by Narasimha das
What follows is a response to Dhruva Maharaja Prabhu's VNN article, the title of which suggests it's a defense of his paper "Siksa-Diksa." In fact, Dhruva's latest article seems more like an attempt to divert attention from the real issue. It fails to add anything substantial to discussions regarding initiations in ISKCON. Krishnakanta carefully replied, in a gentle way, to Dhruva Maharaja's misguided objections to what Dhruva calls "The Ritvik Theory," but Dhruva Maharaja das still objects to ritvik initiations. What Dhruva calls "The Ritvik Theory" is the conviction (shared by a growing number of senior devotees) that ISKCON leaders must follow Srila Prabhupada's clearly outlined system for initiations.
This system was followed before Srila Prabhupada's disappearance, and Prabhupada formally established it as a permanent practice in ISKCON by a formal document sent to all ISKCON leaders just four months prior to his disappearance. Thus far, neither Dhruva Maharaja das, nor the GBC, nor anyone else has been able to come up with any scriptural or logical reason to disregard Srila Prabhupada's order. Sometimes devotees argue that the July 9th order was just a stop-gap measure meant to be terminated upon Srila Prabhupada's disappearance, or until the next self-effulgent acarya appears; yet Dhruva, like other proponents of this idea, have failed to offer any evidence to justify their belief.
The real issue is what Srila Prabhupada wanted--what he said to do. It is not a matter for Dhruva Maharaja das, Krishnakanta, the GBC, nor anyone else to decide what might be nice or what might work or what might be practical. The real issue is understanding and accepting Srila Prabhupada's orders and the siddhanta of the Gaudiya Sampradaya. Dhruva Maharaja das quotes Srila Prabhupada's books as follows:
"It is said that every muni has a different angle of vision, and unless a muni differs from other munis, he cannot be called a muni in the strict sense of the term."
It's interesting that Dhruva quotes this, since this description applies to his own writings, which lack the fundamental element of accepting the order of the Acarya. Such acceptance, or agreement, is the main element in any preaching done on behalf of ones guru. We would expect that a disciple of a great teacher like Srila Prabhupada would rely completely on the strength of the Acarya's words. Yet Dhruva goes on to say,
"I don't think it wise to tread such a fruitless path, and will not enter into the tar-baby of argument, discussing each and every point tit-for-tat."
Why does he refuse to answer point by point Krishnakanta's objections to his paper? The so-called ritvik devotees always answer with painstaking attention to detail all papers written in objection to Srila Prabhupada's final order on initiations. Yet the appointed guru club devotees -- and others with their own suggestions -- rely repeatedly on sentiment, speculation, strawman arguments, mundane ideas, and a few out-of-context quotes that answer nothing in the discussion. When their imperfect views are exposed, they hide behind straw man arguments, or they simply hide. The "tar baby" we want to avoid is maya, or material existence, which is perpetuated by speculation and deviation. If the "ritvik theory" is wrong, if it goes against siddhanta, we should prove it with great care and attention -- especially now, when it's spreading rapidly worldwide. How can we avoid the discussion by saying, "It's too sticky. I might get sticky. I might get stuck." These are flimsy excuses, especially for one who speaks publicly like a learned authority.
If we fear being exposed for our lack of clear thinking or clear understanding, it would be better to remain silent. Silence is better than clouding the discussion with uneducated or irrelevant opinions. Why offer some half-baked opinion and then run away from those who question it? Dhruva Maharaja das seems to think that Srila Prabhupada's order is unimportant or temporary, or that it's a concoction that goes against Vedic tradition. His insinuation that devotees who want to follow that order are munis with their own opinions is baseless.
Dhruva says, "My publication of Siksa-Diksa was inspired by years of seeing many painful experiences that occurred in ISKCON, and recently in other offshoots, that arose due to the guru issue."
Should our siddhanta and preaching be based on painful experiences rather than on actual instructions from the Srila Prabhupada? Most of Dhruva Maharaja das's "Siksa-Diksa" booklet is fairly straightforward and beyond challenge. Yet he ruins the whole attempt in the final pages by attacking the system for initiations set up personally by Srila Prabhupada. He never explains why he thinks the "ritvik theory" is against siddhanta, and he makes the false claim that Srila Prabhupada's books never refer to ritvik acaryas and that no Vaisnava sampradaya has ever authorized such initiations. He suggests Srila Prabhupada's formula for initiations in ISKCON is a concoction, yet he offers no evidence to support his claim.
In fact, Srila Prabhupada books refer several times to ritviks. They are defined as "priests recommended by the Spiritual Master". Their function is to assist the Acarya in the formalities of Vedic sacrifices, such as the initiation ceremony. The Madhva sannyasis of Sri Kshetra Udupi consider themselves as the representatives of Madhvacarya. Indeed, they sit on the very same wooden vyasasana that Madhva sat on when they perform initiations on his behalf. Dhruva Maharaja's paper "Siska-Diksa" and his reply to Krishnakanta both fail to offer any solution for the controversy in ISKCON. The real question that Dhruva and the gbc have consistently failed to answer is how the so-called gurus in ISKCON were authorized to become the Initiating Spiritual Master, or diksa-guru.
Dhruva says, "Siksa-Diksa will remain a plea to follow Vedic etiquette established by bona fide Vaisnava sampradayas."
Initiations in any genuine Vaisnava sampradaya are be based on an order from higher authorities and genuine spiritual realization. The formalities are not absolute, and may be determined by etiquette. The substance of actual diksa is transcendental realization. Srila Prabhupada prescribed the etiquette of ritviks initiating on his behalf. In ISKCON every devotee should feel they have both a diksa and siksa connection with Srila Prabhupada. They should understand that their connection with Srila Prabhupada is based on accepting him as guru and following his order. No devotee should be trained to see fallible preachers as the Initiating Spiritual Master. They should not be trained to think that any neophyte can be a diksa-guru, or that the diksa-guru is not necessarily of great importance. Dhruva's theory is that it is OK for ISKCON devotees to accept third-class diksa-gurus because such gurus may be neglected or minimized in favor of Srila Prabhupada. Yet Dhruva offers no evidence to support his idea. Indeed he directly contradicts himself with quotes from Srila Prabhupada's books that confirm that the diksa-guru and the siksa-guru must both be accepted as absolute manifestations of Sri Krsna.
Dhruva: "Yes, my understanding differs from Krsnakant's (sic). I do look to Vedic culture for answers to questions I have. I also read Vaisnava literature not translated by Srila Prabhupada, and sing bhajans not written by him."
Here is a hint into Dhruva M. das's problem. His understanding differs not only from Krishnakanta's but also from the Gaudiya siddhanta. Because someone has asked him to prove his ideas based on Srila Prabhupada's vani, and since he is clearly unable to do so, he refers to other authorities. (A typical gbc tactic.) He would have us believe that he is a scholar of Vaisnava literatures and other sampradayas, and therefore we should listen to him. He apparently thinks Srila Prabhupada's 100 books and 1,200 taped lectures are incomplete or inconclusive.
Dhruva M. das: "I believe it's devoitonal (sic) service to read Brhat-bhagavatamrta, Krsna-bhajanamrta, Lalita-madhava, and others."
He has not understood all the teachings of Srila Prabhupada nor, it seems, even the basic concept of guru, sisya and diksa, yet he wants to read Krsna-bhajanamrta and Lalita-madhava and write his own book called "Siksa-Diksa". Would Srila Prabhupada would be pleased with such premature superiority?
Dhruva: "When I go to the samadhis of Lokanatha Gosvami, Visvanatha Chakravarti, Gopal Bhatta, Rupa, Sanatana, Jiva, and Krsnadasa Kaviraja, I feel inspired in Krsna consciousness. I believe Srila Prabhupada was the representative of a culture, one of many parishad associates of Srimati Radharani's yutha, and that he instructed us as an ambassador from that place,not a lone individual with his own idea about Krsna consciousness."
Who is claiming that Srila Prabhupada taught only his own ideas about Krsna consciousness? More strawman arguments. Dhruva should remember that Srila Prabhupada taught us whatever we know about the Six Gosvamis and the Gaudiya Sampradaya. If Dhruva feels some connection with other great acaryas in our line, that is also Srila Prabhupada's causeless mercy upon him.Does he think he needs to double check every order from Srila Prabhupada with the teachings of the previous Acaryas?
Dhruva M. das: "Srila Prabhupada always followed previous acaryas and proper Vedic etiquette. He says in the purport to SB 8.12.10:
'Devotional service of the Lord that ignores the authorised Vedic literatures like the Upanisads, Puranas and Närada-païcarätra is simply an unnecessary disturbance in society. (Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu 1.2.101) Those who are very advanced in knowledge and are situated in the mode of goodness follow the Vedic instructions of the sruti and smrti and other religious scriptures, including the päncarätriki-vidhi. Without understanding the Supreme Personality of Godhead in this way, one only creates a disturbance. In this age of Kali, so many gurus have sprung up, and because they do not refer to the sruti-smrti-puränädi-pancarätrika-vidhi, they are creating a great disturbance in the world in regard to understanding the Absolute Truth.'"
The above quotes sum up our complaint about Dhruva Maharaja Prabhu and his paper "Siksa-Diksa". He advocates the idea that diksa-gurus are not necessarily very important, and he thus implies that diksa itself is not really so important as long as one gets the proper Siksa Guru. This idea directly contradicts the Caitanya-Caritamrita, which says the diksa-guru and siksa-guru must be seen equally as manifestations of Krsna. Dhruva's idea contradicts Srila Prabhupada's books, which say the diksa-guru must be an empowered uttama-adhikari. His idea indirectly contradicts Srila Prabhupada's and Sri Gadadhara Pandit's opinion that no one can initiate without receiving a direct order from Lord Krsna or Lord Caitanya or the Sad-Guru, Who is the direct manifestation of Lord Nityananda.
Dhruva:"I sympathise with those enmeshed (sic) in the present predicament caused by years of following a philosophy askewed by false ego, but am not yet convinced that the Ritvik Theory would do anything but take the problem and put its weight on the other shoulder, thus causing problems of its own as time wears on."
Dhruva Maharaja Prabhu suggests that following the ritvik system of initiations is not the real solution because arrogant devotees may still abuse their power, even as ritviks. He fails to mention exactly how they would do this or why these problems would come as a result of their following Srila Prabhupada's order. Certainly we can all agree that any system may be abused. Yet if we understand the philosophy carefully and remain vigilant in preserving the institutions and instructions Srila Prabhupada gave, we can solve all problems -- or avoid them completely. New devotees should understand they have a wonderful opportunity to develop a direct relationship with Srila Prabhupada through both siksa and diksa. This understanding does not eliminate the relative need for leaders, institutional structures, and sadhu-sanga. Yet everyone should get an equal opportunity to develop and appreciate a direct relationship with Srila Prabhupada. Institutional leaders and all other arrangements should assist devotees in their realizations of serving Srila Prabhupada and his mission. The ritvik system would correct the essence of the GBC's deviation -- that is, the bogus idea that insists new devotees accept an unauthorized iskcon "guru" and that this self-appointed "guru" must provide their link to Srila Prabhupada and the Gaudiya Sampradaya.
Srila Prabhupada created an institutional arrangement that helps everyone get an absolute connection with the topmost paramahamsa Vaisnava. Nonetheless, no institutional arrangement can be perfect in this world. But why does Dhruva M. das think he has the right to speculate whether this arrangement is bona fide? The best path is to remain a servant ("a fool") before The Jagat Guru and His mission. This is better than trying to create a panacea of our own.
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