Death of the "tradition" doctrine - Part 2


'Back to Prabhupada, Issue 26, Winter 2009/10'

By Krishnakant

Following on, we will here document Srila Prabhupada's teachings on the subject of tradition.
We will see that if the GBC had bothered to study Srila Prabhupada's teachings, like the IRM does, then they would never have embraced the "tradition" doctrine.

Defeated by a lack of evidence

The first point which can be noted about any of the GBC's various false doctrines is that they are all based on the "magic wand" theory. This means that they assume that just by pronouncing them, they automatically become true. For example, in the case of their "living guru" doctrine, they will simply state "the guru must be living" (meaning physically present), as if it's just self-evident. Yet they have not offered any evidence from Srila Prabhupada to support such statements. Similarly, Srila Prabhupada did not ever write that the acarya will only carry out actions which have been done previously or that he will always follow some "tradition". Hence, as with any of the GBC's other false doctrines, the "tradition" doctrine can be shown to be false simply because Srila Prabhupada does not state it, and we can only accept teachings given directly by Srila Prabhupada.

The acarya is not bound by tradition

"Every acarya has a specific means of propagating his spiritual movement with the aim of bringing men to Krsna consciousness. Therefore, the method of one acarya may be different from that of another, but the ultimate goal is never neglected."
(Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila, 7:37, purport)

"An acarya who comes for the service of the Lord cannot be expected to conform to a stereotype, for he must find the ways and means by which Krsna consciousness may be spread."
(Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila, 7.31-32, purport)

"Srimad Viraraghava Acarya, an acarya in the disciplic succession of the Ramanujasampradaya, has remarked in his commentary that candalas, or conditioned souls who are born in lower than sudra families, can also be initiated according to circumstances. The formalities may be slightly changed here and there to make them Vaisnavas."
(Srimad-Bhagavatam 4:8:54, purport)

Srila Prabhupada clearly states that as long as the goal is not neglected, the systems used will not necessarily conform to what has occurred previously. And since many of Srila Prabhupada's disciples pre-1977 never even met him, the same goal would still be achieved today if devotees were being initiated by Srila Prabhupada in absentia.

Our actual tradition

"if you want to make your life successful, then you must keep the tradition of brahmana-vaisnava. […] Our only tradition is how to satisfy Visnu. […] They must be very alert, very careful, how to keep Lord Visnu or Krsna satisfied. That is our only business."
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, July 30th, 1973)

"If the spiritual master is pleased, then Krishna is pleased."
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, November 3rd, 1973)

Here Srila Prabhupada states that actually Vaisnavas have only ONE tradition: to satisfy Visnu or Krishna. And one can only satisfy Krishna by strictly following the orders of the spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada.

Srila Prabhupada's practical example

In keeping with his teachings above, we may note that Srila Prabhupada himself actually introduced innovations which have not been practised traditionally.

A few examples:

1) He conducted marriage ceremonies:

"The acarya must devise a means to bring them to devotional service. Therefore, although I am a sannyasi I sometimes take part in getting boys and girls married, although in the history of sannyasa no sannyasi has personally taken part in marrying his disciples."
(Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-Lila, 7:37, purport)

2) He gave brahmana initiation to Western women.

3) He gave initiation in the mail and via tape recording, and via having his disciples whisper mantras on his behalf.

4) He gave initiation without ever meeting many of his disciples.

5) He established a ritvik system of initiations to operate without his physical involvement.

Teachings not tradition

There is a difference between a pattern of historical events, giving rise to a tradition, and spiritual principles. For example, the fact that no guru before Srila Prabhupada was a westerner does not necessarily mean we cannot have western gurus now, unless a spiritual principle is being violated. We can determine if what has always happened reflects a spiritual teaching by actually checking to see if it has been taught! No one is claiming that Srila Prabhupada is free to change spiritual principles. But it has never been taught that the guru must be on the same planet as the disciple at the exact moment initiation takes place. And such a stricture could not in any case serve any purpose, because it is already accepted that the guru and disciple never need to meet (since many of Srila Prabhupada's disciples never met him). So spiritual teachings, not tradition, must be our guide.


From the foregoing we can see that both by example and precept, there are no arguments based on so-called "Vedic tradition" that can either override, or be the basis for determining, Srila Prabhupada's orders. Rather we
must accept Srila Prabhupada's orders, whatever they may be, as our life and soul, and follow them without question:

"Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, "Both the Supreme Personality of Godhead and My spiritual master, Isvara Puri, are completely independent. Therefore neither the mercy of the Supreme Personality of
Godhead nor that of Isvara Puri is subject to any Vedic rules or regulations." "

(Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila, 10.137)

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