Devotee Writings etc.

ISKCON, ISKCON 2.0 and Beyond, Eunuch “Gurus” and What Comes After, Part 4 of 5

By Nitya Krishna dasa

Wrangling the Future

Needless to say, the institution’s leaders have had a difficult time sweeping the many consequences of their material solutions under the brand or auspices of Srila Prabhupada’s purity. Scandals like ongoing child abuse and pedophilia haven’t gone away completely despite the cover-ups and apparent amends. The now grown gurukuli child victims are another group largely ignored by the institution’s leaders, along with those who don’t think Srila Prabhupada’s books should be changed. Minimizing Srila Prabhupada as absolute authority and approval of mayavada contamination have also received attention. Observers also regularly find the scandals of those close to the GBC being ignored, dismissed or covered over. Individual traveling sannyasis and so-called gurus often create authority and financial conflict with temple presidents, regional GBCs and other designated institutional managers. The world movement is just too big and the inability or dis-inclination of the GBC too great to discipline these “creative” preachers in the absence of genuine love and trust loyalty. Scandals are apparently bad for “spiritual” business. It is so much easier to present a rosy picture.

Although the institutional standards of purity may look good in the apparent absence of discreditable behavior, the reality is that the GBC would not have to manage or supervise the so-called gurus if they were actually qualified. A real guru doesn’t do the things that the institution’s post-holders do on a regular basis. ISKCON laws, loyalty oaths and collegial accord are only needed to control people who can’t control their senses without the threat of discipline. It is only further proof that these people have no shortage of ignorant sudra qualities, one of which is confirmed by their submission to the GBC. The entire notion of “guru reform” or any notebooks of that nature is anathema to genuine Vaishnavism because no real guru is going to commit the forbidden or offensive actions that require rectification.

Reporter: But the bad gurus…
Srila Prabhupada: And what is a “bad” guru?
Reporter: A bad guru just wants some money or some fame.
Srila Prabhupada: Well, if he is bad, how can he become a guru? [Laughter.] How can iron become gold? Actually, a guru cannot be bad, for if someone is bad, he cannot be a guru. – The Science of Self Realization, Chapter Two, Choosing a Spiritual Master – “Saints and Swindlers”

Those making excuses for the ISKCON institution sometimes say that criticism of the GBC over “gurus” policy is not warranted because the so-called gurus are allowed so much freedom. This apparent freedom, however, stems from the GBC wanting to avoid embarrassments by largely sweeping the garbage under the rug. The authority policy exists because of at least one murderous abuse of freedom by the so-called gurus and stands as a reminder to them that they are no longer tacitly empowered by the GBC to do anything similar. However, the policy itself is neither Vedic nor Vaishnava.

The reality of ISKCON institution management is admittedly a very fluid dynamic. The so-called gurus have their own pecking order largely determined by the number of their followers and the amount of those follower’s donations, both to the movement and so-called guru. This gives those at the top that much more sway with temple presidents or the GBC. They nevertheless can’t create embarrassments without negatives, sometimes officially from the GBC, as when PC Maharaja Hridayananda “Swami” started blessing gay marriages. Even the so-called guru pecking order, however, is a subset of the overall society ladder-climbing hierarchy, something that has long been compared to a pet shop turtle tank.

The GBC are trying to get as many devotees as possible to go along and get along by minimizing conflicts between temple managers, traveling sannyasis and so-called gurus through the “GBC ultimate authority” guideline. However, the so-called gurus with more followers or big doners are given that many more blind eyes. This then encourages a kind of race to make disciples wherein Jayapataka Swami sometimes “initiates” tens of thousands at a pop.

“If everyone just initiates then there will only be a contradictory result. As long as it goes on there will be only failure. . . . But simply a festival of flowers and fruits does not constitute worship. The one who serves the message of the guru really worships him. . .  O shame! My dear brothers, aren’t you embarrassed? In the manner of businessmen you increase your disciples.” Vyasa Puja Offering, 1961

“The first thing, I warn Acyutananda, do not try to initiate. You are not in a proper position now to initiate anyone… Don’t be allured by such Maya. I am training you all to become future Spiritual Masters, but do not be in a hurry… You don’t be attracted by such cheap disciples immediately. One has to rise gradually by service… These services are most important. Don’t be allured by cheap disciples. Go on steadfastly to render service first. If you immediately become Guru, then the service activities will be stopped; and as there are many cheap gurus and cheap disciples, without any substantial knowledge, and manufacturing new sampradayas, and with service activities stopped, and all spiritual progress stopped up.” Letter to Acyutananda, 8/21/68

Because of the decisions described previously, the GBC have spawned no shortage of counter-factions and alienated ex-members, and the result is a highly charged sectarian environment wherein they and their shortcomings, admitted or not, are largely publicized by independent websites and social media. One can consult these to advantage to understand how the principles we are describing manifest in real-time.

“Initiation” Mutation

Although Ravindra Svarupa is reportedly retired from active GBC duties, the need for intellectual diplomatic fixers is just as necessary as when he rose to prominence. The institution thus has regular meetings of what is called the ISKCON Leadership Sanga. Multi-linguist, apparent guru and Sanskrit translator Bhanu Swami clearly plays an influential role. It must be mentioned, however, that the topics discussed by the Sanga are not necessarily going to become official GBC policy, but they do at least shed light on the society’s active material consequences, the karmic reactions of past “solutions.”

As described above, Srila Prabhupada Founder-Acarya of ISKCON and Harmonizing ISKCON’s Lines of Authority were largely attempts to formalize making the institution’s so-called gurus subordinate to the GBC. However, the bigger so-called gurus are also the ones whose charisma and apparent knowledge are capable of attracting many followers, especially in India. Because this is the fruitive currency primarily valued in the institution, these men are enabled to skirt and often flaunt collegial accord. Vaishnava tradition and the example of earlier institutional eras also intuitively make the disciple’s first loyalty to the so-called initiating guru. This then contributes to the regular conflict and complaints to the GBC from temple presidents and other managers.

One 2018 lecture to the Leadership Sanga by Bhanu Swami was entitled Ambiguities in ISKCON Diksa. Although one might be led to believe that the title was a description of the contents, by the end one is also likely to see it as a kind of new-age visualization of what is wanted by certain leaders that include Bhanu Swami himself. Nevertheless, and to demonstrate Bhanu Swami’s also prodigious diplomatic talents, the lecture and its detached delivery leave him ample room for plausible deniability in many regards.

Since the lecture discusses policy tweaks to deal with the aforementioned “guru”-temple president management conflict, it is clear that the Sanga and Bhanu Swami have hardly returned to simply implementing guru, sadhu and sastra. The question is, again, to what extent are they and the GBC willing to sacrifice pure Vaishnavism to further institute a manufactured process of “Krishna consciousness.” It is very easy to conclude from the lecture that the Sanga and Bhanu Swami are seriously considering warping disciples’ first loyalty from the diksa, or initiating, guru to the GBC. It is only a question of how far.

Needless to say, the effects of such a transfer on the disciples’ consciousness, vis-à-vis the bona fide process of transcendence described earlier (saksad-dharitvena samasta-sastrair), are pretty ominous. Focusing ones service attitude on a management body as opposed to a manifest guru takes ones consciousness well into the unauthorized domain. In any case, if the institution’s so-called gurus are as fallen as we have been describing, it might not really add up to all that much difference. It becomes a question of which pit is darker. However, in terms of the bona fide process described in the siddhanta, such a loyalty transfer is a major deviation and departure. In other words, one way of being misled is at least more in accord with the philosophy.

Nevertheless, Bhanu Swami very much represents the newer, kinder, gentler ISKCON institution. Gone are the heavy absolute dictates of the zonal acaryas. One is led to believe that everyone is included and that the leaders are acting with every member’s welfare in mind. His style is more typical of academics.

In the lecture the word diksa is broken down to di, meaning divya jnana, spiritual knowledge, and sa, deliverance from the effects of sin. However, rather than emphasizing the purity of the bona fide spiritual master to facilitate this, Bhanu Swami proceeds to spend about an hour literally creating ambiguity about diksa. Srila Prabhupada never spoke in the “perhaps” and “maybe” terms regularly found in the lecture – because he was a genuine guru.

“And who is guru? Śrotriyam, who knows śāstra. Śrotriyam. And not only knows, but the result must be there, brahma-niṣṭham, means Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Brahma-niṣṭham means fully dependent on Kṛṣṇa.” Lecture on Bhagavad-gita 4.10, Vrndavana, August 2, 1974

“Everything vague, simply mental speculation, ‘maybe,’ ‘perhaps.’ These theories are being forwarded by so-called scientists and philosophers. But we don’t accept such things as ‘perhaps,’ ‘maybe.’ No. We accept what is fact. It is not a question of belief; it is a question of fact.” Lecture on Bhagavad-gita 2.13, Pittsburgh, September 8, 1972

“Initiation by Accepting the Spiritual Master in Your Heart”

Bhanu Swami’s lecture also reminds one of rittvik advocates and others who casually talk about wholesale initiation with easy reception of apparent divya jnana from a cursory reading of Srila Prabhupada’s books. A number of the same quotes are cited:

“You’ll be initiated. Any one of you when you agree to follow the regulative principles and you are recommended by our men, then you can also be initiated. Initiation is a formality. First of all you have to decide whether you will abide by the rules and regulations and become Krsna conscious. That is your consideration. You have to decide for yourself whether you are going to take this Krsna consciousness seriously. That is your decision. Initiation is a formality. If you are serious, that is real initiation. If you have understood this Krsna philosophy and if you have decided that you will take Krsna consciousness seriously and preach the philosophy to others, that is your initiation. My touch is simply a formality. It is your determination. That is initiation.” Conversation with Mr. Paul Valliere, July 03, 1972, New York

“So anyway, from 1922 to 1933 practically I was not initiated, but I got the impression of preaching Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s cult. That I was thinking. And that was the initiation by my Guru Mahārāja. Then officially I was initiated in 1933 because in 1923 I left Calcutta.” Lecture on Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Prabhupāda’s Disappearance Day, December 10, 1976, Hyderabad

“So you take the bhakti-latā-bīja from the spiritual master. That is called initiation. And develop it by pouring water of hearing and chanting. Then it will grow.” Lecture on The Nectar of Devotion, October 29, 1972, Vṛndāvana

“The chanting Hare Krishna is our main business, that is real initiation. And as you are all following my instruction, in that matter, the initiator is already there. Now the next initiation will be performed as a ceremony officially, of course that ceremony has value because the name, Holy Name, will be delivered to the student from the disciplic succession, it has got value, but in spite of that, as you are going on chanting, please go on with this business sincerely and Krishna willing, I may be coming to you very soon.” Letter to Tamala Krsna, August 19, 1968

After these quotes are cited, a couple more about the primacy of first versus second (brahmana) initiation are given, and then a third that says second is the real initiation. Rather than resolving these apparent contradictions by illuminating the principles that Srila Prabhupada was implementing, Bhanu Swami purposely and insidiously uses them to divert the listeners to the concocted ideas he proposes. He makes it appear that Srila Prabhupada failed to give us what was needed to properly do initiation, thus necessitating the need for “experts” like him to clear things up. Referencing the quotes given and described above he says:

“So what’s initiation? When are you initiated? When you chant Hare Krishna? When you accept internally? When you get bhakti-lata-bija? When you get this first ceremony? When you get the second ceremony? What’s the initiation? Ha ha ha ha. So who knows the answer? We all talk about initiation, but what is it actually? We have these different statements about it. Ha ha ha ha. So I think we have to go back to scripture to discover what is diksa, which is the real meaning of initiation in a very specific manner as practiced in our sampradaya and of course in India in general they follow this definition. So we have to find out what is the real siddhanta behind diksa.” Bhanu Swami, Ambiguities in ISKCON Diksa lecture, February 28, 2018, Melbourne

Apparently Srila Prabhupada either didn’t know the real siddhanta on initiation or wasn’t capable of making it clear. Bhanu Swami’s methodology, therefore, isn’t all that different from Jayadvaita Swami’s claiming to know more about Srila Prabhupada’s books than him. Both of them are committing more gurvaparadha.

“So Kṛṣṇa came for this purpose, to settle up or to purify dharmasya glāniḥ, pollution in the matter of discharging religious principles. Therefore, as soon as there is pollution, means there is a class of men who have polluted. They are called duṣkṛta, sinful. When there is increase of the number of sinful persons, there must be pollution in the system of religious life. This is the way.” Lecture on Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.2.6, Rome, May 24, 1974

So anyway yes, preliminarily developing the requisite seriousness before an official ceremony may be possible for some sincere souls that included a number of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples, but hardly for the usual Kali yuga denizens that are fated to fall in with the casual devotees who take initiation cheaply. It was for these fallen people that Srila Prabhupada set up the initiation standards and formalities he used, and for whom he cautioned about casually imagining that one has become internally initiated:

Madhudvisa: His question was that can you take initiation by accepting the spiritual master in your heart without actually taking…
Srila Prabhupada: These are bogus proposition. It has no meaning. (laughter) It has no meaning. If you think within yourself, “I am eating,” will you be satisfied? You starve and simply think, “I have eaten everything.” (laughter) Is that very practical proposal? You must eat. We don’t say all these bogus proposition. – Lecture on Srimad Bhagavatam 6.1.1, Melbourne, May 21, 1975

Bhanu Swami then deals similarly with the second syllable of diksa – one is supposedly delivered from sin simply by hearing the holy name. Again, this is true, especially if one hears the name from a pure devotee like Srila Prabhupada, which commonly occurs in the institution. The real question is if the followers can remain on that pure sinless platform. What is the converse effect of hearing from the deviated leaders and so-called gurus or in ones personal japa chanting, something which is occurring through many follower’s every waking minute? How much of this hearing is “milk touched by the lips of (sahajiya) serpents?”

“One must be…, behavior in Vaisnava. Sadacara-sampannah. Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has warned that ‘Don’t mix it with Vaisnava who is not well trained up, well behaved.’ You can offer him respect. A Vaisnava offers respect even to the ant. That is another thing. But he has warned, ‘Don’t mix with them, these professional, so-called Vaisnava, sahajiyas.’ This is warned. Avaisnava-mukhodgirnam puta-hari-kathamrtam, sravanam na kartavyam: ‘You should not hear.’ ‘Eh? Huh? What is the wrong there? The Krsna-katha is there.’ No, Krsna-katha is there just like milk is there, but if it is touched by the lips of a serpent, it is no more to be taken. It has become poison. Unless one is situated as pure Vaisnava in his dealing, in his behavior, inside and outside, he should not become a preacher because it will not be effective, neither one should hear from such person. But people in general, they can not understand, but those who are preaching, they must be very sincere, the same way. Rupa-raghunatha pade, haibe akuti. They should read the literatures, the instruction, just like Upadesamrta, The Nectar of Instruction. We should follow, strictly follow. Then prthivim sa sisyat. Then you’ll be able to preach and make disciples all over the world. This is the injunction. That is called gosvami. Don’t be cheap preacher, cheap guru. No, no. That is not good. It is not possible.” Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.9.28, Mayapur, March 6, 1976

Who is Siksa Guru?

Not too far into the lecture Bhanu Swami pares the initiation process down to giving the mantras that are needed to worship the Deity. Even the spiritual guidance of the diksa guru is made non-essential because it is supposedly also available from the many so-called siksa gurus in the institution. He says:

“But in ISKCON culture we give more emphasis to the diksa guru. He gets more worship. He gets more donations, he gets more obedience etc. even though his real function is simply to give those Deity mantras which is, we say, a minor factor in our devotional service.” Bhanu Swami, Ambiguities in ISKCON Diksa lecture, February 28, 2018, Melbourne

Actually this idea that there are many siksa gurus among Srila Prabhupada’s followers is another one of devotees’ most widely held misconceptions. The common idea is that a diksa guru should be more qualified, but that supposed siksa gurus can be anyone who simply gives everyday guidance about Krishna consciousness, even an uninitiated person. However, Srila Prabhupada says that genuine siksa and diksa gurus both need to be the same elevated status:

“The initiating and instructing spiritual masters are equal and identical manifestations of Krsna, although they have different dealings.” Purport, Sri Caitanya Charitamrita, Adi 1.34

“the pure devotee who instructs and guides the disciple in the confidential service of Sri-Sri Radha and Krsna is the siksa-guru.”
“One should . . . worship both the initiating and instructing spiritual masters with great attachment, never thinking that the guru is merely a great sage—rather, that he is one’s most intimate and well-wishing friend.” Srila Raghunatha das Gosvami, Sri Manah Siksa, English translation by Sarvabhavana das

“Sometimes a caste guru says that yei krsna-tattva-vetta sei guru haya means that one who is not a brahmana may become a siksa-guru or a vartma-pradarsaka-guru but not an initiator guru. According to such caste gurus, birth and family ties are considered foremost. However, the hereditary consideration is not acceptable to Vaisnavas. The word guru is equally applicable to the vartma-pradarsaka-guru, siksa-guru and diksa-guru.” Purport, Sri Caitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 8.128

Srila Prabhupada further calls into question any instructions coming from leaders like the GBC and their so-called gurus, people who are purposely diverting devotees from the pure parampara instructions:

“Guror avajna. First offense is guror avajna: Defying the authority of guru. This is the first offense. So one who is offensive, how he can make advance in chanting? He cannot make. Then everything is finished in the beginning. Guror avajna. Everything is there. If one is disobeying the spiritual master, he cannot remain in the pure status of life. He cannot be siksa-guru or anything else.” Lecture in Honolulu July 4,1974

“It is Not a Formality”

Bhanu Swami thus not only takes up the misdirection of Srila Prabhupada Founder-Acarya of ISKCON and Harmonizing ISKCON’s Lines of Authority but attempts to map the next step towards perfect material-solution management:

“So you know we get complicated thing where loyalty gets divided due to the fact that most people think everything must go through the diksa guru. So technically diksa guru would be giving the mantras and also spiritual instructions so he’s the spiritual authority but not the managerial authority. So within ISKCON there’s a little bit of confusion there. That all authority gets stuck on the diksa guru by the disciple which is not technically correct if we are within the society of ISKCON. . . So we have to put emphasis on Prabhupada as the founder-acarya of ISKCON and to keep some unity within ISKCON and see that our loyalties don’t get divided up. Otherwise within the society if we have more loyalty to individual gurus then and that he becomes a managerial authority also then our whole managerial structure begins to fall apart and we get little, we can say little states of control within ISKCON. Each guru with his disciples becomes more powerful influence than the managerial structure. And that’s not what Prabhupada wanted. He wanted a GBC to make the rules for ISKCON not the individual gurus. So we have to also think of how to preserve ISKCON in the future. So how do we insure in the future that the devotees are made loyal to ISKCON and that loyalty is stronger than to their individual diksa guru?” Bhanu Swami, Ambiguities in ISKCON Diksa lecture, February 28, 2018, Melbourne

The conflict with sastra is largely confirmed by the sentence, “That all authority gets stuck on the diksa guru by the disciple which is not technically correct if we are within the society of ISKCON.” Again the question arises, “Do the GBC think they are superior to guru, sadhu and sastra?” Anyway, it is not difficult to conclude that one of Bhanu Swami’s and the Sanga’s current directions is determining how much to confuse devotees about initiation so that they will more fully surrender to the deviated concept of the GBC body as so-called spiritual successor and authority.

It is clear that Bhanu Swami purposefully avoided all the things that Srila Prabhupada and the previous acaryas said about the relationship of the sincere disciple to his or her diksa guru. It’s like he wants to throw that out. Hardly any discussion is dedicated to the giving of the Hare Krishna maha mantra during the ceremony, the bhakti-lata-bija or the responsibility of the diksa guru to deliver the disciples, even if it means returning in future lives.

For instance, if the diksa guru is as unimportant as Bhanu Swami makes him out to be, then why did Srila Prabhupada regularly talk about the importance of the selection of ones guru:

”tad viddhi pranipatena/pariprasnena sevaya/upadeksyanti te jnanam/jnaninas tattva-darsinah ‘Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.’ (Bg. 4.34) The first process is that of surrender. We have to find an exalted person and willingly surrender before him. The sastras enjoin that before we take a guru we study him carefully to find out whether we can surrender to him. We should not accept a guru suddenly out of fanaticism. That is very dangerous. The guru should also study the person who wants to become a disciple to see if he is fit. That is the way a relationship is established between the guru and disciple.” Vyasa puja lecture, August 22, 1973, London

“One cannot deny the order of a spiritual master. Therefore one has to select a spiritual master whose order, carrying, you’ll not commit a mistake. You see? Now, suppose if you accept a wrong person as spiritual master, and if you, if he guides you wrongly, then your whole life is spoiled. So one has to accept a spiritual master whose guidance will make his life perfect. That is the relation between spiritual master and disciple. It is not a formality. It is a great responsibility both for the disciple and for the spiritual master.” Bhagavad-Gita Lecture 2.7-11, New York, March 2, 1966, emphasis added

In addition, the giving of the Hare Krishna maha mantra certainly has great spiritual value that casual approaches to initiation should be more cautious about ignoring. A physically manifest spiritual master is required to do this or authorize someone in his place. Srila Prabhupada occasionally quoted the previous acaryas citing the Padma Purana:

sampradaya-vihina ye mantras te nisphala matah
“Any mantra that does not come in disciplic succession is considered to be useless.” Padma Purana (not extant version), First Prameya 5-6

Srila Prabhupada also wrote about how faithful candidates are eligible to get the bhakti-lata-bija, or the seed of devotional service, that must be watered by following the instructions of the spiritual master:

“The bhakti-latā-bīja is the origin of devotional service. Unless one satisfies the spiritual master, he gets the bīja, or root cause, of karma, jñāna and yoga without the benefit of devotional service. But one who is faithful to his spiritual master gets the bhakti-latā-bīja. This bhakti-latā-bīja is received when one is initiated by the bona fide spiritual master. After receiving the spiritual master’s mercy, one must repeat his instructions, and this is called śravaṇa-kīrtana—hearing and chanting. One who has not properly heard from the spiritual master or who does not follow the regulative principles is not fit for chanting (kīrtana). This is explained in the Bhagavad-gītā (2.41): vyavasāyātmikā buddhir ekeha kuru-nandana. One who has not listened carefully to the instructions of the spiritual master is unfit for chanting or for preaching the cult of devotional service. One has to water the bhakti-latā-bīja by receiving instructions from the spiritual master.” Purport, Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 19.152

The bhakti-lata-bija is thus not a material thing. It is transcendental and not of this world, ones initiation to the spiritual realm. It is the seed of the determination and focus that the conditioned soul will need to completely give up attraction for material things and awaken ones dormant love of Krishna, all received from the serious devotee who embodies these qualities. How could Bhanu Swami have minimized it in any bona fide discussion of diksa? On the other hand, if the spiritual standards in the ISKCON institution are as described, the previous quote also causes one to consider if its devotees are getting the bijas of “karma, jñāna and yoga” instead of bhakti.

The Institutional Process of Argument

The reality is that it is the relationship of service of the disciple to the genuine siksa or diksa guru, through the reception of the bhakti-lata-bija and following his instructions, that eventually allows the disciple to get free from absorption in material objects. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada wrote about diksa while discussing Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s acceptance of initiation in Sri Chaitanya Bhagavat:

ara dine nibhrte isvara-puri-sthane
mantra-diksa cahilena madhura-vacane
Translation
“On another day the Lord went privately to Isvara Puri and in sweet words requested him for initiation.” Sri Chaitanya Bhagavata, Adi 17.105
Commentary
“The phrase mantra-diksa is defined in the Bhakti-sandarbha (207) as mantra-diksa-rupah anugrahah – ‘receiving mercy in the form of initiation.’ According to the passage, mananat trayate yasmat tasman mantrah prakirtitah, a mantra is that which delivers one from manana, or absorption in the separate temporary objects of the temporary, external, enjoyable world, or that which delivers the material enjoyer from the principle of enjoying material existence. It is stated in the Visnu-yamala: divyam jnanam yato dadyat kuryat papasya sanksayam / tasmad dikseti sa prokta desikais tattva-kovidaih – ‘Diksa is the process by which one can awaken his transcendental knowledge and vanquish all reactions caused by sinful activity. A person expert in the study of the revealed scriptures knows this process as diksa.’” Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada, English translation by Bhumipati dasa

Bhanu Swami, the Sanga and Ravindra Svarupa’s processes of sophisticated argument also cannot take the place of surrendering to and serving the bona fide spiritual master. Again from Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s acceptance of guru:

samsara-samudra haite uddharaha more
ei ami deha samarpilana tomare
Translation
“Please deliver Me from the ocean of material existence. I surrender Myself unto you.” Sri Chaitanya Bhagavata, Adi 17.54
Commentary
“Taking shelter at the lotus feet of a spiritual master is the main entrance to the practice of devotional service to the Lord. That is why the spiritual master of all servants and the acarya of abhidheya, Srila Rupa Gosvami Prabhupada, has in the course of describing the symptoms of devotional service in his Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu written as follows: guru-padasrayas tasmat krsna-diksadi-siksanam / visrambhena guroh seva sadhu-vartmanuvartanam. Those living entities who desire their eternal ultimate benefit and freedom from material bondage should first take shelter of a bona fide spiritual master who is a manifestation of the Supreme Lord. There is no way of being delivered from the ocean of anarthas without fully surrendering at the lotus feet of the spiritual master. Unless one takes shelter of a bona fide spiritual master who is fixed in the Absolute Truth and conversant in Vedic knowledge, a living entity cannot attain the goal of life through the process of argument. . . . In order to propagate this great truth and educate people, jagad-guru Sri Gaurasundara considered Himself a surrendered soul at the lotus feet of the guru and thus instructed everyone about saranagati, in the form of atma-niksepa and karpanya, full self-surrender and humility. Those who follow the path of material argument in order to fulfill the deficiency and insubstantiality of a spiritual master who is fully surrendered to Krsna and whose all endeavors are meant for the pleasure of Krsna have no possibility of being delivered from the pangs of hell.” Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada, English translation by Bhumipati dasa, emphasis added

“There is no way of being delivered from the ocean of anarthas without fully surrendering at the lotus feet of the spiritual master.” How is limiting the disciples’ need for a diksa guru to giving the mantras for Deity worship conducive to this? The genuine guru trains the disciples to perfectly render service to Krishna by example because he is the servitor Personality of Godhead:

“The example of Lord Kṛṣṇa’s being the Supreme Personality of Godhead is appropriate in regard to understanding the spiritual master. The spiritual master is called sevaka-bhagavān, the servitor Personality of Godhead, and Kṛṣṇa is called sevya-bhagavān, the Supreme Personality of Godhead who is to be worshiped. The spiritual master is the worshiper God, whereas the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, is the worshipable God. This is the difference between the spiritual master and the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” Purport, Srimad Bhagavatam 7.15.27

Bhanu Swami’s casual treatment of how just about any chanting of Hare Krishna is good enough to keep one free from sin and take one to the final goal of prema bhakti is also not supported by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada. The commentaries immediately above mention the need for “service inclined tongues” and “atma-niksepa and karpanya, full self-surrender and humility.” Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada makes clear in another place that service and surrender are to be directed to a genuine spiritual master if one wants the complete result of chanting:

“In this instance, the fourth case of the names Hari and Yadava is used to indicate saranagati or atma-samarpana (surrender). In other words, a person who is desirous of chanting the holy names of Krsna should first receive transcendental knowledge by fully surrendering at the lotus feet of a bona fide spiritual master whose only resolution is to chant the holy names of Krsna; he should constantly engage in hearing the topics and holy names of Krsna from the mouths of the spiritual master and the Vaisnavas; and he should loudly call out and always chant the holy names of Krsna without offense.” Commentary, Sri Chaitanya Bhagavata, Madhya 1.407, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada, English translation by Bhumipati dasa

“There is Nothing Modern”

The endemic conflict between the so-called gurus and the GBC’s management personalities is itself indicative of serious deviations from the siddhanta. They all say they are following Srila Prabhupada’s instructions. If that were really the case, however, any conflicts would be minor and capable of being resolved through private discussion. All genuine gurus, even madhyama adhikaris, are one, so if the conflict is so ongoing that the Sanga has to regularly discuss changing the nature of their “guru-disciple” relationship to alleviate it, at least one or both of the parties must be doing something substantially different from what Srila Prabhupada taught. We are attempting to detail some of those deviations. The conflict is a glaring symptom of these.

“The Vedas enjoin us to seek out a guru; actually, they say to seek out the guru, not just a guru. The guru is one because he comes in disciplic succession. What Vyasadeva and Krishna taught 5,000 years ago is also being taught now. There is no difference between the two instructions. Although hundreds and thousands of acaryas have come and gone, the message is one. The real guru cannot be two because the real guru does not speak differently from his predecessors. Some spiritual teachers say, ‘In my opinion you should do this,’ but this is not a guru. Such so-called gurus are simply rascals. The genuine guru has only one opinion, and that is the opinion expressed by Krishna, Vyasadeva, Narada, Arjuna, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and the Gosvamis.” Vyasa puja lecture, August 22, 1973, London

Although very little from the Ambiguities in ISKCON Diksa lecture might end up official policy in the ISKCON institution, Bhanu Swami’s analysis presents a very clear picture of its current plight. As given previously, the first conclusion is that there would not be a need for the deviated “solutions” if they actually had qualified gurus who were capable of seriously following Srila Prabhupada and implementing guru, sadhu and sastra. Neither would there have been an earlier need for making the GBC the ultimate spiritual authority and successor.

What is the mundane strength of the institution, however, is the Western, pseudo-Vedic, collegial-corporate management structure that the utilitarian leaders have built up over time to patch the ongoing cracks in the dike. Bhanu Swami’s efforts must be seen primarily in this context as attempts to make up for the spiritual seriousness and personalities that are lacking. Nothing proves the need for a genuine guru more than what the Leadership Sanga, Ravindra Svarupa and Bhanu Swami are doing. They don’t know, but they are trying to make people believe they do. They nevertheless have the audacity to arrogantly put themselves on a par with the previous acaryas as far as being able to innovate:

“Now when come to Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura then he innovated. So according to time generally you have to innovate in order to survive. And that is kind of a rule ah, and we find that over time that different philosophies arose. So we have you know Sri Sampradaya coming at one time, Madhava coming and we have Gaudiya coming later on with Lord Chaitanya . . .And in business they say you have to innovate. . . .If you don’t innovate you get lost. Everything changes, people change, society changes, technology changes everything else. Some people are real innovators. They are the ones that win.” Bhanu Swami, Ambiguities in ISKCON Diksa lecture, February 28, 2018, Melbourne

Srila Prabhupada discussed this quite differently:

“So it is useless to say that modern time, modern ways, modern things. There is nothing modern. The old thing is going on. So if we follow systematically the previous ācāryas, previous system, as Kṛṣṇa is advising… Kṛṣṇa does not advise, ‘Modern.’ Five thousand years ago He instructed Bhagavad-gītā. Still, He was saying pūrva pūrvataraiḥ, pūrvatamaiḥ. Evaṁ paramparā-prāptam imaṁ rājarṣayo viduḥ (Bg 4.2). This is intelligence. We have to accept the real truth and follow it. It does not mean modern age or previous age, past age. That is not Vedic system.” Lecture on Bhagavad-gītā 4.15, Bombay, April 4, 1974

“We have to be guided by the ācāryas. Ācāryavān puruṣo veda. One who follows the principles of ācāryas, he knows the things as they are. That is the verdict. In the Bhagavad-gītā also, we find: ācāryopāsanam. We have to follow the footprints, footsteps, of the ācāryas, because they can give us right direction. And one who does not follow the ācāryas and creates and manufactures his mental concoction, his version will not be accepted.” Lecture on Bhagavad-gītā 7.7, Bombay, April 1, 1971

Srila Prabhupada is the last acarya. He and the others are worshipped by following their instructions. Initiation “expert” Bhanu Swami, after purposely making Srila Prabhupada’s guidance appear ambiguous, is attempting to rebuild everything from from scratch, pretty much to suit the needs and whims of those with the most power in the institution. This is directly opposed to the principal of acarya upasanam described above. The recognized acaryas are mahabhagavats in constant communion with Krishna who can modify non-essential strictures to suit time, place and circumstance. They know the difference between non-essential things and the eternal siddhanta, unlike Bhanu Swami.

“All these things are nonsense inventions. Such inventing spirit will ruin our this movement……Gradually the Krishna Consciousness idea will evaporate: another change, another change, every day another change. Stop all this.” Letter to Sudama, Vrindaban, 5 November, 1972

Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Cards

In a newer 2020 lecture to the Sanga, Importance of Siksa and Diksa, Bhanu Swami continues to suggest management panacea. To facilitate this the leaders have a history of generating simple one-line, catch-all-save-all cliches that can be pulled out quickly when followers become too conscious of the contradictions – a kind of institutional get-out-of-jail-free card. An earlier one was how all the abuses of the zonal acaryas were supposedly cleaned up by taking away their big titles and seats. In this lecture Bhanu Swami gives voice to what appears to be the emerging one – “Srila Prabhupada as all member’s preeminent siksa guru.” The 2018 lecture had already suggested utilizing Srila Prabhupada to unify the various conflicts.

“So previously I mentioned that all these different factors giving us all this divya jnana and destroying our sins so we have Prabhupada and his books etc. So we have to put emphasis on Prabhupada as the founder-acarya of ISKCON and to keep some unity within ISKCON and see that our loyalties don’t get divided up. Otherwise within the society if we have more loyalty to individual gurus then and that he becomes a managerial authority also then our whole managerial structure begins to fall apart and we get little, we can say little states of control within ISKCON. Each guru with his disciples becomes more powerful influence than the managerial structure.” Bhanu Swami, Ambiguities in ISKCON Diksa lecture, February 28, 2018, Melbourne

The 2020 lecture largely repeats the same quotes and is a rehash of the purposeful cultivation of confusion in Ambiguities in ISKCON Diksa. However, the main criticism of the rittviks, “that Srila Prabhupada becomes secondary to the institution’s so-called diksa gurus,” is featured more prominently. Seeing him as the institution’s pre-eminent siksa guru is mentioned as having long been part of ISKCON institution law:

“ISKCON leaders shall teach that Srila Prabhupada’s books and teachings are the foundation of the spiritual lives of all ISKCON members. Therefore, all ISKCON members shall consider it their compulsory duty to study Srila Prabhupada’s books. Hearing from other devotee’s books and teachings is secondary and supplemental and should not be done at the expense of hearing regularly from Srila Prabhupada. . . . At the time of diksa initiation, all disciples will be further instructed by their initiating guru that Srila Prabhupada is their preeminent siksa guru as ISKCON’s Founder-acarya, ever-present in his books and teachings. Thus they have a recognized siksa link to Srila Prabhupada.” Law 405 F, J, STANDARDS OF GURU WORSHIP IN ISKCON, GBC Resolutions, 1999

The attempt is then made to equate worship of Srila Prabhupada with serving ISKCON by citing a 2013 statement by the GBC.

“Srila Prabhupada, as the Founder-Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, is the preeminent guru for all members of ISKCON. All members of ISKCON, for all generations, are encouraged to seek shelter of Srila Prabhupada. All members of ISKCON are entitled and encouraged to have a personal relationship with Srila Prabhupada through his books, teachings, service, and his ISKCON society.” GBC Statement 2013, emphasis added

The 2020 lecture again brings up the so-called problem of devotees seeing their diksa guru relationship as primary, but this time instead of shifting that loyalty to the GBC, Srila Prabhupada becomes the proposed target.

“How do we keep the prominence of Prabhupada into the future? So that’s the problem for everyone to contemplate. We can think of many things. We can take Prabhupada as the primary shelter for everyone, as the ultimate deliverer. So some of our spiritual masters now are saying to the disciple that I am not the real, you know I’m not the real deliverer of Krishna, Prabhupada is doing it himself, I’m just his servant. Very nice! We’re the mediums. I’m the medium for delivering you and then Prabhupada is the main medium and then he takes you to Krishna. So in this way we get more emphasis on Srila Prabhupada. We could introduce the ceremonies to make Prabhupada the ultimate ashraya for all the devotees. . . How to keep Prabhupada in the lives of the devotees as the most significant factor of inspiration?” Bhanu Swami, Importance of Siksa and Diksa, 2020, ISKCON Leadership Sanga

Who Is a Madhyama Adhikari? – Lipstick on  Swine

So seeing Srila Prabhupada as ones pre-eminient siksa guru is certainly bona fide and a genuine source of spiritual conviction and enthusiasm. We had earlier suggested that the institution should have preached this instead of greenlighting the zonal acaryas’ cheating. The problem with this becoming the latest GBC get-out-of-jail-free card is that it is being superimposed over the existing, deviated “diksa by ecclesiology” patchwork. Deliverance by Srila Prabhupada and his siksa is in doubt if the so-called initiating guru is a competing, unqualified pretender whose “authority” comes from an also deviated board of directors “successor.” The so-called guru and concocting GBC thus become neophyte or sahajiya clouds of ignorant false ego that largely prohibit devotee’s service from reaching Srila Prabhupada, or from his pure siksa being able to impress what might otherwise be the sincerity of the devotees. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada made it clear that a bona fide diksa guru must at least be on the madhyama adkikari platform and not be a kanistha adhikari or a sahajiya:

Rajen Babu: Isn’t the kanistha-adhikari qualified to give initiation into the mantra?
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati: Where is the kanishtha-adhikari coming from? Who gave him the adhikara? A kanishtha-adhikari can never become a guru.
Rajen Babu: Can a madhyama-adhikari give diksa?
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati: He can only perform the initial duties of diksa. It is the uttama-adhikari maha-bhagavata Vaisnava who is actually the diksa-guru. There are two types of Vaisnavas – the ragatmika and the raganuga. Those who are from the eternal realm offer service to Sri Krsna directly. These ragatmikas serve Sri Varshabhanavi and Her direct expansions. Those who perform direct service to the ragatmikas and take shelter in them through the performance of smarana are raganugas. These are spiritual gurus. – Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada, Q&A with Sriyukta Rajendranath Pal Chaudhuri Mahasaya, the famous Zamindar of Louhajang, August 8th 1934

Of course, according to another ISKCON institution myth the so-called gurus are at least madhyama adkikaris because they’re (mostly) following the four rules and regulations. This supposedly means they are free from anarthas and situated in firm faith, or nistha. Admittedly there are some quotes of encouragement by Srila Prabhupada to his new disciples which allow one to draw this conclusion. Yes, one who is free from anartha must follow the four regs., but Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada says there are additional items that must be achieved before becoming free from all anarthas and reaching the firm faith stage of nistha, the real qualification of the madhyama adhikari:

siddhanta-alasa jana anartha to’ chade na
jade krsna bhrama kori’ krsna-seva kore na
“One who is lazy in properly understanding the Vaisnava philosophical conclusions can never become free from anarthas, the unwanted bad habits and philosophical misconceptions what impede devotional service. One who mistakes Krishna as belonging to the material plane can never render actual service to the Lord.” Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada, Prakrta-Rasa Sata-Dusini 28

“The Lord was very pleased with those who could cleanse the temple by taking out undesirable things accumulated within. This is called anartha-nivrtti, cleansing the heart of all unwanted things.” Purport, Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya 12.135, emphasis added

“As one cultivates and acquires knowledge about the goal of bhakti, the various stages of bhava and love of Krsna, problems may arise. The process of becoming free of these problems is known as anartha-nivrtti (the removal of unwanted elements).” Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada, Introduction to Prakrta-rasa Sata-dusini

Good logic dictates that a so-called guru is being philosophically lazy if they disregard Srila Prabhupada’s and Srila Jiva Goswami’s condemnation of ecclesiastical “gurus” and mistakenly conclude that their selection by the GBC makes them guru. Since all ISKCON institution “gurus” accept this deviation, the proper conclusion is that none of them are free from anartha and are, therefore, either still on the neophyte kanistha level or are actually sahajiyas. According to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada’s conversation with Rajen Babu above, this means that they don’t have genuine guru adhikara (qualification) but only serve as pretending hindrances to their follower’s actual progress.

“Nowhere in authentic scriptures is it said that one will ultimately reach the same goal by doing anything or worshiping anyone. Such foolish theories are offered by self-made ‘spiritual masters’ who have no connection with the parampara, the bona fide system of disciplic succession.” Purport, Sri Isopanisad, Mantra 13

So the unifying vision of Srila Prabhupada as all devotee’s pre-eminent siksa guru may be bona fide, but when it is riding on top of their “guru by GBC” deviation it becomes not much more than the latest layer of lipstick on the instution’s pig. It would be far better if one just avoided what the institution calls diksa in the first place.

Actually Importance of Siksa and Diksa indirectly admits that the institution’s “gurus” aren’t really bona fide. Bhanu Swami asks the Sanga if the following quotes apply to their so-called diksa gurus. The implication given is that they clearly do not.

“Similarly, a devoted disciple of the spiritual master would rather die with the spiritual master than fail to execute the spiritual master’s mission.” Purport, Srimad Bhagavatam 4.28.50

“The spiritual master should be considered to be directly the Supreme Lord because he gives transcendental knowledge for enlightenment. . .” Srimad Bhagavatam 7.15.26

“One should know the ācārya as Myself and never disrespect him in any way. One should not envy him, thinking him an ordinary man, for he is the representative of all the demigods.” Srimad Bhagavatam 11.17.27

One can thus add realistic to the list of qualities that qualify Bhanu Swami as a pre-eminent intellectual fixer who can provide timely material solutions. Although he may not admit the philosophy that disqualifies their so-called gurus, he at least understands that limiting their emphasis can only serve to decrease embarrassments and the need for future backpedaling. Taken as a whole, his recommendations pretty much add up to instituting rittvik without the glaring deviation of making Srila Prabhupada every new person’s so-called diksa guru. The ISKCON institutional “diksa guru” only gives a couple of Deity mantras and ends up being as dispensable as the priest who performs the rittvik “initiation.”

ISKCON, ISKCON 2.0 and Beyond, Eunuch “Gurus” and What Comes After, Part 1 of 5

ISKCON, ISKCON 2.0 and Beyond, Eunuch “Gurus” and What Comes After, Part 2 of 5

ISKCON, ISKCON 2.0 and Beyond, Eunuch “Gurus” and What Comes After, Part 3 of 5

ISKCON, ISKCON 2.0 and Beyond, Eunuch “Gurus” and What Comes After, Part 5 of 5

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