The current polemic over
the 'Guru' debate raging in ISKCON is characterised by a complete lack
of adherence to the reason and logic that underpins the basis of the
Vaisnava tradition of debate. Before entering into any philosphical
discussion, basic principles regarding on whom the burden of proof
falls and what needs to be proven must first be determined. Once these
points are determined it becomes easy to establish when a proposition
has been proven or not, and both sides are then able to accept the
conclusion. As Vaisnavas are gentleman, the loser can then humbly
accept defeat and surrender unto his victor. Contrast this with the mix
of character attacks, 'straw man' arguments, dubious evidence, lack of
consistency and the claims and counter-claims that form the current
debate. No wonder many devotees are confused and feel that there is no
end in sight.
Below we will clearly determine the following:
On whom does the Burden of proof lie and what exactly needs to be proven?
Has the evidence put forward overcome the burden of proof and established what needs to be proven?
Please note that what
follows can not be dismissed as simply being 'legalistic' since as we
have noted, the determination of the the above points is central to the
system of debate. Unless we know the answers to the above BEFORE we commence the
debate, our 'arguments' will not yield a conclusion.
The onus of proof is always on the PETITIONER
(plaintiff) - or he who puts forward the charge or action to be
determined. The party that does not have the burden of proof is the RESPONDENT because they are not PROPOSING anything, simply defending
themselves against the ACTION
brought. Thus to determine on whom the onus of proof lies, one must
determine who is bringing forward a proposition or charge that needs to
be proven or justified, and who is DEFENDING themselves against this ACTION.
An example will
illustrate this. If someone on the street in plain clothes claims that
he is a policeman, he has the burden of showing that he is, in fact, a
policeman. That is why policemen are obligated to show their badges.
Similarly, if someone claims that he or she is a qualified medical
practitioner, the burden is on them, if questioned, to present their
Once it has been
determined on whom the burden of proof lies, the petitioner must supply
evidence to support his claim. Until this evidence is presented, the
respondent has no case to answer. If this evidence is brought forth,
the respondent either needs to dis-prove the evidence or introduce
evidence for his own case.
Of course the issue of initiations is not subject to litigation in a court of law and we are not proposing such a thing, but the civil rules simply provide a standard system for how facts are established.
The point of contention is over how Diksa should have continued after Srila Prabhupada's departure. One side claims that Srila Prabhupada wanted
ritviks to continue to perform initiations on his behalf, as they were doing even whilst he was present ['Prabhupadanugas'].
The other side claims that Srila Prabhupada wanted these ritviks, along with other disciples, to become
Diksa Gurus in their own right immediately on his physical departure [GBC].
This much is accepted by both sides.
The following are the facts of the case:
The above facts are also
not in dispute. However from these facts and the natural system of
determining burden of proof we can determine the following:
Thus the GBC petitioning a course of action in this case and are the PETITIONERS. The 'Prabhupadanugas' are trying to DEFEND against this course of action and are the RESPONDENTS.
The situation is sometimes confused by stating that it is the Prabhupadanugas who are 'proposing a
ritvik system' and thus the onus of proof is on them. The establishment of the
ritvik system then becomes the 'proposition', and the Prabhupadanugas
become the 'petitioners' who have to prove their case. However as we have noted above this is false because:
Thus the Prabhupadanugas are proposing
NOTHING, or more accurately that NOTHING IS DONE, which amounts to the same thing. The GBC are proposing the termination of the
ritvik system, and the other party is trying to DEFEND the ritvik system from that
Since it is undisputed that the status quo on November 14th, 1977, was the ritvk system, the burden of proof can only be on those who wish to alter that status quo with a new system [the GBC]. Those who seek to DEFEND the system from such changes [the Prabhupadanugas] are naturally the respondents in this situation.
The plaintiffs and respondents in this action are clearly denoted by the propositions that they seek to establish (or the lack of them). Thus the onus of proof is on those who are proposing the termination of the ritvik system.
We have now clearly established that the burden of proof lies on the GBC. The proposition that the GBC has to prove is that the ritvik system, and hence Srila Prabhupada's status as the Diksa Guru for ISKCON, was terminated upon his physical departure. If this proposition can not be proven then no change has been proven, and Srila Prabhupada's status as the Diksa Guru for ISKCON remains. We will now examine the evidence that his put forward by the GBC to try and prove their claim.
The conclusion in the words of the GBC's own appointed examiner is that until a forensic analysis is done on the ORIGINAL tape there is NO evidence on the table - we do not currently have something that is a 'faithful and accurate rendition of the original'.
There is however other evidence presented that also purports to
INDIRECTLY prove the termination of the ritvik system through the creation of
Diksa Gurus ON Srila Prabhupada's departure. Unfortunately this evidence, that falls into the following three
categories, does not support the GBC proposition:
THERE IS NO EVIDENCE AUTHORISING DIKSA GURUS IMMEDIATELY UPON SRILA PRABHUPADA'S DEPARTURE THAT WOULD TERMINATE THE
We still require evidence that proves the actual proposition put forward by the GBC:
Prabhupada's position as Diksa Guru for ISKCON became redundant
IMMEDIATELY he departed due to the termination of the ritvik system of initiation that he set up.
This evidence if it exists will need to specifically state that either the
ritvik system will terminate, or that some individuals (or individual) become
Diksa Guru, IMMEDIATELY after Srila Prabhupada departed, and will need to have been widely
available to those responsible for instituting these changes.
Until such evidence is put forward, the ritvik system is protected from change, and Srila Prabhupada remains as the sole
Diksa Guru for ISKCON, as was the case at the time of his departure.