"QUESTIONS & ANSWERS" 1 to 50
1.Some say that we need many gurus. Didn't Srila Prabhupada say that we need millions of gurus?
Yes, many sad-gurus especially. But we can have millions of vartma-pradarshaka-gurus. It is just a matter of making clear the limitations implied by accepting someone not on a high level as one's guru. Nowhere in Prabhupada's teachings do we find even a remote encouragement to take full shelter from someone who is still battling with anarthas or to take initiation from someone who is not liberated. A more advanced kanistha can be treated with great respect by less advanced juniors but he should not initiate. Srila Prabhupada wanted all his disciples to qualify themselves first and then become 'regular" gurus. He said that "Those who initiate should be qualified otherwise there's no meaning to 'bona fide' guru". He meant preachers, as in: "Thousands of teachers of the science of Krishna are needed." And warned: "You must become guru but you must be qualified first of all. Then you can become. What is the use of producing some rascal guru. No rubber-stamp, then you'll not be effective. You can cheat but it won't be effective." (Conv.4.22.77)
2. How then was the parampara to be continued?
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati said that our parampara is the bhagavata-parampara, meaning the parampara of mahabhagavatas, embodiments of the Srimad Bhagavatam's teachings, not a parampara of bodies, of kanisthas. And there may be sometimes an apparent gap. Srila Prabhupada himself didn't start to initaite until nearly thirty years after his guru's departure, except for one Indian disciples after about 15 years. The need to initiate in the name of the continuation of the parampara was artificially created. It didn't come from would-be disciples but from would-be gurus! Srila Prabhupada only told HH Radha Govinda Maharaja to initiate his own disciples, which he started to do very simply without any drums nor trumpets immediately upon Prabhupada's departure. Prabhupada also wrote the same to Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja, but Maharaja waited until 1985, when around 50 Oriya devotees were lining for initiation and wouldn't accept the then zonal acarya, to produce that letter, humbly requesting the GBC to be allowed to fulfill his guru's instruction. What a contrast with the eleven rittviks lying to all their Godbrothers and claiming to have been appointed by Prabhupada and thus hijacking the Mission, and then installing themselves with big pomp, high Vyasasanas and titles!
3.So who is guru?
The guru is where our inner demand and hankering can be fulfilled to the utmost.In the form of guru, guru-rupe, Krishna bestows His mercv. Not just any guru: krishna-kripa murti. One whose heart bleeds for the conditioned soul's suffering, who takes away that suffering, frees one from Maya's fort, creates a mediation between the jiva and Krishna; one who can make Krishna appear in the heart of the disciple, who has that potency because he has made his heart like Vrindavana and has bound up Krishna with his love. There's no question of a bad guru; if he's bad, how can he be guru? Only one who has fully assimilated all his guru's teachings, is self-controlled and firmly established in the Truth can be guru. Guru means perfect servitor. One without any desire for himself or anything outside loving service to the Lord.
4.But where are such sadhus?
The eternal guru-parampara is always present and is still in existence in full purity and potency. One should learn to give up one's doubtful nature to be able to recognize true representatives of Sri Guru. You need to have sadhu-sanga. Hanker for their association. Cry to Krishna. Develop greed for it, laulyam. There are such personalities. If you can come to feel low and destitute, then you can beg for it. If one doesn't feel low and humble, he can't come in connection with higher things. No one ever got mercy from the Lord without crying for it. Have you cried and begged for it? Is Krishna bankrupt? To develop real devotion you need the grace of a pure realized devotee. Everythinq else is a compromise.
5. What type of faith should the disciple have towards the guru?
Real faith, not sentimental or blind faith. The disciple of a bona fide guru doesn't accept him simply out of sentiment, convention, or ecclesiastical order, but rather because he is so. It is not that simply by faith a conditioned soul becomes his eternal link with Krishna. It is not that because one has taken the position of guru he has all exalted qualities extolled in sastras, but the other way around. So, as we said, faith according to the worthiness of the recipient of that faith.
6. But isn't the disciple supposed to see his guru as good as God?
If the guru is as good as God. Inasmuch as the guru can give Krishna he should be seen as absolute. The disciple must find the best available guru to obtain Krishna. Where is it said that no matter what level he is on, a guru must be seen as good as God?
7. But isn't it natural for a disciple to be fixed in the conclusion that his guru can never be subject to criticism?
Therefore one should make sure he takes a 100% Krishna conscious guru. As mentioned by Narahari Sarkar, one shouldn't be a blind follower. Even a guru can be approached, in the proper way, of course, if he shows signs that are incompatible with his exalted position. And if a disciple hears something disturbing to his mind, he should consult with trustworthy seniors.
8. But I heard that guru simply means to repeat.
Is it really parrot-like repetition Prabhupada had in mind? "That will not act. Not actually penetrating. If you don't act yourself, your words will have no value." (Lecture 12.6.73) Basically this type of statement simply indicates to be a guru by preaching, not by initiating. And Prabhupada is also just making a point: Repeat as it is, don't manufacture. "You'll be a guru and everything but don't speak nonsense. That is our request." (Lecture 5.31.76) "Don't adulterate the Krishna-upadesa. You simply present what Krishna says as it is. Don't adulterate'' (Lecture 3.28.75)
9. Does a guru really have to be liberated?
Srila Prabhupada wrote: "Because the bound cannot help the bound, the rescuer must be liberated. Therefore, only Lord Krishna or his bona fide representative, the spiritual master, can release the conditioned soul" (BG 7.14);
"The spiritual master must be liberated. It doesn't matter if he has come from Krishnaloka or he's liberated from here. But he must be liberated. Unless one is a resident of Krishnaloka he cannot be a spiritual master. A layman cannot become a spiritual master, and if he becomes so then he will simply create disturbance." (Letter 10.6.69); "A spiritual master is always liberated. This position of spiritual master is achieved by three processes, sadhana-siddha, kripa-siddha, nitya-siddha." (Letter 21.6.70); "Unless one can find one transcendental to the four defects, one shouldn't accept advice." (SBhag 5.14.86); "If you don't get knowledge from a liberated person, that knowledge is useless. That is cheating...Without being liberated nobody can guidef anyone. That is useless." (Morning Walk 1.4.77)
10.Does a guru have to be that qualified?
An unqualified person cannot for long live up to his disciples' expectations. One may guide his followers as a vartma-pradarshaka guru until he is firmly established on the full nistha platform. That's what Srila Prabhupada had in mind. And he warned: "He was given the path of becoming a paramahamsa. If he wants to imitate the uttama-adhikari, then he's a rascal." (Morning Walk 4.2.74) or, "Come on, unfit person, become acarya. Then another man comes, then another and another. As soon as it was announced that Guru Maharaja is dead, 'Now I'm so advanced that I can kill guru and become guru!? Nonsense." Prabhupada said clearly: "If you want to know positively without any mistake who is God, then you have to approach a person like Sukadeva Goswami. You should take lesson from a self-realized soul who has understood, who has seen the truth, jnaninas tattva-darsinah: So one must have seen the truth, realized the truth. That is guru: One who has seen the truth. Not that the world has changed and that now we can interpret in this way or that way. It's all nonsense. You cannot change a single alphabet of the sastras They cannot be changed." (Lecture 6.24.72)
11. But I have read In the Bhagavatam about a person not liberated being as good as liberated by following.
That purport of SBhag 4.18.5 should be properly understood. It states: "Presently people are so fallen that they cannot distinguish between a liberated soul and a conditioned soul.A conditioned soul is hampered by four defects." One should note that the overall emphasis of the purport is on taking direction from liberated souls. The very next sentence is: "Consequently we have to take direction from liberated persons." Those who are stated not to be able to distinguish are not neophyte devotees, but rather materialistic persons, as Prabhupada states: "It has become fashionable to disobey the unimpeachable directions given by the acaryas and liberated souls of the past.... Materialistic men are not interested in taking directions from a liberated person, but they are very much interested in their own concocted ideas, which make them repeatedly fail in their attempts. Because the entire world is now following the imperfect directions of conditioned souls, humanity is completely bewildered."
Prabhupada mentions in this purport, "Although a follower may not be a liberated person, if he follows the supreme liberated Personality of Godhead, his actions are naturally liberated from the contamination of material nature. Lord Caitanya therefore says: 'By My order you may become a spiritual master.' One can immediately become a spiritual master by having full faith in the transcendental words of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and by following his instructions." Because of this, some have lightly concluded that this is a license for becoming a diksa guru although one may be a kanistha-adhikari. But you cannot divorce this purport from the bulk of his teachings about what a guru is, especially when the whole point of this purport is that everyone must take instructions from liberated souls!
What Prabhupada is actually saying is: "Don't worry, you may not be liberated yet, but if you follow me you are as good as liberated and you will be promoted to the liberated stage." As far as 'strict following' and full faith' are concerned, that indicates the nistha stage, without a doubt. "Nistha" also translates as "strict". And if following is the only qualification required, then a new devotee is also following. Can he be a guru? Yes, as Narahari Sarkar said that in kali-yuga all Vaisnavas are guru. But that means that he can teach someone less advanced, not that he should become a diksa guru!
12. There is also an early letter from Prabhupada to one Janardan dasa.
Yes, but again, the whole point of the letter is that the guru must be liberated. And when Prabhupada says at the end that one who is less qualified or not liberated may act as a guru by strictly following the disciplic succession,you have to consider again that this strict following is only truly possible on the nistha platform, a little below liberation. Again you have to see that it is an encouragement letter from Prabhupada: 'Don't worry about perfection, just follow strictly and that is your perfection. Don't worry if you're not a pure devotee yet, it's not that one can become a pure devotee overnight, but if you follow your guru strictly, then you'll become completely purified.'
Finally, you can give this letter and the Bhagavatam quote above a completely different reading. It can be taken as Prabhupada speaking about himself out of humility, nothing more, as he always humbly said that his only credit was that he was strictly following his Guru Maharaja. Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja personnally confirmed this point to me.
13. Some say that all the ISKCON gurus are liberated.
There are gurus on different levels. Not all gurus are equal. Why blur distinctions? Why do the sastras speak of siksa guru then? Just for some specific jnana? Prabhupada: "Who is liberated? One who knows Krishna, in truth." (Letter 69) "Mere theoretical academic understanding that Krishna is everything doesn't qualify one as a first-class devotee. One must have actually developed love for Krishna." (Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura) Prabhupada also mentions that some people imagine themselves to be liberated. And if they're liberated , how come so many fall down?
14. I heard someone say that "If one insists on finding an uttama-adhikari, he will end up in Radha-kunda where jackals, wolves and hyenas are waiting to devour his spiritual life."
Then why did he stress in his teachings that uttama-adhikara is the standard?
15. I heard that Srila Prabhupada wrote in one letter that "if one discriminates that this one is a pure devotee and that one is not a pure devotee, that means he is a nonsense."
The second part of the same letter should also be quoted, where it is written: "Anyone, if he is a pure devotee, he can deliver others, he can become spiritual master. But unless he is on that platform he should not attempt it. Then both of them will go to hell, like blind men leading the blind." In many letters quoted out of context Prabhupadal is just making a point like, "Guru means to repeat and to follow?, but that is not exclusive of the other necessary qualifications. Or when he says that the guru is like a postman: "I don't have to be perfect as long as I follow my perfect master." Such statements are made out of humility and to make the point that if someone presents Krishna's message without adulteration his audience will greatly benefit. Again, is parrotlike repetition what he meant? No, the repetition must be from realization. Therefore he writes: "The conclusion is that a spiritual master who is 100% Krishna conscious is the bona fide spiritual master." (BG 2.18)
Another point is that letters are highly personal stuff and therefore subjective, plus dependent on time, place and circumstance. If you take Prabhupada's statements about the guru in a chronological order, as for vamasrama-dharma for instance, you get a better perspective. He obviously wanted all his disciples to become gurus when qualified to be so. He wanted to flood the world with Krishna consciousness and many gurus are needed for that, granted, it's just a question of keeping clear and not blurring the issue.
16. In Easy Journey, there's mention of monitor guru, and Srila Prabhupada writes that one can take a limited number of disciples when he has completed the first twelve steps.
Yes, but step eleven says specifically that there shouldn't be any more namaparadhas. So that means minimum nistha stage, namabhasa. And it also mentions a limited number of disciples.
17.1 heard that Srila Prabhupada said in 1968 that maybe by 1975 all his disciples could initiate. What does that mean?
I understand that Srila Prabhupada didn't expect to be still with us by that time. He had such an immense faith in the purifying power of the Holy name and in Mahaprabhu's mercy. He thought that his disciples could advance very quickly. And they did, given their background. In the same spirit he spoke at first denigratingly of vamasrama-dharma, praised his disciples like anything, how they were pure devotees, how they had become completely purified by the power of the name. But after a few years of experience, he started, around 1974, to speak about varnasrama-dharma in a completely different way; and when he was asked by a puzzled disciple, "Isn't it an offense to refer to a Vaisnava according to varna?" he replied, "If they're Vaisnavas; why are so many going? Vaisnava is not so cheap." So he spoke in 1968 in a particular way, but never spoke about it again. He had also said "maybe".
18.1 heard that Prabhupada wrote that in the absence of the guru you can accept disciples without limitation, that it's the law of the disciplic succession? Isn't that like an explicit right?
Yes, of course, but don't omit the first part of that letter (Tusta-Krishna 12.2.75) where Prabhupada first gives both the qualification and the process to become qualified as a guru, and expresses his hope that he will qualify himself, as well as the later part where he says: "Keep trained up very rigidly and then you can be a bona fide guru." One shouldn't try to establish a new siddhanta upon some isolated fragment of the 'sastras that is taken 'completely out of context.
19. Can we conclude that these few quotes of Srila Prabhupada that seemingly authorize a liberal guru policy contradict the sastra?
Srila Prabhupada is an ideal acarya. He would never contradict the sastra. We say that guru, sastra and sadhu are saying the same: That a guru may only be considered as such if his teachings are confirmed by sadhu and sastra, and that a sadhu may only be accepted as such if what he says is confirmed by guru and sastra; so the answer must be "No." Only a misinterpretation is at work here.
20. Some say that Prabhupada said that one should take risks for Krishna and that's how one becomes recognized.
The risk mentioned by Prabhupada is of a qualified guru taking the risk of accepting an unqualified disciple, not the risk taken by becoming guru before being qualified: "One who doesn't like to take the risk [of accepting as a disciple someone who is not qualified] he doesn't take the risk of preaching. But one who takes the risk, he's recognized by Krishna immediately.... But he must know where to take risk and where it is to act foolishly." (Conversation 7.8.75)
21. Sometimes I wonder who is really qualified.
You may say that you don't recognize anyone, but are you praying and begging to see one. Where is vour faith? Is Krishna bankrupt? He only had one mahabhagavata left in his pocket, and now he's broke? Indeed, pure devotional service is most rare, not durlabha but sudurlabha. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati has defined a pure devotee as a Vaisnava who has transcended all desires for enjoying wealth, women and distinction (Vaisnava Ke 11), but Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura says that this is an eternal process and that mahabhagavatas are always available. We had the good fortune to have one in ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada, then another one, Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja. Do you mean to say that all the new disciples in ISKCON are condemned to settle for second or third class? There are always unnalloyed devotees on this planet. Just as there is no purpose to the universe without sun and moon, there's no purpose to this earth planet without pure devotees. They are verily the ornaments of the Earth. This is what the acaryas have taught.
22. Others say that there are many uttama-adhikaris in ISKCON.
They might be referring here to the most broad statements of Srila Prabhupada, like in the
Nectar of Instruction, but even these so-called broad statements, if you analyze them, are not cheap definitions, as mentioned before. What about the other qualifications and symptoms mentioned in sastras? Uttama-adhikara begins at bhava. If you read the descriptions of the asakti-bhakta, which is even the stage below bhava, in the Madhurya-Kadambini, you will be amazed. Anyway, an utta ma-Vaisnava doesn't care to be recognized as such. His humility is not theoretical. It is coming from the soul, which is humble by nature. He genuinely feels the most fallen.
23. Doesnt it take an uttama-adhikari to recognize one?
We accepted Srila Prabhupada as one. How? Are we such? No, but we accepted because he was decorated with the signs of a mahabhagavata. It's not that there are no symptoms. This is not a sastric argument: "Oh, you must be very qualified yourself to tell that so many gurus are not qualified." Why does Srila Rupa Goswami advise to evaluate the Vaisnavas to deal properly with the three levels of adhikara? Why does Srila Prabhupada write that a disciple, specifically a new devotee, what to speak of a 20-plus year one, should be intelligent enough to recognize and accept an uttama-adhikari as guru? Why does Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati say that one must distinguish guru from laghu? (Guru means heavy, laghu means light.) Why does Srila Jiva Goswami say that since one should accept an uttama-adhikari as guru, many additional symptoms have been given so that one will not make mistakes in choosing a guru? (SBhag.11.2.48) True, one cannot see the inner bhava or sentiment, but laksana, symptoms, are also there.
24. Some tell their disciples'* I'm only a madhyam-adhikari.".
First, generally the disciples think it is out of humility. Second, madhyam-adhikara is vast and vague, but also not cheap. Tattva-bhrama, philosophical misconceptions, and namaparadhas, to name only two, are anarthas. Unless one is free from them, he is still in kanistha-adhikara, somewhere in anartha-nivritti stage, or enjoying the waves (taranga- rangini) of bhajana-kriya. Third. if one truly believes he's unqualified or not very qualified, then he should send his disciples to someone more advanced for siksa. Maybe he doesn't see anyone more advanced ? so where is his humility? Last, but not least, we should not even consider ourselves as Vaisnavas, much less as madhyamas. Bhaktivinode Thakura sings: ami to vaisnava, e buddhi haile: I should never let the thought that 'I am a Vaisnava' enter my heart and pollute it with false pride, and thereby glide down to hell." We should always consider ourselves as aspiring Vaisnavas.
25. Some say that we have to be practical, that, "Utility is the principle."
Prabhupada was not practical? Practical means that one accepts the guru's words even though he may not have the vision of how it will happen. Practical doesn't mean to alter the process and jettison the siddhanta It should be 'made "clear that Srila Prabhupada's departure created an emergency and that in an emergency you may do something wrong. To err is human. But once the error has been identified why insist on making it? What was wrongly done in an emergency shouldn't become the standard. Practical adjustments contrary to the siddhanta are not bona fide. Also, we have seen the result in the past. Zonal gurus seemed practical too. Devotees were united around one single master and they had much association with him, but it was not bona fide and it created a lot of difficulties for many devotees, to say the least.
26. But it is said that even at ruci there are still anarthas, even up to prema.
Granted, but only a faint trace, like an odor. For instance, in Jaiva Dharma one Vaisnava inquires what is his level or adhikara. He then describes that when he chants the name, tears of ecstasy fill his eyes, and he is entranced, and rolls on the ground, but that he likes when the Vaisnavas see him like that. So he is told, "You are a madhyam-adhikari." One may say, "See, he still has pratistha." Yes, a faint aroma of it. But he is crying out of ecstasy as soon as he chants! Granted, Prabhupada didn't do like that and, given the tendency for sahajiya-ism, he never talked much about it for obvious reasons, but he wrote about it in the Caitanya Caritamrta, which he called the postgraduate study.
27.1 read that a disciple may go beyond his diksa guru and elevate him.
Yes, that's possible, if the guru is of a lower category, but only by a connection with a living uttama adhikari, as child Dhruva with Narada Muni could elevate his mother Suniti, who was considered his vartma-pradarshaka-guru since she had first shown him the path.
28. What does transparent via medium mean?
To consult a bona fide spiritual master means to consult Krishna. You cannot see Svayam Bhagavan Krishna directly, but you can see Him in his Guru-rupa. That's a form of God you can see and consult. Ideally the guru should be a Bhagavan-realized soul. Then he is transparent. "A bona fide spiritual master who is fully cognizant of the methods of spiritual science learned in the spiritual scriptures and who is also a realized soul who has made a tangible connection with the Supreme Lord, is the transparent medium by which the willing candidate is led to the path of the Vaikunthas." (Easy Journey pp.32-33) and "Transparent means that the via medium must be free of contamination. If it is transparent, one can see through it." (Science of Self Realization p.283) That's the standard, and full-fledged nistha is more or less tantamount to liberated, brahma-bhuta. That's the beginning of self-realization.
29. Srila Prabhupada said not to be amazed who goes but to be amazed who stays. So some say that those who have stayed have shown they are sincere and those who have left have shown they were not sincere.
Srila Prabhupada was always concerned about those who had left. Even years after, he was inquiring about them. He wanted them to come back. The guru is filled with affection for his children-disciples. His heart is soft, not hard like ours, so insensitive and prone to reject without considering what is our share of responsibility for their departure from our ranks. It's a little too simplistic to write off those who leave us as too insincere or too attached to maya. Some may have become so. I don't mean to be a lawyer for nonsense devotees. But we have to see that many devotees left due to mistreatment, poor example, etc., and we have to be willing to try to help them. If after treating them with kindness they prove to be hopeless cases, then we may consider some other course of action. But only then.
30. How much should one accept the official version given by the authorities?
You may have a misunderstanding about who is a spiritual authority. The GBC Body, for instance, was made the ultimate managerial authority by Srila Prabhupada, not the ultimate spiritual authority. Its role was defined by Prabhupada as making sure everything going on in his Society is on the basis of the triple authority, guru-sastra-sadhu. Prabhupada called it the watchdog of ISKCON.
It is a fact that you have to confirm your understanding with your authorities, but make sure you accept the right persons as authorities. Everyone is advised to study the Vaisnava philosophy from all angles of vision. Srila Prabhupada said to surrender with one's intelligence, not to surrender one's intelligence. He never encouraged blind faith, blind following. Pariprasna, asking questions, is part of the process of acceptance of authority. Philosophical debate is healthy. Srila Prabhupada recommended it to strengthen one's mind and faith, mature one's understanding, etc. To discuss guru-tattva is of paramount importance. Of course, we have to try to do it in the most detached and dispassionate way possible, but if some people get empassioned while speaking about it, passion shouldn't be a reason to reject the whole thing. You have to be careful, though, of being offensive, or too skeptical, or to fall into faultfinding. This process is eternal, and a qualified guru, although rare, is always available. Pray and cry for it.
31. Some say that as the guru advances, his disciples advance, and the disciples seem healthy.
Of course they make advancement. But kanistha disciples making advancement within kanistha is not necessarily an indication that the guru is bona fide or a liberated soul. What about those who haven't found a guru yet or whose 'guru' has fallen down? They also advance. All our congregation members who are following the path are also advancing. But it's all relative: "Unless the guru is God-realized one cannot make progress in the transcendental science of the Lord." (SBhag.2.4.10) And "Only a pure devotee can convert others to pure devotional service. It's therefore important for all the preachers in our movement to first become pure devotees." (CC Madhya 24.98) Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura says that disciples of gurus who are not self-realized will ultimately become dejected and lose faith. It's not so simple to dismiss such statements because some devotees are doing nicely. How nicely and for how long? And, as far as the guru is concerned, if one is not ready, it's very risky to take on a big load. It will be difficult to progress. It is mainly up to the disciple to determine whether his guru is qualified or not, but the senior's duty is to help him; sastra advises to study the eligibility of the guru (and of the disciple). The disciple shouldn't be lazy and foolish, thinking that everything is fine, the guru advances and so does he. And lower gurus need an uttama siksa guru to keep on advancing. That's the way it works.
32. What does it mean that Mahaprabhu has ordered everyone to become a guru?
How has Srila Prabhupada commented on this verse? The order is to preach to everyone. To preach to everyone does not automatically mean to become their diksa guru. "It is better not to accept any disciples." It is said that in the presence of better qualified gurus one should not venture to accept disciples. (Hari Bhakti Vilas) And even when the order to become a guru is given, it doesn't mean it must be immediately taken up. Look at Srila Prabhupada's example. Look at Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja. It's not an appointment, it's an order to qualify oneself. Develop the qualifications first: "One has to become purified by chanting." So, if one preaches, achieves the platform of offenseless chanting and liberation, he can then be a diksa guru. Not that because he preaches he is automatically a bona fide guru. Mostly this means give siksa, like when Prabhupada quoted the amara ajnaya verse during a sannyasa initiation lecture (3.16.76): "Present as it is Bhagavad Gita. Then you become a guru. You can become a guru in your family... wherever you are."
33. What did it mean when Srila Prabhupada said to do as he did?
There's a difference between following and imitating. "One shouldn't try to imitate the powerful." (Gita Lecture 30.12.68); "You cannot imitate, then you'll fall down." (Conversation 4.6.74) The same is repeated in Caitanya Caritamrta Madhya 17.185. One has first to be a consummate follower before he can even think of becoming one whom disciples will look up to as their lord and master. Prabhupada never appointed non-liberated disciples to occupy the seat of guru. Didn't he stress so much the qualifications of guru?
34. But are you sure that Prabhupada didn't appoint gurus?
He didn't. He said: "On my order. He is actually guru. But by my order." And a little further: "When I order 'you become guru' he becomes regular guru". (May 77 tape) So, when did he give that order? In July, right? Wrong. That's the time he gave the list of rittviks. The best proof of this conclusion is that when TKG asked him: "But they are your disciples?", Prabhupada answered "Yes." and when he was giving the list of names, when he was asked: "What about India?" Prabhupada incredulously answered: "In India? I am here." So he was obviously referring only to rittviks (and only during his lifetime). A year before in an interview he had said: "I am training each one of them as leader." (7.14.76) Just like he had said one month earlier in April: "Yes, I shall say who is guru, 'Now you become acarya. You become authorized.' I am waiting for that. You become, ALL, acarya.... But the training must be complete." You see, he didn't specify eleven people. He said "ALL". And when TKG said: The process of purification must be there."' Prabhupada said: "Oh yes, must be there. Caitanya Mahaprabhu wants that. Amara ajnaya guru hana. You become guru. But be qualified. Little thing, (chuckles),' strictly follower." TKG: "Not rubber stamp." Srila Prabhupada: Then you'll not be effective. You can cheat, but it will not be effective." You see, again "strict follower", indicating nistha. Prabhupada chuckled because a sadhu can read the heart and he knew that many wanted to be guru at that time. Some had been contemplating the idea for years. So, in April he says this and the next month he appoints them as gurus? Just think!
Later on, in October, Srila Prabhupada was told that a Bengali gentleman came for initiation, and Prabhupada said: "I have deputed some of you to initiate.... I have stopped for the time being... this initiation. I have deputed my disciples. Is it clear or not?... You have got list of names? And if by Krishna's grace I recover from this condition, then I shall begin again or I may not, but in this condition to initiate is not good." So, it is clear again he had only named rittviks, not gurus, and that it was just because he was physically unable. He seemed not to remember exactly who was on the list, proof that it was rittviks, nothing more, otherwise, as mentioned by TKG: "You can bet your bottom dollar that if it had been more than that, Prabhupada would have spoken for days and hours and weeks on end about how to set up this thing with the gurus, but he didn't because he already had said it a million times. He said 'My Guru Maharaja did not appoint anyone. It's by qualification." (Pyramid House Talks) Prabhupada had also said: "It's not that I'll give an order, 'Here is the next leader.' Anyone who follows the previous leadership is a leader. All my disciples are leaders as much as they follow purely. Leader means one who is a first class disciple. One who is perfectly following." (BTG Vol 1977)
So, one must be qualified, strict follower (nistha) minimum AND receive the order. How is that order perceived? Prabhupada writes: "It requires special benedictions from higher authorities." and, "By His order only one should become a spiritual master and cooperate with the Lord." (SBhag. 1.13.48) and, "One who is not authorized by the Lord cannot become a spiritual master." (SBhag 1.19.36) When one achieves higher stages of realization, in madhyam adhikara, he may receive the indication from his guru and Krishna to take that role. Until then he should work on qualifying himself, and that is best done if one has the backing or an advanced bona fide siksa-guru.
In a late conversation with Prabhupada, his Godbrother, HH Bhakti Vaibhava Puri Maharaja asked Prabhupada why he had made eleven gurus instead of one and Prabhupda answered that he had not made gurus but rittviks. Puri Maharaja then said that they will become gurus after Prabhupada leaves and Prabhupda answered,"What can I do now? It is not in my power anymore."
Most of the original eleven, beginning with TKG in 1980, have already themselves admitted that they were not appointed. Srila Prabhupada did not appoint anyone and he did not forbid anyone. He gave the qualifications of a guru and issued warnings. He has given some encouragement, maybe even some license for less experienced gurus in low madhyam-adhikara, but not for presenting themselves as recipients of absolute surrender and faith, as saksad-hari! By the way, there, are five different interpretations of that May 1977 "appointment" tape! Only one can be correct though.And I am not speaking about the different "original versions" and of the apparent doctoring of that conversation...
If Prabhupada had appointed diksa gurus, then why did they fall down? Srila Prabhupada lacked the spiritual intelligence to determine that the eleven were not immune to falldowns? The only possible conclusion is that some disciples misunderstood and disobeyed his orders. Is it reasonable to think that Prabhupada would order unqualified persons to lake up the duties of liberated souls, including a couple of known homosexuals ? Why would Prabhupada suddenly contradict by an appointment what he had said all these years? Those who still accept that dubious theory have a problem in their relationship with him.
Another way to look at it is that Srila Prabhupada was well aware of the mentality and intentions of some of his disciples. He manifested his compassion by not giving a direct stem order, disobedience of which would be guru-avajna, big offense to his lotus feet. He didn't appoint any number of devotees as gurus, nor did he forbid anyone. He had given profusely detailed information on the subject and had issued severe warnings against imitation-guruship using terms such as "rascal", "cheater", "hell-bound", etc. He expected all his disciples to become gurus, but not by rubber stamp.
35. It seems like you are saying that Srila Prabhupada was cheating some of his ambitious disciples?
He said himself on different occasions that he was cheating. In Bombay, when the devotees approached him complaining about being cheated by the Indians, Srila Prabhupada first answered that he was also Indian; when the devotees protested that he was not cheating them, he replied that he had actually cheated all of us because we would have never come to that path if we had known what was in store. The saintly persons cheat, but in that cheating transaction the cheated party still benefits.
Srila Prabhupada said so many things people wanted to hear, and sometimes he would speak in a way because they were not ready to hear more. But that doesn't mean that it was automatically the tattva or siddhanta on that subject. Sometimes, for teaching or preaching, the siddhanta may not be completely or clearly given.
Also, the spiritual master may give instructions according to the personal motivations of the disciples: We already said that the guru has two things: kripa, mercy, and vanchana, cheating. Srila Gour Kishora das Babaji said: "Our guru, Lord Nityananda, cheats pseudo-devotees by supplying their material wants but depriving them of love of Godhead." (Two Beyond Duality) In Brhad Bhagavatamrita, Sanatana Goswami writes that many devotees express that they didn't receive mercy but cheating. So, not only does one need a qualified guru but one needs to be a qualified disciple. As sat-guru is rare, so is sat-sisya. Srila Prabhupada wanted every one of his followers to become gurus when they were qualified. And he clearly taught what were these qualifications, what was acceptable in an emergency and what wasn't.
Prabhupada did not appoint gurus and that should be clearly understood and broadcasted.
36 How can one rectify a situation?
One should act in such a way that Mahaprabhu will rectify. One shouldn't think that he himself can rectify. One can act with the hope that if Krishna will be pleased with the attempt then He may rectify. Dependence on Krishna is certainly the way to go. However that doesn't preclude adressing controversial issues. It is actually the duty of a disciple to protest against deviation from the guru's teachings.
37. Should there have been a World-Acarya? (BACK THEN IN 1994 I HAD SENT TO THE GBC A LIST OF SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVING THE SITUATION. ONE OF THEM WAS TO HAVE SRILA GOUR GOVINDA SWAMI AS ACARYA.)
An uttama-adhikari, who alone is qualified to take the position of World-Acarya, could have stayed in the Society without taking the position of Acarya, provided he was not driven out by the politics of neophytes, whether Godbrothers or nephews.
Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu in Serving Srila Prabhupada's Will wrote: "One can be a great acarya on the topmost platform as a diksa guru without taking the seat at the head of the institution." That is perfectly correct, but we shouldn't underestimate the importance of having a recognized really fully qualified sadhu from whom to get the proper siddhantas on different tattvas, to strengthen the Mission, and to prevent more deviations such as sahajiya-ism from creeping in. An aspiring disciple could refer to the standards he set as a sort of yardstick in order to ascertain the bonafides of his chosen guru. Whether he should have been put at the head of the institution is another thing.
Personal considerations should have been sacrificed for the sake of the mission. This can be seen as a test of humility and dedication. To give up one's false pride that "I am a senior Srila Prabhupada disciple personally trained by His Divine Grace. I had so much personal association with him. I'm a big preacher and I made so many devotees. I'm a big GBC man and I control so many countries. I'm a big guru and I have so many disciples." or, "It can only be my Guru."
Given the narrow, competitive and envious nature of the Westerners, Srila Prabhupada had to devise a trick to give sannyasa to Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja: He made him the priest of his own sannyasa ceremony! There was 2 dandas and sets of sannyasa clothes, but only one candidate sitting at the yajna, Tripurari prabhu. Prabhupada asked the sannyasa candidates to come forward. He did first and received his danda and clothes. Everyone was looking around, not knowing who was the other candidate. Then, from behind the fire, Gour Govinda prabhu got up and came forward, at everyone's great surprise. Then, for about 20 minutes he glorified Prabhupada, who sat back, reclining in his Vyasasana and then said, with tears in his eyes and a chocked voice,"This is how one should glorify the spiritual master." After, the "senior devotees" approached Prabhupada, reproaching him, "Why did you give him sannyasa? He is a new man!", to which Prabhupada reparted, "You are the new men! He is a pure Vaisnava from birth!" So, imagine if Prabhupada has made him the acarya. They would have probably killed him!
38. Some say it could and can only be Prabhupada.
He was the Acarya during his physical presence, and, as the Founder-Acarya, he will always occupy a prominent position in the Movement. Everyone feels the need for an Acarya, a perfect sadhu. Guru-sastra-sadhu can't all be the same person. If Srila Prabhupada is the guru, his books sastra, what about sadhu? Acarya is natural. Some were presented as chosen Successor-Acaryas, each with his own private zone. Some went and go about it in an extreme way and it gives rittvik-vada. Some went to Srila BR Sridhara Maharaja. Some turned to his appointed Successor-Acarya, HH Govinda Maharaja. Some became Acaryas of their own separate missions. Some went to other Acaryas of the Gaudiya Math.
39. Isn't there traditionally a head in any institution?
Naturally. The Gaudiya Math broke down into different Societies, which all have a head. That it broke down is bad, not that each Society has a head. Unity gives great strength to a preaching mission: United we stand, divided we fall. Due to a misunderstanding some have, given a very bad name to the concept of Acarya, which is a completely bona fide option, thereby causing the famous pendulum effect: eleven "acaryas" to no Acarya: thesis to antithesis. The proper synthesis was one Acarya with gurus at least on the nistha stage. Everyone would have benefitted from this. When you see the disasters that followed the so-called appointment, the erroneous zonal guru system, and the other concocted theories, yeah, definitely an acarya of the caliber of Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja would have been a pure blessing!
The story could have been quite different if Srila Prabhupada's instructions and vision had only been understood. There should have been a waiting period, with the GBC doing its regular job and the preaching going on. Without the whole concoction about so-called appointments, those who would have reached the qualification of perfect followers, full-nistha, would have emerged quite naturally and would have quietly started to initiate without taking any specific position in our Society. Not being weighed down by all the trappings surrounding their false "acarya" position, the eleven could have more readily advanced, and some of those who unfortunately left maybe would still be there. In such a non-envious atmosphere of love and trust a self-effulgent Acarya would have easily been accepted and recognized.
Srila Prabhupada explained us the mind of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and gave us a stem warning not to try to create artificially gurus. It is a pity that it was not heeded: "If Guru Maharaja would have seen someone who was qualified at that time to be Acarya, he would have mentioned.... His idea was Acarya was not to be nominated amongst the Governing Body. He said openly, "You make a GBC and conduct the mission.' So his idea was that amongst the GBC, who would come out successfully and self-effulgent, acarya would be selected. [One "acarya" was unauthorizedly selected who later fell down. ].... The result is that now everyone is claiming to be acarya even though they may be kanistha adhikari. Therefore we may not commit the same mistake in our ISKCON camp." (Letter 28.4.74) By telling us about his Guru Maharaja's mind in this way, he was giving a hint that this is what we were supposed to do ourselves. Vaisnavas are simple like a child, not crooked. They don't think themselves the controller. They feel like an instrument in the Lord's hand. Having danced as Krishna made them dance, they leave it up to Him how He wants things to go on and whom He wants next to dance on the stage. Srila Prabhupada said about Srila Bhaktisiddhanta: "His idea was 'Let them manage; then whoever will be qualified for becoming Acarya, he?ll manifest. Why should I enforce it upon them?' That was his plan. Let them manage by strong governing body, as it is going on. Then Acarya will come by his qualifications.' (Letter 21.9.73) The completely pure devotee belongs to the intimate entourage of Srimati Radharani (nikunjayuno ratikeli siddhyai). He doesn't try to take Her position, but leaves it up to Her to pick up whom She wants. She is in charge of the mercy-department, the source of saving grace, svarupa-sakti.
40. Didn't Srila Prabhupada warn against making an Acarya?
Against "making" one, yes, but not against recognizing one. What Srila Prabhupada warned against was "self-appointed acaryas," to "artificially create a perfect man," to "unauthorizedly appoint a successor-acarya," to "fight over who would be the next acarya." He never said that there wouldn't or shouldn't be an Acarya or there couldn't be a perfect man. Srila Prabhupada warns, "One should not be unnecessarily envious of his godbrothers. Rather, if a godbrother is more enlightened and advanced in Krishna Consciousness, one should accept him as almost equal to the spiritual master, and one should be happy to see such godbrothers advance in Krishna Consciousness." (SBhag 3.32.42)
41. Isn't it incompatible with the GBC?
Why? Since Srila Prabhupada wrote in his Will that "the system of management will continue as it is now, and there is no need of any change", the GBC system could continue in parallel with an Acarya. It is not that the Acarya is automatically the authority for all material affairs, although all can benefit from his higher vision and connections, and he can be consulted. He is the authority for spiritual affairs, and the management is done locally by the local leaders under the supervision of the GBC. Elsewhere, Srila Prabhupada said the same: "My spiritual master left advice that 'You should work combinedly, and who is acarya, he will come out." (Lecture 19.4.67) An Acarya was never ruled out by Srila Prabhupada. He did as Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati had done and established a GBC. In an interview he said, "The committee may elect a person as chief... so it maybe. I may or they can nominate." (6.4.76)
Fighting against the unauthorized system of "Successor-Acaryas", Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu strongly objected that there could not be a Successor-Acarya to Srila Prabhupada. There shouldn't be a self-appointed, unauthorized one, granted, but that didn't rule out the eventuality of a genuine, recognized one. In response to Ravindraji, Hridayananda Swami rightfully wrote:"There is no evidence that the Acarya position necessarily automatically contradicts the authority of a central GBC." and further "Srila Prabhupada never indicated that we should reserve the grand title of Acarya for him, but rather that we should qualify his Acarya-title as "Founder-Acarya", clearly to distinguish himself from other Acaryas who would act within his ISKCON."
42. Some say that we didn't and don't need an Acarya. We have Srila Prabhupada.
I don't want to obscure Srila Prabhupada's position in any way, especially for his initiated disciples. Srila Prabhupada is always there in vani for those who follow him strictly. His instructions on the guru are clear: take a living, bona fide guru. And he clearly defined what he meant by that. So, "He lives forever and the follower lives with him." Yes, so now it's time to study more closely his instructions. And go back to following them as it is. If you don't follow his instructions you cannot perceive how he is always there.
43. By whom and how could an Acarya be recognized?
First, we had to change our outlook. We had to understand the need for one and keep in the forefront the desire for the association of such an exalted soul, not try to suppress him, envy him, be afraid of him, slander him. And pray. Then Krishna would have revealed who it was at the appropriate time. Srila Prabhupada mentions about Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's idea that the GBC will elect the Acarya. I dont know if that means automatically by voting, as Prabhupada said that votes have no jurisdiction in that realm, although in the interview I quoted above he mentions the word 'elect', and 'nominate; or by simply begging and petitioning him to kindly accept the heavy weight of leading our prestigiously named Brahma-Madhva-Bhaktivedant
44. What makes you think that there was necessarily someone qualified as Acarya?
Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu again: "Couldn't Prabhupada have produced one such fit disciple?" (ISKCON Journal) Virabahu Prabhu, in his book, "Are we saying that Prabhupada was successful in everything, except in making even one disciple who could represent the parampara?"
45. You spoke a lot on the siksa guru. Why?
As far as Prabhupada's disciples are concerned, it can be said that they need help to make them recognize mercy when it comes. That help can come in the form of a siksa-guru. The moment one thinks, "I have my guru, I don't need anyone else." his progress stops and he stagnates. This process is a living thing, and it's always available for one who cries for spiritual progress toward the lotus feet of guru-Krishna. "It is our duty to associate with a sadhu who is better than ourselves." (Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Thakur) "If one doesn't surrender to a living Bhagavata he cannot understand the Srimad Bhagavatam." (Lecture 20.6.72) "One has to take lessons from a live Bhagavata." (Lecture 20.11.75) "The more one makes progress under the guidance of the Bhagavatas, the more one becomes fixed up in the transcendental loving service of the Lord." (SBhag 1.2.18) There are so many instructions in Prabhupada's books, so how can one know which one apply to his particular case and level of advancement? The student must enquire from a guru. He must be very inquisitive, jijnasuh, otherwise, how he'll progress? If he remains dumb, what can the guru do?" (Lecture 23.9.69) "You're doing your service. How will you know if you're doing it properly or not? This you'll know from a guru." (Lecture 69)"Bhagavata-sevaya doesn't mean just to read Gita and Bhagavatam, but we have to study from the person Bhagavata. That is required. Go to the person Bhagavata who is a realized soul. You just associate with the person Bhagavata who is realized soul and hear from him the same book, the same knowledge." (Lecture 25.2.75) "Not only should we read Srimad Bhagavatam, but we should also serve the person Bhagavata." (Teachings of Lord Kapila, ch9) "This is the secret. Unless one is self-realized, svanubhavana, his life is Bhagavata, he cannot preach Bhagavata. That will not be effective. And a gramophone will not help. Therefore, if you want to read Srimad Bhagavatam, you must approach a person whose life is living Bhagavatam. Otherwise there's no question of Bhagavata realization." (Lecture 27.5.74) "As you take help from a lawyer to utilize the lawbook, you have to utilize the sastra by accepting a guru who can guide you. He is like a lawyer.If you don't accept,then go on suffering." (Lecture 24.66)
As far as disciples of present gurus are concerned, the point is that we have put too much emphasis on initiation. Gurus should be seen according to their spiritual stature. Whereas the initiating guru is not necessarily the foremost instructing guru, we have almost always taken it for granted that such should be the case. But pure and potent siksa is utterly essential for deliverance. There are gurus whose power of deliverance is limited, as explained in Nectar of Instruction, verse 5, end of purport.
As long as one is afflicted by anarthas and can't guarantee his own deliverance, will the process of deliverance of his disciples be a mysterious thing on which his lack of advancement and concomitant qualifications nave no bearing? "For knowledge you have to go to the right person, a tattva-darshi, which means one who has actually seen or experienced the Absolute Truth. Unless you find such a person, there very little chance of spiritual advancement." (Lecture 17.8 66)
Another point is that the siksa guru helps one to understand the teachings of one's diksa guru and to go deeper into them. It is not that he teaches something different, something one's guru never advised, another path. Prabhupada wrote that it's not that one calls guru someone who teaches something different from one's bona fide guru.
46. But didn't Prabhupada say that there was no question of separation between the guru and the disciple? Why then speak of a siksa guru?
"There is no question of ever separation as long as the disciple follows the instruction of guru." (Conversation 7.21.75) That's one thing. Next, a siksa guru doesn't conflict with the diksa guru. To take shelter and instruction from a siksa guru will help even his disciples increase their appreciation of Prabhupada's wonderful qualities and contributions.
47. Some say that the leaders had a lot of association with Srila Prabhupada.
Yes, but consider "Unless one is enlightened by the knowledge given by the spiritual master, he cannot see things as they are, even though he remains constantly with the guru." (CC Madhya 18.99) Prabhupada's limited physical association with his guru, and Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja's are proofs that physical association with the guru is not the be-all.
48. But his leaders seemed to be so faithful to him.
Yes, but Srila Prabhupada wrote about one of his godbrothers that "he was doing very nicely during his Guru Maharaja's presence, but after his disappearance he became a party man. It may always happen". Also, his leaders had faithfully served him, but some wanted so much a position. So maybe to encourage them he gave them a position. He was engaging everyone, and at the same time, due to his presence and immense spiritual strength, he could ensure a certain cooperative spirit.
49. But they seemed very sincere.
Yes, but they were not the only sincere devotees. And sincerity is not everything. Isn't it said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions? One can be sincerely mistaken, sincerely misled. Also, the trappings surrounding the position into which some have set themselves prevent them from having a very objective vision. No amount of sincerity can save one from the overwhelming dangers of assuming a position way beyond his realization; without such practical realization sincerity is mere sentiment, wishful thinking.
50. Some say that the leaders are advanced devotees who are recipients of Srila Prabhupada's mercy.
Mercy comes by installment. And if one claims he has gotten it, he is. a self-deceiver. All our acaryas have lamented that they couldn't develop real devotion, couldn't receive mercy. Also Mercy, may come in different_wavs: "When childish people think themselves mahabhagavatas and act in defiance of the Vaisnava guru, such behavior simply holds them back from receiving the mercy of the Vaisnava guru. Bewildered by false ego, such self-acclaimed devotees gradually become fit to be ignored by pure devotees on the intermediate platform and are cheated of the mercy that comes from the devotee's satisfaction.... Pure devotees display indifference to those who falsely imagine themselves to be visuddha-bhaktas or pure devotees. This indifference is an excellent manifestation of their mercy. (Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, quoted in SBhag 11.2)