Inside Nam Hatta

Inside Nam Hatta has the scoop on goings-on, developments and issues important to the disciples and followers of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

World Sankirtan Party and Inside Nam Hatta are hosted by Hansadutta das, a senior disciple of Srila Prabhupada and trustee of The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. Participate or learn more about World Sankirtan Party .
© 2004 - Hansadutta das
 
Home | About | Events | World Sankirtan Party | Inside Nam Hatta | eBooks | Site Map | Submit | Contact | Store                    http://www.bhaktivedantas.com

EDITORIAL

Posted Monday 31 October 2005

Initiation—It's Whoever's Nearest, Not Dearest

BY PRAGHOSA DAS

Send this story to a friend

Who is Your Guru?

Dear Rocana prabhu,
Please accept my obeisances. All Glories to Srila Prabhupada.
Thank you for taking the time to respond to me on this.
 
It has been my experience that ISKCON is not a homgeneous body on most any issue. Even if the leaders publically take one position or the other - they will privately express other views and sentiments on particular issues.
 
There isn't one disiciple of Srila Prabhupada who does not share the "essence" of what you express in terms of Srila Prabhupada's actual position within "HIS" mission - when it is presented and worded in a particular way.
 
I can give you an analogous example.
 
Take an impromptu survey. Ask 100 women - devotee or nondevotee - it really doesn't matter this question.
 
"Do you think a man should be able or "permitted" to marry more than one woman at the same time?"
 
Note the almost universal condemnation of such an idea expressed by the women for this.
 
Now ask 100 women the following:
" If two women - gay or straight love and value the same man and wish for this man to father each of their children -  do you think that men should be able to tell these women that THEY CANNOT DO THIS?"
 
Note their almost universal condemnation of any man who might DARE to tell them that they can or cannot do whatever they wish for.
 
Believe me - I have made this experiment and it is amazing to see their response.
 
The questions are essentially the same - but the wording alone implies that the women are "IN CHARGE" in one scenario - and the men are in charge in the other.
 
So discussing the issue of guru is like this in ISKCON. When you discuss the pricipal of 'Who is the final ABSOLUTE AUTHORITY" in ISKCON - EVERYONE AGREES - it is His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada.
 
If you ask anyone - anyone - "Do you understand Srila Prabhupada to be the final ABSOLUTE authority for every single soul that comes to Krishna consciousness by means of his books and disciples?" There is not a single soul who will disagree.
 
When you ask "Is Srila Prabhupada ULTIMATELY everyone's spiritual master?
Everyone will answer "Of course".
 
But if you then ask anyone who came to Krishna consciousness after the disappearance of His Divine Grace, "Who is your guru?" you will get a completely different answer than would be proferred were you to ask the above-mentioned "Is Srila Prabhupada ULTIMATELY everyone's spiritual master?"
 
Essentially ISKCON is bound by the reality of the natural results established with the formation of an institution. The "Gurus" are beholden to the authority of this insitution, like a Mercedes dealer. The Mercedes dealer is obliged to sell only "authorized" Mercedes—new or used. He is obliged to utilize "authorized" sales and promotional materials. He is obliged to follow ALL the standards established by the PARENT COMPANY. He cannot pretend to be independent of the PARENT COMPANY. Within THIS framework, managers are schooled and trained to REPRESENT MERCEDES BENZ.
 
Had Srila Prabhupada not established the BBT and Governing Body of ISKCON, the principle of succession—who would lead or not—in the aftermath of his passing would conform to the essence of his letter to Tusta Krsna Prabhu [1] in 1974 [sic, 1975] wherein he explained the "law of disciplic succession".
 
However - in the end, he did not leave his ISKCON Mission—the "Mercedes Benz" of spiritual movements—without very clear guidelines as to who could and more importantly who could not  act in the capacity of ritvik representative of THE ACHARYA in the mission. He himself defined "Ritvik" as one who acts as an "authorized" representative, responsible to officially confirm the "initiation" of the new men and women  upon their being "recommended" by the "LOCAL TEMPLE PRESIDENT". Just like the Mercedes Benz dealer! They were authorized to chant upon their beads, provide the spiritual name and authorize the temple president to conduct a fire sacrfice exactly as had been done for many years in ISKCON. These men were expected to support the "system" initiated by His Divine Grace that put the full responsibility for preaching "locally" in the able hands of his TEMPLE PRESIDENTS.
 
He said—for now—THESE men will assume this added responsibility, and when others names were profferred, he said "NO. Previously we were lenient but now we must be very careful." So in the very act of authorizing some men to initiate on behalf of his mission—and denying others the authority—he set the simple standard.
 

Newcomers are Deciding Who and What is Guru

It is in this simple act of authorizing some—and denying others—that his actions should be clearly understood. This single action was repugnant to his Godbrother Sridhara Swami. Whereas Srila Prabhupada "instructed" his temple presidents and the newcomers across the globe in 1977 EXACTLY what their relationship was with these newly authorized men, Sridhara Swami introduced a subtle yet massive deviation, exactly as he had done to his own guru's mission back in the '30's. The temple presidents's were "instructed" to now send their letters TO WHOEVER WAS NEAREST [2], confirming the "sincerity" and readiness of the new candidates for initiation, to the newly authorized gurus, and in turn these men were now "authorized" to, without consulting Srila Prabhupada, chant upon their beads and provide them a new spiritual name, and initiate them on behalf of His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada and his mission. Sridhara Swami replaced "N - earest" - with "D - earest" and this led to the calamitous collapse of the "Mercedes Benz" of spiritual movements.
 
As a direct result of his ideas - Srila Prabhupada's simple mission has been hijacked by the sentiments of the newcomers who are actually now the final arbiters of what constitutes a "Mercedes Benz" and who gets authorized to sell them.
 
Now the newcomers are dictating - "OH I think this one is MY guru! I "feel" this one to be a "pure devotee! I want THIS one or THAT one to be MY guru" etc etc etc Amongst themselves they ask questions like "Who are you aspiring for, Prabhu?" This is not what Srila Prabhupada arranged for.
 
In 1977 - when reminded that he had as of yet not arranged anyone to take responsibility for South America in this regard, Srila Prabhupada IMMEDIATELY shot back "Oh Yes. South America. Hrdayananda Maharaja. He CAN do."
 
It just does not get any more simple than that.
 
South America was at that time about 240 Million people and Hrdayananda was ordered to take full responsibility for every damn one of them. If all 240 million of them suddenly surrendered to Srila Prabhupada's mission, Hrdyananda Swami was the authorized "dealer" of the Mercedes Benz of spiritual movements—Srila Prabhupada's ISKCON—to initiate each of them after receiving the letter of recommnedation from the local temple president, confirming their careful adherence to the simple 'PROCESS" of puruscharya vidhi described in Chaitanya Charitamrita Madhya Lila 15: 107- 115 [3]
 
These 240 million South Americans were not instructed to "study the field" as Sridhara Swami suggested in 1978 and determine with WHOM or IN whom their faith should be placed!!

That was the deviation. Sridhara Swami had no experience of how simply Srila Prabhupada had arranged his mission. He essentially failed to acknowledge the position of Srila Prabhupada as the current representative of THE ACHARYA; the fully empowered manifestation of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarawati Thakur. He clearly considered Srila Prabhupada "An" Acharya; as if there even exists such a species!!!
 
There is ONLY and ever THE ACHARYA!!
 
THE. T...H...E —THE ACHARYA!! Acharya cannot be two  or three. Acharya is one!!

Now there can be countless - unlimited "representatives" of THE ACHARYA.
But THE ACHARYA IS NON-DIFFERENT from Lord Sri Krishna Himself. Lord Krishna clearly established this in His discourse in the 11th Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam and as there is ONLY ONE SUPREME PERSONALITY OF GODHEAD, Lord Krishna Himself ("Krsnas tu Bhagavan Svayam"), there is only one ACHARYA: "Acharya MAM"! Srila Prabhupada unequivocally established this in his Vyasa Puja offering to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur in 1936, and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur ordered that this offering of Srila Prabhupada - so concise and perfect in its conclusions - be published in The Harmonist magazine's next publication. It is presented for all men and for all time in the Science of Self Realization. [4]
 
Guru in ISKCON means first and foremost - to act loyally in the precise capacity that Srila Prabhupada "authorized". That is the principal qualification that must accompany the other two qualifications of perfectly following and repeating the teachings of THE ACHARYA.
 
Thus guru means to act ON BEHALF of the Acharya Srila Prabhupada and clearly demonstrate that your position is always fully representative of him and his instructions.
 
Nearest vs Dearest!!
 
This is the nuts and bolts of the issue.
 
If the temple president sends his letter to whoever is NEAREST - and the disciples accept this - they are clearly demonstrating that they accept Srila Prabhupada as THE ACHARYA.
 
If the temple president is obliged to send his letter to whomever is DEAREST to the sentiments of the newcomer then they are clearly acting under the guidance of His Holiness Sridhara Swami and have accepted him as THE ACHARYA!
 
How many understand this reality today in ISKCON?
Not many. But this is where the confusion entered. And removing this confusion is the simple key to setting things right again.
 

Re-initiation Impossible

Re-initiation is impossible. There is no such thing in the matter where Srila Prabhupada as been accepted as the ABSOLUTE AUTHORITY.
 
It is like pregnancy. Once the seed is planted and the child is there and gowing - THERE IS NO NEED for an additional act of sexual intercourse to generate life in the womb.
 
It is that simple.
 
Once the seed has been planted by hearing the Holy Name from one of Srila Prabhupada's servants and we have become convinced to accept THIS HOLY NAME as our means to approach Lord Krishna and leave this world once and for all by digesting Srila Prabhupada's explanation of this Truth through his books, OUR INITIATION HAS ALREADY OCCURRED. What flows from that in the way of formality is just that—formality.
 
The initiation ceremony is merely the "shotgun wedding". We are seated at the fire, and to the outsider it appears that we are "initiating" our Krishna consciousness, but in truth we are all—each of us—seated there at the fire and according to the above-mentioned verses of the Chaitanya Charitamrita, we are at least 6 months pregnant with blissful Krishna consciousness!
 
This fact is clear to most men in ISKCON and this is why most men do not push the notion of re-initiation. They know it to be unneccessary for all but the truly sentimental. And for those who seek it, why should anyone interfere with their desire? Like the sacred rite of sati performed by chaste ladies of yesteryear, it is only undesirable IF IT IS FORCED upon an unwilling woman. If there is no coercion, then its acceptance is only important to the individual who voluntarily seeks it or rejects it.
 
Your servant Praghosa Das

Sampradaya Sun <sun@harekrsna.com> wrote:
Dear Praghosa das,

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Thanks for your email. It may be me who's more out of the loop than you.
Basically, what one GBC says, another GBC may have a totally different policy on, so it's not that this is strict GBC policy. It's really the disciples who push this issue more than the gurus themselves or the GBC. Many diksha disciples are constantly trolling for new recruits in their camp, and they often are known to harass those they discover who are in a position to be re-initiated. The first question out of their mouth is "who is your guru?" If you say Srila Prabhupada, then they find out that he's not your diksha guru, they push you to come to their guru for re-initiation. If you decline, they assume you're a Ritvik. So, basically it's a culture and a way of life. It's indelibly implanted into the society. Please note that I didn't get any feedback from ISKCON leaders saying that it wasn't part of their philosophy.

One good example I personally experienced recently was at the Portland temple, where there are many shell-shocked ex-devotees from Prithu's falldown. Bir Krishna das Goswami became the new GBC, and promptly went about re-initiating many of the devotees there. So many, so quickly, that it was clearly a policy decision, even if unwritten.

Please continue to give us your support and feedback, and let us have the opportunity to publish anything you wish to share with the Vaishnava community.

Your servant,

Rocana dasa


On Tue, 25 Oct 2005 10:41 , Patrick Hedemark sent:
>
>Hello Rocana prabhu,
>Just read this article by yourself on re-initiation. I was not aware that ISKCON
had reinstituted a policy advocating "re-inititiation" for devotees who did not
seek it. I understood that they did not object to it but if someone was opposed
they did not push its so-called "necessity".
>
>Am I out of the loop on this one?
>Praghosa das


1. Letter to Tusta Krishna Swami, December 2, 1975

2. Letter dated July 9, 1977 (Srila Prabhupada's last written directive, deputising 11 senior disciples as rittvik representatives of the Acharya). Go to full text of letter.

3. The texts referred to are found in Chaitanya-charitamrita Madhya lila 15.108-111, of which Text 108 specifically mentions purascharya vidhi, as follows:--
diksha-purashcharya-vidhi apeksha na kare/ jihva-sparshe a-chandala sabare uddhare: "One does not have to undergo initiation or execute the activities required before initiation. One simply has to vibrate the holy name with his lips. Thus even a man in the lowest class [chandala] can be delivered."Go to full text of the relevant verses.

4. "The Absolute Necessity of a Spiritual Master", A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, first published in The Harmonist, 1936; subsequently published in The Science of Self Realization. Go to full text.


Initiation--It's Whoever's Nearest, Not Dearest/Inside Nam Hatta
© 2004 - Hansadutta dasa
World Sankirtan Party

Back to Top