A response to :
"Allegiance to Guru, to ISKCON and to Prabhupada."(1998)
We were originally excited to learn from our sources present at this year's GBC meetings that one of the principal architects of the M.A.S.S. (Multiple Acarya Successor System, the Guru system currently practised in ISKCON) and core member of the special new GBC executive committee, His Grace Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu, was soon going to deal specifically with the ritvik issue. Our gratitude and pleasure at such a prominent and respected devotee taking the trouble to respond to our concerns dissipated rapidly, however, when we read the above mentioned paper, which was written specifically to accompany a new GBC resolution that was passed at this year's Mayapura meetings, on 26th February, 1998. Full details of this were posted on CHAKRA last week. Not only does Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu seriously misrepresent our position, as expressed in 'The Final Order', he also offers a confused and self-contradictory holy trinity 'siddhanta' of his own as a replacement for Srila Prabhupada's clear and unequivocal order on how initiations should run within ISKCON. All of Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu's comments from his paper will be boxed.
His Grace Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu (hereafter referred to as the 'author') gives the following brief history:
In order to discredit the ritvik position, the author makes the following serious misrepresentation
This is certainly the first time we have been accused of being too traditional, in any sense! This point is indirectly re-enforced later:
Thus the system of having one acarya is actually the original tradition according to Ravindra Svarupa. By his own admission the M.A.S.S. is a radical departure from this great tradition of vaisnava culture. A departure followed with enormous zeal by the Gaudiya Matha themselves since, after a brief dabble with single acaryas, they eventually adopted a multiple acarya system also. A system Srila Prabhupada roundly condemned as unauthorised.
It is a source of considerable puzzlement that the same author who now dismisses tradition, should have gone to Narayan Maharaja in 1990 (ISKCON JOURNAL p.23) with the sole purpose of showing how the ritvik system was bogus since it did not follow tradition! Has historical tradition suddenly lost all spiritual value in the last eight years? Or maybe the author hopes we have forgotten about that particular piece of philosophical shenanigans.
Leaving that aside, may we now implore the author to get back in line with vaisnava culture and tradition by re-introducing a single-acarya system within ISKCON. Might we suggest Srila Prabhupada as that acarya, since this was his expressed order. Given his newly acquired liberal acceptance of unorthodoxy, we are sure the author will be able to overlook the spiritually irrelevant detail of Srila Prabhupada's physical absence. Once this is done we will all be able to happily serve under the GBC, which was indeed the wish of Srila Prabhupada.
But why does this 'personal form of allegiance' need 'retaining' in the first place? The author has already said it is fully present in the institution, and of course its founding acarya. By insinuating that the 'personal' aspect is only 'wholly retained' by some third principle, the author is clearly contradicting himself. In order to support this idea the author radically departs from the teachings and personal example of Srila Prabhupada.
Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu further claims Srila Prabhupada wanted a 'modern form of organisation' for ISKCON which:
This 'modern form of organisation' he claims is in stark contrast to traditional forms of organisation like the monarchy where:
It is also in stark contrast to traditional spiritual organisations where the organisation:
However Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu had just said that ISKCON is an instrument crafted by Srila Prabhupada which:
(All emphases are mine)
It can be clearly seen that Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu is contradicting himself, agreeing that ISKCON IS an extension of Srila Prabhupada's person, created specifically to receive our PERSONAL service. ISKCON IS Srila Prabhupada's KINGDOM. The GBCs are simply the ministers to manage that kingdom on behalf of the king. Thus there is no question of giving any allegiance beyond that which is given to Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada IS that "particular leader" who is "highly placed" beyond which we do NOT give allegiance. This concept is enshrined in the very raison d'etre of the GBC as given in the 1975 GBC resolution whereby the GBC was officially defined by Srila Prabhupada:
It is very clear from the above that not only is ISKCON set up to facilitate complete and supreme allegiance to Srila Prabhupada only, but that it is the job of the GBC to enforce that allegiance. There is no mention above of the GBC having any authority to concoct resolutions that are not totally supported by direct instructions from Srila Prabhupada. We have been awaiting for such instructions to support the current M.A.S.S. guru system from the GBC for many years now.
The author makes the following assertion:
Above the author seeks to differentiate between allegiance to guru and service to ISKCON. He says one is personal, the other institutional. This is further re-enforced:
Is the author then implying that institutional allegiance to ISKCON is somehow impersonal, or that service and allegiance to the institution are different from direct service and allegiance to Srila Prabhupada? Far from it in fact:
So according to the author, by serving the institution we are directly serving Srila Prabhupada, who of course is a person. Thus we can approach, enquire, and serve the bona fide spiritual master merely by interacting with ISKCON. The author further states:
Thus we have an institution which can give us total 'personal' access to a bona fide spiritual master who can fill our hearts with transcendental knowledge and in that way annihilate all our sinful reactions, the very definition of diksa. So is the author really a closet ritvik? Not quite.
The author is proposing devotees recognise three aspects of allegiance. The institution of ISKCON, the founder acarya, and the guru. Unfortunately when the author speaks of the 'guru' he is not talking about Srila Prabhupada, at least not for newcomers. This is strange since Srila Prabhupada is generally accepted as a bona fide guru, as well as being the founder acarya, and the author has already stated that anyone can serve him directly, personally, by serving ISKCON; the institution being his manifest body. All aspects of diksa can be thus supplied by Srila Prabhupada through his movement and books. Why then do we need to bring in a second category of (diksa) guru?
The author also attempts to deflect attention from the GBC's poor record at following Srila Prabhupada's orders by pretending that most devotee's dissatisfaction with the GBC is actually with the PRINCIPLE of the GBC rather than with their poor performance:
This clever tactic shifts criticism of the GBC from the realm of the many decisions they have actually taken, that are impossible to defend from Srila Prabhupada's teachings, to the realm of objecting to the very principle of the GBC. The latter of course is something on which the GBC stands on extremely solid ground since the concept of the GBC was personally set up and authorised to continue by Srila Prabhupada. In this way, Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu has with a swift deft of hand equated anyone who criticises the GBC as actually not desiring to follow Srila Prabhupada. The reality of course is the exact OPPOSITE, in that the majority of the devotees who dis-agree with the GBC do so simply because THEY, the GBC, have actually dis-obeyed Srila Prabhupada. They dis-obeyed Srila Prabhupada in 1978, they dis-obeyed Srila Prabhupada in 1986 when they concocted the current M.A.S.S. system, and they are continuing to disobey him today, even though it has been proven by the Final Order paper that their current guru system has no authorisation from Srila Prabhupada.
There is nothing that most devotees would like more than to be united as a world-wide preaching organisation co-operating under the management of a GBC that is strictly following Srila Prabhupada, just as when Srila Prabhupada was physically present, because this is what Srila Prabhupada wanted.
The above assertion is never once made by Srila Prabhupada. Indeed Srila Prabhupada states the precise opposite over and over again (please see appendices to 'The Final Order'). Even whilst physically present there are many initiated devotees who never met Srila Prabhupada 'face to face' even once. Did Srila Prabhupada ever ask to have 'face to face' reciprocal relationships with every one of his thousands of disciples? Did he ever once state that without such one-on-one association 'spiritual progress cannot effectively take place'? Of course not. Such notions are purely the invention of the author. It is such speculation as this which has brought the GBC into disrepute, and created a large number of disaffected devotees who will indeed need a lot of nurturing if they are ever to see the institution of ISKCON as truly representing Srila Prabhupada.
We have demonstrated that His Grace Ravindra Svarupa prabhu's new GBC resolution and the rationale behind it, which is supposed to help control any 'guru' problems in ISKCON, is in actuality nothing but a mixture of contradiction, confused thinking, serious mis-representations and speculation. In particular:
Also from the above very serious mis-representation of the ritvik philosophy it seems the new GBC Executive Committee proposes to answer the ritvik question in a manner wholly consistent with their previous efforts -i.e.: `Let's make up assertions which 'The Final Order' never makes, and answer those instead of answering what the paper actually says' . Such an approach is a complete waste of time for all concerned, and can do nothing to increase the authority of the GBC, which is what we all ultimately want. We sincerely pray that in future GBC members might take the trouble to read 'The Final Order' before they write anything more on the issue, and that they quote assertions verbatim from our position paper before trying to discredit them.