"three types of acarya" Myths
Until the mid-1980s, it was always taught within ISKCON that the
original eleven ritviks were carefully selected by Srila
Prabhupada to act as initiating acaryas (spiritual masters or
Gurus) due to the fact that they were uttama adhikaris, or
devotees who had attained the topmost platform of devotional service
(Guru Hoax, part 1).
Once these "acaryas" started "having sex with men, women and
possibly children" (to use the published words of GBC-elected Guru
Jayadvaita Swami), a new philosophy for a "relativised acarya"
had to be hastily crafted which would simultaneously account for the
behaviour of these current "acaryas" as well as allow for many
more devotees to also become diksa Gurus, with the diksa
Guru now no longer needing to be a liberated soul.
It was at this point that a letter, written many years before by a
scholarly devotee called Pradyumna Das, was suddenly touted as the
answer to ISKCON's Guru woes. Ravindra Svarupa Das (former GBC chairman
and voted-in Guru) used this letter's redefinition of the term "acarya"
as the basis of a paper that was instrumental in crafting the Guru Hoax,
part 2, and thereby giving us the Guru system we have in ISKCON today.
This paper was called Under My Order, and was issued in 1985 on behalf
of the US Temple Presidents who were rebelling against the Guru system
in place at the time, wanting instead Guru-ship to be opened up to all
of Srila Prabhupada's disciples. In the said paper, Ravindra Svarupa
|"I have taken this definition of
acarya from the letter of August 7th 1978, from Pradyumna to
Satsvarupa dasa Goswami. The reader should now turn to this
letter (which I have appended) for careful study."
(Under My Order, Ravindra Svarupa Das, August 1985)
Since these ideas regarding "acaryas"
taken from Pradyumna's letter form part of the basis of ISKCON's current
Guru system, below we will answer the myths that arose directly from
"There is a fundamental difference between the terms
'spiritual master' or 'Guru' and the term 'acarya'."
According to Srila Prabhupada, the terms "Guru", "acarya"
and "spiritual master" are all interchangeable:
"...a teacher or spiritual master is liable to be rejected if
he proves himself unworthy of the position of a guru or
spiritual master. A guru is called also an acarya..."
(Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.7.43, purport)
"There are three
types of acaryas: one who teaches by example, one who initiates
disciples (but who may not be fully liberated), and one who not
only initiates but also heads up an institution and is
worshipable by all as a fully liberated spiritual master."
According to Srila Prabhupada, there are just two categories of
acarya or spiritual master, one who instructs (siksa)
and one who initiates (diksa):
"The first manifestation described is the spiritual master,
who appears in two plenary parts called the initiating spiritual
master and instructing spiritual master."
(Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila 1, 'The Spiritual
The acarya who initiates disciples is defined as follows:
"In the Vayu Purana an acarya is defined as one who
knows the import of all Vedic literature, explains the purpose
of the Vedas, abides by their rules and regulations, and teaches
his disciples to act in the same way."
(Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Adi-lila 1.46, purport)
Srila Prabhupada never taught that there were two types of
initiating acarya, one who could head up an institution and one
who, through some unspecified disablement, could not. He only
defined "acarya" as above.
"Anyone who grants initiation or is a guru may be called as
"acaryadeva" etc by his disciples only.
Whoever has accepted him as guru must give all respects to him
in every way, but this does not apply to those who are not his
disciples." (Pradyumna Das, 7/8/78)
This definition of the word "acaryadeva" is completely at
odds with the one given by Srila Prabhupada:
"...when we speak of the fundamental principle of Gurudeva,
or Acaryadeva, we speak of something that is of universal
application (...) he is the Jagad-Guru, or the Guru of all of
(Srila Prabhupada's homage to his spiritual master, February
1936, emphasis added)
Thus Pradyumna's letter completely relativised the absolute
position of the true initiating acarya, implying as it
does the unauthorised philosophy that initiation (diksa)
could be given by people who had not reached the topmost
platform of devotional service, and were therefore only to be
respected by those few unfortunates he was somehow able to dupe.
"But the GBC would never have adopted Pradyumna's ideas if they
had not originated from Srila Prabhupada."
Pradyumna himself admits in his own letter:
"Much of the knowledge written here is not found in sastra."
(Pradyumna Das, 7/8/78)
He also gave a clear indication of the source of his ideas:
"Indeed in the different Gaudiya Mathas, even if one Godbrother
is in the position of acarya ..."
Certainly his relativised, minimised initiating
acarya theory is nowhere to be found within Srila Prabhupada's
teachings. As we continue to document in BTP, these bogus ideas have
proven disastrous for ISKCON.