The Debate is Over


Back To Prabhupada, Issue 46, Winter 2014/15

Devotees often write to us asking why we do not have an official debate with the GBC to settle once and for all the dispute over Srila Prabhupada's position in ISKCON. There are two points to consider regarding this suggestion for a debate. One is that an official debate authorised by the GBC has already taken place. This was held under the auspices of Martin Luther University, Germany, and can be read here:

The second point is whether or not there is actually anything at all to debate, for a debate implies that there are two rational opposing viewpoints. Below we examine this second point.

Only one viewpoint

The one fact that would destroy any potential "debate" even before it started is that the GBC can be quoted to have the same position as the IRM! We say "fact" because we would only be quoting the words of the GBC, GBC members and other ISKCON leaders to establish what they state. Some examples of this are:

1) Recently we had the GBC "Foundational Document" for the whole of ISKCON establishing the IRM's position that Srila Prabhupada will always remain ISKCON's only diksa guru (up to another 9500 years) as its Founder-acarya. A book documenting this was sent along with BTP 43 to every subscriber, and that issue also had articles establishing this point.

2) In BTP 41, we had another GBC-endorsed document, this time a "Vision Statement" for ISKCON UK, explaining that Srila Prabhupada existed as the diksa guru authority for ISKCON.

3) We also have BTP Special Summary Issue 2, which quotes various ISKCON gurus, GBCs and leaders agreeing with the IRM's position in detail.

So, in a debate between the IRM and a GBC which agrees with the IRM, only the IRM can win, and hence there is nothing to debate!

No basis for opposition

The previous 3 articles established in detail that there is no basis, either from Srila Prabhu-pada's teachings, or even from what the GBC accept, for assuming that physical departure represents a natural point at which Srila Prabhu-pada should cease to act as ISKCON's diksa guru. Nor, as a simple examination of Srila Prabhu-pada's statements will show, did Srila Prabhupada state that he was going to cease acting as ISKCON's diksa guru at his physical departure (or at any other time). Thus, there is no reason to assume or propose that there exists a restriction on Srila Prabhu-pada initiating due to his physical departure. A knee-jerk emotional reaction to this fact has been to claim something along the following lines:

"If Srila Prabhupada is not restricted from initiating after his physical departure, then what is to restrict Lord Brahma, or anyone else for that matter, from initiating?"

The answer is they are prevented from initiating by the parampara principle, or more precisely by the fact that we must only take initiation from the current link in the parampara:

"[...] the message of Srimad-Bhagavatam is coming down by disciplic succession, and in order to receive the real message of Srimad-Bhagavatam one should approach the current link, or spiritual master, in the chain of disciplic succession. After being initiated by the proper spiritual master in that chain of succession, one should engage himself in the discharge of tapasya in the execution of devotional service."
(SB, 2.9.7)

And it is not disputed by any ISKCON leader that from 1966 onwards, the current link in the parampara, at least for all ISKCON members, was only Srila Prabhupada. Hence, previous members of the parampara are already prevented from initiating by the parampara "current link" principle, not by some "physical departure" restriction that Srila Prabhupada never taught.

Thus, since no reason or basis exists for claiming that Srila Prabhupada's position as ISKCON's diksa guru must be restricted due to his physical departure, there is no credible opposition to the IRM's position on this point.

No way out

Thus, given that Srila Prabhu-pada never taught:

a) That he would give up acting as ISKCON's diksa guru on his physical departure;
b) A diksa guru has to automatically cease acting due to his physical departure;

a counter-argument offered is:

"Yes, Srila Prabhupada could be ISKCON's diksa guru permanently if he wanted to, as he did not teach anything that prevents this [facts a) and b) above]. But Srila Prabhupada did not actually do this."

However, it is not disputed that in 1966, after Srila Prabhu-pada founded ISKCON, he established himself as ISKCON's sole diksa guru. If Srila Prabhupada had then gone on to teach either a) or b) above, it would have meant that his position as ISKCON's diksa guru was only temporary, to be ended when he physically departed. But, since he did not teach a) or b), it means his position as ISKCON's diksa guru was not temporary. And a position can only be established either on a permanent or temporary basis. Thus, if it is not temporary, then it must be permanent. Hence, the absence of a) and b) means that he established his position as ISKCON's diksa guru permanently, and therefore it is a fact that he did want to be ISKCON's permanent diksa guru.


i) Accepting that Srila Prabhupada could be ISKCON's diksa guru if he wanted to, is predicated on accepting the fact that there is no teaching [points a) and b)] from Srila Prabhupada which prevents him from doing so.

ii) But the absence of such a teaching means that Srila Prabhupada's establishment of himself as ISKCON's diksa guru from 1966 onwards was not a temporary measure to be terminated on his physical departure.

iii) And if it was not a temporary measure, then it was permanent, meaning Srila Prabhupada established himself as ISKCON's permanent diksa guru.

Hence, the above argument actually concedes the very proposition it is attempting to argue against!


In order for there to be a debate, there has to be something to debate. If your opponent:

1) agrees with you;

2) can give no reason to oppose your position;

3) offers arguments that concede your position;

then the debate is over before it has even begun!

The GBC has done 1). The previous three articles establish that 2) is also a reality. And, given 2), one is then forced into 3).

Hence, the GBC has no argument for the IRM to debate.

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