H.H. Romapada Swami: A Case Study
Divine - or just deviant?


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Back To Prabhupada, Issue 33, Autumn 2011

One of ISKCON’s leading GBC voted-in “gurus”, HH Romapada Swami, based in the USA, is happy to accept that he is supposedly a “pure devotee” guru successor to Srila Prabhupada, by:

a) Allowing such descriptions of himself on his official website:

“The next day, we were able to carry the festive mood by being in the divine presence of Maharaja […] we were blessed and fortunate to be in the powerful association of His pure representative, His Holiness Romapada Swami Maharaja.”
(www.romapadaswami. com, archived 2011)

b) Directly accepting he is on this level by posing as a bona fide ISKCON spiritual master and claiming that such a person must be an uttama-adhikari:

“It is also further recommended that one accept a spiritual master who is on the topmost platform of devotional service, i.e. an uttama adhikari. […] Shastras do enjoin that before surrendering to a guru, it is the duty of the disciple to ascertain that the spiritual master is a pure representative based on the above mentioned scriptural standards”.
(www.romapadaswami. com, archived 2011)

Given these repeated, confident proclamations of divine, pure devotee status, we will analyse Romapada Swami’s actual status.
Statements from Romapada Swami are all taken from his official website, and will appear in the tinted panels as above, with our comments underneath.

Not authorised

Romapada Swami agrees that Srila Prabhupada needs to have directly authorised him to act as a diksa guru successor:

“Spiritual Masters are self realized then can we say all self realized persons can be a spiritual masters? Yes, if they are authorized by their spiritual master to perform this service, and if they are receiving knowledge in disciplic succession.”

Yet, Romapada Swami has not produced any record of receiving this authorisation from Srila Prabhupada to act as his successor diksa guru. This is to be expected since there is no record of such an authorisation given by Srila Prabhupada to either Romapada Swami or anyone else. Rather, Romapada Swami, like so many of his ISKCON “guru” colleagues, became such a successor diksa guru via simply receiving the required number of “no objection” votes from the GBC, rather than any direct order from Srila Prabhupada:

“5. The following, who have received recommendation from 3 GBC members according to the September, 1985 GBC resolutions are given blessings to initiate. [...] 2. Romapada Swami - New York […] “
[GBC resolutions, March 30, 1986]

As will now be documented, to justify his unauthorised status as a successor diksa guru, Romapada Swami has to resort to inventing unauthorised doctrines.

Unauthorised doctrine: “In person”

“The medium through which we can actually access, reciprocate with and surrender to Srila Prabhupada is through his instructions. His sincere living representatives who are faithfully and sincerely living their lives according to his instructions help us to access His Divine Grace. […] the principle of approaching a spiritual master in person to receive transcendental knowledge is a universal principle - for all time and ages. Krishna unequivocally recommends it (BG 4.34); furthermore, Srila Prabhupada himself repeatedly instructs in all of his writings and teachings the need to surrender to a personal spiritual master, submissively inquire and render personal service.”

Romapada Swami here makes 3 false claims:

1) That Srila Prabhupada’s instructions need to be accessed via a physically present “living” guru “in person”.
2) That this doctrine is taught by Krishna in Bhagavad-gita 4:34.
3) That Srila Prabhupada himself repeatedly teaches this.

Nowhere does Krishna or Srila Prabhupada state that knowledge from the spiritual master can only be received “in person” via “living representatives”. Indeed, these doctrines are so absurd that even Romapada Swami himself also claims they are false, making it clear that one can access Srila Prabhupada’s instructions directly, and that “personal living”
association is not necessary:

“Hearing about Krishna from the lips of a pure devotee is also very important to quickly attract Krishna’s mercy. […] If it is possible for you, you can try to get some of the audio recordings of Srila Prabhupada’s lectures and hear them regularly, and/ or you can study Prabhupada’s books, which is a recorded form of his speaking. […] Approaching through the devotee does not necessarily mean through physical contact. […] As Srila Prabhupada always emphasized, association of the guru or a saintly person through ‘vani’ (i.e. their instructions) is more important than association through ‘vapu’ (personal, physical association).”

Unauthorised doctrine: Not Srila Prabhupada

“If we want to follow the instructions of Srila Prabhupada, one of his often repeated and clear instructions is the necessity for everyone of us to accept a bona fide spiritual master and serve such a spiritual master with surrender and submission. Those who faithfully accept this instruction of Prabhupada will be empowered to find and take shelter of a pure spiritual master and follower of Srila Prabhupada.”

Srila Prabhupada does indeed state that one needs to accept and serve a bona fide spiritual master. Srila Prabhupada does not, however, state that such a bona fide spiritual master cannot be himself but rather is one of his “followers”. As with the previous entry, this can be shown to be an unauthorised doctrine simply by noting that Romapada Swami is unable to quote Srila Prabhupada stating what he is claiming. On the contrary, when Srila Prabhupada established ISKCON, he also established himself as the initiating guru for all the members of the ISKCON society:

“I am the Spiritual Master of this institution, and all the members of the Society, they’re supposed to be my disciples. They follow the rules and regulations which I ask them to follow, and they are initiated by me spiritually.”
(Srila Prabhupada, Radio Interview, 12/3/1968)

And at no point did he state that this state of affairs should be terminated, and that instead one can only be initiated by one of his disciples, such as Romapada Swami.

Unauthorised doctrine: Srila Prabhupada not personal

“As recommended in BG 4.34, Surrender and service are to be offered to a personal spiritual master who is purely and transparently representing the disciplic succession and from whom we can hear and inquire of the practical applications of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings specific to our lives.”

Again, Romapada Swami claims that we must surrender to a spiritual master other than Srila Prabhupada, due to the need to learn how to apply Srila Prabhupada’s teachings specifically in one’s life. Again, this doctrine can be rejected simply by noting that Romapada Swami has not quoted Srila Prabhupada supporting his claim. Bhagavad-gita 4:34 does not state the only way Srila Prabhupada’s teachings can be applied is by surrendering to someone other than Srila Prabhupada. Indeed, many of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples never met him, yet this did not require that they surrender to someone else as their spiritual master. Again, such an unauthorised doctrine is rejected by Romapada Swami himself!:

“If the instructions of the spiritual master remain always close to our heart, this is like being personally trained by the spiritual master as he resides within our hearts due to our love for him!”[…] During Srila Prabhupada’s time, many devotees did not get Prabhupada’s personal association very much; they were being trained by and working under Prabhupada’s disciples but formally they accepted Srila Prabhupada as their eternal spiritual master and were initiated by him.”

Unauthorised doctrine: Bona fide falldown

"That may be a possibility. There are some instances when one does accept a bona fide spiritual master but later on that spiritual master may fall away from the strict standards.”

To rationalise the unauthorised guru hoax operating in ISKCON, of which Romapada Swami is an integral part, and which has seen dozens of its “gurus” engage in gross falldowns, Romapada Swami claims bona fide spiritual masters can deviate. However, Srila Prabhupada teaches the exact opposite:

“A bona fide spiritual master is in the disciplic succession from time eternal, and he does not deviate at all from the instructions of the Supreme Lord”
(Bhagavad-gita As It Is, 4.4.2, purport)

No need to search out

Continuing with his theme that one must find a physically present “living” guru to surrender to, Romapada Swami claims we need to “search out” such a bona fide spiritual master who is present in the material world:

“The qualifications and duties of a bona fide spiritual master are adequately described by Srila Prabhupada in his books, and it is the duty of a sincere devotee to assimilate them and search out such a bona fide spiritual master. For such a sincere seeker, Krishna always sends His bona fide representative. By Krishna’s plan & desire, pure devotee spiritual masters are always present in this material world at any point in time”

But Srila Prabhupada is the bona fide spiritual master that Krishna has sent, and he is still present in the material universe:

“You have asked if it is true that the spiritual master remains in the universe until all his disciples are transferred to the spiritual sky. The answer is yes, this is the rule.”
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, 11/7/69)

Srila Prabhupada is also present through his books, instructions and empowered murti (deity) form, which is the form via which Romapada Swami himself has been associating with and surrendering to Srila Prabhupada. Hence, Romapada Swami cannot argue that there is always a “living”, physically present guru to whom one must surrender and associate with, because he himself does not have such a bona fide spiritual master! Indeed, again, Romapada Swami’s propositions are so absurd that they are rejected by himself:

"Just as Krishna is present everywhere and not just in the temple, similarly the Spiritual Master is also not an ordinary person who is restricted by mundane space or time. The Spiritual Master is non-different from his instructions (vani).”

Further contradiction

“It is quite proper and also essential for all devotees in the Krishna consciousness process to have deep feelings of attachment for Srila Prabhupada - we owe our spiritual life to his endless loving sacrifices for us, his crystal-clear teachings and his brilliant personal qualities and example. That attachment can be best expressed, even in his physical absence, by faithfully and gratefully grasping and following his instructions - this is the essence of the loving reciprocation between the disciple and the spiritual master. As you have rightly surmised, the important point is to surrender, and you can surrender to Srila Prabhupada’s vani or instructions.”

Romapada Swami claims that we owe our spiritual life to Srila Prabhupada and that it is possible to surrender to and follow Srila Prabhupada’s instructions today. And that this is the essence of loving reciprocation between a spiritual master and his disciple. So, if this is the case, and we surrender to Srila Prabhupada by following his instructions, and thereby engage in loving reciprocation with him as his disciple, why would we need to accept another spiritual master such as Romapada Swami, as he has advocated in the earlier entries?


Despite promoting himself as a pure devotee and bona fide spiritual master, the analysis above shows that Romapada Swami:

a) Is not authorised to be a successor diksa guru to Srila Prabhupada.
b) Presents self-made defective teachings.
c) Presents contradictory teachings.

Hence, by Romapada Swami’s own definition, he is not a bona fide spiritual master:

“A bona fide guru would never present any invented, self-made defective teachings, but will always simply repeat what the scriptures and Supreme Lord say, without any modification or distortion. Only these teaching can be considered flawless, and they constitute the teachings of a bona fide spiritual master.”

Please chant: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, Hare, Hare, 
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama, Rama, Hare, Hare.
 And be Happy!