Devotee Writings etc.

An Honest ISKCON Part 2 of 4

By bhakta Eric Johanson


What Really Happened!?!? – A Very Tangled Web


The General Pattern


By now many devotees know the events that followed Srila Prabhupada’s departure. Rather than implementing just some of his common-sense guidance above (see part 1), the GBC  established a dangerous pattern of merely reacting after the fact to the independent actions of the most powerful (and often most audacious) movement leaders. In many regards this has continued into the present. And by independent we very much mean that the actions were (are) often dictated by false ego ambition and desire for distinction. Because these actions sometimes do not concur with Srila Prabhupada’s afore-quoted guidance on guru (and this is often known to the GBC), the Body has only amplified and solidified the deviations by making the only real “authorization” the fact that they approve it. According to the real authority of guru, sadhu (saintly person) and sastra, this practice is a complete abuse of Srila Prabhupada’s will proclaiming the Body the movement’s “ultimate managing authority.” And, in the manner of all materialistic activity, it has ultimately ensnared them in a very tangled web of their own making.


This practice of making the most convincing argument for a new dispensation that “we say so” has also transformed the GBC from being primarily inspiration-driven, as originally envisioned by Srila Prabhupada, into the movement’s “absolute authority” instead. He had warned against just this a number of times:


“GBC members are simply to see that things are going on. Other centers have got president, secretary, etc. and they are managing separately. That is the formula. So how is it that the GBC are the final authority? They are simply to examine that things are going on nicely, that is all.” Letter, July 9th, 1971


“GBC does not mean to control a center. GBC means to see that the activities of a center go on nicely. I do not know why Tamala is exercising his absolute authority. That is not the business of GBC. […]
GBC is to see that things are going nicely but not to exert absolute authority. That is not in the power of GBC. Tamala should not do like that […]
A GBC member cannot go beyond the jurisdiction of his power.” Letter, August 12th, 1971


“GBC men should not dictate very much, simply supervise and see that the standards are maintained.” Letter, February 14th, 1972


“I am training some of my experienced disciples how to manage after my departure. So if instead of taking the training, if in my lifetime you people say I am the Lord of all I survey, that is dangerous conspiracy.” Letter, October 8th, 1974


“Krishna Consciousness Movement is for training men to be independently thoughtful and competent in all types of departments of knowledge and action, not for making bureaucracy. Once there is bureaucracy the whole thing will be spoiled. There must be always individual striving and work and responsibility, competitive spirit, not that one shall dominate and distribute benefits to the others and they do nothing but beg from you and you provide. No.” Letter to Karandhara, 12/22/72


Dhanesvara prabhu makes a very insightful study of where this “GBC as absolute authority” practice took the movement in his chapter 5 of book 2 of Divine Or Demoniac?, entitled “What Is ISKCON?.” The book also makes a very eloquent presentation of Srila Prabhupada’s guidance on the GBC’s real purpose and duties, as opposed to the deviations that invoked the above warnings. In “What is ISKCON?” Dhanesvara prabhu nicely differentiates between the substance of the movement (Srila Prabhupada’s teachings and the principles he embodied) and its corporate form (the legal ISKCON entity and the temples). He writes that the GBC are always going to be part of the form. They are connected to the substance only to the extent that they individually or collectively imbibe and follow the teachings. When they oppose or try to override those, they are acting as agents of Kali yuga, actually undoing the substance of what Srila Prabhupada founded. This is clearly indicated by how many devotees the above-described practice has driven out.


Regularly acceding to the whims of the most powerful has also made the GBC, in essence, a good ole’ boy’s club. Since the members primarily watch each other’s backs, individual abuses are inevitably made little of and often covered up. The flip side of this practice is that ordinary rank and file devotees have to fend for themselves, and that is why, even though most had previously surrendered their possessions and lives, so many have since left.


This corrupt general GBC pattern has seen a continuum of leadership oversee one “generation” of devotees after another. The first generation was the original Srila Prabhupada initiates who left in the first years of the often abusive eleven zonal acaryas, the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. The second generation was the disciples of the eleven and subsequent “gurus” who left as their “gurus” became scandalized during the ‘80’s and ‘90’s. They have since been largely replaced by the third generation, various people of Indian Hindu descent, what has been called “Hinduization.” This history very much applies to North America and to varying extents elsewhere, depending on the local percentage of Indian descent. One can find these dramas described in Dr. Burke Rochford’s Hare Krishna Transformed.


Dhanesvara prabhu also makes the point that many newer devotees became attracted to the form more than the substance. They therefore easily become convinced when GBC Foundational Documents like Srila Prabhupada – Founder/Acarya of ISKCON erroneously attempt to identify the GBC and the movement’s corporate structure with the purely spiritual substance.


“By thus establishing the GBC and leaving it as his chosen successor at the head of ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada insured that the order of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Ṭhakura would continue to work efficaciously in the world and bear fruit.” Ravindra Svarupa dasa, Srila Prabhupada Founder-Acarya of ISKCON p. 82 (our emphasis)


“The institution that would be able to act . . . over large spans of space and time needs a unique form. . . an organization in which the ultimate authority would reside in a board of directors . . .” Ravindra Svarupa dasa, Srila Prabhupada Founder-Acarya of ISKCON, Text (our emphasis)


The preceding quotes by Srila Prabhupada make clear that the GBC should never be considered identical with the substance of the movement or any kind of absolute, “ultimate authority,” much less considered equal to (or above) guru, sadhu and sastra, as if they are “his chosen successor.” Unfortunately there are many dull-witted people in Kali yuga who will accept these things.


If the GBC overrides the real substance of the movement with their resolutions as the board of directors, the movement instantly devolves into just another institutional religion of this world, another sentimental “once-was.” The eternal religion of the soul, the substance that Srila Prabhupada presented, was based on the sastras, the words of God.


“Dharmaṁ tu sākṣād bhagavat-praṇītam: (SB 6.3.19) ‘Dharma, or religion, means the codes or the law given by God.’ And the Bhagavad-gītā, the same ruling is given, law, sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja: (BG 18.66) ‘You give up all types of man-made religion; you simply surrender unto Me.’” Lecture on Bhagavad-gītā 2.16, Mexico City, February 16, 1975


In the man-made religions of this world “authority” is based on the thinking of the people in charge, often a board of directors. It is completely relative, often formed from the directors’ ambition and political desire for dominance. Instead, being the laws of God, Srila Prabhupada’s movement substance was absolute and transcendental to anything having to do with conditioned life. This is what attracted so many sincere people to his preaching.


A True Crime Narrative


Returning to immediately after Srila Prabhupada’s physical departure in November of 1977, because the GBC failed to act proactively to implement his real guidance in regard to guru, chaos began take over very quickly. Srila Prabhupada had physically departed on November 14, 1977 and on December 25 of that year Kirtanananda Swami started “initiating” new disciples at New Vrindavana, West Virginia. The GBC did nothing in response, despite this being a completely unauthorized action. More or less, he was defying them to do something.


It may be that the GBC did not act because there was already a conspiracy among some of its most powerful members, Kirtanananda being one. Some months before, on July 9, 1977, a letter to GBCs and temple presidents signed by Srila Prabhupada had announced that eleven men would be performing “rittvik” initiations of new people who would become disciples of Srila Prabhupada. This means the eleven would be the priests or “rittviks” at the initiation ceremonies.


“. . . . .Recently when all of the GBC members were with His Divine Grace in Vrndavana, Srila Prabhupada indicated that soon He would appoint some of His senior disciples to act as “ritvik–representative of the acarya, for the purpose of performing initiations, both first initiation and second initiation. . . (His Holiness Kirtanananda Swami, His Holiness Satsvarupa dasa Gosvami, His Holiness Jayapataka Swami, His Holiness Tamala Krsna Gosvami, His Holiness Hrdayananda Gosvami, His Holiness Bhavananda Gosvami, His Holiness Hamsaduta Swami, His Holiness Ramesvara Swami, His Holiness Harikesa Swami, His Grace Bhagavan dasa Adhikari and His Grace Jayatirtha dasa Adhikari are named) . . . The newly initiated devotees are disciples of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad, the above eleven senior devotees acting as His representative. . . . .” July 9, 1977 letter to GBC and temple presidents.


As Srila Prabhupada’s physical condition had deteriorated during his last months, some of these men apparently began conspiring that after his departure they would become the movement’s ”gurus” and accept their own disciples. Any idea of exclusivity in this regard, however, was refuted by Srila Prabhupada just twelve days before his departure:


“It’s not that I’ll give an order, ‘Here is the next leader.’ Anyone who follows the previous leadership is a leader.” Jan.-Feb. 1978 Back To Godhead, Srila Prabhupada Speaks Out: His Final Instructions


This clearly goes against limiting potential gurus to the “chosen” eleven or thinking that the letter singled them out. However, this statement of their guru apparently had no effect on their plans because on December 1, 1977 another of the eleven, Back To Godhead editor Satsvarupa dasa Swami, wrote in a newsletter:


“The official policy is simply that the eleven chosen men may initiate disciples and they (the eleven) are actually the guru of that disciple.” Satsvarupa dasa Swami, Newsletter Concerning Initiations and Initiating Gurus


This same message of the nascent conspiracy was later publicly and contradictorily placed in the same Jan.-Feb. 1978 Back To Godhead issue where the last statement by Srila Prabhupada had also appeared. This means that editor Satsvarupa definitely knew of the above statement.


At that time the GBC Body consisted of 24 men, 11 of which were the aforementioned rittviks. Those eleven also had many other devotees loyal to them, and the July 9 letter pretty much singled them out as special. Satsvarupa’s declaration that they would begin “initiating” their own disciples was clearly exploiting this. Yet, as required by the “When I order, ‘You become guru,’” May 28, 1977 quote above, there was no real personal order from Srila Prabhupada that any of these individuals had been named to be guru.


This newsletter declaration can therefore be understood as prima facie evidence of the conspiracy, as well as the takeover being considered. Being an “initiating guru” pretty much entailed having the same absolute authority as Srila Prabhupada. Even non-guru disciples of Srila Prabhupada, former peers, would be required by the “guru is one” principle to defer to the authority of the eleven. The newsletter declaration also indicated that they didn’t care much that none of them had a personal order to be guru from His Divine Grace.


This Dec. 1 declaration was then largely testing the waters to see how the mass of devotees would react. When that, as well as the reaction to Kirtanananda’s “initiations,” proved small, if any, Satsvarupa and his fellow conspirators could only have been encouraged. The 13 non-rittvik GBC members have also not been noted by history as having raised any significant objection, although there almost certainly were thoughts and probably individual conversations.


Devotees, as it turned out, were still really shell-shocked from Srila Prabhupada’s departure and were largely concentrating on pleasing him through the performance of their services. They were hardly prepared for what the conspirators had in store for them.


The Editor Continues Plotting


For the most part the mass of devotees had faith that the GBC would act in their and Srila Prabhupada’s interest. Many looked forward to what the Body would decide in the spring of 1978 at their annual Mayapura meeting in India at Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s birthplace. Mahaprabhu is the incarnation of Krishna who, 500 years ago, established the chanting of God’s name as the dharma, or religion, for this age, Kali Yuga. Before the meeting, however, Satsvarupa didn’t waste time further preparing the ground for what the eleven were planning. This came in the form of his editor’s comments at the end of the Jan.-Feb. 1978 issue of the movement’s official magazine, Back To Godhead. Virtually every devotee and movement well-wisher would read this.


“Also, during his last months in this world, Srila Prabhupada selected eleven senior disciples to act as initiating gurus who could accept disciples after his disappearance. In this way he insured the continuation of the parampara.” Satsvarupa dasa Goswami, Notes From The Editor, Jan.-Feb. 1978, Back To Godhead (italics in original)


One of the primary means for how the conspiracy hoped to establish this was also given in the preceding paragraph. Satsvarupa was thus preemptively giving one of the elevens’ chief arguments:


“How then will ISKCON – the International Society for Krishna Consciousness – go on? The answer is that our spiritual master has given us a complete arrangement for pushing forward the worldwide Krsna cosciousness movement. As early as 1970, Srila Prabhupada created a Governing Body Commission (GBC), which now consists of twenty-four senior devotees, all personally selected by His Divine Grace to supervise ISKCON’s missionary activities in various zones around the world. These GBC devotees have been trained (some of them for ten or eleven years) under Srila Prabhupada’s direct guidance. For years now they have been conducting all the spiritual management of this mission within their assigned zones, and now they will continue to do so. The GBC meets yearly in India, and together its members plan how to execute the will of His Divine Grace.” Satsvarupa dasa Goswami, Notes From The Editor, Jan.-Feb. 1978, Back To Godhead


Apparently Satsvarupa was pretty confident that the eleven could convince a significant number of the 13 non-rittvik GBCs to not oppose their becoming the movement’s “gurus.” As it turned out only Svarupa Damodara dasa (later Swami) voted against them. Interestingly enough, although the above paragraph makes a pretty good sales pitch for the qualifications and experience of the GBC, it doesn’t at all mention how the Body is bound to follow the authority of guru, sadhu and sastra if it is to truly maintain the movement as a “continuation of the parampara.”


More or less, the entire Notes From the Editor editorial was aimed at preparing the rank and file devotees for what the eleven were planning in the name of “the future of ISKCON.” Its first paragraph narrowly frames the reader’s attention:


“How many times have we recently been asked, ‘Who will succeed His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada as the spiritual leader of the Hare Krsna movement?’ And how often have we been confronted with the ominous inquiry, ‘Will the Hare Krsna movement be able to survive without His Divine Grace?’” Satsvarupa dasa Goswami, Notes From The Editor, Jan.-Feb. 1978, Back To Godhead


This first paragraph clearly limits the supposed predicament of the movement to the question of guru succession, pretty much ignoring the more general and paramount question posed earlier of whether the movement would continue the spiritual purity established by Srila Prabhupada.


To break down Satsvarupa’s statements, Srila Prabhupada had never specifically “selected eleven senior disciples to act as initiating gurus who could accept disciples after his disappearance,” or, as was written in the Dec. 1, 1977 newsletter, “that the eleven chosen men may initiate disciples.” As it turned out, Satsvarupa was doing little more than interpreting or speculating in a very self-interested manner. The only thing Srila Prabhupada had selected the eleven to do was “act as ‘ritvik- representative of the acarya, for the purpose of performing initiations,” as stated in the July 9, 1977 letter.


However, none of this was clear at the time because absolutely no one outside the movement’s leadership knew what Srila Prabhupada had actually said. This means everyone became obliged to simply believe that Satsvarupa was being truthful. This was therefore the most pernicious element of the conspiracy. The eleven had absolutely no intention of letting devotees see the real statements that supposedly made them the movement’s “initiating gurus.” These were allegedly in the May 28, 1977 conversation with the GBC that was cited previously.


“A Higher Authority”


The conspiracy of the eleven continued into the winter of 1977-78 with the further accumulation of arguments that could be used to overwhelm potential opposition. They knew it would be convincing if they were approved by a “senior authority” in the form of one of Srila Prabhupada’s Godbrothers (fellow disciples of Srila Prabhupada’s guru). Sridhara Maharaja of Mayapura had previously been mentioned by Srila Prabhupada as someone his disciples could consult on details of Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition. Sridhara Maharaja was also the Godbrother who had been the most favorable to Srila Prabhupada’s preaching. Jayapataka Swami was one of the eleven who had had more involvement with Sridhara Maharaja in India. He initiated their meetings with the same deception that Satsvarupa had already given the devotees in Back To Godhead and the newsletter.


Jayapataka Maharaja: Maharaja, when our Srila Prabhupada left, then he has given instruction that for initiating and for carrying on the sampradaya there would be eleven-in the beginning, he appointed eleven devotees, his disciples, to be initiating spiritual masters or to accept disciples and in the future that number would also be able to be increased. So we wanted to take your advice on some points as to various details of how these initiating spiritual masters should deal with certain questions. If we could ask questions to you then?

Sridhara Maharaja: yes, you may ask.

Jayapataka Maharaja: He has given explicit desires, but he told us that, on other technical points and other matters of philosophy, it there was question we should approach you. He said that during his…when he was very ill, he had appointed eleven ritviks and he said that after he disappears that these ritviks would continue as initiating spiritual masters and that they could be increased later, that would be decided by the GBC or Governing Body Commission. – Two Official Meetings of Sridhara Maharaja with the ISKCON GBC, March 1978 (our italics)


It is apparent here that they were going to run with exaggerating their appointment as rittvik assistants to becoming full-blown gurus and successors after Srila Prabhupada’s departure. After all, no one had any evidence to the contrary. They would just claim, as Satsvarupa had already done, that they had been “selected” by Srila Prabhupada.


Anyway, Sridhara Maharaja largely fell into their trap and gave them what they wanted to hear – what they could say to anyone who doubted their authenticity. Unlike others who were affiliated with the Gaudiya Matha movement of Srila Prabhupada’s guru (Srila Bhaktisiddanta Sarasvati Prabhupada), Sridhara Maharaja accepted the doubtful assertion that Srila Prabhupada had appointed them gurus. There is no record of his requesting proof. Based on this he apparently wanted to help and encourage them. This included saying that simply dressing or acting as if they were gurus would eventually lead to their becoming fully qualified – “the dress will tell you what you have to do.” This may have been true if they were sincere and had truly been appointed but. . . . ?


He also told them, “My guru, he is jagat-guru.” This was taken by many to mean that they should accept the same opulent worship as Srila Prabhupada. The encouragement pretty much confirmed the eleven’s fantasy, however, when Sridhara Maharaja said, “Rittvik-acharyathen it becomes as good as acharya.” This was exactly what they were hoping to pull off – that their appointment as rittviks during Srila Prabhupada’s presence was intended with the rider that they would become gurus of their own disciples after his departure. Taking this last quote by Sridhara Maharaja out of its deceptive context was precisely what the eleven wanted from the “higher authority.”




Sridhara Maharaja having served his purpose for the eleven, the stage was set for the highly anticipated annual spring 1978 Mayapura GBC meeting. An official GBC paper, written again by Satsvarupa, was released in March 1978 with the long title, “The Process For Carrying Out Srila Prabhupada’s Desires For Future Initiations, A paper prepared by the GBC (in consultation with higher authorities), Mayapur, March 1978.” As expected, the paper and its addendum quoted liberally from the interviews with Sridhara Maharaja in regard to how worship and vision of the so-called gurus was to be done. However, he played only a supporting role in regard to the eleven assuming the position of “guru,” which was justified thusly at the paper’s beginning:


“The GBC members met together in Vrndavana and prepared a few last questions to put before Srila Prabhupada. One very important question was how disciples would be initiated in the parampara after the departure of His Divine Grace. When asked this question, Srila Prabhupada replied that he would name some persons who could initiate disciples after his disappearance. We then asked him who the spiritual master of such disciples would be. He replied that the new initiators would be the disciples of those whom he empowered to initiate and that he, Srila Prabhupada, would be their grand spiritual master. Then he said that he would name the initiating gurus later. Srila Prabhupada seemed to recover somewhat in his health and he dispatched the GBC men back to their preaching missions around the world. He stayed on in Vrndavana, but his disappearance still seemed imminent.
“Then one day in June he gave his secretary the names of eleven disciples would be the initiating disciples. Their names were: 1. Kirtanananda Swami, 2. Jayapataka Swami 3. Tamal Krsna Goswami 4. Satsvarupa Goswami 5. Hrdayananda Goswami 6. Bhavananda Goswami 7. Harikesa Swami 8. Ramesvara Swami 9. Hansadutta Swami 10. Bhagavan dasa 11. Jayatirtha dasa
“Because of his illness, Srila Prabhupada had not awarded any initiations for months. On naming these disciples, he ordered that they become “ritvic acaryas”, which means that they were to initiate disciples on his behalf. He indicated, as he had said in May, that these ritvic acaryas named by him would, after his disappearance, continue as initiating spiritual masters. He named eleven but said that the number could be increased in the future.” March 1978 GBC Paper, The Process For Carrying Out Srila Prabhupada’s Desires For Future Initiations


This first paragraph above from the March 1978 Future Initiations paper gives what could be called the interpretive logic behind the so-called appointment of the eleven as initiating gurus. It relies on an extremely liberal and self-serving interpretation of what became known as “The Appointment Tape.” This was the May 28, 1977 conversation that Srila Prabhupada had with GBC members, and that was quoted earlier. Here is the key section referenced in the March 1978 Future Initiations paper:


Satsvarūpa: By the votes of the present GBC. Then our next question concerns initiations in the future, particularly at that time when you’re no longer with us. We want to know how first and second initiation would be conducted.
Prabhupāda: Yes. I shall recommend some of you. After this is settled up, I shall recommend some of you to act as officiating ācāryas.
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: Is that called ṛtvik-ācārya?
Prabhupāda: Ṛtvik, yes.
Satsvarūpa: Then what is the relationship of that person who gives the initiation and the…..
Prabhupāda: He’s guru. He’s guru.
Satsvarūpa: But he does it on your behalf.
Prabhupāda: Yes. That is formality. Because in my presence one should not become guru, so on my behalf, on my order . . . āmāra ājñāya guru hañā (CC Madhya 7.128). Be actually guru, but by my order.
Satsvarūpa: So they may also be considered your disciples.
Prabhupāda: Yes, they are disciples. Why consider? Who?
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: No, he’s asking that these ṛtvik-ācāryas, they’re officiating, giving dīkṣā. Their . . . the people who they give dīkṣā to, whose disciple are they?
Prabhupāda: They’re his disciple.
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: They’re his disciple.
Prabhupāda: Who is initiating. He is granddisciple.
Satsvarūpa: Yes.
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: That’s clear.
Satsvarūpa: Then we have a question concer . . .
Prabhupāda: When I order, “You become guru,” he becomes regular guru. That’s all. He becomes disciple of my disciple. That’s it. – Conversation with GBC, May 28, 1977


We can examine this conversation according to its interpretation in the March 1978 Future Initiations paper. The paper asserts that, “Srila Prabhupada replied that he would name some persons who could initiate disciples after his disappearance.” This apparently refers to his reply to Satsvarupa’s first question in the conversation segment above where he asks about, “initiations in the future, particularly at that time when you’re no longer with us.” However, this direct, “would name some persons who could initiate” statement in the March 1978 Paper is nowhere to be found in the May 28, 1977 conversation or anywhere else for that matter. There, in answer to that first Satsvarupa question, Srila Prabhupada says he will recommend some of them to be “officiating acaryas” or “ritviks.” This answer clearly isn’t what the March 1978 Future Initiations paper says it was. The Paper is misrepresenting Srila Prabhupada’s direct statement about a very serious issue.


If we look at this first question by Satsvarupa it is actually two questions, and Srila Prabhupada deals with it in that way. The first “concerns initiations in the future,” which includes any forthcoming time, even while Srila Prabhupada was still present. The second question is about initiations for, “particularly at that time when you’re no longer with us.” Srila Prabhupada chooses to only answer the first question and is most likely referring to an earlier topic in the March 28 conversation. This is the backlog of new people in the temples who had requested initiation by His Divine Grace. Due to his extended illness an inordinate number of candidates had accumulated. Srila Prabhupada replies that, “After this is settled up, I shall recommend some of you to act as officiating ācāryas.” Tamal Krishna Swami clarifies the answer by asking, “Is that called ṛtvik-ācārya?” Srila Prabhupada then answers, “Ṛtvik, yes.”


For years Srila Prabhupada had relied on selected senior disciples to perform the fire sacrifice and officiating duties of initiation (ritvik duties) for his newest disciples. This answer’s most direct understanding is that he simply wants to resume this practice to eliminate the backlog, and that he will soon choose the officiating priests or ritviks. That this is the correct understanding is confirmed by the subsequent release of the July 9, 1977 letter which named the ritviks.


Srila Prabhupada pretty much ignores the second “particular” question about initiations after his departure, perhaps because it had an offensive connotation for real devotees. There is never a time for a serious disciple “when you’re no longer with us.”


In the conversation Satsvarupa is apparently confused by these answers of Srila Prabhupada. He seems to think that he only asked about post-departure initiations, so the ritvik answer appears bewildering. His second quoted question above is, “Then what is the relationship of that person who gives the initiation and the…..?“ Srila Prabhupada interrupts him and answers, “He’s guru. He’s guru,” apparently after hearing, “that person who gives the initiation.” It is hard to know for sure if Srila Prabhupada is linking the future ritviks to the person he is referring to when he says “He’s guru.”


At this point in the exchange it becomes easy to see Srila Prabhupada’s replies as simply giving Krishna conscious philosophy. He isn’t bound to reply to whatever may be in the mind of Satsvarupa or Tamal Krishna. Satsvarupa then says, “But he does it on your behalf.” Srila Prabhupada’s reply to this “on your behalf” question can also be taken in this purely philosophical vein – “Yes. That is formality. Because in my presence one should not become guru, so on my behalf, on my order . . . āmāra ājñāya guru hañā. Be actually guru, but by my order.”


Philosophically speaking, any disciple of Srila Prabhupada who is truly guru will see themselves as doing it on Srila Prabhupada’s behalf. And this is apparently how Srila Prabhupada sees this question when he answers, “Yes. That is formality. . .” He’s speaking in terms of his disciples hypothetically becoming qualified to be guru, “Be actually guru, but by my order.” Here again the requirement of a personal order from him is stressed. There is still no self-evident connection making the future ritviks the same as initiating gurus after or before Srila Prabhupada’s departure. Satsvarupa may have been led think so however.


Satsvarupa’s fourth quoted question above is, “So they may also be considered your disciples.” Srila Prabhupada apparently continues philosophically by saying, “Yes, they are disciples. Why consider? Who?”


Tamal then breaks in, attempting to get a more specific answer. He asks, “No, he’s asking that these ṛtvik-ācāryas, they’re officiating, giving dīkṣā. Their . . . the people who they give dīkṣā to, whose disciple are they?” This is also a pretty philosophically muddled question, so it is hard to understand which contradictory proposition Srila Prabhupada replies to. He has already indicated that he wants to resume his previous regime of ritviks presiding over new people’s initiations. Everyone understands that, while Srila Prabhupada is physically manifest, the new people will become his disciples. So yes, the rittviks are officiating, but they’re not the person doing the initiating. That’s Srila Prabhupada. They’re not, “giving diksa.” The second part of Tamal’s question, “Their . . . the people who they give dīkṣā to, whose disciple are they?” is then contradictory to the first ritvik-acaryas part. Nevertheless, as far as Srila Prabhupada is concerned, it is still hypothetically possible that someone named as ritvik could actually become qualified to be guru, and that is apparently how he answers when he says, “They’re his disciple,” and, “Who is initiating. He is granddisciple.” This answer comes closest to linking the future ritviks with the “He’s guru” person who will initiate Srila Prabhupada’s “granddisciples,” but who formally “should not become guru” while Srila Prabhupada is still present. There is still a great deal of ambiguity however.


At this point it becomes clear that the March 1978 Future Initiations paper takes these cryptic replies to a number of muddled and confused questions to mean that the ritviks to be named will also be able to initiate their own disciples after Srila Prabhupada’s departure.


The paper asserts, “We then asked him who the spiritual master of such disciples would be. He replied that the new initiators would be the disciples of those whom he empowered to initiate and that he, Srila Prabhupada, would be their grand spiritual master.” These supposed direct answers by Srila Prabhupada are also not to be found in the conversation text. The first sentence here clearly refers to Tamal’s break-in question. However, at no point in the May 28 conversation, either before or after this question, does Srila Prabhupada directly say that the ritviks to be named are all qualified to be diksa gurus. Nowhere does he “empower to initiate” either the future ritviks or any specific individual(s). That the Paper’s self-serving interpretation of “he” and “his” pronouns amounts to an elevation of mere ritvik priests to full-blown diksa gurus is more than questionable, especially when we consider the power that it gives the eleven. The question must be asked if an honest person would take Srila Prabhupada’s statements here to mean that they have been made guru.


The next remarks in the May 28 conversation are: Satsvarūpa: “Yes.” Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: “That’s clear.” Satsvarūpa: “Then we have a question concer . . .” Here, in the most important statement in the whole exchange, Srila Prabhupada interrupts apparently because, after a number of confused and muddled questions, his disciples appear ready to move on. His next statement was clearly intended to provide the definitive answer to who among his disciples is qualified to give diksa — “When I order, ‘You become guru,’ he becomes regular guru. That’s all. He becomes disciple of my disciple. That’s it.”


This and only this should have cleared up any confusion as to whether the ritviks to be named were also qualified to be diksa gurus. However, the hell-bent eleven chose to ignore this direct statement in favor of the 1978 Future Initiations Paper’s self-serving interpretation of pronouns. Applying this answer to the eleven future ritviks, there was no personal order to any specific individuals. He said, “When I order,” and no individual(s) were ordered by name. End of discussion. The eleven were only ordered to be ritviks in the July 9th letter.


We have strived to give a direct, mukhya-vritti understanding of the May 28, 1977 GBC conversation. This comes to a very different conclusion than the 1978 Future Initiations Paper, as well as the December 1, 1977 newsletter and the Jan.-Feb. 1978 Back To Godhead editorial. These apparently all stem from the same self-serving interpretation. There are also any number of other interpretations. In the late 80’s another group seized on Srila Prabhupada’s answer to Satsvarupa’s first question about initiations in the future and took it to mean that he wanted only more rittvik initiations after his departure, and that he was to remain the movement’s only diksa guru into the unforeseeable future. Of course, this interpretation ignores all his following answers, especially the mention of granddisciples.


Our point here is that the best interpretation of the spiritual master’s statements almost always preserves the direct, self-evident meaning of the words. This is mukhya-vritti or face value. As stated in the final definitive reply, for the eleven to become gurus would require a direct personal order from Srila Prabhupada. This order regarding any of the eleven individuals is nowhere to be found. This means they only pretended to have an order. They cheated thousands in this way, and some of them continue to do so.


The crime of their deception that they were appointed gurus in the May 28th GBC conversation is corroborated by how they kept its transcript and recording secret for years. That way no one could question their specious and self-benefiting interpretation. There is also no record of any of the eleven verifying with Srila Prabhupada that his May 28th answers amounted to an order for them to initiate after his departure. They had months after the July 9th letter announced them as the rittviks, and getting a recorded confirmation from him would have sealed the deal as far as convincing others. However, asking him to confirm their questionable interpretation also risked him refuting it and thus spoiling their whole plan. This is clearly the reason they didn’t ask.


Anyway, the die was cast, and the eleven took over as the movement’s supposed gurus. Do real gurus deceive, misrepresent and hide their own guru’s statements, especially regarding their supposed appointment to be guru? Any sensible person should know the answer. Yet this act of audacious deception has influenced much of what has happened in the ISKCON institution since. This is because the GBC have abjectly failed to admit the deception and return to Srila Prabhupada’s previous standard of “not misleading anyone.” When something is based on untruth, other deceptions invariably have to be employed to bolster the original one.


In the end virtually everyone believed the eleven had been appointed. Virtually everyone accepted that the GBC had made their decision to approve them based on guru, sadhu and sastra and with everyone’s best interest in mind. Based on quotes like the following, virtually everyone went along:


“For Kṛṣṇa’s service, we should submit to the immediate officer or commander. Just like soldiers. Soldiers, there is no question of discrimination. Whatever is ordered by the commander, immediately done.” Class on The Nectar of Devotion, Calcutta, January 27, 1973


An Honest ISKCON Part 1


An Honest ISKCON Part 3


An Honest ISKCON Part 4

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