The Bogus Bona Fide Guru Paradox


Back To Prabhupada, Issue 63, Vol 3, 2019

The Sastric Advisory Council ("SAC") – which is supposed to be a group of seniormost brahminical scholars who advise the GBC (GBC Resolution 604, 2002) – issued a supposedly "scholarly" paper titled "Pati-Guru", whose recommendations were accepted by the GBC. However, far from being "scholarly", the paper instead promotes the absurd paradox of the bogus bona fide guru. Quotes in the shaded boxes are from this paper. All emphases added.

Bogus guru paradox

"If a husband has a tendency to be heavy-handed or even abusive toward his wife, it's possible that the fact he now holds the keys to her eternal spiritual welfare would exacerbate the problem." (p. 28)

The above discusses the hypothetical case of a GBC-authorised ISKCON diksa guru who has initiated his wife as his disciple, and is abusive towards her. But, even a gross materialist is not supposed to be abusive towards another living entity – otherwise he could be locked up! Thus, there is no question of a bona fide guru behaving in this way. Yet, we are informed that such an abusive guru will be bona fide, since he will still retain the spiritual power to be responsible for the disciple's "eternal spiritual welfare". So, he is bogus by behaving abusively, but simultaneously also bona fide by holding the "key" to "eternal spiritual" progress.

"However, the sanga of devotees which is the institution does have a responsibility to educate and guide devotees in their choice of guru and disciple". (p. 35)

This states that there is a need to "educate and guide" the GBC-authorised diksa guru in regards to the choice of his own disciple. Hence, though he is considered bona fide enough to be able to take disciples, he is not bona fide enough to be able to decide whom to take, without education and guidance from others. So, the guru is supposedly qualified enough to take the disciple back to Godhead, but not even qualified enough to freely choose him as a disciple to begin with!

Insane guru system

"Regarding institutional concerns, there is some scope for the leadership of ISKCON to oversee the activities of gurus and disciples in ISKCON, because the gurus' behavior with their disciples influences people's faith in the bhakti-sanga." (p. 5)

Speaking again of GBC-authorised diksa gurus, it states that they need to be overseen in regards to their "behaviour" with their disciples because they could behave in a way that affects people's faith. Thus, the GBC guru is considered completely bona fide to take disciples – just not bona fide enough to always behave appropriately with them!

From this absurd paradox of the bogus bona fide guru, we can understand that the guru system in ISKCON must be one of the only institutions in the whole world where one does not necessarily need to be fully qualified before acting. Consider the case of a doctor. He is not allowed to practise until he is qualified, otherwise he could kill the patient. Hence, if a hospital allowed someone to operate even though they might not actually be qualified, such a situation would rightly be considered insane. Yet, a guru is like a spiritual doctor, and if he is not qualified, but a charlatan, he could seriously harm the disciple spiritually. But, as just seen, the "bogus bona fide guru" paradox accepts that the GBC gurus may be abusive, behave inappropriately and need to be guided in even basic things – and thus may not be bona fide at all!

Sleight of hand trickery - 1

""The GBC should all be the instructor gurus. I am in the initiator guru, and you should be the instructor guru by teaching what I am teaching and doing what I am doing."
(Letter to Madhudvisa. Detroit 4 August 1975)

The above quote would give credence to the idea that a husband who is his wife's instructor guru could later on become her initiator guru, as many GBC's are now initiating gurus for the same persons for whom they were first instructing gurus." (p. 20)

The quoted letter states that the GBCs are instructor gurus but Srila Prabhupada is the initiator guru. Hence, this quote "would give credence" to the idea that the GBCs are instructor gurus and Srila Prabhupada is the initiator guru, because that's all it says! Yet, the SAC claims that the quote "would give credence" to one who is the instructor guru replacing Srila Prabhupada as the initiator guru, by taking this position himself – even though that is effectively the opposite of what is stated! Through such perverted "logic", one could claim that Srila Prabhupada's quotes "would give credence" to anything!


Sleight of hand trickery - 2

"Srila Prabhupada did speak of his disciples giving diksa after his departure." (p. 19)

The paper is full of quotes, and indeed the bibliography itself lists no less than 19 sources. Yet, when it came to the above assertion, the SAC suddenly became bashful and shy and gave no supporting quotes or references at all! That's because they cannot! Although Srila Prabhupada did state a handful of times the conditions under which his disciples could theoretically give diksa, i.e., only after his physical departure, he never once stated that his disciples will be "giving diksa after his departure".

In the last section, we saw the SAC quote something that stated the opposite of what they claimed, and now they have just claimed something without offering any quotes at all, because they cannot! Yet, this sleight of hand trickery is considered "scholarship" in ISKCON.


The GBC insists that we give up the perfect diksa guru Srila Prabhupada and instead place our faith in its own gurus. Yet, the GBC itself does not have faith that these gurus are bona fide, because in practice the GBC insists that these gurus be guided, educated, overseen and controlled – something that would be unnecessary for a bona fide guru. We are thus told to give up a gamble-free guru in Srila Prabhupada, and instead take a gamble on a GBC guru who may not be bona fide.

But everyone in ISKCON must follow the four regulative principles, one of which is "no gambling". Hence, adhering strictly to following the four regulative principles itself demands that we stick only with Srila Prabhupada as the gamble-free diksa guru of ISKCON.

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