20 February 2002
This is the IRM’s reply to Krishna Kirti’s (herein referred to as the ‘Author’) recent paper entitled: ‘Posthumous Initiation in ISKCON: Is it Sanctioned by Srila Prabhupada?’
The Author’s paper is the 5th attempt in recent years to try and defeat the IRM position paper, “The Final Order” (herein referred to as TFO). So far we have had ‘Disciple of My Disciple’ ( Badrinarayan Das et.al, 1997), ‘Timeless Order’ (Vivek Pai, 1997), ‘Point For Point Refutation of TFO’ (Jahnu Das, 1998) and ‘Prabhupada’s Order, (GBC, 1998). Each was pushed enthusiastically at the time by the GBC, only to be replaced by the subsequent paper, once our responses had soundly exposed the flaws in each paper. Even though the GBC claim that each one of these papers defeats TFO, the very fact they always felt compelled to subsequently back another paper belies their claim. If TFO truly had been defeated as they claimed by each one of their papers, why the need by them and their supporters to always come back with another try? This itself confirms that the GBC and their supporters themselves tacitly recognize that the papers in question had not done the job, and another attempt was required. So after a gap of over three-and-a-half years, Krishna Kirti has now dared to ‘have a go’ against TFO and put something in print. We commend him for his courage. It appears a great deal of thought and effort has gone into the Author’s paper, with him acknowledging the input of at least 4 devotees as well as a whole think tank! Unfortunately for the Author, as we will now demonstrate, his paper has met the same fate as its illustrious predecessors in that it too has been soundly routed!
Most notably, the Author relies heavily on the famous ‘law of disciplic succession’, even though the GBC no longer follow it, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta never followed it, nor is it mentioned anywhere in any of Srila Prabhupada’s books. Although the Author offers a special get-out-clause - that the ‘law’ need not apply if the guru gives his permission to a disciple to initiate in his presence (no doubt with Sivarama Swami and Mahavishnu Swami in mind) - this is not stated in the private letters from which the ‘law’ was extracted. This fact also severely damages the Author’s overall position, since he is meant to be defending the GBC’s position, but relies heavily on a law that they have dumped.
We were initially pleased to note that the Author has taken the trouble to actually quote, verbatim, sections of TFO since most of the other GBC-backed papers were mainly full of ‘straw man’ arguments, having not even bothered to quote TFO. (A ‘straw man’ argument is the technique of answering arguments NOT actually put forward by the opponent, since the actual arguments which are put forward cannot be answered. In this way the illusion of ‘victory’ is presented since a bunch of non-relevant arguments are successfully defeated.) Unfortunately, having quoted TFO extensively the Author falls into the same trap, in that instead of answering the TFO quotations he has just produced, he instead proceeds to answer another ‘argument’ which he implies is stated in the TFO. Indeed his paper is very neatly structured in the form of 14 such ‘arguments’ sandwiched between an Introduction and discussion on the July 9th directive, which he then proceeds to answer by demonstrating the ‘fallacy’ of the argument presented, followed by a supporting discussion. However most of these ‘arguments’ are also ‘straw man’ arguments, having not been put forward by TFO. In this way, the Author also reveals his inability to deal with TFO, taking shelter instead in phantom irrelevant arguments.
In what follows we will quote each of the Author’s 14 ‘arguments’ plus other points boxed, with our responses following.
In his Introduction the Author states:
The only problem is he has mis-stated our position. TFO never says that the Initiator (Srila Prabhupada) himself comes under the system of management, and hence the Author’s extrapolation that we consider the post of ‘guru’ (diksa) as managerial is also incorrect. And thus begins the first of the Author’s many ‘straw-man’ arguments which as we will see form the bedrock of his whole paper. The GBC was set up under the Founder-Acarya, its supreme authority, to manage everything on his behalf. Srila Prabhupada is thus in an executive position, not managerial. The ritvik system is Srila Prabhupada’s executive order by which his managers could organise and regulate future initiations. From this root mis-representation the Author then goes onto make several similarly incorrect assertions in his Introduction:
The Author then correctly states:
But then in the next sentence, rather than refute head on our position over the final Will, he inexplicably jumps to a totally different subject:
It seems the Author was unable to explain how future directors would be Srila Prabhupada’s disciples without the ritvik system remaining in place, and hence he changes the subject:
Even if the above were true, how does this explain the clause in Srila Prabhupada’s Will? He goes on to question our point that private letters to awkward disciples, unpublished till the mid-1980s (and only then because someone in the BBT was bribed to release them) cannot by themselves be used to overthrow a signed institutional directive issued to the whole movement by Srila Prabhupada in 1977. A common sense point one would have thought. The Author claims:
We did take full account of these letters, even quoting bits of them, and in no sense did we ‘discredit’ anything Srila Prabhupada said (as we shall later prove). Indeed, we consider he dealt very expertly with such deviant devotees as Tusta Krishna etc.
But you cannot direct a whole movement based on private letters that were never intended to be generally available to the movement, and which only became available years after Srila Prabhupada had physically departed. Surely this is obvious. And in any case we do take full account of even this type of evidence as we shall go on to explain.
The Author then begins with the first of his key 14 ‘arguments’ (please note the numbering of the arguments has been added by ourselves):
We did ‘consider’ all such evidence, as we shall see. But the Author fails to explain how such evidence was meant to directly effect the way ISKCON was run just after November 14th 1977, when it was not even intended to be made available to the whole of ISKCON. Not once does the Author offer any explanation for this.
Yet the ‘law of disciplic succession’ which as we shall see the Author relies on heavily was never mentioned in Srila Prabhupada’s books. Rather the books speak of examples of disciplic succession which do not even conform to this ‘law’ that was only ever mentioned once in private to a deviant disciple.
The Author again repeats his assertion:
Well then, why is ‘the law of disciplic succession’ not mentioned in his books, and if it is why do the GBC not follow it? The Author must accept the GBC’s position since his own guru is under their absolute authority, in the present set-up.
The Author concedes:
Here we can only quote the GBC in ‘Gurus and Initiation in ISKCON’ (GII) who said:
We note the Author singularly fails to produce a later or earlier countermanding order on initiation to the July 9th directive. If he wants to dispute this principle he should remember that his own guru, Hridayananda das Goswami, is himself under the authority, and hence the logic, of the same GBC who enunciated this principle.
And we would assert that there is no previously stated principle of guru-tattva, found in Srila Prabhupada’s books, that such a deployment of ritviks, post–departure, would contravene or ‘annul’. In his entire paper the Author fails to produce even one such teaching or principle, mentioned in Srila Prabhupada’s books, that the continued application of the ritvik system might violate. The Author then moves on to his favourite evidence:
This is another ‘straw-man’ argument in that the inapplicability of the letters in question in over-turning a signed institutional directive comes from the fact that the letters were not intended to give direction to ISKCON, but were issued only privately to individuals. Whether the disciples in question were qualified or not, how can such private, unpublished letters overturn signed institutional directives? We shall come to the actual content of these letters soon, but whatever they may contain, the Author fails to grasp the simple point that they cannot in themselves counteract the July 9th directive. It’s so obvious that this is the case since even the GBC have previously argued that they were only ordered to be diksa gurus on May 28th (though they also contradict this) when a special delegation was sent to Srila Prabhupada to find out how initiations were to continue. If it was already so clear what was to happen from these handful of private letters, how is it the entire GBC were utterly clueless even as late as mid 1977? It just doesn’t add up. In any case as we will later show, the letters do NOT contain any instruction that would overturn the July 9th directive.
‘Whatever’ Srila Prabhupada had to tell the whole world was most certainly in his books. But strangely the ‘law’ is not in there. The Author feels we missed out vital sections of one such private letter, we reproduce just those sections (underlined) relevant to his argument:
The Author comments:
Maybe, but there is no order here for Acyutananda to accept his own disciples. The whole point of the letter is to persuade him not to do this.
But what kind of ‘siksa-guru’ has to be reprimanded by his own Spiritual Master for cunningly maneuvering himself onto his own Guru’s vyasasana? Acyutananda still had to become an obedient disciple without ambition, and eventually rise to the level of siksa guru. The Author then quotes:
But how does this other section of the letter, that we did not include, effect the first part, which even the Author admits ‘seems to fit with the idea that Srila Prabhupada was simply try\ing to keep a disciple in devotional service on the plea of offering guru-ship’?
The Author continues:
We never say that to be instructed to become qualified is any sort of ‘misguidance’, so this is yet another staw-man argument. We simply say that this instruction is not in itself an order to accept disciples, rather the reverse, it is an attempt to STOP the disciple from doing this. The Author continues:
Even if someone becomes ‘qualified’ he must still be ‘authorised’. For Srila Prabhupada to indicate the only time period in which a disciple ‘may’ accept disciples, is not the same as saying that this ‘will’ or ‘should’ or is ‘ordained’ to happen. In TFO we gave the following example:
Within ISKCON there is no authority for anyone to initiate apart from Srila Prabhupada. This is clear from the final directive on initiation issued by Srila Prabhupada on July 9th 1977. He is the only diksa guru mentioned in this directive.
The Author offers the following argument:
This is another straw man argument. TFO never says all previous general instructions are ‘irrelevant’. We say the final order must take ‘precedence’. But we concede that there could be other evidence that might conceivably countermand this order, and spend a great deal of space examining it (such as the May 28th conversation). Since the premise of this section is wrong, and the Author makes further arguments based on the ‘law’ that has already been discussed above, the rest of this section of the Author’s paper is irrelevant to TFO, and we can skip mercifully to the next section.
The Author poses the following:
This again is a straw man argument. We never say Srila Prabhupada is still ‘physically present’ in his books etc. We say he is ‘spiritually present’ and that the books, murti’s etc are physical manifestations that distinguish Srila Prabhupada from being ‘Caitya guru’. Remember, Srila Prabhupada is a ‘Spiritual Master’ not a ‘Physical Master’. So we have external physical manifestations of Srila Prabhupada’s vani, even though his vapu is no longer perceivable. Since again this section is based entirely on a misconception, we shall again skip to the next section of the Author’s paper.
The Author poses the following:
The above is yet another straw-man argument. We never say that the example of B.g. 4.1. proves that a departed Acarya can accept disciples after his disappearance. We use it to show that a guru and disciple do not need to co-exist on the same planet in order for the process of diksa to function. Here is the relevant section of TFO:
So it was misleading of the Author to state: "The evidence used by TFO does not at all suggest that the guru on the remote planet was one who had passed away and continued to accept disciples after his disappearance" since that is not the point we were making. We also note he failed to mention the above quote from Srila Prabhupada that supports our main contention.
We also point out that Srila Prabhupada may still be in this universe (not ‘Krishna Loka’ as the Author speculates):
We never claim that the above is, in and of itself, proof that Srila Prabhupada established a ritvik system, merely that it supports various features implied by such a system. Since the rest of this section is based once again on a ‘straw-man’ argument, we will need to skip to where the following is posed:
This is yet another straw-man argument since, as already pointed out, we never assert or imply, nor is it the case, that ‘guru’ is a managerial post. However the ritvik does act within a system of management, as outlined in the July 9th directive. The post itself requires a qualified Brahmin. The Author then makes the following assertion:
So what examples does the Author give of authorised members of the disciplic succession being hired and fired by a committee?
But what has the above got to do with initiating members of our disciplic succession being hired and fired by a committee, where is his example that matches his claim? He never produces one. He then states:
he also states:
Both the above pose a straw-man argument, since we never say that ‘initiation’ itself is system of management, but, as the Author correctly quotes us: "the methodology for conducting initiations was deemed a system of management." So it is the ‘methodology’ not the transcendental process of diksa itself, that comes under the management umbrella. A subtle distinction perhaps, but there is no point in the Author attacking the wrong position. On the basis of this he goes on to launch an argument regarding marriage ceremonies using the wrong point of similarity with the ritvik system, causing his analogy to fail. (He attempts to show that the GBC have the authority to pick husbands!) In both an initiation and marriage, you have 2 individuals joined together via a ceremony. And in both cases a priest will conduct the ceremony. And just as no one is suggesting that the GBC will ‘choose’ the disciple for the Guru, but that the GBC can pick and manage the priests who conduct such ceremonies, similarly the GBC will not pick the husband for the wife, but the GBC can pick and manage the priests who conduct such ceremonies. Yes the Author is correct in that there is a parallel between marriage and initation ceremonies, only he wasn’t able to spot what the parallel is!
He goes on:
There were many initiated Brahmins in ISKCON when Srila Prabhupada was present, yet he still defined some of them as managers. For example the GBC. The management system for running initiations were meant to be managed by the GBC, who were responsible for making sure everything in ISKCON continued ‘without change’. In managing these systems they also engage other Brahmins to perform various tasks. Some of these Brahmins were engaged by Srila Prabhupada as ritviks, and operated (for a short time) within that structure. What is the difficulty if that continues?
The Author poses the following:
This is also a subtle straw-man argument. The verse only means this in relation to us, Srila Prabhupada’s followers, since this is how he conveyed the order to us - i.e. “It is best not to accept any disciples”:
The subject of TFO is purely how the ‘Amara’ verse relates to us, Srila Prabhupada’s followers, not how it may relate to other great personalities. The Author continues:
The purports following the verse make it clear that, as far as we are concerned, the verse requests us to act as instructors, not initiators. The instruction ‘It is best not to accept any disciples’ could not make this point any clearer. The Author himself quotes from TFO:
Clearly unable to refute our point here, the Author tries to divert attention by offering quotes that simply encourage everyone to preach, and in that sense become guru, a point no-one disputes:
(the Author gave several other similar quotes)
Such preachers may well be ‘advanced devotees’, but where is there any mention of them initiating their own disciples in all the quotes offered by the Author? Thus the Author fails to disprove the TFO’s position regarding how the ‘amara’ verse relates to Srila Prabhupada’s followers.
This is another ‘straw-man’ argument. The above statement that “the amara-ajnaya verse never refers to the diksa-guru”, is never stated in TFO. What we do say is that the application of this verse specifically to ISKCON, where Srila Prabhupada is using it specifically to order his disciples to become Gurus, only refers to siksa-guru. The Author is not able to quote a single example of Srila Prabhupada ordering his disciples to become Gurus using the “amara ajanaya” verse where Srila Prabhupada is referring to Diksa Gurus. On the contrary in his purports to this verse where he specifically speaks of the application of this verse to ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada makes it clear the verse can only refer to Siksa Gurus by stating – “It is best not to accept any disciples”.
Above the Author speculates that Srila Prabhupada did not receive an ‘explicit’ order from his own Guru to accept disciples. But how can he possibly know this? Srila Prabhupada himself has never stated that he did not receive an explicit order from his own Guru maharaja. The Author presents no evidence to support his claim, but simply speculates that Srila Prabhupada was ordered to accept disciples at the same moment he was told to preach by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta:
Firstly “That’s all” refers not to the totality of the order he received but to the fact that all he did was execute his spiritual master’s order:
Secondly we know Srila Prabhupada must have been authorised to accept disciples in addition to just told to preach because this is what Srila Prabhupada taught, as we said in TFO:
The general instruction from Lord Caitanya to preach had been present for 500 years. It is obvious then that Srila Prabhupada did not consider 'amara ajnaya guru hana' to refer specifically to diksa, otherwise why would we need yet another specific order from our immediate Acarya?"
So being told to go and preach is not the same as being specifically ordered to become diksa guru. If the Author really believed this then why has he not demanded an explanation for why there are only 70 ISKCON diksa gurus in the last 24 years, and that each one has had to be separately and laboriously ‘authorised’ by the GBC? Why do the GBC have to authorise them if they are already authorised? So even the Author’s own ‘spiritual authorities’ do not accept that being told to preach, in and of itself, authorises one to act as a diksa guru.
The Author next poses the following:
This is a straw-man argument. We never discuss whether or not some or all of the current gurus are ‘uttama-adhikaris’; we only discuss whether they are authorised to act as diksa gurus.
The Author next proposes:
This is yet another straw-man argument. TFO never says that not falling down is any sort of qualification.
This is another straw-man argument. We never say that a mahabhagavat cannot fall down, we say that someone on the topmost platform (prema, not bhava) who has been authorised by his own guru to initiate, will never fall down. There is no example in all Srila Prabhupada’s teachings of an authorised member of our disciplic succession falling down. It simply does not happen since the disciplic succession is infallible. Since this entire section is based on the above misrepresentation we shall move on swiftly to the next section:
This is another straw-man argument. TFO never says that because there are gaps, therefore ‘some initiation of disciples by a departed guru had taken place at some points in history’. If we had said this then why did the Author not quote us saying it? We simply pointed out that there are gaps, and that this shows that current links do not always appear back-to-back, but can remain current for long periods until a new acarya appears. Our point was thus not that this directly proves gurus can initiate after their departure (departure and appearance have no relevance to the process of diksa) merely that current links can remain current for long periods; a point the Author does not challenge. The fact that Srila Prabhupada says that ‘also’ some branches are not recorded, does not negate the fact that ‘also’ there are gaps. Since this section again rests on a faulty premise, we shall skip to the next:
Above we see the Author confuses what we agree is an essential: the promise from the disciple to follow; with the non-essential: namely the fire ceremony. In other words, yet another ‘straw-man’ argument. We, in any case, also accept that even the non-essential aspects have merit, otherwise Srila Prabhupada would not have established them, and this is why the IRM are fighting to have them re-instated within ISKCON in their original form. Since this section is based on the above misrepresentation of our position we shall go to the next section entitled:
With regards the July 9th directive, the Author argues that it:
We never said it did. But in logic later statements supersede earlier ones. This is what the GBC says also, and they are the Author’s authority. Thus at the point the letter was issued, all previous methods of initiation would become redundant. After July 9th everyone accepts that they were meant to use ritviks to give names, chant on beads etc. The Author claims the order seems to be a type (b) instruction, which he defines as:
The reason he thinks this is:
As far as we can see the above is complete gobbledeygook. If the final July 9th order on initiation states, as it does, that all future initiates are to be disciples of Srila Prabhupada, how does this resemble in any way, shape or form an order for the ‘ritviks’ to accept disciples for themselves, on their own behalf? The Author continues with a discussion of the word ‘henceforward’, which he then admits is redundant since he points out that:
The Author then claims:
TFO spends most of its pages examining what evidence could possibly countermand the ritvik order, and nothing was found. So what has the Author uncovered that is suddenly so convincing?
Yes, it’s that ‘law’ again. The Author misunderstands our use of the ‘law’. It is not used in any way as evidence to defend our position. It is used to defeat the GBC who previously used it themselves to defend their position (but have now dumped it). Our point being that if the GBC want to rely on private letters as prime evidence (something we have never done) then it is THEY who must take account of the fact that the ‘law’ negates the use of the letter that says “by 1975, all those who have passed all of the above examinations will be specifically empowered to initiate and increase the number of Krishna Consciousness population." We made the same point the GBC had made their position paper (“Gurus and Initiation in ISKCON”), either Srila Prabhupada was expecting to leave the planet by 1975, or he was talking about some type of representational system. So our point is the GBC cannot use both the ‘law’ and the ‘by 1975’ letter at the same time. They cancel each other out. The Author has not grasped this point, and thinks we rely on the ‘law’ ourselves as some type of generally applicable instruction, when we do not. Since this section is based on this ‘straw-man’ misunderstanding we shall skip to the end.
The Author finishes with quotes over which there is no dispute such as the following:
And the type of ‘acarya’ we were meant to be is also described many times. We must simply repeat what we have been told and ‘it is best not to accept any disciples’ (C.C: Madhya 7.130, purport). Srila Prabhupada established himself as the sole initiating acarya for ISKCON for as long as the institution exists, and we should simply assist him in his mission as instructors.
We have shown the following:
i) The paper relies heavily on a ‘law’ of ‘disciplic succession’ that:
ii) The paper fails to explain how the
verse authorises Srila Prabhupada’s disciples to accept disciples when
it’s purports state “it is best not to accept any disciples”.
In the ‘acknowledgements’ section of his paper the Author thanks his wife for making ‘sacrifices’ so that he had ‘time’ to work on this ‘project’. However due to his failure to address the actual document he is supposed to be responding to, we were able to dismantle his ‘project’ in under 3 hours. Our sympathies therefore go to his wife for the precious waste of time incurred in producing an irrelevant paper.
Thus TFO remains robustly resilient to yet another attempt to thwart Srila Prabhupada’s stated intentions. For the fifth time in as many years, once again, ‘The Final Order Still Stands’!
Yours in the service of Srila Prabhupada