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Although some valid points and suggestions can be found in the booklet Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link (PL), we have discovered that a number of the premises and conclusions presented there oppose not only Srila Prabhupada’s instructions for ISKCON but also the basic principles of the Gaudiya sampradaya, Vaisnavism in general, and Vedic tradition. A devotee may say that Srila Prabhupada is his prominent guru, and that he receives guidance from him in several ways. This claim needs to be tested, however, by the devotee’s willingness to follow Srila Prabhupada’s instructions, including instructions about the forms and formalities of becoming a disciple and connecting with the Vaisnava parampara. Such following, in a humble spirit, with willingness to be corrected, is the true mark of discipleship. When a devotee has such a humble attitude, then he is a disciple not only of his own diksa- and siksa-gurus but of the whole disciplic succession. To be fair, we should acknowledge that we found several useful ideas in the PL booklet. Some of these positive contributions are as follows: (1) The importance of devotees’ accepting responsibility for the advancement of other devotees, especially those junior to themselves; (2) The need to have a realistic appreciation of one’s guru based how much the guru helps one progress on the path of bhakti, not just on his institutional position. Despite the faults in its arguments, PL points towards a realistic approach: Someone is factually a guru to the degree that he properly functions as a guru; (3) The need for ISKCON leaders to make it known that all devotees can be inspired by Srila Prabhupada and thus attain enlightenment and spiritual strength; and (4) The advisability of having Srila Prabhupada’s Vyasa-puja ceremony the primary Vyasa-puja for all ISKCON members. Nonetheless, the Sastric Advisory Council (SAC) found the PL booklet to be lacking in scriptural support and divergent from correct siddhanta on several important points. For example, its attempt at re-defining the word diksa is clearly unacceptable. Also, the suggestions made in the booklet that devotees can forego all worship of their diksa-gurus contradict standard teachings and practice. Such an innovation will not help anyone establish a better spiritual relationship with Srila Prabhupada. To properly connect with Srila Prabhupada or any acarya in our guru-parampara, devotees should follow the directions of Srila Rupa Gosvami in his Bhaktirasamrta-sindhu—beginning with the first step of taking shelter of the lotus feet of a bona fide guru—rather than following instead some artificially manufactured process. But be that as it may, the SAC thanks Dhira Govinda Prabhu for his attempt in Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link (PL) to search out ways to improve guru-disciple relationships in ISKCON, although we cannot endorse the overall understanding expressed in the booklet and the means of rectification its author recommends. Introduction As the years increase since Srila Prabhupada’s departure and the number of devotees accepting disciples also increases, as Srila Prabhupada’s grand-disciples begin to accept disciples, as some gurus have fallen, and as ISKCON’s devotees become more mature in their understanding of
Srila Prabhupada’s position, Dhira Govinda Prabhu now has presented Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link (PL). Surely the primary issue he raises is an important one—the question of Prabhupada’s position, influence, and responsibility in relation to each member of his Society. The GBC have given much attention to addressing philosophically and practically what it means that Prabhupada is our founder-acarya. Dhira Govinda Prabhu’s questions and his attempt to suggest solutions are therefore welcome. And his questions are also raised among ISKCON leadership. For example, in his upcoming book, H.H. Bhaktitirtha Svami writes, “The disciple has an awesome task. How should we understand our connection with the present day gurus when we have our founder-acarya? How do we keep our founder-acarya in the center, understanding that his standard is topmost and that we should try to rise to this standard?” Although there is room for improvement and clarification in our present understanding of how Srila Prabhupada is the founder-acarya for ISKCON and the foundational guru individually for all its members, our understanding has to remain within the boundaries of Prabhupada’s teaching. How can we claim him to be our prominent guru if we disregard his instructions and re-define his teachings? But the PL booklet oversteps the bounds of guru, sadhu, and sastra. Srila Prabhupada wrote in a letter to Jayagovinda, Los Angeles July 4, 1969, “You have inquired why Caitanya Mahaprabhu has not mentioned anything about accepting a Spiritual Master in His Siksastaka. But perhaps you have missed the point that He says amanina manadena kirtaniya sada hari. This means one has to chant the Holy Names of Krsna, becoming humbler than the straw, and more tolerant than the tree. So who can become humbler than the straw unless he accepts a Spiritual Master? …But if anyone becomes humbler than the grass and more tolerant than the tree, it is understood that he has accepted a Spiritual Master.” Certainly we are all linked to Srila Prabhupada, either directly as his diksa disciples, or through his representatives in the ISKCON parampara. The mystery of Vaisnava parampara is that while one goes “through” one’s guru, one is also directly connected with the previous gurus and with Krsna Himself. Prabhupada writes in his purport to Bhagavad-gita 18.75, “Vyasa was the spiritual master of Sanjaya, and Sanjaya admits that it was by Vyasa’s mercy that he could understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This means that one has to understand Krsna not directly but through the medium of the spiritual master. The spiritual master is the transparent medium, although it is true that the experience is still direct. This is the mystery of the disciplic succession. When the spiritual master is bona fide, then one can hear Bhagavad-gita directly, as Arjuna heard it… Narada is the direct disciple of Krsna and the spiritual master of Vyasa. Therefore Vyasa is as bona fide as Arjuna because he comes in the disciplic succession, and Sanjaya is the direct disciple of Vyasa. Therefore by the grace of Vyasa, Sanjaya’s senses were purified, and he could see and hear Krsna directly. One who directly hears Krsna can understand this confidential knowledge. If one does not come to the disciplic succession, he cannot hear Krsna.” Yet one cannot correctly call Srila Prabhupada, or even Sri Krsna, the “current” link. We cannot approach Krsna without a mediator as did Arjuna, though the Lord is present in our heart, as the Deity, as His Holy names, and in every atom. The fact that Prabhupada lives in his books and
To solidify this position. placing the diksa-guru in a subordinate or peripheral role. There are also those who want only Prabhupada as their guru. with the help of The Prominent Link’s new definition of diksa such devotees’ feelings and relationships will be acceptable according to ISKCON standards.murtis does not mean devotees can avoid the authorized process of linking with him. who are not satisfied with only this much. feeling that their inspiration and advancement come directly from their relationship with Prabhupada anyway and so it’s just a matter of acknowledgement. no matter who are one’s diksa. if one is not Prabhupada’s direct diksa disciple. He couches this presentation in .” the desires of devotees to have Prabhupada as their main guru may be viewed as deviant or at least as not very desirable. not without good reason. whether or not they are his direct diksa disciples. ISKCON devotees generally consider the diksa-guru “the” guru and expect the name of the diksa-guru when they ask. where the author consistently refers to a diksa-guru as “the devotee who performs the formal initiation ceremony. still because the resolutions use words such as “can” and “may. At the same time. They want to think of Srila Prabhupada as their main guru. although the GBC has said that Srila Prabhupada may be considered one’s main guru (as siksa-guru). or at least he’ll have to give an entire explanation. and the GBC should continue to reconfirm and better clarify this. These devotees run into practical difficulties because they believe that Srila Prabhupada is their main guru. So. Furthermore. which includes. They don’t want to be denied being considered Prabhupada’s disciples.” thus affirming the very assumption he sought to discredit. and so forth. This much we can agree with. “Prabhupada” when he hasn’t received diksa from him. He attempts to establish that one’s diksa-guru may have relatively much less influence than does Srila Prabhupada. “Who is your guru?” If someone who considers Prabhupada as his prominent or only guru answers. leaving those who define diksa in the traditional way and think of the guru who gave them formal diksa as primary to be tolerated as abnormal. including himself. the standard and foundation for all individual devotees and the Hare Krsna Society as a whole. Dhira Govinda Prabhu wishes the GBC to declare his understanding as the standard. But he then proposes that Srila Prabhupada is every ISKCON devotee’s diksa-guru in the “transcendental sense. Dhira Govinda Prabhu’s solution is to redefine diksa so that Prabhupada is his diksa-guru and therefore not only his primary but his only guru.” This tendency is notable in the PL booklet. he may be rejected as a rtvik proponent. there are many devotees. But as Dhira Govinda Prabhu asserts. worship only him. and do not want to identify the others who gave them diksa and Siksa with the name “guru. For example.and siksa-gurus. These devotees can keep only Prabhupada’s pictures. The GBC has already acknowledged the genuine desires and needs of many devotees to have Prabhupada as their prominent guru. Prabhupada’s instructions remain the basis. taking diksa from one of his followers. his social and vocational positions may be jeopardized.” The author of PL objects to what he perceives as a presumption prevalent in ISKCON that one’s diksa-guru is automatically one’s prominent guru. ISKCON devotees tend to identify only one’s diksa-guru as guru.
” Later he writes. that ISKCON members are publishing calls for drastic reform. Damodara Maharaja) There aren’t two kinds of diksa. except when the rituals are followed simply for show. does not mean that the formal aspects of diksa can be completely neglected. . but often without explanations. to explain why a devotee who accepts Prabhupada as his prominent guru should have his diksa-guru’s picture present when worshipping the Deity. Diksa is simply transcendental. for devotees who understand their primary guru relationship to be with Srila Prabhupada as Siksa-guru. what to speak of in print. including changing the wording of the GBC statement to eliminate the words “can” and “may”. To define diksa. Shree Gopinatha Gaudiya Math. The GBC has delineated a number of specifics in this regard.” (excerpts from Bengali letters. like a marriage done to acquire a visa. We need to consider carefully what transcendental knowledge is and how it is transmitted. It is a fact that prominent members of the GBC as well as other leaders. mind.inclusive and broad-minded terms. surprising. pub. spiritual knowledge is realization and wisdom. 17 and 39) But we should not take the liberty of redefining diksa and diksa-guru. Such knowledge is not just information. while he simultaneously posits his understanding and position as superior with others in need of rectification. We also need practical guidelines for devotees who feel that Prabhupada is their prominent guru. one “transcendental” and the other a mere formality. “Initiation by the spiritual master gives one enthusiasm and inspiration to chant the holy name. labeling them as demeaning to our diksa-gurus or to Srila Prabhupada. As Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura wrote. or even values. therefore. There are also practical steps to take that would help us. And since the general guidance for one whose diksa-guru has fallen is to simply “worship Prabhupada. as in ordinary learning. for example. Rather. Certainly the leaders of ISKCON need to support the GBC’s conclusions about relationships to Srila Prabhupada and diksa and Siksa-gurus. so they can answer in a bona fide and truthful way the question. though these are also taught in the course of diksa and Siksa. and we should avoid understanding them too narrowly. and so on.” one whose diksa-guru is in good standing but with whom he or she has little relationship may question why he can’t also worship Srila Prabhupada exclusively. trans. appearing in Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. It is not. It would be helpful. (see PL pamphlet pages 9. or skills. as Srila Prabhupada sometimes does. write and speak in public forums about the deficiencies in the GBC guru policy. B. “The holy name will manifest in your heart as you go on serving the holy name with body. To solve the very real problems Dhira Govinda Prabhu addresses. “Who is your guru?” There should be guidelines for worship of Deities and gurus’ pictures. This knowledge comes primarily through chanting Hare Krsna and the Gayatri mantras. coupled with following a way of life that supports the chanting. At least verbally in public. as the transmission of transcendental knowledge.S. leaders should not denigrate existing policies. saying that many understandings of guru are possible. Hearing and reciting Sastras helps to confirm the realizations one attains by chanting the holy name. this step would establish that having Prabhupada as one’s prominent guru is not only acceptable but at least equally desirable to any other situation. and words. we thus need a complete understanding of the principle of diksa.
tradition. The diksa-guru accepts a special responsibility for his disciples. He will never force us to surrender to Him. was unwilling to modify the position he took in Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link.acarya. and he can and should worship them all. We are here suffering only because we chose to reject Krsna. But His representatives take the risk of interfering. “initiator”. Many of our acaryas have gone out of their way to explain this distinction. aimed only at sparking discussion. The Prominent Link Of central importance in this discussion is that Srila Prabhupada is.and Siksa-guru without running into serious difficulty. (p. If our diksa-guru is a servant of Krsna’s dearest devotee. we are all the more fortunate to be connected through that additional link. We invited him to author this paper with us.” a devotee can have more than one Vaisnava guru. Dhira Govinda Prabhu. But a humble devotee who follows Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s example of considering Himself dasa-dasanudasa has the best chance of attracting Krsna’s attention. and Sastra. or at least is meant to be. he refused. after extensive discussion. but isn’t such “indirect” connection to Krsna the very idea of parampara? Krsna is eternally enjoying with His pure devotees and has nothing to do with the suffering of this material world. Whom an individual considers as his prominent guru is a matter of the heart. while claiming that his ideas were exploratory. “I offer respect to my gurus. but at least he should be allowed the honor of being considered one’s guru. including Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami in the first chapter of Caitanya-caritamrta and Srila Jiva Gosvami in his discussion of guru-tattva in Sri Bhakti-sandarbha. sadhu. 2) We cannot dispense with the distinction of diksa. and ISKCON law indicate that guru-disciple relationships are individual and cannot be mandated. Just what kind and how much worship the diksa-guru should be given may be debatable. Sadly. One who claims a direct connection with Krsna is most likely ignored by Him. and Krsna respects this desire. But still the role of diksa-guru is special. It should not be dictated to a devotee what faith he must have in his diksa-guru simply on the basis of institutional status. As Krsnadasa Kaviraja has indicated in his mangalacarana verse vande gurun. The diksa-guru may be the last and maybe least link in the parampara. as long as they fall within the boundary of guru. the primary spiritual master for all members of his movement. even if he is only a representative of the primary spiritual master. We want to try to control and enjoy separate from Him. and so the only practical way to regain our lost connection with Krsna is through the parampara. Such is the case for many devotees in ISKCON who didn’t receive initiation from its founder. and understanding. and “officiating acarya”. and therefore his disciples owe him special gratitude. Responses to Excerpts of Srila Prabhupada. One’s “primary” spiritual master may sometimes be a siksa-guru rather than the Vaisnava who gave one initiation. There is etiquette to be maintained. In realizing this it is important not to become distracted by appellations such as “diksa guru”. He will never interfere with our misuse of free will. but faith is ultimately a private matter.Scripture. to work with our team step by step in order to arrive at conclusions with which we all could agree. although for communicative purposes such designations are sometimes necessary. . investigation.
tad-aparitosenaivanyo guruh kriyate. not even the grandparents and more distant forefathers. This is what makes diksa something more than just a formal ceremony. labdhvanugraha acaryat tena sandarsitagamah maha-purusam abhyarcen murtyabhimatayatmanah anugraho mantra-diksa-rupah. In the same way that a child’s parents are personally responsible in a way no one else is. those who empower him. bodhah kalusitas tena dauratmyam prakati-krtam gurur yena parityaktas tena tyaktah pura harih iti brahma-vaivartadau tat-tyaga-nisedhat. so also the diksa-guru takes special trouble and risk for his disciples. agamo mantra-vidhi-sastram. He may be able to do this only on the strength of those he represents. For the disciples to not honor him for this is indecent. but still the personal responsibility is his. . asyaikatvam eka-vacanena bodhyate.The diksa-guru is his disciple’s immediate link. Srila Jiva Gosvami writes in Bhakti-sandarbha (207) about the obligation of respect for one’s diksa-guru: mantra-gurus tv eka evety aha. the one who takes personal responsibility for delivering his disciples to Krsna. tato ’nekaguru-karane purva-tyaga eva siddhah.
is a process. he has already rejected Lord Hari. Maybe. or transcendental knowledge. 3) Initiation. we should look more closely at how our acaryas presented the statement of this verse in context.” (Srila Prabhupada’s translation from Caitanya-caritamrta). He reveals his own wickedness by this act. and Srila Prabhupada in his purport . He cites (without the Sanskrit) a verse that has been given as authoritative by Srila Prabhupada. A person expert in the study of the revealed scriptures knows this process as diksa. Components of this process include receiving and implementing the instructions to wear kanthi mala and Vaisnava tilaka. (p. This verse is cited by Srila Sanatana Gosvami in Hari-bhakti-vilasa (second vilasa). however. 11. The agama is the scripture giving the regulations of chanting the mantra. who reveals to the disciple the injunctions of Vedic scriptures.3. the devotee should worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the particular personal form of the Lord the devotee finds most attractive. Narahari Sarakara. the Brahma-vaivarta and other Puranas forbid rejecting him: ‘One who rejects his guru must have polluted intelligence.’ (Bhag.’ Dissatisfied with his guru. But does this actually mean that the essential definition of “initiation” should be “the transmitting of transcendental knowledge”? If that were so. however.“The mantra-guru. as described above. as is stated: ‘Having obtained the mercy of his spiritual master. Indeed. then there really would be no difference between siksa and diksa. and indeed was cited by the Gaudiya Vaisnava acaryas Sanatana Gosvami. he takes another one. Even before this.” Srila Prabhupada described initiation as a process.48) This mercy is in the form of initiation into the mantra. That this guru is one can be understood from the use of the singular number [in the word acaryat]. and Jiva Gosvami in their foundational explanations of diksa: divyam jnanam yato dadyat kuryat papasya sanksayam tasmad dikseti sa prokta desikais tattva kovidaih “Diksa is the process by which one can awaken his transcendental knowledge and vanquish all reactions caused by sinful activity. his taking more than one guru proves that he has previously rejected [Krsna]. (p. with the essence of this process being the delivery of divya-jnana. The most essential aspect of initiation is receiving transcendental knowledge from a realized spiritual master. and Srila Jiva Gosvami in Bhakti-sandarbha (283). is only one. and receiving a Vaisnava name. from the spiritual master to the disciple. 5) Dhira Govinda Prabhu is attempting here to identify the essence of initiation as the transmission of spiritual knowledge rather than the mere ceremony of officially receiving one’s mantra and new name.
tad vinapi saranapatty-adinam ekatarenapi purusartha-siddher abhihitatvat. But nonetheless if those who follow the paths of such authorities as Sri Narada want their special relationship with the Personality of Godhead. just as there is no need to follow the methods of the Pancaratra. This is as is stated in the Agama [Pancaratra]: divyam jnanam yato dadyat kuryat papasya sanksayam tasmad dikseti sa prokta deSikais tattva kovidaih ato gurum pranamyaiva sarva-svam vinivedya ca grhniyad vaisnavam mantram diksa-purvam vidhanatah ity agamat. the passage of Bhakti-sandarbha: yady api sri-bhagavata-mate pancaratradi-vad arcana-margasyavasyakatvam nasti. Let’s examine one of them. . just by practicing even one of the methods of Saranapatti and so on. “In the opinion of Srimad-Bhagavatam there is no absolute necessity of following the process of arcana. yatha padmottara-khandadav asTaksaradikam adhikrtya vivrtam asti. since it is specifically stated that one can achieve the full perfection of life even without them. tena bhagavata sambandha-viSesa-jnanam ca. which is to be achieved at the feet of their divine spiritual master by his giving them diksa. they must necessarily take diksa and then perform the process of arcanam. Madhya-lila 15. All three of these presentations incorporating the verse are very similar. tathapi sri-naradadivartmanusaradbhih sri-bhagavata saha sambandha-visesam diksa-vidhanena sri-guru-caranasampaditam cikirsadbhih krtayam diksayam arcanam avasyam kriyetaiva. “ ‘Diksa is the process by which one can awaken his transcendental knowledge and vanquish all reactions caused by sinful activity.ot Caitanya-caritamrtya.108. A person expert in the study of the revealed scriptures knows this process as diksa. divyam jnanam hy atra Srimati mantre bhagavat-svarupa-jnanam.
brahmanas have no authorization to engage in their prescribed duties of studying the Vedas and so on. and should accept a Vaisnava mantra by properly carrying out the process of diksa. as has been elaborately described in the Uttara-khanda of the Padma Purana. but after taking initiation they are authorized. Therefore one should make oneself auspicious and reputable [by accepting initiation].’ “ ‘Similarly those who have not taken diksa are not authorized to perform such activities as chanting mantras and worshiping the Deity of the Lord. offer everything he possesses to him. in the discussion of the eight-syllable and other mantras.” diksa yathagame.“ ‘Therefore one should first bow down to his guru.’ “ ‘Transcendental knowledge’ here means knowledge of the identity of the Personality of Godhead within one’s divine mantra. dvijanam anupanitanam sva-karmadhyayanadisu yathadhikaro nastiha syac copanayanad anu tathatradiksitanam tu mantra-devarcanadisu nadhikaro ’sty atah kuryad atmanam siva-samstutam “Diksa is as is described in the Agama: ‘When they have not been initiated.’ ” [end of the Bhakti-sandarbha section] . and also knowledge of one’s individual relationship with the Supreme Lord.
The identification of diksa with the transmission of transcendental knowledge is only mentioned in a secondary way. The syllable di in diksa is not actually derived from the same root as divyam.” Of course. diksa is a specific Pancaratrika method of mantra initiation. even according to the strict rules of grammar. the standard practices of Pancaratrika devotional service. nor does the bare syllable ksa necessarily mean ksapayati. known in the Vedic tradition as artha-vada. are often given by scriptures and their commentators to evoke appreciation of facts that have been already established by more scientific methods. It is rather only a tatastha-laksana (secondary characteristic). therefore. the properly observed vows of initiation do lead to the gain of spiritual knowledge and defeat of ignorance. The syllable di alludes to divyam jnanam. This is also shown in Srila Sanatana Gosvami’s equivalent presentation in Hari-bhakti-vilasa. which Srila Rupa Gosvami has stipulated as one of the required elements of vaidhi sadhana-bhakti. . not to give its essential definition. preceding them with the heading: atha diksa-mahatmyam (“Now the glories of diksa. As Srila Prabhupada also pointed out when he also cited and explained the first words of these verses in several different initiation lectures. He cites the same two verses beginning divyam jnanam. but they are not meant to be taken as the essential definition or literal proof of anything. nor is it necessarily connected with the noun jnanam. Properly speaking.”) In other words. nor is the object of that verb necessary “ignorance. and as part of a two-verse statement from an anonymous Pancaratra that goes on to define diksa as the official receiving of a Vaisnava mantra. Such poetic explanations. in citing this verse out of context as proof that the transmission of knowledge is the svarupa-laksana (essential definition) of diksa. Srila Sanatana cites the two verses to highlight the importance of diksa. the first two lines are giving a poetic analysis of the syllables di-ksa.It should be obvious from having read this that diksa is here being described as basically a process of receiving a Vaisnava mantra so that one can begin the formal methods of Deity worship and mantra chanting. and ksa figuratively indicates ksapayati (“it eliminates [ignorance]”). but these are secondary characteristics. There is no way it can be justified.
he is not physically present and so is not giving diksa to anyone currently. and anything else worth knowing we know only by his divine grace and in terms of his understanding and attitudes.Srila Prabhupada is giving transcendental knowledge. or “diksa guru”. It is a specific function. Srila Prabhupada is the principle siksa-guru for anyone who wants to accept him as such. unfortunately for all of us. any more than he is their biological father.” since history will show how that Siksa transformed the world. and prominent link” defined as “the Vaisnava who directly gives transcendental knowledge more than any other devotee. instead he has taken the usual measure of authorizing his disciples to initiate in the parampara. the devotees currently serving as the representatives of the . He is giving siksa. Diksa is not exactly the same as siksa. But he is not the last link in the chain for his granddisciples. For devotees who are receiving divya-jnana directly from Srila Prabhupada. He is the main Vaisnava doing this for members of his movement. We shouldn’t be disappointed that his legacy “can only be called siksa. and that he is directly their siksa-guru. then that transcendental knowledge can only be called siksa. which is founded on the transmission of transcendental knowledge. He is alive in his instructions. current. But. Someone may assert “If transcendental knowledge is given by someone other than the Vaisnava who performs the initiation ceremony. This fact does not diminish his supremacy in ISKCON. current. more than from any other Vaisnava. it can rightly be said that Srila Prabhupada is their direct. and in the living institution ISKCON. with “direct. “initiator”. and prominent link to the parampara.” In the framework of The Prominent Link (PL). An authorized diksa-guru in ISKCON should be considered Srila Prabhupada’s empowered representative.6) Yes. then our faith in him is not as strong as it should be. which we cannot ignore without falling into confusion. the heart of the PL understanding is that Srila Prabhupada is the primary Vaisnava directly giving transcendental knowledge. 7) We can agree without hesitation that Srila Prabhupada is the most prominent link to the sampradaya for all of his followers. at least to the extent that they are interested to hear from him . and without his blessings we will never be able to receive the full mercy of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. and deserves the respect of his disciples. If we cannot believe that Srila Prabhupada can empower his disciples despite their imperfections. Therefore it cannot be rightly said that Srila Prabhupada is giving diksa. and thus he is performing the most important element of the process of initiation. Whomever is labeled “siksa guru”. (p.” (p. Vedic civilization. And in accordance with the ancient tradition. not diksa. But still there is the practical distinction of diksa and siksa. but he is not the diksaguru of all of his followers. he is our most important link to the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya. the essential focus is on the process of initiation. nor should it be a reason for his representatives to foolishly imitate him. which according to all known sastras and practice is always performed by a current representative of one’s sampradaya. Whatever we may know about Krsna consciousness. in his murti. There is no definite evidence available that Srila Prabhupada ever gave instructions to contravene this age-old tradition of parampara. So yes. Terminology and labeling is not a chief concern. Srila Prabhupada is our prime source of transcendental knowledge.
founder-acarya in giving diksa are personally responsible for their disciples and have a special spiritual relationship with them. It is certainly appropriate for new bhaktas to worship Srila Prabhupada as their guru. Srila Prabhupada is initiating sincere followers. without accepting Srila Prabhupada as one’s guru. 10) Granted. from Srila Prabhupada. but this amounts to saying that newcomers to ISKCON do not need to take diksa. The connection does not become indirect at the time of the ceremony. or initiation. Some may elect to avoid diksa. because anyone else standing between the Prabhupada and the disciple would degrade the connection. When someone first contacts ISKCON. but if he wants to become a full member of the sampradaya he needs to take diksa. is not only a formality of acknowledging one’s already established connection with Srila Prabhupada. (p. the newcomer does not need to search for another Vaisnava to connect him with Srila Prabhupada. but that does not mean that they are never going to take diksa from one of his representatives. In fact. however. One who is wary about accepting any current ISKCON guru is still preliminarily connected to Srila Prabhupada by whatever faith he has developed and by however he can follow Prabhupada’s instructions. or else that Srila Prabhupada is their diksa-guru. the official initiation ceremony is a formal acknowledgement that the devotee has directly connected with Srila Prabhupada. because of course he is their guru. 10) Is the Vaisnava conducting the ceremony his disciple’s guru or not? If so. the more likely it is that the parampara and Krsna will recognize him. (p. Again. and they should continue to do so. and thereby directly connecting with him. at least in most parts of the organization. 9) Sorry. Diksa. We suggest that once someone has done this. as evidenced by accepting Srila Prabhupada in his heart as his spiritual master and following Srila Prabhupada’s instructions. We show the extent of our trust in Srila Prabhupada and his ability to empower others by entrusting ourselves to his disciples. The Vaisnava conducting the initiation ceremony does not become the connection between the initiate and Srila Prabhupada. and we are confident that he will continue to do so for many generations. but still we should not discourage newcomers from doing what Srila Rupa Gosvami asked them to do. (p. Srila Prabhupada is transmitting transcendental knowledge. is the qualification for one to become formally initiated in Srila Prabhupada’s movement. It is act of obeying Srila Prabhupada and his predecessors by reposing one’s faith in one of his representatives. In this transcendental sense. then the intended idea is that Srila Prabhupada must be the new disciple’s one and only guru. But the actual principle of paramapara works in just the opposite way: The more a devotee becomes servant of the servant of the servant. . then why not let him be called guru? If not. there is no meaning to thinking oneself a devotee in ISKCON. The direct link between the initiate and Srila Prabhupada already exists. for a few months he is encouraged to directly accept Srila Prabhupada as his guru. we propose that accepting divya-jnana.
because Srila Prabhupada completely fills this role. comes from above. surrender does have its conditions. which includes the founder-acarya and his representatives. because of his mystic powers. or good looks or sweet voice. but as long as the diksa-guru is a faithful Vaisnava his disciple should always show him respect. by ISKCON devotees who worship Srila Prabhupada but do not want to worship their diksa-gurus? To answer this we first have to decide what we mean by worship. however. But if there are qualified gurus. that one should surrender and become his disciple. such as the Vaisnava who performed the initiation ceremony. …for all members of Srila Prabhupada’s movement the worship of Srila Prabhupada is sufficient. It is not because of a guru’s own absolute status. not just an totally ordinary person. is the Supreme Lord satisfied. The main qualification of a guru is his surrender to his guru and to the parampara. that surrender is not “unconditional. of at very least acknowledging that one’s guru is some sort of guru. That power. “in good faith”). namely that the guru should be bona fide (literally. or more to the point. (p. as the link to Srila Prabhupada. (p. In that sense. and declaring Srila Prabhupada to be everyone’s initiator will not change the situation. but he is the one closest point with whom his disciple makes immediate contact. a faithful representative of the sampradaya. Even if connection with that point is disrupted. Those who could not take initiation directly from Prabhupada can still become fortunate if they meet someone empowered by Prabhupada to carry on the parampara. then ISKCON is finished or will have to be dormant for some time. at least as far as the diksa process goes. 19) Is it actually sufficient. are not the point of unconditional surrender.” There are conditions. or in some other philosophical capacity. without having to imagine that Prabhupada is still giving diksa. and it is still active even in Srila Prabhupada’s physical absence. a devotee’s connection with his siksa-gurus can still easily save him. then the same mercy is available as much as it was in Prabhupada’s presence. however. or erudition. No one else needs to be worshiped as the link to the parampara. If there are no such qualified gurus in ISKCON. Devotional service is not linear in the sense that when we surrender to a guru we are giving ourselves up only to a single “point. Starting at the one end of the scale. though of course he accepts assistance from his followers. The diksa-guru is not the only point of surrender. In some cases a disciple may receive little instruction from his diksa-guru and have more faith in a siksa-guru.” Initiation means joining the company of the sampradaya. though it does contend .Srila Prabhupada’s followers who assist him in helping to connect a devotee directly to him. it is clear from Krsna’s instructions to Uddhava that He is not pleased by complete neglect of one’s guru: Some devotees may choose to worship a disciple of Srila Prabhupada. which could mean anything from a minimal show of respect. The main strength of ISKCON is Srila Prabhupada’s power to attract faith. to the extreme fanaticism of being ready to reject Prabhupada and Krsna in the name of following the guru. 17) When a devotee surrenders himself to any guru. The PL framework does not directly address this.
the spiritual master of the great sages. The diksa-guru of a properly initiated devotee in ISKCON. which in our line is practiced according to pancaratrika principles. If the disciple wants to participate in the devotional method of arcanam. should be accepted as a valid practice in Srila Prabhupada’s movement. (p. It is commendable that ISKCON devotees sometimes worship Sukadeva Gosvami in their personal chanting and meditation. includes Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s siksa-guru. Undoubtedly he is our guru. it is known that Srila Bhaktivinoda never behaved disrespectfully toward him. however. Since this is the formal pancaratrika method. (p. but still to satisfy the parampara and Krsna the prescribed etiquette should be maintained. to not formally worship the devotee who performs the initiating ceremony is not an inherent minimization of that devotee. though we don’t formally worship him. and we hear different stories about this from different sources. When he spoke to Pariksit. that the guru gives the offering to his guru and it is passed up the line). For example. glorify and revere him. rather than his diksa-guru. The etiquette in formal worship is that the disciple offers to his guru. it is not advisable to recommend to devotees that they ignore their diksa-gurus. the guru who is given the offering first is normally the pancaratrika diksa-guru. unless the gurus were never proper Vaisnavas or else have seriously deviated from Vaisnava principles. we don’t recite his pranam mantras when we enter the temple room and his picture is not on the ISKCON altars. 22) Sukadeva Gosvami is honored as gurum muninam. Are we minimizing the great saint Srila Sukadeva Gosvami? No. for example. is the immediate link in the diksa-parampara for his disciple. and every item offered should first be offered to the guru who gave the worshiper his mantras. the guruparampara given to us by Srila Prabhupada for worship in ISKCON. Clearly he is situated at the topmost platform of devotional service. In his . 19) Given what we have discussed above.that any member of Srila Prabhupada’s movement who accepts Srila Prabhupada as the guru to be worshiped as the current link to the parampara must be permitted to do so. The Prominent Link (PL) model contends that worship of Srila Prabhupada as the direct connection to the disciplic succession. We honor. Because the guru is a dear devotee of the Lord. because Srila Prabhupada instructed how to properly honor Srila Sukadeva Gosvami according to our particular circumstance. though the PL model does not maintain that worship of others as the connection to Srila Prabhupada should be prohibited in the movement. Many great Vaisnavas are not formally worshipped. without worship of anyone else as the link to Srila Prabhupada. the speaker of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. the Lord does not refuse the offerings of imperfect disciples. The Pancaratrika methods of Deity worship prescribe that worship be offered with authorized mantras. and this does not include formal worship as described above. There may be exceptions. Consider the case of Srila Sukadeva Gosvami. Whatever may have been the actual relationship between Srila Bhaktivinoda and his diksa-guru. Sukadeva’s own guru Vyasadeva and parama-guru Narada were happy to sit in the audience and listen. Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji. But still offering puja first to one’s diksa-guru is the norm practiced in all sampradayas. he should offer at least a minimum of worship to his diksa-guru. Similarly. But we do not make formal offerings to Sukadeva in our regular puja because he is not in the line of initiators of the BrahmaMadhva-Gaudiya sampradaya. Some ISKCON devotees may repose most of their faith only in Srila Prabhupada and little faith in their initiating gurus. and the guru asks the Lord being worshiped to accept the offering (or rather.
including worship. no one in Srila Prabhupada’s movement will ever experience that the Vaisnava perceived and worshipped as the current link to the parampara will experience difficulties in spiritual life. here it is definitely implied that if a guru does not forbid his disciples to worship himself.heart he may spend day and night worshiping only Srila Prabhupada. that devotee could legitimately instruct the initiate to worship Srila Prabhupada rather than himself. to his diksa-guru. has caused the movement to degrade to a matha mentality. or to observe the diksa-gurus’ Vyasa-puja once a year? Does it have to be a question of worshiping either Prabhupada or the diksa-guru. It did in the past. 24) Although elsewhere this paper claims that its model is not meant to be adopted as the only allowable viewpoint in ISKCON. It continues to do so in defiance of ISKCON law in some places. So the useful questions to ask are: How much is this healthy norm established in ISKCON? Where it isn’t—why? And how to rectify the situation? We don’t think that. (p. the representative of Prabhupada ( diksa. and that disciples should not recite pranama-mantras for their diksa-gurus. (p. whomever is regarded as the link can instruct the initiates to worship the same altar that Srila Prabhupada gave us. in terms of worship. the disciple would naturally feel gratitude and want to express it. he is deviant. including established ISKCON temples. celebration of Vyasa-puja. For the sake of unity of the movement it would seem that such directives from devotees who perform initiations would be warranted. even if someone doesn’t view Srila Prabhupada as the current link. 23) Fanatic guru worship does degrade ISKCON. By retaining the worship practices Srila Prabhupada established. and other practices. to recite only Srila Prabhupada’s pranam mantras. when the Mayapura temple room was encumbered by eleven extra vyasasanas during the Gaura-purnima festivals. and he may spend hours every day reading Prabhupada’s books and speaking his glories. as long as disciples are not discouraged from also celebrating their diksagurus’ appearance days. There is nothing wrong with the suggestion that the most important observance of Vyasa-puja should be for Srila Prabhupada. But is it an act of fanaticism to have a picture of the pujari’s diksa-guru temporarily on the altar. These proposals. as already discussed. or can both be accommodated fairly? In a healthy gurudisciple relationship in ISKCON. However. And we don’t think we will find that the cause of all our evils is that disciples worship their diksa-gurus. and to celebrate Srila Prabhupada’s Vyasa-puja ceremony as the primary Vyasa-puja ceremony. . Even if one conceives of the devotee who conducts the initiation ceremony to be in the absolute position and the current link to the parampara. but still there are standards he should follow in showing appropriate respect. at the expense of an appreciation of Srila Prabhupada’s proper place in the life of the initiate. It is proposed that no pictures of any guru after Prabhupada should be on ISKCON altars. we will find the situation either all black or all white. on carefully examination of what is actually going on in ISKCON.or siksa-guru) would constantly direct the disciple in serving Prabhupada’s instructions and his mission. In exchange for this. Many observers have commented that overemphasis by the initiate on the Vaisnava performing the initiation ceremony. are against the principles of pancaratrika worship and the practice of Vaisnavas and others in all sampradayas.
27) Srila Prabhupada. 26) If there can only be one guru in ISKCON. distracts from Srila Prabhupada’s status as “the spiritual master”. whether the guides are allowed to be called gurus or not. one of the themes of a keynote speech at the 1999 GBC meetings was specifically that Srila Prabhupada is not the direct and current link to the disciplic succession for devotees who did not receive formal initiation from him. Naturally and unavoidably. are all real gurus. is the Vaisnava who performs the formal initiation ceremony. trust and allegiance first and foremost in Srila Prabhupada. But the premise that ISKCON can only have one guru is not correct.It is not a practical proposal that by retaining the eternal appearance of worship as it was in Srila Prabhupada’s presence the tragedy of guru falldown will never again be experienced in ISKCON. and if the guides deviate their followers will naturally suffer. Prabhupada is the first among many gurus. He is pre-eminent. accepting this premise. we should furthermore correct his title to just acarya. despite the resolutions from moments before that all members of Srila Prabhupada’s movement must place their faith. The idea that Srila Prabhupada would be the sole object of worship in ISKCON was mentioned and discussed. Artificially elevating Srila Prabhupada to the imaginary status of perpetual diksa-guru is no substitute for fulfilling the actual need of his representatives becoming purer in Krsna consciousness. And. and most of the leaders present. and his many followers who give valuable instruction. his disciples who give initiation. Rather. and he is siksa-guru for everyone who wants to hear from and follow him. which is one meaning of the epithet prabhu-pada. the conception that continued to be maintained by this GBC. instead of founder-acarya since this would clarify that no others could ever be called an acarya. A prominent GBC who conducts initiation ceremonies emphatically declared “But disciples must be able to worship their guru! They have to be allowed to worship their guru!” Clear from his statement was that. just after the GBC passed a resolution designating Srila Prabhupada with terms such as “the preeminent siksa guru for every member of the institution” and “the preeminent and compulsory siksa-guru”. who is the preeminent siksa guru for every member of the institution. the GBC body was discussing aspects of worship. Using qualifying terms. In 1999. as long as the diksa-gurus represent Prabhupada faithfully and direct their disciples to his teachings . Srila Prabhupada is the founding acarya of ISKCON. notwithstanding whatever official glorification may be afforded to Srila Prabhupada in resolutions. such as “preeminent siksa guru”. and he cannot be categorized as guru in any specific sense. the guru who is referred to when we refer to the singular spiritual master. we should choose Srila Prabhupada. was that the real guru. In support of this minimization of Srila Prabhupada’s role in his movement. and of course he is the representative of the Gaudiya sampradaya going back to Caitanya Mahaprabhu. (p. to describe Srila Prabhupada’s standing in his movement and the role he plays in the life of the members of his movement. (p. new devotees will tend to place their trust in those who personally guide them. and the fact that he can empower his disciples to also be gurus only adds to his glories. the original light from which all other lights in ISKCON are lit. then yes. Advising disciples to worship their diksa-gurus does not diminish Srila Prabhupada’s position but only glorifies it more.
(p. the book distributor continues to be actively concerned about the progress of the devotee to whom he distributed a book. even if the empowered disciple is nowhere near equal to Prabhupada. It involves the acceptance of vows. A similar mentality should exist in the temple president. But diksa is a separate. devotee A mentors devotee B. who are initiating on his behalf. and devotee B receives formal initiation from devotee A. 30) This is a thinly veiled declaration of the rtvik doctrine. C. that Srila Prabhupada is the current diksaguru of ISKCON. and Prabhupada and his predecessors kindly share that responsibility. though this does not nullify the individual responsibility for one’s advancement in Krsna consciousness. The position of an empowered representative of Srila Prabhupada is relative in the same way. Devotee B does not . for the duration of his movement. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada. To deny this is means to claim that Srila Prabhupada is God. is taking responsibility for their spiritual life.” (Caitanya-caritamrta. special function according to our scriptures and acaryas. there will be less disturbance caused. The only way to make this statement agreeable to the our actual siddhanta is to interpret it as meaning that Prabhupada is accepting disciples on behalf of the sampradaya through the agency of his disciples. when the former newcomer is now initiated and situated in service within Srila Prabhupada’s movement. Suppose a book distributer gives a book to someone. when devotees who serve as guides and mentors have difficulty. it denies that diksa is anything at all separate from siksa. Devotee B is truly dependent on devotee A for his spiritual life. and has accepted guidance from any devotee mentors. Adi 5. Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja says. the senior congregation member preached to the newcomer at the Sunday Feast. In other words. personal responsibility that deserves special reciprocation from its recipients. (p. will naturally be eager to serve the advancement of the newcomer in any way he can. (p. ara saba bhrtya: “Lord Krsna alone is the supreme controller. based on his empowerment by his predecessor acaryas. if he is in proper consciousness. a spiritual master at the topmost stage of Krsna conscious realization. For followers of Srila Prabhupada. the giving of mantras and the taking of special. When that person visits the temple the book distributor. But this is not exactly what our acaryas teach us. 31) This explanation equates the role of the diksa-guru with that of any preacher.142) Only the Supreme Lord is absolute. there is profound security in knowing that the mahabhagavata A. With this understanding of Srila Prabhupada’s absolute position and the relative position of other members of his movement. Accepting these disciples means that Srila Prabhupada takes responsibility to guide these souls back to Godhead. In another scenario. Years later. Srila Prabhupada’s position as the founder-acarya of ISKCON is relative. and all others are His servants. ekale iSvara krsna. 33) Here it is proposed that in ISKCON Srila Prabhupada’s position is absolute and everyone else’s position is relative. The diksa-guru takes responsibility. on an individual and institutional level. and the Vaisnava selected by the new initiate to conduct the initiation ceremony.Srila Prabhupada continues to accept disciples who sincerely dedicate their lives to following his instructions and who willingly receive the transcendental knowledge that he imparts.
and can be focused on any authority. Devotee A in the above scenario has brought devotee B to Krsna consciousness and is serving as his main spiritual master. (p. not just Srila Prabhupada. Sri Krsna and Srila Prabhupada could arrange for another Vaisnava to assume the role of the current and direct link at some time. What is clear is that Srila Prabhupada is doing this at present. and prominent link to the parampara. then indirectly from Prabhupada’s representative. But in the special case The Prominent Link presents above. by dint of Srila Prabhupada being the primary Vaisnava who gives direct transcendental knowledge. How does declaring Srila Prabhupada the prominent link solve this problem? By . There is certainly no need for anyone to aspire for that role yet within ISKCON This paper describes devotees who genuinely experience Srila Prabhupada as the direct. If someone is actually connected with Srila Prabhupada then he won’t exhibit such behavior. permanent Siksa-guru of ISKCON. current. so theoretically some one else might become the Prabhupada of a distant future. 38) This makes sense if we understand “current and direct link” to mean the universal. (p. There are plenty of young devotees who take pride in their relationship with their guru and won’t listen to what other Vaisnavas have to say. devotee B apparently cannot understand Srila Prabhupada directly. Just as our Srila Prabhupada is what his Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada was for the Gaudiya MaTha. 45) Fanaticism tends to be endemic among neophytes. but also neglect of Vaisnavas in general in the name of guru worship. and gets his teachings indirectly through devotee A. devotee B is not yet initiated in the essential. and he wanted himself to be the siksa-guru directly teaching future generations of ISKCON in a way in which Srila Bhaktisiddhanta has not been a directly accessible main teacher for most of us. When despite Srila Prabhupada’s efforts to make his teachings universally understandable such a case arises. current and past? He can receive the knowledge he needs. transcendental sense. and there is no need for others to aspire for this role.” and as an excuse for arrogance. From the viewpoint of the PL model. They are grand disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. 35) Look at the situation of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples. So maybe the problem is not only neglect of Prabhupada.have much direct understanding of Srila Prabhupada’s instructions. if not directly from Prabhupada. So why can’t devotee B be properly connected with the parampara and its links. Of course this can be misused by someone claiming “I’m directly connected with Srila Prabhupada. (p. Srila Prabhupada should be able to empower devotee A to pass on his teachings in devotee A’s own words. but received their basic understanding of Krsna consciousness from Srila Prabhupada instead. He has not properly connected with the current link to the parampara. so I don’t listen to anything anyone else says. His knowledge about Krsna consciousness and Srila Prabhupada is almost entirely through devotee A. because he is not receiving most of his direct divya-jnana from Srila Prabhupada. and Srila Jiva Gosvami Prabhupada was for his generation. Srila Prabhupada wanted it to be this way. the potency of the parampara can nonetheless convey itself fully intact.
To this end. they need to be identified and corrected. A devotee may be sincerely trying to dedicate his life to Prabhupada’s service. and should never be forced by legislation or intimidation. the Governing Body Commission issued a preliminary statement and then delegated the Sastric Advisory Council (SAC) to carefully evaluate Dhira Govinda Prabhu’s booklet and proposals in light of guru. but at the same time he may still be immature. Over the past year. The Vaisnava sampradaya is not meant to be a forum for alternative systems of belief. We present this model as a valid way to conceive of Srila Prabhupada’s position. which isn’t true. To the extent that such force and intimidation exist today in ISKCON. and so cannot endorse the erroneous opinion that Srila Prabhupada is the one current initiating guru of ISKCON. (p. It’s possible to be connected to Prabhupada but fanatic. which must mean that he has some real spiritual connection with Prabhupada. Our mandate was to search not only for any possible defects in Dhira Govinda Prabhu’s presentation but also for any good points. they were not bound by it. going back to the original associates of Lord Caitanya. This does not necessarily mean supplanting other systems and conceptualizations. we have to represent the sampradaya’s siddhanta. Conclusion Dhira Govinda Prabhu last year asked the Governing Body Commission of ISKCON to consider the proposals that he made in his booklet Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link. We share many of his . At its Mayapur 2002 meeting. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. but rather the institution for preserving of the unchanging philosophy of the sampradaya’s founder. there has been a great deal of such individual expression in our sampradaya. A devotee’s choice of spiritual guides is a matter of the heart. Although the SAC members were aware of the negative preliminary statement by the GBC. sadhu and sastra. It implies that someone who exhibits fanaticism has no real connection with Srila Prabhupada. the SAC members devoted hundreds of hours to fulfilling their obligation to consider Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link. The author of PL has made a sincere attempt to address these real problems.reducing the possible objects of fanaticism to just one? The proposition “If someone is actually connected with Srila Prabhupada then he won’t exhibit such behavior” is logically troublesome. we request that the ideas and proposals described herein be accepted and implemented. and had a chance to extensively discuss his views with the SAC members. Though we don’t contend that it is the only legitimate view of Srila Prabhupada. though it does mean that this model be allowed to at least coexist with other methods and systems for conceiving of and implementing the continuation of the parampara. Srila Prabhupada himself did not favor the kind of pluralism The Prominent Link promotes. 51) As members of the Gaudiya sampradaya. with due Vaisnava respect for both the work and its author. All of the SAC members have a history of friendly relations with Dhira Govinda Prabhu and all share a deep appreciation for his many contributions to our Society. Dhira Govinda Prabhu was made a party to SAC’s deliberations for several weeks. Thus there’s no causal relationship between being connected and avoiding fanaticism. or not properly connected to Prabhupada and fanatic. Historically. This does not mean that there cannot be room for individual variety in relationships. but unfortunately he has proposed a philosophically unsound solution.
p. This fact may not be apparent. however. a terminology given to us by Srila Prabhupada and the previous acaryas. then. It is there in statements such as. Dhira Govinda Prabhu said that if he were to answer according to the PL understanding. In the introduction to this paper. After all. Many questions arose. of course. of course. few would object. are the devotees who are now conducting initiation ceremonies the diksa-gurus of their disciples or not? Is Srila Prabhupada the one diksa-guru of those getting their initiation ceremonies today or not? It took a great deal of questioning of Dhira Govinda Prabhu to get a clear understanding of his intended meaning. it was difficult to understand the full implications of his statements in PL. Occasionally. Perhaps this is why some ISKCON members have wondered. something everyone in ISKCON will support.concerns about the guru question in ISKCON. “What is all the fuss about? Why are they on Dhira Govinda’s case? All he is saying is that Prabhupada is everyone’s topmost guru. that is not all that Dhira Govinda Prabhu is saying. According to PL. and the other gurus should adopt a lower profile. this implicit conclusion does come close to being stated explicitly. and these other masters. 30) This conclusion can also be found in the practical proposal that Dhira Govinda Prabhu sent to the GBC in advance of its 2002 Mayapur meeting. We assume the same would be true for all ISKCON members who received initiation after Prabhupada’s departure and who agree with the PL position. however. In our deliberations. is this conclusion prominently and clearly stated in PL. A surface reading of PL suggests that Dhira Govinda Prabhu is just saying “let’s put Srila Prabhupada in the center. wherein he suggests the GBC should endorse the . we have mentioned some of the good points in PL.” If that were all he was saying. especially in his Society. exhibit their subordination to him by remaining at his feet. But after much careful study. But here is the main one.and diksa-guru terminology.” ( PL. he is supreme. by identifying Srila Prabhupada as a “link” and today’s diksa-gurus as “those who perform initiation ceremonies.” it was not easy to see exactly what he was saying in terms of the traditional Vaisnava understanding of actual guru-disciple relationships. For example. Dhira Govinda Prabhu himself is in the position of having received his initiations after Srila Prabhupada’s departure. And that again is something few will disagree with. to those who do not read PL carefully. When asked by a SAC member to identify his one diksa-guru. Unfortunately. he would have to say that Srila Prabhupada was his one diksa-guru.” which is. “Srila Prabhupada continues to accept disciples who sincerely dedicate their lives to following his instructions and who willingly receive the transcendental knowledge that he imparts. we concluded that Dhira Govinda Prabhu’s presentation of Srila Prabhupada’s relationship to ISKCON members who took initiation after his physical departure significantly contradicts the understandings given to us by Srila Prabhupada and his predecessor acaryas. we found that because Dhira Govinda Prabhu consciously avoided using the standard siksa. that is the meaning of the title Prabhupada—among all prabhus or masters (including spiritual masters). Nowhere. He talks about Srila Prabhupada being the prominent link to the parampara.
for the reasons given in the body of this paper. For our part. I shall accept. the PL author fails to maintain Srila Prabhupada’s original intention. So divya is di. then where is the question of other function? There is no question. and if you do not do the duties.4. Di… divya. If the conclusion of PL is wrong.” Diksa. that his disciples would one day become diksa-gurus. No obscure meaning should be screwed out of it. initiating spiritual masters. That very word initiation suggests. conversations and letters.1 Srila Prabhupada gives some guidelines for one presenting conclusions to the society of devotees according to one’s realization: “The original purpose of the text must be maintained. “Yes. Instead. so you accept the terms of service.and gayatri mantra-diksa. you become promoted. There are two words. directly connect with him by serving his vani and accepting that vani as the guiding force of their life.” So members of ISKCON should ask themselves. explaining. Although the transmission of transcendental knowledge is connected with diksa. 1973): Devotee (2): How important is formal initiation? Prabhupada: Formal initiation means to accept. The author of PL concludes that the essence of initiation (diksa) is the transmission of transcendental knowledge (divya-jnana). That’s all. Just like if you enter in an office establishment. we do not agree with Dhira Govinda Prabhu that Srila Prabhupada is the one diksa-guru for all members of ISKCON. That is initiation. including those who took initiation after his departure. then they have to seriously consider why Srila Prabhupada himself did not promote this understanding. stated in the texts of his books. you formally accept. to abide by the orders of Krsna and His representative. This is the beginning. whereby his disciples would give harinama. They have to seriously consider why Srila Prabhupada established another system. “Do I agree with Dhira Govinda Prabhu that Srila Prabhupada is the one diksa-guru for all members of ISKCON. Now.” As an explanation of diksa. That is initiation. he manufactures another system from his interpretations of some statements Srila Prabhupada made about divya-jnana and diksa. This is readily apparent when we look at how Srila Prabhupada himself discusses divya-jnana and initiation. sir. Then you go on serving. ksapayati. officially. including those who took initiation after his departure?” If any ISKCON devotees do agree with that statement. and jnanam. as this would eliminate the distinction between siksa and diksa. February 22. I shall do whatever you say. divya-jnana. Officially accept. lectures. Initiation means this is the beginning of accepting the orders of Krsna and His representative to carry out.” This is initiation. that is . “This is the beginning. like that. you get salary increase. You become recognized. it is not its defining characteristic. That is formal initiation. Srila Prabhupada had another idea. spiritual knowledge. it is possible that the method of arriving at the conclusion was also wrong. You become officer. PL fails this test. You become big officer. Divya-jnana means transcendental. official acceptance of the job. In his purport to Srimad Bhagavatam 1. In his presentation. diksa. in the context of an actual initiation ceremony (Auckland.statement that “it is legitimate to consider that Srila Prabhupada is initiating devotees who genuinely. This understanding is applicable regardless of who conducted the formal initiation ceremony for the devotee.
but as the one who on behalf of Krsna grants us His shelter. Srila Prabhupada indicated that the formal agreement between guru and disciple ratified by the initiation ceremony is the substance of diksa. the combination. . i.” So after one has through some initial faith attained the association of devotees. But Srila Prabhupada never said that his disciples should not accept any worship when the time would come for them to become gurus. for He gives us instructions and an opportunity to serve Him. Therefore we take promise from the disciple that “You chant so many times. what is left? The other principal point is the recommendation that no one except Srila Prabhupada should receive any formal worship or respect as guru. Then everything comes automatically. In short. . Once this connection has been established. He is the original preceptor. for he delivers one the shelter of the lotus feet of Madana-mohana. So diksa means the initiation to begin transcendental activities. This is called diksa. whereas the instructing spiritual master is a personal representative of Srila Govindadeva vigraha. transcendental knowledge (siksa). with His service. one becomes qualified to get the full benefit of chanting the holy name. he has to chant. then how he can make progress?” In terms of practical understandings spoken in connection with the practices he established. Of course. This happens in our Society at the time of harinama-diksa.47): “Srila Sanatana Gosvami is the ideal spiritual master [diksa-guru]. connecting the disciple properly with the disciplic succession is the distinguishing characteristic of diksa and the diksa-guru. In fact. sir. The topic comes up in the following exchange between Mr. And the guru who gives us that formal shelter is the diksa-guru. this recommendation contradicts the many statements in Srila Prabhupada’s books that a disciple should offer worship to his gurus. December 22. Sri Govindaji acts exactly like the siksa-guru [instructing spiritual master] by teaching Arjuna the Bhagavad-gita.” “Yes. 1976): . one gets a second birth. Srila Gopinatha is the ultimate attraction in spiritual realization. That is called initiation. and benefit from. Some will say that those statements do not necessarily apply to Prabhupada’s disciples who are functioning as gurus. The initiating spiritual master is a personal manifestation of Srila Madana-mohana vigraha. sir. one is freed from previous sinful reactions. Malhotra and Srila Prabhupada (Room Conversation. then the disciple can properly receive.” “Yes.” That is initiation. By this formal acceptance one is linked to the disciplic succession. one becomes qualified to receive the full benefit of divya-jnana. The diksa-guru is here defined not as the one who over time gives us a certain quantity or quality of transcendental knowledge relative to others. the next important step in devotional life is to formally accept the shelter of Krsna. and one is accepted as a bona fide servant of Krsna. thus establishing our actual connection with Krsna. If we subtract from PL the incorrect doctrine that Srila Prabhupada is still giving diksa today. He has to observe. diksa. In the beginning he is faulty.ksa. The correct understanding of the diksa function as distinct from the Siksa function is given by Srila Prabhupada in his purports to the Caitanya-caritamrta (Adi 1.” “You observe these rules and regulations. about how to function as a servant of Krsna. di-ksa. Both of these Deities are worshiped at Vrndavana. and with the disciplic succession. .e. the transmission of instructions. he gave indications that he did expect that they would receive formal worship.
as doing this would violate Srila Prabhupada’s expectation. But he also expected that all of these gurus would continue to remain subordinate to him. In short. .” Never say. So I remain subordinate to my guru. then that is offense. including those who underwent initiation ceremonies . That continues. But they also have an obligation to assist Srila Prabhupada in propagating the disciplic succession by accepting diksa-gurus in the line coming from Srila Prabhupada and giving proper respect to those gurus in harmony with the principles established in the Society he created. Malhotra: But amongst his disciples he will be worshiped… Prabhupada: That’s all right. Mr. Is it acceptable for a devotee not initiated by Prabhupada feel that Prabhupada is his or her guru? The answer is yes. and love of Srila Prabhupada as any of his directly initiated disciples. always.Prabhupada: These. I am so advanced. Srila Prabhupada himself characterized his relationship with such devotees by saying they are his grand-disciples. and that they have some connection with him. still I am subordinate to my guru. my disciples they are part and parcel of me. . So Srila Prabhupada expected that his disciples would someday be gurus and receive worship from their disciples. so I don’t care for my guru. “Oh. “I have advanced to be my guru. but he remains a disciple of his guru. But if he says that I am equal to my Guru Maharaja. He may be expert in preaching more than me. we conclude that: (1) The proposal in Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link that Srila Prabhupada is the one diksa-guru for all members of ISKCON. the GBC should give attention to that. To be a grand-disciple of Srila Prabhupada is no less a position than being a direct disciple. he is offering obeisances. after my disappearance. Just like I am doing. but I am worshiping my guru still. Even though I have become guru. The GBC has already recognized this fact. Grand-disciples have just as much opportunity to receive the instructions. If there is some further adjustment required in today’s ISKCON practices.” Otherwise how he shall offer obeisances? He can think. Even after my death. are there further points? What remains is an appeal to the desires of devotees who wish to feel that somehow or other Srila Prabhupada is their guru. Whole mission is going on with their cooperation. But the adjustment cannot be that today’s gurus should accept no worship from their disciples. They will never say that they have become equal to me.” He will never say. Once we have subtracted from PL not only the incorrect idea that Srila Prabhupada should be the one diksa-guru for all members of ISKCON but also the idea that no one except Prabhupada should receive any worship or public recognition as guru. he will offer obeisances to my picture. It is up to the GBC to decide what levels of worship will maintain the two things that Prabhupada expected: (1) that gurus would accept worship from their disciples and (2) that simultaneously they would continue to worship him in such a way that their subordination to him would be clear to both them and their disciples. Why shall I accept him as superior?” No. now I am so learned. . by disciplic connection such disciples do have a real connection with Srila Prabhupada. but he knows that “I am subordinate. Just like this boy. mercy. He will never say that “Now I have become guru.
and siksa-gurus.after his departure.and siksa-gurus. and (c) it contradicts the expressed intention of Srila Prabhupada who. Drutakarma Dasa. Finally. Krsna Ksetra Dasa and Mukunda DaTTa Dasa . We hope that he will consider the points we have made. (2) The proposal in Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link that no one except Srila Prabhupada receive worship as guru is incorrect because it (a) goes against directions given by Lord Caitanya’s prominent followers such as Srila Jiva Gosvami in his Bhakti-sandarbha. (b) it confuses the distinct functions of diksa. we feel that Dhira Govinda Prabhu was sincere when he placed his proposals to the ISKCON world for consideration. (3) It is legitimate for a disciple of a current ISKCON guru to also feel that he or she is a disciple of Srila Prabhupada. and (b) contradicts Srila Prabhupada’s expectation that his disciples would accept appropriate worship when it became time for them to become gurus. Purnacandra Dasa. following Vedic tradition. Urmila Devi Dasi. but only if this feeling is expressed in such a way that does not confuse the function of diksa. is incorrect because (a) it is based on an incomplete definition of diksa. generally expected that his disciples would in turn become initiating (diksa) gurus. SAC Members: Gopiparanadhana Dasa.
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