Devotee Writings etc.

Perfect Discretion Part 3 of 3

by Nitya Krishna dasa


Srila Prabhupada, Can a Sudra Be Guru?


The GBC’s journey from being the 1978 rubber stamp for the autocratic zonal acaryas acting in the tradition of guru’s supreme authority to being the ecclesiastical and absolute masters of all affairs “ISKCON” is now largely complete. In recent years the ISKCON Law Book has even contained a number of mandatory vows that their apparent gurus have to agree to and sign.


In keeping with the body’s priority of maintaining political control of the assets and personnel of the movement, these vows are quite specific to the institution governed by them, as opposed to Krishna consciousness in general:


1. My personal mission as guru in ISKCON shall be the same as the mission of Snla Prabhupada: to flood the world with transcendental literature like Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam and, as Srila Prabhupada said, to “do as I am doing” in establishing ISKCON all over the world.


2. I recognize the GBC as the ultimate managing authority in ISKCON. I support the GBC system and will follow the GBC as Srila Prabhupada desired.


3. I recognize that a bona fide guru is first of all a bona fide disciple, and that in all my actions I shall remain surrendered to Srila Prabhupada’s orders and the orders of his authorized representatives.


4. As Srila Prabhupada ordered his followers to serve within ISKCON under the GBC, I acknowledge that for me to represent Srila Prabhupada in my service as a guru in parampara “under his order,” I can do so only as a member of ISKCON. If I leave ISKCON I shall no longer act as guru.


5. As a spiritual master, I shall always set a Krsna conscious standard for all devotees by my behavior, which shall be strictly regulated and exemplary at all times. As a public representative of ISKCON, I must always conform with ISKCON policies and never act in any way to weaken or jeopardize ISKCON’s world-wide mission. I shall not act in a way to diminish any person’s faith in Krsna consciousness.


6. I shall scrupulously study and review all aspiring disciples, and grant initiation only to qualified devotees so as to preserve the seriousness and sanctity of initiation. I shall only accept as disciples candidates who are qualified according to the standards and procedures established by ISKCON law.


7, I shall give my disciples directions and examples in strict conformity with those of Srila Prabhupada. I shall teach all my disciples that they are part of ISKCON.


Although several of these speak primarily to good Krishna consciousness and following Srila Prabhupada, they all bind the apparent guru to the legal institution and GBC. If we were ever going to find irrevocable proof that their apparent gurus engage as a type of employee, it would be this type of signed agreement, a form of contract. There also isn’t any great transcendental mystery behind these vows; institutional bureaucrats are seeking to minimize potential damage to their organization, all based on past experience. Although we have long seen devotees agree to contracts for work done by others, these were with untrustworthy non-devotees, not brahmanas or so-called gurus.


“So the brahmanas’ means of livelihood, six things: pathana pathana yajana yajana dana pratigraha. Pathana means he must be a very learned scholar, study the Vedic literature, and must teach others also. That is brahmana’s business. And in that way, whatever the disciples bring, that is his income. No salary, no contract, that ‘If you pay me hundred dollars or five hundred dollars weekly, then I can teach you.’ No. There is no such contract.” Nrsimha-caturdasi Lecture, Los Angeles, May 27, 1972


The reason real brahmanas like Canakya pandit do not accept a salary is because it creates a quid pro quo form of obligation or relationship with those they are advising or teaching. The brahmana will continue giving advice as long as the administrators act submissively and continue to implement policies of righteousness or Krishna consciousness. If they refuse or accuse the brahmana of threatening their interest, he or she will, like Pradhyumna prabhu, just walk away and allow the governors to get the reactions of their misdeeds (and haven’t they done just that!). Being free from quid pro quo or other forms of obligation, the brahmana is under absolutely no compulsion to continue a relationship with someone intent on adharma (irreligion).


The brahmana’s detachment is a function of free will. Although the administrators are prone to fall victim to all the diplomatic temptations described earlier, the brahmana values the strict standards of goodness as paramount. This then spotlights the non-Vedic nature of these vows – they confirm the upside-down or, in Srila Prabhupada’s words, “topsy-turvy” nature of collegial accord – supposed brahmanas and apparent gurus become accountable to diplomats and administrators – a sure recipe for adharma and brahminical falldown.


Clearly, over just the abbreviated history described herein, the GBC have fallen victim to the lower modes of nature on any number of occasions, and there is all reason to believe they will continue to do so. This means that no genuine, detached brahmana is going to sign onto undeviating allegiance to such people. Srila Prabhupada’s statements that he wanted his disciples to serve in ISKCON, as paraphrased in the vows, were all in the context of it following his instructions and the standards of Vedic culture, something that demonstrably has not been the case since the spring of 1978.


Regardless of the past actions or current standards of the GBC, however, such vows are a commitment of service to them – “the business of dogs.” Such a contract is far more binding and obligatory than the mere quid pro quo of receiving payment. This means that any so-called guru who signs onto these vows is engaging in the ignorance of sudras that, in and of itself, immediately entails falling from the mode of goodness. Such people are only institutional semblances of gurus – pretenders. They are engaged in a kind of mercantile obligation, a licensed activity, a “spiritual master business.”


It is simply disingenuous to compare the above vows to those that Srila Prabhupada set before his GBCs and temple presidents in the last years of his manifest presence. Unlike the above, his vows were to him and not to some checkered, worldly institutional board. They were thus a mere affirmation that one would be loyal to the spiritual master and manage in his interest. After all, such managers had facility to do substantial financial and material damage to his mission. Even if we are to liken their signers to one engaging in a contract-employee relationship, there is no contradiction because every disciple should take pleasure in acting as the “dog” of the spiritual master.


Oath of allegiance. That should be maintained.” Discussion, June 2, 1977, Vṛndāvana


Srila Prabhupada certainly had ample experience of the flickering nature of his Western disciples and the damage those in managerial posts could cause. Contracts and vows of allegiance are legal mechanisms for people prone to sense gratification, people who sometimes lose control and act like cats and dogs, not fixed-up devotees, brahmanas or gurus, for whom ones word is sufficient. Either set of vows thus draws attention to the generally fallen nature of Westerners taking up strict Vaishnavism, but, in the current case, specifically the GBC’s apparent gurus. One can also appreciate a need for a greater commitment from managers regularly tempted by large sums of money or many subordinates, but supposed gurus are scripturally expected to be far more exemplary than that. If, through the need for vows, the ISKCON institution’s apparent gurus can be equated to “pounds, shillings and pence” managers, it doesn’t say much about their standards or track records.  If they were fixed up devotees in the mode of goodness, there would be no need to put such people under the hierarchy and obligations of “collegial accord,” much less signed vows of allegiance.


It has been said that “hypocrisy is the greatest luxury,” or sense gratification, and this is the coin that all autocrats, dictators, politicians and mundane ecclesiastical governing bodies deal in. Such people can tell their followers that black is white and many will immediately comply. This unfortunately has become the standard of the ISKCON institution’s Governing Body Commission, where once dedicated devotees driven out by the zonals, etc. are condemned as “fringies” and presented no choice but to “surrender” to the body’s regime, as exemplified by these vows, and their self-serving version of so-called history.


It is nevertheless amusing that the vows are in plain sight, right in the ISKCON Law Book. The body must therefore feel quite secure and immune, what to speak of confident of being the “spiritual authority” of thousands. Considering their demonstrated departure from the standards of Vaishnavism, however, this hubris only masks an “emperor’s new clothes,” macabre comic book-like reality.


Nevertheless, what is dead serious is how, in accepting authority over often sinful apparent gurus, the body members have to take on at least a percentage of such men’s reactions – including those of their “spiritual master business.”


“Instead, to mislead the people in general they themselves become so-called ācāryas, but they do not even follow the principles of the ācāryas. These rogues are the most dangerous elements in human society. Because there is no religious government, they escape punishment by the law of the state. They cannot, however, escape the law of the Supreme, who has clearly declared in the Bhagavad-gītā that envious demons in the garb of religious propagandists shall be thrown into the darkest regions of hell (Bg. 16.19-20). Śrī Īśopaniṣad confirms that these pseudo religionists are heading toward the most obnoxious place in the universe after the completion of their spiritual master business, which they conduct simply for sense gratification.” Purport, Sri Isopanisad, Mantra 12


Faith, Ambition & Monsters


The eleven zonals together declaring themselves gurus on the highest level of Krishna consciousness speaks of a certain faithlessness. Either they didn’t believe that Srila Prabhupada’s process would eventually cause one of his disciples to become a “self effulgent acarya,” or they didn’t care. The “cheap gurus and cheap disciples” letter to Acyutananda Swami nicely summed up the pre-qualifications Srila Prabhupada expected from his disciples who would give initiation. “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.” The process was one of realization and empowerment granted to one with progressively greater faith and service attitude.


“When one attains brahminical qualifications, he becomes happy and enthusiastic to render devotional service to the Lord. Automatically the science of God is unveiled before him. By knowing the science of God, one gradually becomes freed from material attachments, and one’s doubtful mind becomes crystal clear by the grace of the Lord. One who attains this stage is a liberated soul and can see the Lord in every step of life.” Purport, Sri Isopanisad, Mantra 13


The lies, scandals and offenses of the zonal acaryas reveal that their ambition couldn’t be bothered with following this process to undergo these transformations and become genuine gurus, things that attracted the aspiring brahmanas of the movement. We should also note that in this quote Srila Prabhupada qualifies the advancement by mentioning the prerequisite, “when one attains brahminical qualifications.” (emphasis added)


“Dvija means twice-born. First-born by the father and mother, and his second birth is by the spiritual master and Vedic knowledge. Veda-mātā. Vedic knowledge and the spiritual master gives another birth. Upanayana-saṁskāra. Upanayana. Upanayana, means coming nearer to the understanding of Vedic knowledge, upanayana, or coming nearer to the spiritual master. Then he begins studying of Vedas. Veda-pāṭhād bhaved vipraḥ. When he has studied nicely Vedas, then he becomes a vipra. And when he understands the Supreme Lord or the Parabrahman, then he is brāhmaṇa. This is the process.” Lecture on Bhagavad-gita 7.11-13. Bombay, April 5, 1971


As we have seen, the zonal acaryas were more interested in suppressing and punishing such devotees, much less attaining such levels. And what would be the inevitable result of such faithlessness? It later expanded a thousand-fold in the collective disappointment of their so-called (“cheap?”) disciples, many of whom gave up Krishna consciousness altogether.


Masked as reform, the arrangement of collegial accord only further disguises and entrenches the previous faithlessness. A bad example was set by the zonal’s deception and offenses to their godbrothers and godsisters, but rather than educating devotees on those evils in order to free the movement from such vikarma, the GBC ignored them, choosing only to stamp out a series of downsized copies of the zonals. At no point did they clean the slate and re-emphasize the single-minded pursuit of brahminical qualifications to produce self-effulgent acaryas, despite Srila Prabhupada’s previous requests to them that they sometimes pause the movement’s expansion to “boil the milk.”


“Now we have got so many students and so many temples but I am fearful that if we expand too much in this way that we shall become weakened and gradually the whole thing will become lost. Just like milk. We may thin it more and more with water for cheating the customer, but in the end it will cease to be any longer milk. Better to boil the milk now very vigorously and make it thick and sweet, that is the best process. So let us concentrate on training our devotees very thoroughly in the knowledge of Krishna Consciousness from our books, from tapes, by discussing always, and in so many ways instruct them in the right propositions.” Letter to Hamsaduta, Los Angeles 22, June 1972


Rather than focusing devotees on coming to the self-realized stage, the GBC’s mechanism only perpetuates the zonal’s passionate obsession with giving the moon of supposed initiation to as many new people as possible, regardless of authenticity. The resulting standard of “guru” sets a very low bar – a “collegially-accorded-reformed-zonal-acarya-hodgepodge” – a Frankenstein prototype that has only resulted in further derision and faithlessness.


Of course, there will always be new people who approach devotees for initiation, and this means there will be some cheating and guru falldowns. The GBC should certainly prohibit pretenders from preaching in Srila Prabhupada’s temples, but the standard of guru they recommend should be Srila Prabhupada’s, not their patched-together assemblage of previously failed nightmares.


“One should not become a spiritual master unless he has attained the platform of uttama-adhikari. A neophyte Vaisnava or a Vaisnava situated on the intermediate platform can also accept disciples, but such disciples must be on the same platform, and it should be understood that they cannot advance very well toward the ultimate goal of life under his insufficient guidance. Therefore a disciple should be careful to accept an uttama-adhikari as a spiritual master.” Purport, Nectar of Instruction 5


Of course the institution’s previous faithlessness has only metastasized with the changes to Srila Prabhupada’s books, open association with mayavadis, teaching hatha yoga, fruitive Hindu yajnas, made-easy mass liberation “Krishna consciousness,” and all manner of “preaching” that markedly leaves out Krishna and Srila Prabhupada.


andha yathandhair upaniyamanah


Ecclesiastical, institutional arrangements inevitably attract ladder-climbers. Such religions become reduced to “who you know,” as opposed to the “what you know” qualifications of the genuine brahmana or guru. In the ISKCON institution powerful GBC members and apparent gurus with many disciples are clearly those who serious ladder-climbers seek to please. Conversely, they are the same ones that can make one’s life miserable through shame and embarrassment. These climbers thus adopt an institutionally conditioned discretion, as opposed to the detached transcendental perfect discretion encouraged by Srila Prabhupada in the Nectar of Devotion.


The transcendental situation of serious devotee association takes its cues from the orders and example of the realized souls – the bona fide guru, sadhus and previous acaryas. This is the time honored Vedic Gaudiya Vaishnava arrangement that Srila Prabhupada instituted in his temples. Although the zonal acaryas only pretended to be realized souls, they were forced to pretend in this setting. However, in the institutional “growing pains” that followed, something that very much included “saffron-washing” their soiled legacy, the institution entered questionable territory, something more like a Western university. In this environment, the brahminical culture that Srila Prabhupada enshrined became subservient to the vested hypocrisy of the institution’s ecclesiastical managers, the so-called gurus being no exception.


This is a far cry from the goal Srila Prabhupada put before his movement.


“Formerly, though, society was divided into four classes—brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaishyas, shudras: advisors, administrators, merchants, and workers. The brahmanas were first-class men—ideal. But in today’s society there is no ideal man. Society should have some living example, so that people can see, ‘Oh, here is an ideal man.’ And the ideal man is described here in our Bhagavad-gita. Any man can be trained. And if even just one percent of the people become ideal, the remaining ninety-nine percent will see and follow. But now there are no ideal men. That is the defect. So we are training people to become ideal men. That is the purpose of this movement.” Conversation, Melbourne, May 21, 1975


samo damas tapah saucam
ksantir arjavam eva ca
jnanam vijnanam astikyam
brahma-karma svabhava-jam

Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, wisdom, knowledge, and religiousness-these are the qualities by which the brahmanas work. Bhagavad-gita 18.42


These qualities are intrinsic elements of the goodness of following the absolute teachings of guru, sadhu and sastra, teachings that can connect the open-hearted conditioned soul with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna. This is the standard of perfect discretion.


Sadly the ISKCON institution and its GBC appear more intent on another process and mission. Rather than implementing brahminical culture – training devotees to develop progressively perfect discretion and independence through the dvija, vipra and qualified brahmana stages, devotees are directed to discriminate on the basis of the decisions of a management board, a non-Vedic process that sometimes replaces and contradicts guru, sadhu and sastra. Such a faithless teaching is not approved by the great Gaudiya Vaishnava acaryas, some of whom have directly condemned such a board’s legislative attempts to select so-called spiritual masters. Thus freed from the institutional sentiment and pomp that package such beliefs, these impositions on those acaryas’ eternal siddhanta can be clearly recognized as “unnecessary religious principals,” ugra-dharma, something completely rejected by real followers of the Bhagavat.


“In this Srimad-Bhagavatam, dharma, religious principles, cheating type of religious principle is completely eradicated, thrown away, projjhita. They are kicked out, projjhita. Just like you collect all the dirty things from the room, sweeping and then kick out, don’t keep it within the room. Similarly, cheating type of religious system — kicked out.” Class on Bhagavad-gita 1.1, London, July 7, 1973


Opposed to Vaishnava authority, the GBC’s collegial accord has much more in common with how Western institutions are run. And, rather than individual liberation and spiritual realization, the goal of such Western arrangements is inevitably social management and control of material assets. The regrettable result was cited earlier:


“Because if the human society does not give protection to the cows and does not cultivate the brahminical culture, then it is cats and dogs society. Therefore it is given. And as soon as the whole society becomes full of cats and dogs, how can you expect peace and prosperity?” Class on Bhagavad-gita 7.1-3, August 4, 1971, London, “Beauty Of Brahminical Culture”


If the leaders of the so-called International Society for Krishna Consciousness abandon brahminical Vaishnava culture, we would expect various conflicts to follow. Indeed, beginning with the zonal acarya era, devotees who fled their over-lording often set up or found competing temples, farms and organizations. This only multiplied with the later Rittvik and Narayana maharaja breakaways.


The concept of elevating the pronouncements of the GBC to the level of spiritual authority, a form of maya, was at least partly a consequence their denial of the Vedic authority of brahminical culture. Remaining loyal to Srila Prabhupada’s instructions would have prevented such illusion. As a corollary, they cannot simultaneously subvert brahminical culture and then emptily say that a devotee is automatically a brahmana.


Srila Prabhupada regularly decried how Western society is run by people with sudra qualities. If the ISKCON institution’s apparent gurus and administrators are similarly affected, how it that an improvement? How is such a thing not the same hypocrisy, but with a Vedic façade?


“So if you are actually, perfectly carrying out the orders of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, then you are preaching. Otherwise you will do wrongly, mislead. Don’t do that. Andha yathandhair upaniyamanah . If you remain blind, don’t try to lead other blind men. That is misleading. First of all open your eyes. Everything is there. Nobody can do anything whimsically. If you do whimsically, concoctedly, that will be failure. It will not be effective.” Conversation, May 2, 1976, Fiji


Due to the worldwide influence of the ISKCON institution’s many centers, it is not difficult to see its self-interested and twisted version of Gaudiya Vaishnavism as the single biggest obstacle to the propagation of real Krishna consciousness. Truly brahminical preachers are forced to work without its institutional facilities, something Srila Prabhupada previously made available to all such devotees. Then, as they become successful, they become proportionately subject to the opposition and condemnation of the institution’s leaders and membership.


Faced with these obstacles, what to speak of the thousands of skeptical victims of GBC authority, one is forced to wonder about the immediate future of Krishna consciousness and the implementation of Srila Prabhupada’s real teachings. The answer is up every one of us – to truly “become educated in spiritual life” by endeavoring for the perfect discretion of the acaryas – and then living it and teaching it. Darkness cannot stand before the sun of the pure siddhanta. Although sentiment has a very important place in Krishna consciousness, the practitioner of vaidhi bhakti (regulated Krishna consciousness) cannot allow it to supersede that education in the siddhanta. One needs to conclusively know the difference between real Krishna consciousness and its illusion.


“This movement is very, very old and standard. It is never changed. As soon as you change it, then the potency of the movement is lost. . . . Potency. Just like electricity. There is standard regulation: ‘This is negative; this is positive. You must act like this. You must fix like…’ You cannot do whimsically: ‘No, why not this way? Why not that way?’ Then it is lost. Then there will be no electricity. Similarly, there is standard method how to understand this philosophy, how to get it, I mean to say, what is called, authoritatively. Then it will act.” Conversation with Bill Faill (reporter) October 8, 1975, Durban, South Africa


“But it is not only in India; everywhere in this age of iron everything is degraded, degraded in this sense: prayenalpayusah sabhya kalav asmin yuge janah (Bhag. 1.1.10). In this age of Kali the duration of life is diminished, and men are not moved to understand self-realization, and if they are, they are invariably misled by so many deceitful leaders. The age is very corrupt.” – The Science of Self Realization, Ch. 5, Krishna Consciousness – the Yoga for the Modern Age


“A chanter of Hari-kirtana is necessarily the uncompromising enemy of worldliness and hypocrisy. It is his constant function to dispel all misconceptions by preaching the truth in its most unambiguous form, without any consideration of person, place, or time. The form to be adopted is that which is least likely to be misunderstood. It is his bounden duty to clearly and frankly oppose any person who tries to deceive and harm himself and others by misrepresenting the truth, whether due to malice or genuine misunderstanding. This will be possible if the chanter of kirtana is always prepared to submit to being trodden upon by thoughtless people, if such discomfort will enable him to benefit his persecutors by chanting of the truth in the most unambiguous manner.
“If he is unwilling or afraid of considerations of self-respect or personal discomfort to chant kirtana under all circumstances, he is unfit to be a preacher of the absolute truth. Humility implies perfect submission to the truth and no sympathy for untruth. Those who entertain any partiality for untruth are unfit to chant Hari-kirtana. Any clinging to untruth is opposed to the principle of humility born of absolute submission to the truth.” Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur Prabhupada, Harmonist 26.249-50


Perfect Discretion Part 1 of 3

Perfect Discretion Part 2 of 3

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