IRM REPLIES TO DHIRA GOVINDA DAS
Dhira Govinda Prabhu, a prominent member of ISKCON, has written a booklet entitled "Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link" (henceforward PL), which is ostensibly aimed at promoting a deeper understanding of the issue of ‘guru’ in ISKCON. We are herein presenting an analysis of his booklet for 3 reasons:
So with this in mind we shall present the following analysis. Comments from the booklet will be referred to as coming from the 'Author', and be enclosed in speech marks " " thus, with our comments in bold.
An important admission is made by the Author very early on; this being that his Prominent Link (PL) thesis does not directly deal with the initiation controversy that currently rages within ISKCON. This controversy particularly centres around the issue of whom Srila Prabhupada authorised to perform initiations within his movement:
Ritvik priests who would merely act as agents, initiating newcomers on Srila Prabhupada's behalf; or Srila Prabhupada's disciples, who would initiate newcomers as their own disciples.
The Author clearly wishes to side-step this pivotal issue since he states:
Of course, precisely what relationship exists between the current coterie of around 80 GBC appointed 'Gurus', and those to whom they give 'initiation', is the main issue causing the current polarisation within ISKCON. Thus immediately the reader is left wondering what real value can come from a thesis that deliberately avoids the very issue that needs most urgent attention. Nevertheless, let us examine what the booklet does address.
Srila Prabhupada many times stated that if an initial calculation is wrong, such as saying that 2+2 =5, then no matter how accurate the rest of the calculation is, the conclusion will always be wrong.
So what is the central premise at the heart of this Booklet? The Author's thesis rests on the idea that there are two types of Diksa - Transcendental Diksa and formal Diksa:
But what other sense of the term is there? If Srila Prabhupada is giving diksa, then clearly those performing the ceremony are not, since one is only allowed one diksa guru according to sastra:
The Author however is unclear on this point, and posits the existence of another possible ‘ambiguous’, ceremonial Diksa Guru:
As we know from the directive issued to the movement by Srila Prabhupada on July 9th, 1977, Srila Prabhupada had a term for those who merely perform the initiation ceremony: Temple President. Srila Prabhupada certainly never called them Diksa gurus.
This confusion on the part of the Author is itself confusing since the Author also establishes, using the same quotes used in "The Final Order" (the IRM's position paper) that diksa is never defined in terms of the formal ceremony, but only ever in terms of transmitting divya jnana, itself a transcendental process:
The above is how Srila Prabhupada defines Diksa, never in terms of someone who merely performs some type of ceremony on behalf of someone else. But as already seen, the Author contradicts this clear position by inventing the 'two types of diksa' philosophy:
This errant '2 Diksa Gurus' philosophy leads to more confusing and contradictory notions such as the 'primarily' initiated disciple:
Within the entire cannon of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings there is no mention anywhere of being only 'primarily' a disciple of the Guru who initiates you, just as there is no mention of 'primary' and 'secondary' Diksa Gurus.
Thus from the outset we can see that the Author's central premise is not in line with Srila Prabhupada's teachings. And as we will now see, this initial mis-calculation leads to many more mistakes, just as Srila Prabhupada predicts.
In July 1998, a meeting was held in Mumbai, India between leading members of the IRM such as Madhu Pandit Das (current Chairman of the IRM), Adridharan Das (current Treasurer of the IRM), Krishnakant (Author of "The Final Order"), and leading members of the GBC such as Ravindra Svarupa Das, Badrinarayana Das (both former GBC chairmen), Gopal Krishna Maharaja, Radhanatha Swami etc. The purpose of the meeting was to appease the IRM by offering some compromise proposals regarding Srila Prabhupada's position. These proposals came to be known later as the 'Bombay Proposals'. They were rejected by the IRM because they were not in line with what Srila Prabhupada himself ordered.
However a comparison between some of these GBC proposals and the ideas of the Author, will show that they are almost identical:
The Author states:
In fact the word 'pre-eminent' is slightly stronger than the word ‘prominent’, so one could argue that the GBC went a little but further in their promotion of Srila Prabhupada than the Author was willing to do! The IRM's position of course, in line with Srila Prabhupada's orders, is that he is the only authorised link for ISKCON members to the parampara. Not that he is merely a 'prominent' link amongst other less prominent ones.
The GBC state:
The Author states:
Here the Author concurs with the GBC in putting forward the theory that a devotee in ISKCON is both a direct disciple and grand-disciple (indirect disciple) of Srila Prabhupada.
The GBC state:
The Author states:
Again the Author is in concurrence with the GBC, in that he supports a 'wide latitude of relationships' between the current coterie of 80 GBC appointed 'Diksa Gurus' in ISKCON and their 'disciples'. The Author states that such a relationship must strengthen the direct link with Srila Prabhupada, and the GBC agree that the relationship between the GBC 'Diksa Guru's and their 'disciples' 'strengthens the direct connection with Srila Prabhupada'. In this way the Author has made 'room' for the current Guru set-up in ISKCON to continue, at least in principle.
Having concurred with the essence of the GBC's proposals, the Author goes on to make more statements which are again completely in line with the current GBC Guru system in ISKCON.
The Author states:
The Author agrees that worship of the current GBC Gurus by their disciples can go on. He also agrees that the current GBC Gurus are also Diksa Gurus, at least in the 'formal' sense:
And the Author also agrees that these 'Diksa Gurus' should continue to specifically be selected by the initiate to receive initiation:
Contrast this with Srila Prabhupada's order given in the July 9th directive that the initiation ceremony should simply be conducted by whoever is the temple president. No special vaisnava is specifically 'selected' by the initiate for this. Only the Diksa Guru is 'selected' by the initiate.
So to summarise so far. We can see the Author agrees with the GBC on the following:
Which means that, according to the Author and all who agree with him, nothing tangible on the ground regarding what currently happens in ISKCON needs to change in any way with regards gurus and initiation. At most all the author is asking for is a bit of extra verbal window dressing.
The Author had written to the GBC when presenting his paper that:
From the forgoing we can concur that the Author has tried his best to not upset the current arrangements in ISKCON. His proposals above would allow the current 'self-made Guru deviation' to carry on unhindered.
Having concurred with the GBC's position, the Author however also makes statements which are completely in line with the IRM's position as presented in the IRM's position paper "The Final Order". The Author also states unequivocally that Srila Prabhupada alone will be the Diksa Guru for the next 10,000 years:
This of course is the 'hard-core' ritvik position espoused by the IRM, that Srila Prabhupada alone is the direct link to the parampara, and which logically precludes the existence of any other Diksa Gurus for ISKCON either now, or in the future. The Author states that there is no need or role for the current GBC 'gurus' masquerading in ISKCON:
And also that the initiations conducted in ISKCON today are, or should be, Ritvik type initiation ceremonies, whereby it is understood that new initiates are connecting directly to Srila Prabhupada, just as was being done pre-1977:
And the Author nicely encapsulates the whole approach by explicitly stating the 'No Change in ISKCON Paradigm' (NCIP), another IRM position paper:
The Author proposes that things today go on in ISKCON without change from the way they were going on before Srila Prabhupada's departure. We couldn't agree more.
We have seen that the Author has put forward two contradictory, mutually exclusive positions. Having done that one would at least hope the he might come down finally in favour of one or the other. Unfortunately the Author also makes statements supporting the idea that all positions can be valid and equally acceptable:
Here the Author is saying that whatever he says is right, and whatever the GBC, or whoever else, may say is also right!
In his desire to please everyone the Author has simultaneously put forward three contradictory positions:
That someone other than Srila Prabhupada can be the current link.
That Srila Prabhupada alone is the current link.
That both Srila Prabhupada and someone else can be the current link.
The above confirms Srila Prabhupada’s point regarding making a calculation. Having started with a faulty premise, the Author has ended up with a miscalculation. The Author’s 'Prominent Link' (PL), resting as it does on unsubstantiated speculation, leads us into the incoherence of supporting 3 contradictory positions simultaneously.
In addition to the inherent contradiction and confusion in putting forward mutually exclusive models, there are many other areas of the Author's booklet suffering from the same problem.
One Link Or Many Links
The basis of the Author's thesis is the term 'prominent link' (PL) and other similar qualifying appellations:
Yet these qualifying terms are a source of confusion since they imply that Srila Prabhupada is merely the most pronounced link amongst many such links acting simultaneously. For he can only be a prominent link if there are other authorised links which are relatively less prominent. Yet Srila Prabhupada's actual position as the current link is a term that Srila Prabhupada only ever described unambiguously in the singular:
Srila Prabhupada also ensured that his was the only name in the Bhagavad Gita as the current link. Even though the Author also cites Srila Prabhupada as the current link, by basing his thesis on terms such as 'prominent',' primary' etc., he nevertheless obfuscates Srila Prabhupada's position as our singular current link to the parampara. These terms are dangerous since they open up potential 'back doors' via which other hopeful 'links' might pop up to convince us that they too can 'link' us either to Srila Prabhupada, or the parampara. The long sad history of cheating gurus in ISKCON was supported through such sloppy use of language.
"Sria Prabhupada's Terminology Distracting"
The Author states:
Above the Author says that defining terms such as 'diksa' may distract us, although he concedes they are useful sometimes for communication. A peculiar paragraph, since if the subject of his paper is Srila Prabhupada, who established himself as the diksa guru for ISKCON, then how will it be a 'distraction' to mention this? And surely the whole point of his paper is to communicate. So there is some confused thinking here.
What is curious is that the Author happily uses terms such as 'primary Vaishnava' and 'prominent link' none of which were ever used by Srila Prabhupada, yet claims terms such as 'diksa guru' which Srila Prabhupada did use and define, might distract us! However, as we have seen, it is the terms the Author uses which can lead to confusion as to Srila Prabhupada's actual position. So if anything it is the Author's own invented terms that may 'distract us', rather than terms Srila Prabhupada used and defined himself.
"Siksa Guru" Title Not Matter
The Author proposes that labelling Srila Prabhupada as only the 'Siksa Guru' is not a matter of 'concern', since whatever title is given to Srila Prabhupada does not detract from the essence of his thesis:
However in other places the Author clearly states that titles involving 'siksa guru' matter very much:
Here the Author has contradicted himself on 2 counts:
It is self-evident that the identity of ISKCON's Diksa guru is absolutely crucial to acknowledging his 'prominent link', or PL status. In not facing this point head on, the Author has fudged his position and missed out on an opportunity to use his respected status within ISKCON to help establish the system of initiation personally set out by Srila Prabhupada on July 9th 1977.
I'm Not A Ritvik
In order to gain acceptance within mainstream ISKCON the Author went to great pains to distance himself from the 'ritvik' issue, as reported in this years GBC resolutions:
However this was all to no avail since the GBC rejected his paper completely, making similar points to us about his use of the terms diksa and siksa, and pulling him apart over the May 28th conversation:
Of course the GBC themselves are guilty of this very thing, and The Final Order defeated their self-contradictory position over the May 28th conversation in 1996. Thus to appease the GBC the Author claimed he was not a 'Ritvik' and watered-down his presentation of Srila Prabhupada's actual position by also supporting the GBC-Guru philosophy, but it achieved zero breakthrough with the GBC.
The Author had stated that the aim of his thesis was to:
However in his attempt to be all things to all men and please everyone, the Author has presented a thesis which is far from precise. In the invocation to his paper the Author honestly admits:
As we have demonstrated this is an accurate description of his paper, for he has presented some aspects of the GBC Guru philosophy, added some points from "The Final Order", added some of his own invented terms, jumbled it all up, and then said everything can be correct. The result, as we have seen, is nothing but a mass of confusion and contradiction from start to finish.
The author hopes that his paper will:
But the paper has not presented any platform for resolving any conflicts for in his attempt to accommodate all philosophies the author has only ensured that he has ended up satisfying neither party:
The GBC has rejected his paper since it also puts forward the IRM position.
The IRM has rejected his paper since it also puts forward the GBC position.
Whilst those in the middle who were undecided and looking for a definite answer have been presented with 3 mutually exclusive positions and told that each is correct!
We have already pointed out that the reason for the Author's thesis being doomed from the start had its genesis in his incorrect premise that there can be 2 types of Diksa Guru acting simultaneously. However the PL has a more fundamental flaw which the Author openly states at the outset of his paper:
In other words the Author admits that his whole thesis will be based not on a presentation of Srila Prabhupada's instructions, which is what is normally done, but on an empirical analysis of what he 'comprehends' is going on between Srila Prabhupada and the members of ISKCON. But as we have seen, trying to avoid Srila Prabhupada's signed directives leads to not only stating the philosophy of Guru-tattva incorrectly, but also opens one to rebuttal by the GBC who will attempt to use Srila Prabhupada's instructions from the May 28th conversation etc., to defeat one's ideas. Therefore there is nothing to be gained in trying to by-pass Srila Prabhupada's instructions based on our limited 'comprehension' of what we think is going on. If we simply repeat Srila Prabhupada's instructions as has been done in "The Final Order", not only will we be 100% accurate, but we will also be immune from challenge. As has been documented, the GBC and their supporters have failed 5 times in 5 years to defeat "The Final Order". The author’s booklet has already been rebutted by both the GBC and the IRM!
The Author tried to gain acceptability for his ideas by preaching a watered-down version of the truth, but still failed with one of his key target audiences, the GBC, to whom he submitted his booklet for review. We sincerely hope he re-considers his position in light of this since, in many ways, he is close to the truth. All he needs to do is delete the sections in his booklet that support the GBC's current deviant DDG (De-emphasised Diksa Guru) philosophy (and any other ideas not supported by Srila Prabhupada), add some instructions quoted directly from Srila Prabhupada on the subject of Guru and initiations, and the major flaws in his paper would be eliminated. And then even if it is rejected by the GBC, at least it will be100% in line with what is taught by Srila Prabhupada.