost interest in ISKCON…the general people have no idea who devotees are anymore, as when Prabhupada was present everyone knew of the devotees in the streets dancing and chanting and passing out Prabhupadas books. This is not going on anymore to any degree of success because these Infiltrators are systematically minimizing the potency, by DESIGN and enjoying the fruits of the guru business, fame, adoration, comfortable lifestyle etc.

    There are very dark forces in this material world who do not want to give up their reign of control in this age of Kali… those forces payed very close attention to this little Indian man who came over from India by boat to America in 1965 to give the world the Greatest Treasure it has ever known, Awakening, true enlightenment…. so of course these forces had to infiltrate the movement, poison the leader, and as we now see change his books, promote child molesters and debauchees as the new leaders of Srila Prabhupadas once potent, pure, unadulterated movement.

    You see there are many different types of thieves. You have very low class, less intelligent thieves who rob convenient stores…more advanced thieves that rob banks and trains…and finally the most advanced thieves that rob wall-street and corporations of billions of dollars….well what type of thieves do you think have come seeking to rob this Greatest Treasure the World has ever seen? naturally very intelligent and cunning thieves like yourself Maharaja. Kudos.

    “You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time”..you are becoming more and more exposed enjoy the descent. The veil is lifting.

    All glories to Srila Prabhupada, our only shelter in this age of debauchees and infiltrators posing as saints.

    • Offensive? You re accusing any number of devotees of being involved in a dark conspiracy and representative of evil forces, all of whom Prabhupada initiated and loved and who served him selflessly. I agree many of them have erred, but you are judging their motives that you have no access to. I did not realize that orthodox ritvikvada was so dark. You make Prabhupada look like someone unable to control his own mission and disciples. I am three times initiated by him in this life and he also asked me to chant on his disciples beads for him. My experience is very different. He was not controlled by his disciples and unable to ward off a sinister plot to poison him and all such nonsense. And I have also meet other Vaisnavas who were as pure and spiritually advanced as Prabhupada. As you might imagine, it was a good experience. All this preoccupation with conspiracy theories and vilifying Vaisnavas one does not agree with will not help you advance spiritually. Look for real sadhu sanga. That is what Prabhupada teaches.

      I see no point in continuing this discussion, for among other reasons you have clearly breached the decorum Babhru’s article calls for with your personal attack on my character that has no place is such a discussion.

      • Audarya-lila dasa

        This thread should be about how to communicate with proper regard for others and in a manner befitting not only a human, but one who regards him/herself as a vaishnava.

        This thread is not about the ritvik deviation, though you and others seem to feel it should be. The ritvik idea has been thoroughly looked at and shown to be scripturally unsupportable for years now – ever since it inception in the late 1980’s. Our tradition of one that is guided by Guru, Sadhu and sastra.

        If a person truly wants to tread the path of bhakti leading to the ‘highest goal of humanity’, that person will have to apply him/herself to not only reading scripture, but understanding and following it. Under Srila Prabhupada’s direction we used to recite the ten offenses to the Holy Name everyday during the morning program. We also recited the Siksastakam of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and meditated on the meaning of the verses. It is oxymoronic to the extreme to claim to be on ‘the highest path given to humanity’ while ignoring the dictates of scripture and offending Sri Nama Prabhu.

        Even if one chooses to ignore the fact that the ritvik doctrine has no scriptural support, surely a person who seeks to love Krsna would do well to follow the prescriptions for how to attain such. Ignoring the fact that vilifying a vaishnava is called the mad elephant offense and destroys the bhakti creeper is not a good policy for one who seeks to get the favor of Sri Krsna. But therein lies the problem for those who wish to adhere to this doctrine. The doctrine itself seems to create in many of its followers a bias against vaishnavas who serve in any leadership capacity, so much so that many of them villify devotees in the name of being ‘chaste to Srila Prabhupada’. You can’t be chaste to Srila Prabhupada and ignore the sastric injunctions to glorify the vaishnavas. We are called to glorify vaishnavas, not vilify them. A person desirous of treading ‘the highest path given to humanity’ should reject a doctrine that leads to such an egregious deviation.

        But the issue here, as it pertains to the article written by Sriman Babhru Prabhu, is one of how to communicate with the dignity expected of a cultured person. Vaishnavas involve themselves exclusively in the culture of bhakti, which means love and devotion. Love is characterized by tolerance, humility, compassion and above all selfless service. Several posts on this thread have exemplified the problem that the article seeks to address. It would behoove the authors of those comments to read the article carefully and think deeply about it’s contents.

    • “…so many kali chelas who would minimize Prabhupadas legacy and potency.”

      Did Prabhupada display the potency of creating one pure devotee? Two pure devotees? A dozen?

      Prabhupada acknowledged the pure devotion of a few of his Godbrothers, even some who had opposed ISKCON and whom he said had to some degree deviated from the perfect service of their Guru Maharaja.

      Prabhupada even acknowledged the pure devotion of a few of the disciples of his Godbrothers. So, we know he recognized the potency of some of his Godbrothers for creating pure devotees.

      So, to assert that Prabhupada did not create any pure devotees — while several of his Godbrothers did create some pure devotees — is certainly to minimize Prabhupada’s legacy and potency. Furthermore, why should anyone take shelter of Prabhupada if he displayed less potency for creating pure devotees than other of his Godbrothers? And if you see your prospect with some other pure devotee than Prabhupada, then the ritvik idea becomes irrelevant, a non-sequitur.

      So, is the ritvik idea a dead-end? Perhaps, but at least it is keeping some wounded and damaged people engaged in Prabhupada-seva. Let us honor ritvik-vada for what is good in it, even if your conscience demands that you offer your dandavats from a safe distance.

      Similarly, if you believe in the ritvik idea, you do not demonstrate that love by attacking the guru-disciple bond between Prabhupada’s disciples and their disciples.

      Whether we like it or not, faith will flow freely based on the adhikar of the disciple, and the guru will respond according to his own adhikar. And it is unVaishnava behavior to try to break the faith of a disciple.

      Certainly, if you have a close and trusting relationship with aspiring sadhakas who value your counsel, tell them the facts as you understand them, even if unpleasant. Debate the philosophy. But if you cannot convince others, accept that you are at fault as an inadequate explainer, and do not attack the people you could not convince. If we all were to take this approach, we would be that much closer to the kind of tolerant environment His Grace Babhru Prabhu has envisioned as our ideal.

    • Citta Hari dasa

      The veil is lifting indeed, revealing your true colors: disrespect and cynicism. Ad hominem attacks like calling a person a thief because he disagrees with your opinion is unbecoming to the extreme. Is that the example Srila Prabhupada set?

      While it’s certainly unfortunate that some of the people who attempted to carry the torch after SP left failed miserably, lumping everyone who initiates disciples in with them is totally unreasonable. Not everyone is a child molester or debauchee; there are in fact pure hearted people out there who took advantage of the Great Treasure SP offered and who are now carrying on his legacy in a dynamic, living way and inspiring others to take up the path of Vraja-bhakti.

      At any rate, if rtvikvada works for you, kudos and good luck.

    • This comment would merit no response beyond those we already see except that, as I point out in a response to one of Anuttama’s comments, it helps make my point for me. We can discuss contentious issues with others only to the extent that we have some sort of connection with our interlocutors, that we honestly have some appreciation for, in the case of Krishna’s devotees, the service they have given to guru and Krishna. But Jandardana das shows here that he is incapable of doing so. The drive to demonize whoever does not agree with him forces him to abandon even austerity of speech, much less vaisnava decorum, and vilify those he disagrees with. So, rather than present any evidence to advance his argument, he is reduced to slander, calling Swami Tripuari and, by extension, everyone else who doesn’t accept Janaradana’s version of The Truth, kali chela, parties to murder, cunning thieves, child molesters, etc. Rather than trying to understand what a vaisnava is according to sastra, he must dismiss others as simply envious nondevotees who entire purpose for being is to destroy Mahaprabhu’s movement.

      Why does that seem to the heart of his “argument”? Because he has, sadly, nothing else. I’m sorry for that, honestly sorry. And sorrier still that such bile is what passes for discourse, for argument, in some circles. And sorriest of all that the members of some of those circles present themselves as representatives of my beloved spiritual master and my Lord, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Rather than debate among vaisnavas, the tone of your remarks has degraded the discussion to a sort of text version of Rush Limbaugh’s or Jerry Springer’s shows. Ugh.

      As I mentioned at the end of my first comment in this thread, your posts simply help me make my case. If there were something in them other than puke disguised as love for Srila Prabhupada, my eternal master, I would owe you some thanks. Instead, all I can say is that I wish you well, but you have made it clear that there is really nothing for us to discuss.

  27. padmagarbha dasa

    In the response by Tripurari on March 6, he writes,”There is much to learn venturing out of the nest. And this is exactly what the disappearance of the guru affords us the opportunity to do.”
    This is just about one of the most disturbing statements yet made by Tripurari, and it it is most revealing of his heart,his mindset, and most of all his chastity. If this was something a ‘widow’ would say regarding her marriage bed[nest] and her deceased husband, we all would know what society [vedic] would consider her to be! I guess, Maharaja, November 14th, 1977 was a most liberating day for you!

    • Padmagarbha dasa,

      Before I respond to this comment let me say that in keeping with Babhru’s point in his article, civil discourse on your part would have been to respond with an apology for having deliberately misrepresented me in your previous post. I clearly demonstrated that you selectively quoted from my letter so as to lead people to think something that the quotation read in context would not lead them to believe. Again, I was clearly pointing out that glorification of SP needs to involve praise that is in accordance with siddhanta, and that by “over glorification” I was referring to the so called glorification that is not in accordance with sastra. When some one does as you have in this instance, civil discourse calls it malice—deliberately misrepresenting someone. When we do it to a Vaisnava, we call it Vaisnava aparadha. But instead of apologizing and admitting that you had deliberately misrepresented me in order to get others to think ill of me, or even just acknowledging that in context my statement was appropriate and in line with scripture, or offering a scripturally based rebuttal we now get this comment. Apparently you are not interested in civil discourse, learning where you might have erred, and improving your understanding, which is what Krsna calls “vada” in the Gita and identifies himself with—the kind of discourse Babhru is interested in.

      But I will answer your latest comment nonetheless, after which if there is no apology on your part or meaningful rebuttal I will ignore you and suggest that the moderator do the same.

      Look for my reply shortly.

    • Padmagarbha dasa,

      Scripture advocates a plurality of gurus. Cc for example begins with the words “vande gurun.” Here “gurun” is in the plural. The venerable Krsnadasa Kaviraja explains his opening phrase by writing about three particular manifestation of sri guru: caitya guru, diksa guru, and siksa guru. At the same time he tells us that the guru us one. He then cites ten pramana verses, eight from the Bhagavatam, one from the Gita, and one from Krsna-karnamrita to support his point that the multiplicity of gurus is at the same time singular. Krsna is the guru appearing in numerous forms. Srila Prabhupada has said the same in his famous Vyasa-puja address in Bombay decades ago. Don’t you think it’s time you learned what he was talking about? Perhaps you could benefit from a siksa guru.

      Similarly SB has this to say, na hy ekasmad guror jnanam “One may not be able to attain complete knowledge from one guru alone.” Both Jiva Goswami and Visvanatha Cakravarti explain that this verse is teaching that a disciple may accept a plurality of siska gurus to strengthen his or her knowledge.
      When would be the best time to do so? After the departure of one’s diksa guru, who is likely one’s siksa guru as well. And we find many examples of this in sastra. Our prayojana tattva acarya, Raghunatha das Goswami accepted Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis as his sika gurus after the departure of Mahaprabhu and Svarupa Damodara, under whose care Mahaprabhu had placed Raghunahta dasa. Was Raghunatha das unchaste, a prostitute?

      Regarding your notion of chastity, I have written the following elsewhere:

      The ideal all devotees strive for is exclusive dedication to Sri Guru. For myself and other disciples of Srila Prabhupada, this, of course, means exclusive devotion to him. This certainly involves chastity, but on a higher level it also involves purity, within which the dynamic expression of chastity is contained. It is possible to be chaste but not pure, but it is not possible to be pure and not chaste, for the purity of spiritual advancement depends on the grace of Sri Guru. Only when he or she is pleased with the disciple can the disciple attain purity, and no one can please their guru by abandoning or relativizing him or her—by not being chaste to Sri Guru.

      Chastity, as opposed to purity, implies some force. The famous chastity belts of old world Christian Europe are a good example. Whereas purity denotes absence of temptation, chastity implies controlling one’s impulses and actions. In some ways, the concept that of chastity you have described is similar to purdah, the Muslim idea of chastity imposed on its women, involving total seclusion from the world.

      Chastity of this sort does have its advantages—bad influences are kept out and temptation is minimized; however, the fruit of these advantages contains the seed of their downside: insularity. In the vacuum of insularity, time stands still, and if one remains in this vacuum after its fruits are attained and does not internalize one’s chastity and go forward, what follows is the rapid slowdown of both personal growth and relevant preaching.

      Going into the larger world of Gaudiya Vaisnavism, meeting other devotees and conceptions, sorting out the relative from the absolute, the siddhanta from the misconception—these things push and pull a devotee and challenge his or her faith. Not everyone is ready to make the transition from insular chastity to the madhyama stage that leads to true purity, but one whose faith is strong enough knows that staying too long in the nest of insularity actually checks the development of one’s service to Srila Prabhupada.

      The entire article can be found here:


      So for the disciple, the departure of the guru is analogous to the mother bird kicking her chicks out of the nest, not that they may die, but that they may fly. In Prabhupada’s absence I think we all looked for good guidance. That is quite natural. Had our Godbrothers provided it, things would be different. They did not in many respects. I simply kept looking. Others like yourself stopped looking (looking being the natural healthy reaction supported by scripture) and tried to artificially keep Prabhupada in our midst in a manner that has lead more to Vaisnava aparadha than it has chastity to His Divine Grace and the principle of guru tattva. In other words in a manner that has ironically taken Prabhupada out of the center.

      And after our Godbrothers disappointed us, both its gurus and Iskcon’s GBC, I looked in the direction that Prabhupada pointed us. He told us that after his departure we could approach “For philosophy, my Godbrother, B.R. Sridhara Maharaja of Navadwipa,” for siksa that is. I was massaging his lotus feet when he said it.

      You question my allegiance to Prabhupada. And you have done this in an arrogant manner unbefitting civil discourse. I have answered that question with reason and scriptural support—sastra-yukti. In turn I question your understanding of guru-tattva that you have demonstrated a paucity of at best—mere sentiment unhinged from siddhanta, the very thing Prabhupada condemned: Religious fanaticism.

      • I think it’s instructive, in terms of the argument I make in my essay, to note what’s happening here (which also helps me see some of these posts with more appreciation than I might otherwise). Tripurari Maharaja is making a strong case that the continuing ritvik initiation project is simply mistaken, according to guru, sadhu, and sastra. And he does so without disparaging its advocates’ spiritual practice or character, without calling them demons, etc. This is the kind of discourse we need to see more of. As I’ve written elsewhere, I’m not advocating a Pollyanish fiction that there’s no disagreement among devotees. Rather, I suggest that we discuss those things on which we don’t agree with respect for each other, appreciation for each other’s service. I look forward to discourse among Gaudiya vaisnavas that is spirited, not mean spirited.

        This is the same approach I noted years ago when I reviewed Maharaja’s booklet Sri Guru-parampara: Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, Heir to the Esoteric Life of Kedarnatha Bhaktivinoda for ISKCON Communications Journal some years ago. As much as the analysis and all a reader might learn from that, I was impressed by the tone of his writing. Here’s what I wrote then:

        It may be that the author’s tone is as significant as the essay’s subject. Tripurari Maharaja’s essay may be an example of what communication scholars have come to call “invitational argument.” Such a rhetorical approach is concerned less with dominance than with inviting interlocutors into a conversation based on mutual regard and exploration. This may be a model of dialogue more appropriate for the discussions among devotees than the more agonistic response to controversies arising in the movement over the past few years. Maharaja points out that his essay is somewhat exploratory, meant more to open discussion than to close it down. . . . If those who accept Tripurari Maharaja’s invitation also examine its manner of presentation, they may benefit from both its substance and its form.

        I am suggesting nothing more or less than devotees develop more humility than we too often display, that we learn to respect each other despite apparent differences, and use the more invitational rhetoric, based on mutual respect, we find too infrequently among our devotees.

    • I would also like to point out that Padmagarbha dasa’s example is flawed. Typically we do not compare the relationship between the disciple and guru to a marriage for obvious reasons. The guru is married to sastra (Veda mata), and the offspring of this marriage is the disciple—spiritual sons and daughters. If after his father’s passing from the world his son develops a relationship with his father’s brother—the son’s uncle—a relationship that helps the son to better understand the depth of his father, the question of chastity does not arise.

      While some may raise the point that Prabhupada cautioned his sons sand daughters about associating with their uncles—Prabhupada’s Godbrothers, careful study of all that Prabhupada said and the example he set, especially with regard to Sridhara Deva Goswami, does not support the claim that none of them were desirable association. Indeed, with regard to the association of Sridhara Deva Goswami we find an overwhelming endorsement for the value of his association. Although Prabhupada criticized him on one occasion, he lavishly endorsed his association before and after voicing this particular criticism. And of course one has to judge by the fruits. I am still waiting for the sky to fall on my head for having followed Prabhupada’s lead and accepted Pujyapada Sridhara Maharaja as my siksa guru. To continue to this day to issue warnings as to the danger of associating with Pujyapda Sridhara Maharaja is ludicrous, given the example of persons like myself. Had such warnings been warranted and fully representative of what Prabhupada taught on the subject, I would not be the spiritually vital person that I am today.

  28. Tripurari Maharaja,

    You wrote the following regarding Sridhara Maharaja and Swami Maharaja: “Although Prabhupada criticized him on one occasion” etc. I can’t for the life of me understand this point. Could you please provide an explanation when it’s convenient. I’m sure many readers will appreciate it. Thanks. Hare Krishna.

    • Prabhupada criticized Sridhara Maharaja for disobeying the instruction of BSST and choosing a successor acarya, when BSST did not pick one. This is the gist of the criticism. However, in one sense it is actually a glorification of Sridhara Maharaja. Let me explain.

      BSST asked his followers to form a governing body, and according the Prabhupada, the idea was that an acarya would eventually emerge. However, after forming the governing body (SM was not a member) there was a dispute among the members concerning succession. Several sannyasi board members felt they should be given the seva of initiating, while others felt that Ananta Vasudeva should be the successor. So there was a split of sorts. Then given the regard that the board members had for the opinion of SM, they approached him for his opinion. When the split was explained to him he replied that it seemed from what they had said that the sannyasis might have some personal motivation, whereas Ananta Vasudeva himself was not interested in being the acarya. That’s all. However this remark ended up carrying the day for those in favor of AV, which only goes to show how highly SM was regarded by his Godbrothers.

      So SM was not actually involved in the selection but gave his unbiased opinion when asked given the choices presented. And that opinion was influential. Thus SM’s opinions are something to reckon with. But we must note that he gave his opinion on what he was asked, while he himself was not involved and served independently of the fighting that ensued in Gaudiya Math. He personally refused to initiate even when approached by sincere devotees. However, after the break up of GM he did eventually begin to initiate on the order of Nityananda Prabhu coming within his heart.

      It is true that AV failed. But there is evidence that Prabhupada himself supported AV at one point, referring to him as Vasudeva Prabhu, etc. As they say, hindsight is 20/20. Prabhupada is offering hindsight and blaming SM. One can criticize SM in this way, but then one can also legitimately ask why SP did not object and offered criticism only later after AV failed, etc. Thus such criticism on Prabhupada’s part appears to be part of an overall frustration with what happened to GM, in which “his old friend” SM’s role is exaggerated but in a manner that sheds light on how highly he was respected.

      And Godbrothers can criticize one another from time to time, accurately and inaccurately. And it is in this vein that in his letter of criticism Prabhupada wrote, “I do not wish to discuss about activities of my Godbrothers . . .” In other words, they may criticize one another, but it is not our position to do so unless they do something in our presence that warrants such, despite their seniority. We saw that BSST and Lalita Prasada were critical of one another, but Prabhupad honored both of them, while taking the side of BSST if confronted with any criticism of BSST. For several years he allowed disciples to hear from Lalita Prasada. So criticism among Godbrothers may be there. Brothers disagree and sometimes fight over details, but in principle they agree and are united (hopefully). Note that despite his criticism of SM, Prabhupada wrote that after the break up of GM (the fall of AV, etc.) he wanted to start a mission with SM as the acarya. So he criticized SM for his influence that indirectly led to AV becoming the acarya and he also wanted to start a mission in which SM would be the acarya. This history should help to put the criticism in perspective.

      If we see this criticism as something relative and Prabhupada’s repeated, lavish praise that continued long after this letter as absolute, we see these contradictory positions of Prabhupada’s with a spiritual eye. Unfortunately all of Prabhupada’s disciples have not been able to do this. But Prabhupada did teach this in principle. Thus it is apparent that many of them need further guidance.

  29. Thanks Maharaja. I knew a little bit about the problems after Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s disappearance, and you’ve encapsulated the information very nicely.

  30. Some persons have written to me asking what the scriptural support against ritvikvada is. However, the onus is on ritviks to demonstrate the scriptural support for their new system. And as I have already pointed out, this does not involve citing one verse or one or two statements of Prabhupada. It involves sastra-yukti, which Sri Jiva Goswami refers to as the uttama pramana, citing the tantra.

    What we have seen instead is more analogous to a legal argument one engages in to determine the intent of a deceased person’s will. Again, if Prabhupada wanted this system, he or his followers must demonstrate how it follows Gaudiya siddhanta, or face being labeled members of an apasampradaya by the rest of the lineage, including the rest of the Bhaktivinoda parivara. Remember, this is what Prabhupada himself taught us.

    There is a methodology for arriving at siddhanta. It involves a thesis (visaya) entertaining a doubt (samsaya), arguing in favor of the doubt (purvapaksin), and refuting this argument with reference to sastra that is in consideration of context (sangati).

    That said I will indulge those who erroneously think that the onus for demonstrating rivikvada is appasiddhanta is on those who reject it. .

    Visaya: For a lineage to remain spiritually vital a successor who has the capacity to give initiation is required.

    Samsaya: I see no reason why the guru cannot perform ritvik initiations after his departure.

    Purvapaksin: The guru can give initiations via a ritvik after his departure because we see that he can give ritvik initiation when he is not present in one part of the of the world to a disciple in another part of the world through a ritvik, and this is analogous to his initiating from the the paravyoma via a ritvik. Furthermore whatever the guru says is sastra, and thus if he says he wants such a system it is authorized by sastra.

    Siddhanta: No, because of parampara and the purpose of sastra


    To say that everything the guru says is sastra is to defeat the very purpose of sastra. Sastra is a standard of knowledge that helps one know who is guru and who is not. Thus to be credible the guru must support his or her position with sastra. The truth is that under scrutiny the words of the guru that take on a sastric status in a particular sect are also found to be supported by sastra, if that is, the sect is to remain spiritually vital. In the case where a guru’s words are interpreted to say that he will continue to initiate after his departure through ritvik representatives, because there is no underlying scriptural support for this idea, such an interpretation is incorrect. This is especially so when there is considerable evidence to support the idea that the guru did not say he wanted such a system.

    Previous precedent illustrates that the rivik perfoms functions on behalf of the acarya with his permission while he is present in the world and acting as a diska guru. This is common. However, when the diksa guru departs he becomes a purvacarya and the service of diska passes “from one to another.” This is the meaning of “parampara,” “an uninterrupted series.” Parampara (one after another) is the chosen system Bhagavan has established for the continuation of a lineage and the filling of the spiritual vacuum that occurs at the time of the departure of the diksa guru, evam parampara praptam . . . (Bg 4.2). To stop this system by not allowing for a successor diksa guru to follow is to go against the system established by Bhagavan. And Padma Purana and Garga-samhita teach that mantras that are not received through the traditional parmapara system bear no fruit. This is the meaning of “sampradaya vihina ye mantras te nisphala matah.” If there is no successor diksa guru, there is no parampara, and sastra stresses that any mantra received through such a truncated system will bear no fruit.

    It is also the desire of Bhagavan through this parampara system to glorify the successor acarya, who remaining in the world has recourse to the requisite discrimination employed in granting diksa. Note that the ritvika does not discriminate who will be initiated and who will not, but merely suggests candidates. And only upon approval of the acaraya of those specific candidates does the ritvik perform the procedures surrounding diksa. This is the example Prabhupada himself set when he was present and designated ritviks. When Prabhupada was present, ritviks sought his approval. If, however, ritviks are empowered to get his approval or disapproval from him once he has entered the nitya-lila, they are far more than ritviks and qualified to initiate themselves.

    Now if we also look at the sangati of Gita 4.2 We find it appears in the midst of lessons on avatara tattva. Thus parampara speaks of a particular type of Bhagavan’s descent, the conditions for which are well known. To militate against this on the basis of highly debatable statements of an acarya that cannot be definitively interpreted to support forgoing the parampara system is not wise. And we see the result. This present ritvik system in many cases fosters conspiracy theories and Vaisnava aparadha, not humility and the desire for sadhu sanga.

    Finally regarding the term “parampara” we find the following written by Srila Prabhupada:

    “Keep trained up very rigidly and then you are bona fide Guru, and you can accept disciples on the same principle. But as a matter of etiquette it is the custom that during the lifetime of your Spiritual master you bring the prospective disciples to him, and in his absence or disappearance you can accept disciples without any limitation. This is the law of disciplic succession. I want to see my disciples become bona fide Spiritual Master and spread Krishna consciousness very widely, that will make me and Krishna very happy.” (December, 1975)

    This statement also makes it clear the he did not want a concocted ritvik system, but rather a traditional system supported by sastra and previous precedent.

  31. Here’s all the vedic references required to demonstrate that the ritvik system is flawed. Even though the term ‘ritvik’ has been used to refer to an emissary or representative of an acharya during his or her presence, there’s no such thing as ‘ritvik’ initiations after the acharya has departed.

    The Vedic mantras in which the quarters are arranged to carry complete meanings and are composed according to the science of meter are called are called rica or rig (Paingala-sutra 2.9.32).

    The established conclusion of all the Vedas, discovered deep within the Vedas, is pure devotion unto Vrajendra-nandana Krishna, who is all-mighty and and an ocean of all nectarean mellows. However, externally the Vedas appear to be related to the performance of yajna for fulfilling fruitive desires, and worship of impersonal Brahman by cultivating knowledge.

    The Rig Veda and Atharva Veda have no relationship with the performance of yajna, but the Sama Veda and Yajur Veda are directly related with sacrifices and their rituals.

    One who conducts sacrifices according to Vedic mantras is called a ritvik. There is an arrangement of sixteen types of ritviks for sacrifices. All these ritviks are virtuous, of high character, learned in the Vedas and expert in execution and supervision of sacrifices.

    In the sacrifice performed with the desire to have a son conducted for Maharaja Dasaratha, all the conductors, or ritviks, were well versed in all the limbs of the Vedas, were all strict celibates, and had heard the Vedas repeatedly and systematically from expert knowers of the Vedas. All of them were expert in philosophical discussion. (Bala-kanda 14.29)

    All sixteen types of ritviks started to offer oblative articles systematically into the fire, which were required as integral limbs of the horse sacrifice. (Bala-kanda 14.38)

    Therefore, the function of a ritviks were performed for their clients to fulfill mundane desires, and for achieving impersonal liberation, not krishna-bhakti.

    Those who study the Vedas and drink the soma juice, seeking the heavenly planets, worship Me indirectly. They take birth on the planet of Indra, where they enjoy godly delights. (Gita 9.20)

    When they have thus enjoyed heavenly sense pleasure, they return to this mortal planet again. Thus, through the Vedic principles, they achieve only flickering happiness. (Gita 9.21)

    The Vedas deal mainly with the subject of the three modes of material nature. O Arjuna, become transcendental to these three modes. Be free from all dualities and from all anxieties for gain and safety, and be established in the self. (Gita 2.45)

    Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth. (Gita 4.34)

    Any person who seriously desires to achieve real happiness must seek out a bona fide spiritual master and take shelter of him by initiation. The qualifications of the spiritual master is that he must have realized the conclusions of the scriptures by deliberation, and must be able to convince others of these conclusions. Such great personalities, who have taken shelter of Krishna, leaving aside all material considerations, are to be understood as bona fide spiritual masters. (SB 11.3.21)

    According to their karma, all living entities are wandering throughout the entire universe. Some are being elevated to the upper planetary systems, and some are going down into the lower planetary systems. Out of many millions of wandering living entities, one who is very fortunate gets an opportunity to associate with a bona fide spiritual master by the grace of Krishna. By the mercy of both Krishna and the spiritual master, such a person receives the seed of the creeper of devotional service. (Cc Madhya 19.151)

    If the conditioned soul engages in the service of the Lord and simultaneously carries out the orders of his or her spiritual master and serves him or her, he or she can get out the clutches maya and become eligible for shelter at Krishna’s lotus feet. (Cc Madhya 22.25)

    • Damodara,

      Despite the traditional, Vedic role of the ritvik, the concept has also be employed on the bhakti marga for spiritual purposes, as in the case of a ritvik performing the functions of the diksa guru on the diksa guru’s order while he is still present in the world.

  32. What about devotees who keep spouting shastra inconsiderately,and when the audience calls him a steamroller(due to his approach),he promptly calls them ‘jnana-lava-durvidagdha-loka'(literally:’a person who is foolishly vain by knowing a small portion of the shastras),without kindly explaining to them the relevant parts of the shastra?I have seen such things,and I left feeling very disturbed.And some of the name calling…’occidental breed’,’mleccha’,etc.made me cring.And all in the name of faithfully following Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur!

    Well,Srila Saraswati Thakur never called his opponents “fish eaters”,”chicken lovers” or anything like that.(Note:Most people in Bengal are great lovers of fish).

  33. And they claim “Jiva Goswami stated his Brahminical lineage upto 200 years”.I felt “Ok,but there are so many in our lineage who were not sons of Brahmanas(Raghunath Das Goswami,our prayojnacharya,Narottam Das Thakur,etc.)”

    • I am aware of the “they” you write and ask about. Sri Jiva glorified his family lineage, not himself. One should also consider that it is entirely possible that one could know sastra well and yet be proud of oneself and involved only in the cultivation of pratistha in the name of bhakti. If someone were to pint that out to them, this would not be an example of being “foolishly vain because of knowing only a small portion of sastra.” Without understanding this significant sastric truth and being engaged only to foster one’s own pratistha, all of one’s learning is only a waste of time.

  34. And at another end of the spectrum(demonstrated in the pevious comments) are devotees who do not care for shastra and use “Srila Prabhupada said…” as a magic spell,or devotees who blindly follow rules and regulations and go all bombastic when a different acharya has different standards.

    It is quite difficult to discuss reasonably with these two.

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