Editorial (VNN) October 4, 1998 - by Narasimha das
Theories of Guru Evolution Rejected
Drutakarma das, a scholar who challenges Darwinian scientists using Srila Prabhupada's arguments and neglected archeological findings, has unfairly condemned the idea of ritvik initiations. He suggests this idea is a violation of guru-tattva siddhanta found in Srila Prabhupada's books, yet he offers no reference that indicates this.
Drutakarma admits that often when Srila Prabhupada speaks of becoming a guru, he is speaking of becoming a preacher who represents the mission of the guru. How can we know, therefore, which references in Srila Prabhupada's lectures or books refer to becoming the diksa-guru, the initiating spiritual master? Wouldn't Srila Prabhupada just say, I want you to become the diksa-guru in ISKCON. If Srila Prabhupada had wanted devotees initiating their own disciples in his movement, he would have said so. The whole question is really that simple.
Srila Prabhupada always gave concise directions regarding devotional practices in ISKCON. When did Srila Prabhupada order any of his disciples to initiate their own disciples in ISKCON? That order does not exist. Certainly Srila Prabhupada wanted his disciples to become perfect pure devotees and preach with potency as leaders of the Krsna consciousness movement. But when did he say he wanted them to initiate their own disciples and accept worship from other devotees as the Initiating Spiritual Master?
Devotees who represent ISKCON cannot invent instructions that don't exist. No one as ever found any document or instruction from Srila Prabhupada that says his disciples should initiate their own disciples and accept elaborate praise and worship from other ISKCON devotees. Why would he? We had a perfect initiation system and the most elaborate rituals of guru-puja in the history of world. We had temple presidents, sannyasis, and various other devotees in positions of authority in the Movement. Srila Prabhupada personally created these positions. We had Srila Prabhupada himself as Founder-Acarya and Jagat Guru. Srila Prabhupada never created the post of diksa-guru for his disciples in ISKCON.
Can ISKCON leaders change devotional practices established personally by Srila Prabhupada? If Srila Prabhupada had wanted a change in the system of initiations current in ISKCON at the time of his disappearance pastimes, he would have made a clear arrangement for the new procedure.
Drutakarma condemns iskcon gurus who continue to act as gurus even after they have fallen and become unqualified. The scriptures, however, say that an actual diksa-guru is never fallen or unqualified. He is a direct and empowered manifestation of Sri Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This is the version of all Vaisnava sastras. Drutakarma das has failed to understand a fundamental truth of Vaisnava siddhanta: an actual spiritual master is not one who is sometimes qualified and sometimes not.
In his eagerness to condemn, Drutakarma is confusing various issues. Who is deserting ISKCON? What does the Gaudiya Matha's deviation have to do with the GBC's deviation? These are big questions. Those who desert and disrupt ISKCON are those who defy Srila Prabhupada and his absolute authority in ISKCON. Many devotees have been banned from iskcon or threatened by so-called iskcon authorities only because they ask iskcon leaders to follow what Srila Prabhupada said to do regarding initiations. Under the circumstances, considering the GBC's long term deviation, which Drutakarma admits, Drutakarma should be more hesitant to offer a blanket condemnation of every devotee who is not aligned with the GBC. Some devotees have had little choice but to associate with one the Gaudiya Matha branches or start their own preaching projects.
Drutakarma says the true follower of Srila Prabhupada will condemn those preaching the ritvik heresy. Why would a true follower of Srila Prabhupada condemn devotees who want to remain as representatives, as officiating acaryas? Devotees should not condemn anyone, but they should follow our acaryas in exposing false doctrines. Neither Srila Prabhupada nor Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati would have ever condemned devotees who wanted to initiate as representatives of the Sampradaya Acarya. Why is it offensive to want to remain as officiating acarya rather than initiate ones own disciples? Drutakarma's example of the Gaudiya Matha shows his distorted thinking on this issue. There is no parallel between the Gaudiya Matha deviation and the idea of ritvik initiations.
Drutakarma says, ÒIt is an insult and offense to Srila Prabhupada to attribute to him a posthumous initiation practice concocted after his departure. It is also an insult and an offense to Srila Prabhupada to whimsically dismiss his clear statements on the process of disciplic succession.
To deny Srila Prabhupada's direct order to maintain the system of ritvik initiations in ISKCON henceforward is an insult and offense. Drutakarma implies that Srila Prabhupada's July 9th Order was just a stopgap measure that could not have been meant for after his departure, yet like all others who have made this claim, he offers no evidence to support his idea. Where in the sastras does it say, After the Spiritual Master's disappearance from the earthly plane, he can no longer offer diksa.Ó There is no such statement.
And why does Drutakarma das talk of Srila Prabhupada as being posthumous, or dead? This may be an academically correct term, but it is not correct in reference to the lila of an avatar or a great acarya like Srila Prabhupada. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura said, He reasons ill who tells that Vaisnavas die. At least in ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada and his vani should live forever as the supreme authority and guru. When we perfectly follow his present instructions, he is fully able to give us further instructions individually or by collective realizations.
Drutakarma says it is an insult to Srila Prabhupada if a devotee wants to initiate on Srila Prabhupada's behalf. Why is it an insult to Srila Prabhupada to want to offer him everything and initiate only on his behalf? Drutakarma never explains his strange belief--he just expects us to accept it.
Drutakarma says, The most important statements that we must consider are those statements in which Srila Prabhupada directly and in his own words states what he intended to happen after his departure from this world. The July 9 letter, which does not contain Prabhupada's direct words, makes no direct statements about what will happen after Prabhupada's departure. So the July 9 letter cannot be taken as evidence of any kind as to what was supposed to happen after Prabhupada's departure from this world.
Even without the July 9th Order, the process of initiations and the Initiating Spiritual Master should have remained unchanged in ISKCON. This should have been self-evident. The July 9th Order is a formal document meant for the entire ISKCON organization--a neophyte organization led by ambitious men who could not understand the self-evident truth of Srila Prabhupada's lila. Why should we assume that this one order and not others must be canceled upon Srila Prabhupada's disappearance? There is no sastric reason to think so. Why does Srila Prabhupada need to talk specifically about times after his departure? He often said his physical presence was not an issue. He said clearly that all management systems in ISKCON should remain unchanged. He issued the July 9th Order at about the same time he issued his Final Will. Had he wanted some devotional or management practice changed upon his departure, he would have spoken about it elaborately. Yet we find that Srila Prabhupada never spoke about how devotional practices in ISKCON would need to change upon his departure. We can assume, therefore, he wanted all these practices to remain unchanged. He demanded several times that nothing should be changed. Regarding initiations, Srila Prabhupada's only adjustment on July 9th was to formalize the already existing system for initiations in a way that would allow it to operate perpetually without his physical involvement.
Srila Prabhupada said all management and sadhana in ISKCON should remain unchanged. If we find that he spoke nothing specifically about how ISKCON should operate after his departure, this is further proof that he wanted things left as they were. Regarding the July 9th Order, if it was meant only for the time he was present, we are left to wonder why Srila Prabhupada would need to send an official document to every leader in the Movement? In his presence, his simple word to his secretary or servant was enough to redirect the entire movement on a second's notice. So why the document? In fact, ritvik initiations were already a standard practice in ISKCON. Drutakarma would have us believe that Srila Prabhupada neglected to say anything about the impending difficult times after his departure -- when things would need to change-- yet he issued a formal order to the whole Movement that was meant only for the time of his presence. Does this make sense? I detect some intellectual dishonesty in Drutakarma's writing.
Drutakarma's condemnation of ritvik initiations is absurd and offensive. He thinks Srila Prabhupada signed a flawed official ISKCON document and forgot to mention the details for selecting and regulating diksa-gurus in ISKCON for the next ten thousand years. Maybe Drutakarma thinks he can capitalize on this apparent oversight of Srila Prabhupada. He thinks the issue is thus open for academia like himself to evolve their own theories.
In truth, we find that by his formal written order, Srila Prabhupada simply confirmed the already working system of ritvik initiations. A signed ISKCON document with Srila Prabhupada's signature on it, must be accepted as law in ISKCON. The word henceforward can only mean for as long as ISKCON exists. For a sane person who understands English, henceforward means from now on. (Hence=at this time. Forward= all future times.) Drutakarma's avoids the responsibility of accepting this document signed by His Divine Grace by foolishly suggesting it doesn't actually represent Srila Prabhupada's desire. This is surely an offense. He demands a document personally handwritten by Srila Prabhupada!
Drutakarma thinks Srila Prabhupada's signed and sealed official order on ISKCON letterhead may be flawed because TKG, Srila Prabhupada's personal secretary, typed it (-- and because iskcon's guru-want-a-bees don't like it). Drutakarma thus reveals his offensive idea that Srila Prabhupada mistakenly signed and sent out 100 copies of a bogus official document. In fact Srila Prabhupada would have never made such a foolish error.
The July 9th Order must be accepted as perfect and complete by any honest disciple. Yet for Drutakarma, this signed order from His Divine Grace is not good enough. He demands more: If we want to find out what was supposed to happen after Srila Prabhupada's departure, we can only rely on his direct statements in which he explicitly says what he expected to happen after his departure.
If the July 9th Order is not an instruction for post-samadhi, then where is that instruction? Srila Prabhupada dictated, signed, and sent out an official document to answer concerns expressed by his secretaries regarding the system of initiations in ISKCON after Srila Prabhupada's disappearance. He made his final will about the same time. So where is that instruction meant more specifically for after his departure?
[SDG: Then our next question concerns initiations in the future, particularly at that time when you are no longer with us.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, I shall recommend some of you ... to act as officiating acaryas.] - S.P. conversion, May 28th, 1977
Drutakarma das: We cannot rely on concoctions and fantasies if we do, we get absurdities such as the ritvik heresy, which is not only absurd but offensive.
Drutakarma has repeatedly condemned the idea of post-samadhi (posthumous) ritvik initiations, and he wants to banish devotees who believe in this system. Yet he never offers reasons for his extreme views. He offers not one direct quote from Srila Prabhupada's books or lectures to support his condescending and harsh assessment of devotees who believe Srila Prabhupada wanted ritvik initiations to continue in ISKCON unchanged.
Drutakarma das: It is time to stop letting people put their own concocted ideas into Prabhupada's mouth. We should let Prabhupada speak directly on this issue and listen to him, and him only.
With the Internet and the American way of life, how will Drutakarma stop devotees from expressing their views? What does he propose here? Intimidation? Banishment? Obviously this is his only alternative. He is clearly unable to defeat the ritviks with philosophy or logic. He demands only Srila Prabhupada's words. But will he accept them? Well, then, what about these words:
Vallabha Bhatta wanted to be initiated by Gadadhara Pandita, but Gadadhara Pandita refused, saying, The work of acting as spiritual master is not possible for me. I am completely dependent. My Lord is Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. I cannot do anything independently, without His order.' (C.c. Antya-lila 7.150, 7.151)
A guru can become guru when he's ordered by his guru. That's all. Otherwise nobody can become guru. (S.P. Bg. Lecture, 1975)
For 21 years many devotees have been asking the gbc, Where is your order to initiate your own disciples in ISKCON? Previously you needed a direct order even for small things, just to wear karmi dress on sankirtana or to change service from one temple to another. So were is your order to initiate your own disciples? They have no reply to this question.
Drutakarma finally quotes one passage from Srila Prabhupada's books. In this passage, as with all the others that the gbc has found as evidence, we find no mention at all of diksa. Why is that? To offer transcendental diksa, one must be a self-realized soul. A self-realized soul is always directly and personally in touch with Sri Gurudeva and Sri Krsna Bhagavan. He needs no blanket instruction from a public lecture or a book to justify his becoming the Initiating Spiritual Master. He takes direct instructions from the Sampradaya Acarya and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself. Srila Prabhupada: A guru can become guru when he's ordered by his guru. That's all. Otherwise nobody can become guru. If otherwise is the case, a true disciple is happy to remain a representative of the Acarya's mission, or as an officiating acarya. Such disciples act as acaryas or gurus by showing an example of obedience. There is no contradiction here. A disciple should be as pure and potent as the Acarya, yet he never assumes the formal position of spiritual master without a direct order. If Srila Prabhupada wants his disciple to initiate, he will clearly order him to do so and tell him precisely how to do it. It is that simple.
The rest of Drutakarma's article is full of crazy speculation and war drum beating. It is not useful to reply to that here because there's no way to reply philosophically to war drums. Discussions of the Iskcon initiation issue can be simplified by sticking to four simple points.
1. Srila Prabhupada never ordered any of his disciples to begin initiating their own disciples in ISKCON.
2. Srila Prabhupada never ordered the gbc to select, approve, or regulate diksa-gurus in ISKCON.
3. According to Srila Prabhupada and Sri Gadadhara Pandita, even a self-realized soul must receive a direct order to initiate his own disciples. The system in ISKCON has always been that every devotee needs authorization to do anything, even routine work.
4. The system of initiations in ISKCON before Srila Prabhupada's disappearance was the ritvik system. By his formal written order, Srila Prabhupada officially confirmed that system and made one adjustment that would allow it to operate perpetually, without his physical involvement.
Devotees who understand these four points and have faith in Srila Prabhupada can easily defeat the gbc's attempts to justify their deviation from Srila Prabhupada's order. Sincere devotees can easily defeat the gbc's false and constantly changing theories guru evolution. (The gbc currently believes that iskcon gurus appear by their own chance desire to be gurus, and such ÒgurusÓ create further generations by the principle of ego-centricism (subtle sex life) and survival of the meanest. In truth, the infallible acarya is an eternal direct expansion of the Supreme Lord Himself. Lord Krsna says, Know the Acarya to be my very Self.)