At the present time a controversy is raging within the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) over who should be allowed to initiate new disciples. There are now some 70 ISKCON ‘gurus’ who are currently initiating, all of whom are co-defendants in a High Court action taken against them for usurping Srila Prabhupada from his requested position as ISKCON’s sole initiating Guru. The purpose of this pamphlet is to set out briefly the issues surrounding the explicit instructions Srila Prabhupada left on who the society’s initiating Guru should really be.
On July 9th 1977, four months before his physical departure, Srila Prabhupada issued a typed, signed directive via his secretary to all the leaders of ISKCON. This official policy
directive set in place a system of initiations employing the use of ‘ritviks’, or ‘representatives of the acarya (guru)’. Srila Prabhupada instructed that this 'officiating acarya' system was to be instituted immediately, and run from that time onwards, or 'henceforward' - (this letter
is reproduced at the end). This was his final order on how initiations should be conducted within ISKCON. As can be seen from reading the directive, the ritviks were to act only on Srila Prabhupada's behalf, new initiates all becoming his disciples. In his Last Will
and Testament Srila Prabhupada also decreed that the system of management within ISKCON should not be changed. However:
Immediately after Srila Prabhupada's physical departure, on November 14th 1977, the Governing Body Commission
(GBC) for ISKCON disbanded the ritvik system.
In it’s place the GBC set up a system in which they and their supporters could accept worship as though they themselves were as pure as God. Thus the perfect and exemplary Acarya, Srila Prabhupada, was replaced by 11 competing ‘gurus’ - (increased
over the years to the current 70) - all vying for disciples, power and influence. Unsurprisingly this unauthorized guru system has been an embarrassing disaster practically from day one. Even now the entire GBC (which is comprised almost entirely of ‘gurus’) faces serious charges of
neglect and abuse of devotee children in a massive law suit being brought against them in America by the same law firm that sued the Catholic church for over $100,000,000 on similar grounds.
The longest serving former editor of ISKCON’s very own magazine Back To Godhead, His Holiness Jayadvaita Swami, summed up the behaviour of some ISKCON ‘gurus’ thus:
We demonstrate below how the GBC attempts to justify their insubordination through a mixture of misrepresentation and lies.
In order to explain away such diabolical behavior by their ‘gurus’, the GBC have for many years taught that members of the sacred disciplic succession, descending from Lord Sri Krishna Himself, can sometimes fall down from their elevated position. This is a serious philosophical heresy. Srila Prabhupada states the precise opposite:
Srila Prabhupada taught that a guru would only fall down if he were not properly authorised to initiate:
Thus the very fact that many ISKCON ‘gurus’ have deviated
proves they were never authorised to initiate in the first place. They were only ever authorised to act as ritviks, or officiating priests.
The Governing Body Commission (GBC) of ISKCON maintains that the July 9th order, which originally set in place the ritvik system, was only temporary, specifically meant to stop on Srila Prabhupada’s departure:
Merely reading the order itself easily disproves this assertion. As the reader will note, nowhere in the July 9th letter does it state that the ritvik system was ‘temporary’, or that it was only set up
because of Srila Prabhupada’s ‘ill health’.
Neither does the order say it is to terminate on his departure, as is admitted by the GBC and their supporters:
The obvious question then is - why does the GBC think the system was meant to stop on Srila Prabhupada’s departure when the letter does not even mention departure? Indeed, nowhere did Srila Prabhupada ever say or write that the ‘ritvik’ system was only make-shift, stop-gap, temporary or subject to termination by
the GBC. It is an axiom of spiritual life that the order of the guru cannot be whimsically ignored or stopped. So why was this done with the July 9th directive?
The GBC teaches that the spiritual master must be physically present on the same planet as the disciple in order for initiation to take place. Yet nowhere is this principle stated in Srila Prabhupada’s teachings. On the contrary there is one
famous example in the Bhagavad Gita, verse 4.1, where a guru in our disciplic succession passed on spiritual knowledge to a disciple* who was on an entirely different planet. Srila Prabhupada comments:
"So there was no difficulty in communicating with Manu or Manu's son, Iksvaku. The communication was there, or the radio system was so nice that communication could be transferred from one planet to another."
(SP Bg. Lecture, 24/8/68)
Over and over again the GBC teaches that the physical presence of the spiritual master is vital to the guru-disciple relationship:
And yet Srila Prabhupada taught the exact opposite over and over again:
Furthermore, Srila Prabhupada practically demonstrated this principle by not personally attending or conducting the initiation ceremony for many hundreds of his disciples, nor even meeting them physically either before or after the initiation
ceremony. Thus physical association with the Guru cannot be an essential principle of spiritual life since Srila Prabhupada did not practice it with many of his own disciples.
*(Initiation or diksa (Sanskrit) is defined primarily as the transmission of transcendental knowledge from guru to disciple).
The GBC claims that Srila Prabhupada gave many generally applicable instructions for his disciples to all become diksa (initiating) gurus on his departure. In reality there are no general instructions to be initiating gurus, only instructing (siksa) gurus:
It is true that Srila Prabhupada did many times ask his disciples to all become guru, but in the purports following the relevant scriptural basis for this request, he wrote:
There were a handful of times where Srila Prabhupada was dealing with ambitious deviant disciples in private letters (Tusta Krishna etc), asking them to at least wait until he left before grabbing their own disciples.
Yet these letters were not made generally available till years after Srila Prabhupada’s departure (1986) and can thus not be used to countermand a general instruction issued to the entire movement in 1977. The fact that the GBC tries to use such personal letters to change institutional
policy, and convince everyone that Srila Prabhupada was to be replaced, is a sign of their utter desperation. Below we see Srila Prabhupada gave a very different impression when he was directly asked about who would succeed him:
The GBC insists that Srila Prabhupada could not have wanted to continue initiating since this would mean ‘stopping the disciplic succession’. This is a false argument since Srila Prabhupada can only remain the current
link in the disciplic succession for as long as the institution in which his order was given continues to exist. Previous current links have remained current for thousands, or even millions of years, whereas Srila Prabhupada shall only remain the current guru for as long as ISKCON exists.
Thus it is clear the GBC thinks it perfectly acceptable to terminate important instructions and just invent its own philosophy along the way as the need arises. This is not the behaviour of a disciple, what to speak of a