GBC vs. Prabhupada: Heresies of the Governing Body Commission Rejected

May 18, 2012 in Articles, Vikramasingha Dasa by Nityananda Rama dasa

The Iskcon GBC philosophy on guru-tattva and initiations has evolved over the years. In the late 1970s and early 80s, they conceded, due to the insistence of a few leading members, that eleven individuals had been appointed and empowered by Srila Prabhupada to act as zonal acharyas in Iskcon. The GBC conceded that these eleven could create their own authority structure called “The Acharya Board”. The GBC agreed that only these eleven could be initiating spiritual masters in Iskcon and, in the future, only they could appoint other spiritual masters, or diksa-gurus, from among their disciples or Godbrother followers.

In the latter part of the 1980s, after few of the “chosen eleven” fell down and went insane, these contentions were overturned under mounting pressure from a so-called guru reform movement. GBC reformists decided that these eleven “Iskcon acharyas” could no longer be zonal autocrats above the authority of the GBC. The GBC resolved that only a majority vote of the GBC body would have authority to sanction and regulate initiating spiritual masters in Iskcon. They resolved that any devotee sanctioned by the GBC could initiate his own disciples in Srila Prabhupada’s mission, and they recommended that “diksa-gurus” no longer accept elaborate public worship in Iskcon temples and titles and prayers meant for maha-bhagavatas. They thus tried to reduce the power and ritual status of “Iskcon acharyas” while opening the door for all senior preachers “in good standing” to covet the post of “Iskcon guru”. In this way the GBC quelled the “guru reform movement” within Iskcon.

GBC resolutions regarding initiations and guru-tattva have been inconsistent and contradictory. It is hard to find two “Iskcon gurus”, GBC members, or Iskcon devotees with the exact same views on these topics. New devotees often doubt whether the praises they sing to the spiritual master at mangala-arotika and guru-puja should be directed toward their so-called Iskcon guru or to Srila Prabhupada. Should they hear primarily from Srila Prabhupada, or more from their “living guru”? Should they offer prayers and worship to a picture of their “guru” on the altar before doing Deity worship or offering food? If so, would he even know? Are all prayers to the spiritual master just ritualistic hyperbole that can be applied to any so-called Iskcon (or gaudiya math) “guru”?

Below is summary of the stance of the GBC today and in the recent past, with samples of their clearly implied philosophical ideas that are against the teachings of Srila Prabhupada. Immediately after each GBC idea, we have provided the correct understanding of guru-tattva and diksa according the Srila Prabhupada’s books, conversations, letters, and classes. Authorized references are cited at the end.  Throughout Srila Prabhupada’s books there are many dozens of references similar to the few cited below.

GBC: The spiritual master may be a self-made guru who is nominated by his peers or followers and sanctioned by the GBC, an ecclesiastical board. There is no need for a direct, specific order from Srila Prabhupada to become a diksa-guru in Iskcon.

Srila Prabhupada’s siddhanta: “A guru can become guru when he is ordered by his guru. That’s all. Otherwise nobody can become guru.” (See below references 1, 2 and 10.)

GBC: Srila Prabhupada authorized the GBC to sanction and dismiss diksa-gurus in ISKCON.

SPS: “Mundane votes have no jurisdiction the elect a Vaisnava acharya. A Vaisnava acharya is self-effulgent, and there is no need of any court judgment. Prabhupada authorized the GBC to select (or dismiss) representatives (ritviks), who initiate on His behalf. No one can be guru without the direct order of Krishna or His perfect devotee. (See below references 1, 2, 10 and 15.)

 GBC: Lord Caitanya gave a blanket order for every devotee to initiate his own disciples.

SPS: Lord Caitanya ordered His followers to become “gurus” by asking everyone they meet to chant Hare Krishna. He never ordered all devotees to initiate their own disciples. Even Lord Caitanya’s eternal associates, like Sri Gadadhara Pandita, refused to initiate disciples without a direct order from Lord Caitanya. Many great devotees never initiated their own disciples. (References 2 and 3.)

GBC: Persons who are not self-realized souls or topmost Vaisnavas can be diksa-gurus if the GBC approves.

SPS: “Only a topmost devotee, a maha-bhagavata, is eligible to occupy the post of guru.” (See below reference 4.)

GBC: Spiritual masters must be sanctioned, overseen, regulated and, if necessary, disciplined by the GBC.

SPS: The genuine spiritual master is never to be regulated or disciplined by ecclesiastical boards. (See below reference 5.)

GBC: A spiritual master may sometimes fall down and become demoniac.

SPS: “There is no possibility that a first-class devotee will fall down…”“The bona fide spiritual master is in the disciplic succession since time immemorial.” (See below references 6 and 18.)

GBC: One may ignore, neglect, or reject his spiritual master who falls from grace with the GBC.

SPS: A genuine disciple never rejects his spiritual master. (See reference 7.)

GBC: A student of Krishna consciousness may select any spiritual master, according his or her personal tastes and the ecclesiastical conventions current in Iskcon.

SPS: “Srila Jiva Goswami advised that one not accept a spiritual master in terms of hereditary or customary social and ecclesiastical conventions. One should simply try to find a genuinely qualified spiritual master for actual advancement in spiritual understanding.” (See below reference 8.)

GBC: There are dozens of gurus in Iskcon and each is entitled to his or her own ideas and opinions.

SPS: “Guru is one. He has no independent ideas or opinions.” (See reference 9.)

GBC: Iskcon gurus who have fallen down, if rectified, may be reinstated by the GBC.

SPS: “A bona fide spiritual master is in the disciplic succession from time eternal, and he does not deviate at all from the instructions of the Supreme Lord.” (See below reference 10.)

GBC: There are various levels of spiritual masters, or diksa-gurus, and not all are uttama-adhikaris.

SPS: “The spiritual master is always considered either one of the confidential associates of Radharani or a manifested representation of Sri Nityananda.” Only such a Vaisnava can impart transcendental knowledge into the heart of a disciple. (See below references 4, 7 and 11.)

GBC: The bona fide spiritual master dies, like all mortal men, and thus becomes useless in the matter of initiating and guiding students of Krishna consciousness.

SPS: “The spiritual master is eternal…” — “He lives forever through his divine instructions, and his follower lives with him.” — “He reasons ill who tells that Vaisnavas die!” (See reference 12.)

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