A Challenge to the ICC - 2


Back To Prabhupada, Issue 70, Vol 3, 2021

In the last issue (in articles "The GBC and ISKCON India in Fight Over Course" and "Trying to Be More than the Acarya"), we showed how a recent "Hermeneutics" course published by the GBC's Sastric Advisory Council ("SAC") is not authorised by Srila Prabhupada. We also noted that this course was strongly condemned by the Indian Continental Committee ("ICC") – which is an organisation that represents ISKCON India – for trying to undermine the authority of Srila Prabhupada.

In the previous article, we noted the integral role Basu Ghosh Dasa ("BGD") plays in representing ISKCON India. He has now promoted a paper, authored by others, titled "A Critique of the Sastric Advisory Council's System of Hermeneutics", by posting a link to it on his social media account. However, this paper attacks the authority of Srila Prabhupada even more than the SAC course did. All quotes in shaded boxes are taken from this paper. Emphases added.

Srila Prabhupada not primary

As we explained in the previous issue, the SAC's course is devious because it puts forward some correct positions which it then later opposes. One correct position the course advocates (which it then opposes) is the following "overarching principle":

"Understanding tradition through Srila Prabhupada, accepting Srila Prabhupada as the representative and conveyer of the essence of the tradition and parampara, in the most appropriate way for our understanding and application."

The BGD-circulated paper attacks this "overarching principle" by claiming that it wrongly elevates Srila Prabhupada's teachings as being above all other evidences:

"SAC's elevation of Srila Prabhupada to the position of primary pramana [evidence – Ed.] has no precedent in either sastra or the Vedic tradition."

Can't clear doubts

"one can produce a statement from Srila Prabhupada that supports almost any idea [...] it elevates the decision-maker's opinion above all other pramanas. [...] that Srila Prabhupada is "the representative and conveyer of the essence of the tradition and parampara" is justified, but only when no doubt has arisen as to what he meant."

Thus, the paper claims:

1) Srila Prabhupada's teachings are so weird, wacky and contradictory that they can support "almost any idea".

2) Therefore, it is impossible for us to conclude what Srila Prabhupada meant by relying only on his words, and thus the follower will be forced to just give his own "opinion".

3) Hence, we can only accept Srila Prabhupada's teachings to understand the parampara if there is already "no doubt" regarding them, as they alone cannot clear those doubts.

Causes disintegration

The paper goes on to state that relying on "Srila Prabhupada as ISKCON's only source of spiritual knowledge":

"guarantees no resolution of important conflicts over Srila Prabhupada's various statements. And this further perpetuates the gradual disintegration of ISKCON"

However, Srila Prabhupada wanted that he be accepted as ISKCON's supreme authority:

"His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada [...] He is the supreme authority in all matters of the society."
(Topmost Urgency, 22/7/74, approved by Srila Prabhupada)

And, therefore, we must accept his words as "supreme", which means above all other sources. Hence, by definition, they will always be the conduit through which we have to understand any other sources of knowledge.

Thus, the BGD-circulated paper is claiming that it is effectively Srila Prabhupada who is responsible for perpetuating the disintegration of ISKCON, since he wanted us to accept his statements as supreme.

ICC needs to choose

This paper claims:

1) Srila Prabhupada should not be the primary authority;
2) He cannot resolve our doubts;
3) He is effectively responsible for perpetuating the disintegration of his movement.

The ICC objected to the SAC course on the basis that it undermines the primacy of Srila Prabhupada's teachings:

"the course is a smokescreen for teaching and encouraging interpretation of Srila Prabhupada's purports [...] this is offensive to Srila Prabhupada and unacceptable in the movement where Srila Prabhupada's teachings are incontrovertible, being the guidance for the movement and the world for the next ten thousand years".
(ICC statement published 17/5/21)

However, as we have just shown, these points would apply even more to the BGD-circulated paper. Therefore, to be consistent, we assume that:

a) The ICC will sanction BGD for circulating this paper, and call on him to publicly condemn this paper instead of circulating it.

b) Otherwise, it would mean the ICC's objections to the SAC course were not sincere, but instead were themselves just a "smokescreen" to have some reason to attack the GBC.


Many of the quotes from Srila Prabhupada that we included in our rebuttal to the SAC course in the previous issue would also apply in rebutting the points made here by this BGD-circulated paper. Because, ultimately, it is just about whether we accept Srila Prabhupada as our supreme authority, as he ordered – which this paper does not. Srila Prabhupada also promises that he alone can answer all doubts:

"utilize your time for advancing in Krishna consciousness by reading our books [...] then all of your questions will be answered automatically"
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, 4/3/72)

In addition, regardless of which source of authority and the number of such authorities one uses, one can still have doubts and disagreements without resolution and claim that these authorities support many different ideas. Thus, instead of disagreeing about one source of authority, Srila Prabhupada, one will now just disagree regarding multiple other sources of authority. Indeed, this BGD-circulated paper itself is the best proof for this, since it disagrees with the SAC course in regards to how to interpret the very same non-Prabhupada sources, such as the previous acaryas, that the SAC course uses. Thus, just the very existence of this paper attacking the SAC course refutes its central anti-Prabhupada thesis.


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