By Deepak Vohra


Dear Umapati Maharaja and CHAKRA

Please accept my most humble obeisances. 
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

I read with great interest the transcript of the class given by H.H. Bhaktitirtha Swami as appeared recently on CHAKRA and described on VNN. There are a couple of statements, however, made by Maharaja that I personally feel extremely uncomfortable with and therefore feel compelled to respond to:

Firstly, Maharaja stated:

"Or, often there is a tendency, the third tendency to accept disembodied authorities or accept authorities that have passed on because with such, there can be a lack of accountability or you move away from getting your butt kicked or you move away from being chastised or criticized and so, often, people prefer that kind of a system."

Obviously, the "tendency" Maharaja is referring to here is the ritvik "tendency". I would like to make a few points about this particular statement from Maharaja:

With all due respect to His Holiness Bhaktitirtha Swami, I find his terminology to describe departed acaryas as "disembodied" somewhat distasteful. "Disembodied" = ghost. I am sure Maharaja does not really mean that Srila Prabhupada is a ghost. Perhaps a different turn of phrase such as "authorities in samadhi" would have been more appropriate.

Again, I find Maharaja's description of accepting "authorities that have passed on" rather unpalatable. Acaryas do not "pass on", at least from the spiritual perspective. "Pass on" is a materialistic euphemism for "died". And we all know what Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has to say about that:

"He reasons ill who tells that Vaisnavas die, when thou art living still in sound."

Furthermore, I do not believe Srila Prabhupada would agree with this idea of the guru "passing on":

"Although according to material vision His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada passed away from this material world on the last day of December 1936, I still consider His Divine Grace to be always present with me by His vani, His words...Physical presence is sometimes appreciable and sometimes not, but vani continues to exist eternally. Therefore, one must take advantage of the vani not the physical presence." (C.c. Antya-lila, concluding words).

"...it is not that He [Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura] is dead and gone. That is not spiritual understanding...He is seeing. I never feel that I am alone."
(SP Lecture, 2/3/75)

The use of the term "disembodied authorities" is rather perplexing when our entire philosophy is based on the principle that we are not the body. Therefore, whether the current acarya is "embodied" or "disembodied" has to be irrelevant. Indeed, Srila Prabhupada very much emphasises this point with specific reference to the Spiritual Master:

"Krsna and His representative is the same. Just like Krsna can be present simultaneously in million of places. Similarly, the Spiritual Master also can be present wherever the disciple wants. A Spiritual Master is the principle, not the body. "
(SP Letter to Malati, 28/5/68)

If the "tendency to accept disembodied authorities or authorities that have passed on" is bogus, then maybe we have all had the wrong sort of tendencies over the past 21 years in accepting the authority of Srila Prabhupada.

Secondly, Maharaja stated:

"Bhagavad Gita, 11.54, Prabhupada explains in the purport that without personal guidance, personal guidance from a personal spiritual master it becomes impossible to understand Krishna. "

The actual purport reads thus:

"For one who does not take personal training under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master, it is impossible to even to begin to understand Krsna."
(Bg 11.54, purport)

My understanding of this sentence is that the words "personal training" and "under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master" do not necessarily mean that the personal training has to be conducted by the bona fide guru; rather, the training has to be conducted under the guidance or spiritual authority of the bona fide guru. We know for a fact that the vast majority of Srila Prabhupada's thousands of disciples did not receive this personal training from Srila Prabhupada himself. Only a small handful of fortunate disciples did. The rest were trained up by their Temple Presidents and senior devotees. Yet the training was going on "under the guidance" of Srila Prabhupada as the ultimate spiritual authority. Indeed, even in current day ISKCON, most disciples do not receive this personal training from their guru - that responsibility lies with bhakta leaders, Tps, senior devotees etc.

Now, before I am accused of word jugglery in my interpretation, I believe my understanding of this purport is justified by other statements from Srila Prabhupada:

"I shall remain your personal guidance, physically present, or not physically, as I am getting personal guidance from my Guru Maharaja."
(SP Room Conversation, 14/7/77, Vrindavan)

"(To answer this argument,) it is described here that one has to associate with liberated persons not directly, physically, but by understanding, through philosophy and logic, the problems of life."
(S.B. 3.31.48, purport)

I would be interested to hear other views on these topics. I beg forgiveness for any offenses caused.

I remain with respect

Your humble servant,

Deepak Vohra.