by bhakta Eric Johanson
Continuing the Wrong Tradition
“We will establish hundreds of temples, and they will all be very opulent. But if we do not follow the instruction of the Spiritual Master, they will just be show-bottle. Do you know what show-bottle means? It means colored water in a bottle which looks just like medicine, but which, when you take it, does not work.” Room conversation, NY, July, 1970
It is not difficult to look at the current state of the ISKCON institution and conclude that it is practicing a form of sahajiyism. Some temples are run by skeleton crews and many others by are run by Hindus absorbed in fruitive mentality. The practices of even the relatively prosperous ones, in regard to catering to the local Hindu communities, can be shown to contradict a number of Srila Prabhupada’s instructions:
“Uninitiated couples cannot be married by us. We shall not take the responsibility of an ordinary marriage-maker. Our practice is to help devotees for advancing in Krsna consciousness.” Letter to Jaya Gopal, January 11, 1970
“As a matter of fact, we should not allow anyone to hold any function in our temple other than Vaisnava principle” Letter to Hansadutta, October 10, 1968
When we study how cognitive dissonance affected the followers of Srila Prabhupada after his disappearance, it is easy to see that the ISKCON institution was decimated in order to populate the other two factions, the Gaudiya matha converts and the rittviks. The strength of the ISKCON institution has always been its control over the temples and the many devotees who mistakenly believe that the institution is automatically and intrinsically connected to Srila Prabhupada. The GBC will do practically anything to maintain this political advantage, and that has clearly included watering down so many strictures given by His Divine Grace. All in all, the thing is now run just like a mundane Western church.
“If you remain on the spiritual platform, if you try, then it will increase. Anandambudhi-vardhanam. It will increase. As soon as there is any contemplation of sense gratification, then the spirit will be lost. Then instead of Christianity, it will be ‘Churchianity,’ officially going to the church, doing nothing, and gradually nobody will go.” Morning Walk in April 7, 1975 at Mayapur
“For the sake of attracting larger numbers of followers, true devotees never abandon the correct systematic practices of devotional service.” Prakrta Rasa Sata Dusini by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada, 56
The Group Is the GBC
The GBC is now primarily concerned with generating money and attracting members. For all practical purposes, the heavy-handed, “my way or the highway” management is now more or less a thing of the past; it just cost too many members. Pujaris, managers, and others are now often paid salaries. Sometimes they are brought in from India or Poland, so that their wages can be kept as low as possible. On the whole, there has also been a major move towards making the institution more appealing to the Western “demon-cratic” mindset; the recent decision to allow female “gurus” is evidence. Of course, real Krishna consciousness is authoritarian; it comes down from the realized soul. This has been lost due to the cognitive dissonance caused be the zonal’s abuse of this principle. There is even talk of removing some of Srila Prabhupada’s “politically incorrect” statements from “his” books. Those who favor this refer to themselves as “progressive Vaishnavas.”
As many devotees have left the ISKCON institution, those that have remained have only become more deeply immersed in the previously described “test” mentality. They sometimes even see themselves “going down with the ship” in order to prove their dedication to what they only imagine is Srila Prabhupada’s movement.
At this late stage, however, the additional contradictions and complications have only made the GBC juggling act more difficult. Currently, only several of the original eleven zonal acaryas is regarded as “a bona fide guru” by most of the bewildered congregation. Some others, who have fallen in the public and devotee eye, naturally still claim and exploit many disciples nevertheless; some of these disciples have become GBC’s in their own right. To demand that such big managers should now be forced to accept re-initiation (according to the former standard) would mean loss of face – and a certain decline in their managerial effectiveness; they may even leave the congregation for another faction. The previous “re-initiation” mandate is clearly still in the way of today’s “Churchianity” public relations model.
There is sometimes a feeble comparison of these senior managers to Sri Ramanujacarya, in terms of how he (Ramanuja) was more advanced than his guru; they can rationalize anything. Such rationalizations, however, will not receive general acceptance beyond the institution; almost everyone else recognizes that the emperor is actually naked. The objective devotee can easily see that not forcing non-Prabhupada “initiates” with influence to accept re-initiation just creates another covert form of rittvik.
The formal rittvik faction is de-jure rittvik, where Srila Prabhupada is legislated as the “diksa guru” for everyone. The current GBC standard, however, creates a de-facto rittvik system, where either the GBC or Srila Prabhupada functions as the default authority for those whose so-called gurus have fallen in the public eye. Those who want to break free from the GBC and work their way up another societal ladder by adopting de-jure rittvik are quick to point this out.
Of the thirteen classic varieties of sahajiyism originally described by Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura, the one that bears the greatest resemblance to the ISKCON institution is jati-goswami. Opponents may argue that in the ISKCON institution there are no hereditary goswamis. However, the word “jata” also means group.
In the case of corporate ISKCON, the “group” is the GBC. It is the GBC that is the real (de-facto) authority of the institution. They are above the so-called gurus in that they approve of who will, and who will cease to, occupy the post. This should be clear proof to any objective person that the so-called gurus are just that, so-called. A truly realized madhyam guru, what to speak of the fully empowered Vaishnava mahabhagavat, has absolutely no need to submit himself to a group of power-obsessed conditioned souls like the GBC. To do so would constitute, in and of itself, immediate falldown.
Publicly, there has always been a kind of murkiness on the issue of whether the GBC is the authority over the individual “gurus.” To state in resolutions that the GBC is the highest spiritual authority is not parampara philosophy – it creates the type of sahajiya deviation described here. It should be clear to anyone familiar with GBC standard operating procedures, however, its movement is a new kind of sahajiyism: Neo jata-gosani. (Nevertheless, for official statements see ISKCON, ISKCON 2.0 and Beyond, Eunuch “Gurus” and What Comes After, Part 3 of 5)
One of the worst abuses of the zonal acaryas was their “might makes right” Machiavellian dominance. When they first took over in 1978, there was no question in anyone’s mind that each “acarya” was absolute authority for his disciples and followers. However, when disciplinary actions became necessary, contradictions became immediately apparent. During one such incident, I asked Hridayananda “Swami”, “Who is the authority for the individual disciple here: His ‘guru’ or the GBC?” Hridayananda unequivocally answered “the GBC.” Later, the chastised but determined zonals fought back, armed with a weapon from Swami B.R. Sridhara that, in essence, claimed that the disciplinary action the GBC had taken against them was “a death blow to the disciples.” I again asked Hridayananda the same question. His new answer was: “I don’t know.”
One can easily make a persuasive presentation that the whole zonal acarya charade of 1978 was the result of all the other GBCs bowing to the Machiavellian audacity of their most powerful member at that time, Kirtanananda. He started acting like an uttama adhikari and “initiating” a little more than one month after Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance. This element of raw power still remains very prominent in the GBC, in the sense that those “gurus” with the most disciples and temples have a lot more “authority” than those who don’t. Kirtanananda’s excommunication and eventual exile (by the “reform movement”) irrevocably established that remaining in good graces with the GBC, especially as an “initiating guru,” was absolutely dependent upon not doing anything which caused it to roll over you.
Although the current political situation in the GBC still carries a bit of the old zonal acarya odor, the “reform movement” has today left its indelible mark. As described previously, this transformation was made necessary in order to retain the faith of as many as possible after the murder of Sulocana prabhu.
Certainly there are many differences in detail between classic jati-gosani sahajiyism and the ISKCON institution. However, it is in the acceptance of a certain group of conditioned souls – as allegedly being automatically and intrinsically linked to God – that we find the common principle. What the ISKCON institution practices, therefore, might best be termed “neo jata-gosani” sahajiyism. Ecclesiastical arrangements were intrinsic to the classic model and are intrinsic to this new one; this has been rejected by both Srila Prabhupada and Srila Jiva Goswami:
“It is imperative that a serious person accept a bona fide spiritual master in terms of the sastric injunctions. Sri Jiva Goswami advises that one not accept a spiritual master in terms of hereditary or customary social and ecclesiastical conventions. One should simply try to find a genuinely qualified spiritual master for actual advancement in spiritual understanding.” Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi, 1.35, purport
As described in a previous section, regardless of what level he is on, the genuine guru is free from all anarthas; this includes all philosophical misconceptions. He certainly does not advocate that a group of conditioned souls (such as the GBC) can be authority is regard to voting, not vetoing, or dictating who is guru. The fact that all ISKCON institution “gurus” preach this is clear indication that absolutely none of them is any kind of bona fide spiritual master. This is the anartha they all share; it is an institutional anartha. There is, therefore, no question of one of them “falling.” They are already fallen simply by virtue of accepting the vote, non-veto, or appointment of the GBC.
Any talk about sastra, logic, or siddhanta is meaningless to those who will never allow themselves to even consider that the ISKCON institution is not automatically linked with Srila Prabhupada. This is what makes them sahajiyas, however. No one with such meager discrimination, no one this determined to ignore real facts, can ever be considered a brahmana – not according to the real meaning of the term.
“Fortunate means everyone has got his discretion. So one who has the fortune to discriminate, then he can understand Krishna very easily.”—Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.1.15, London, July 30, 1971
The rittviks also practice an ecclesiastical form of so-called Krishna consciousness, although it is certainly looser. Everyone supposedly gets Srila Prabhupada as his or her initiating guru. Because there is absolutely no sastric verification for the rittvik dispensation, it should be clear that accepting “diksa” from Srila Prabhupada in this way at the current time is also not sanctioned “in terms of the sastric injunctions.” (c.f., Cc. Adi 1.35)
The advocates of rittvik like to say that Srila Prabhupada was the shaktyavesa avatar, the Sampradaya Acarya, and that he could, therefore, override all of the previous Vaishnava traditions and sastra regarding initiation. This is not, however, confirmed by the same Srila Prabhupada:
“One should accept a thing as genuine by studying the words of saintly people, the spiritual master and sastra. The actual center is sastra, the revealed scripture. If a spiritual master does not speak according to revealed scripture, he is not to be accepted. Similarly, if a saintly person does not speak according to the sastra, he is not a saintly person. Sastra is the center for all.” Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya 20.352, purport
The classic sahajiya group known as kartabhaja actually takes this type of deification of the spiritual master to its ultimate end by saying that he is identical with God. Their philosophy has therefore been termed “guruvada.“ One of the more modern branches of kartabhaja was started in Bangladesh and centered around one Anukul Chandra, who was born some 130 years ago. He also supposedly accepted disciples after his disappearance through “initiations” performed by “ritwiks.”
Although the classic kartabhaja sect is known for its tantric sex debauchery – something that is not associated with today’s rittvik faction – the similarity of the two cults in regard to their “initiations” makes it very easy to call the current rittvik faction “neo-kartabhaja” sahajiyism.
“Real law means there is no change. Just like day and night, it is coming. The fortnight, the dark period and the light period, it is coming for millions and millions and time immemorial. The same law is going, going on. You cannot change. So as soon as you change, that means it is imperfect.” Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.3.15 in Los Angeles, September 20, 1972
Most of Srila Prabhupada’s statements about sahajiyas concern those who imitate Lord Krishna’s pastimes with the gopis or who discuss the intimate pastimes of Sri Sri Radha Krishna according to their materially contaminated desires and sensual predilections.
There was one leader of the Gaudiya matha who regularly described these intimate pastimes in assemblies that include neophytes. This practice was condemned by Srila Prabhupada and has never been part of the strict Gaudiya tradition coming down from Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. We find these statements in this regard:
“An ordinary person cannot understand the transcendental ecstasies in the mode of Srimati Radharani. Unfit persons who try to understand them are perverted into the sahajiya, baula and other sampradayas. Thus the teachings are perverted.” Sri Chaitanya Caritamrita, Madhya 2.83, purport
“The conditioned jiva who still has anarthas should hear and chant about the pastimes of Lord Gauranga and the childhood pastimes of Krsna. If (there is) the unqualified attempt to hear and speak about the confidential pastimes of Sri Sri Radha-Krsna, it will not bring auspiciousness to them, rather it will bring misfortune.” Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami, Sri Srila Prabhupader Upadesamrita
“Without coming to the perfectional stage, if anyone tries to understand the Gopis, he becomes a sahajiya.” Letter to Visvambhara from Ahmedabad on December 14, 1972
The Mahabhagavat and Further Imitation
The appearance of the Lord’s pure devotee is an exhibition of the Lord’s great mercy on the fallen conditioned souls (tranaya karunya-ghanaghanatvam). It is not an ordinary event. We have seen that the pure founders of all the major religions had great effects on those who were fortunate enough to have their personal association. As time passed, however, all sorts of abuses manifested; these generally increase in proportion to the duration after the departure of the great soul.
Because the pure devotee is always residing in the spiritual world, his presence is capable of affecting great changes on the material plane. It is a great mistake to conclude that the apparent ease with which he extended the Lord’s mercy is somehow the new norm in connection with how it will be made available in the future, after his departure. Like the cloud that extinguishes the forest fire (samsara-davanala-lidha-loka), there is a causeless element to his making that mercy available while he is manifest. Even those who might otherwise be completely undeserving were then able to take advantage of his instructions. When the cloud moves on, however, the fire will sometimes start up again, but this time there is no causeless mercy manifest on Earth to put it out.
“Sometimes in autumn the falls come down from the top of the hill to supply clean water, and sometimes they stop. Similarly, sometimes great saintly persons distribute clear knowledge, and sometimes they are silent.” Krishna Book Ch. 20, Description of Autumn
Currently, the misunderstanding of the availability of the Lord’s mercy takes the form of the so-called initiation processes. One of the main rationalizations offered on behalf of the zonal acaryas was: “Who will initiate the new people?” That “open door” has remained a hallmark of the ISKCON institution ever since. The sheer number of new “initiates” is just one of the ways that the ISKCON institution legitimizes itself. Because of the lack of empowerment derived from the real goods, i.e., of being a bona fide spiritual master, all of this is very easily seen for just what it really is – a big bluff.
Srila Prabhupada initiated many disciples so that the mission of Lord Chaitanya could be expanded. What occurred after his departure, however, indicated that many of them were not very serious or sincere. Being the Sampradaya Acarya, an empowered mahabhagavat, His Divine Grace could take great risks for Krishna. He enjoined his disciples, however, to act as “regular guru. That’s all.” He thus indicated that they should be under the rules and regulations set out for spiritual masters on the preliminary level. One of these injunctions is to not make many disciples (Sri Caitanya Caritamrita, Madhya Lila 28.118).
Srila Prabhupada’s standard was liberal. The zonal acaryas tried a perverted reflection of this standard – with disastrous results. Being neophyte sahajiya pretenders (dharmadhvajis), they were overwhelmed by the sinful reactions of their disciples. Despite what should have been one of the real lessons from all of this, the GBC has not made any real effort to curb any of it.
Rittvik makes the unauthorized assumption that Srila Prabhupada is willing to accept more and more disciples even into the distant, unforeseeable future. Where did he ever say this? Does he accept the sinful reactions of all these people? Without his clear consent, why should anyone think so! The leaders of both groups make the same self-serving, unauthorized, “easy” assumptions regarding Lord Krishna’s desire to make His mercy available to anyone and everyone.
Satsvarupa: Then we have a question concern . . .
Prabhupada: When I order, “You become guru,” he becomes regular guru. That’s all. He becomes disciple of my disciple.”
Vrindavan Room Conversation with leading secretaries on May 28, 1977
“’Don’t make many disciples.’ But we do it because we are preaching. Never mind – let us suffer – still we shall accept them. Therefore your question was, when I suffer is it due to my past misdeeds? Was it not? That is my misdeed, that I accepted some disciples who are nonsense. That is my misdeed.” Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers 6: The Perfect Devotee
“Therefore one is generally forbidden to accept many disciples.” Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 22.118, purport
Because the ISKCON institution has lowered the bar on the standard of hyperinflation of cheap gurus and cheap disciples, the competing factions were and are compelled to keep pace. Now that the rittvik and Gaudiya matha factions have grown, we hear from them the same “numbers” argument that was previously only heard from the ISKCON institution. Indeed, without offering easily available “initiation,” a group cannot truly be seen as a competitor of the ISKCON institution. These transparent political ploys, overriding sastric authorization, should serve as clear proof that sahajiyism is now in full bloom.
“If a so-called spiritual master accepts a disciple for his personal benefit or for material gain, the relationship between the spiritual master and the disciple turns into a material affair, and the spiritual master becomes like a smarta-guru. There are many caste gosvamis who professionally create some disciples who do not care for them or their instructions. Such spiritual masters are satisfied simply to get some material benefits from their disciples. Such a relationship is condemned by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, who calls such spiritual masters and disciples a society of cheaters and cheated. They are also called baulas or prakrta-sahajiyas. Their aim is to make the connection between the spiritual master and the disciple into a very cheap thing. They are not serious in wanting to understand spiritual life.” Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 24.330, purport
Nevertheless, Srila Prabhupada, who remains only a figurehead to all of these groups, left behind the most extensive record of written and recorded teachings since the compilation of the Vedas. Anyone can take advantage of these. However, what is required to make these teachings effective is to free oneself from the association of those who are misusing them to establish their own deviant conclusions:
“Mundane manufactured sound has no potency, and as such, seemingly transcendental sound received from an unauthorized person also has no potency. One should be qualified enough to discern such transcendental potency, and either by discriminating or by fortunate chance if one is able to receive the transcendental sound from the bona fide spiritual master, his path of liberation is guaranteed.” Srimad Bhagavatam 2.9.8, purport
Just as the mixed birth of Romaharsan Suta was recalled when he failed to recognize and honor Lord Balarama as He entered the assembly at Naimasaranya, it is not at all difficult to understand who is populating and preaching the current varieties of sahajiyism. It is not difficult to conclude that those who were previously mlecchas would take over via inflated opinions of their own purity and supposed authorization. The false pretense, deception, arrogance, and offense that have been characteristic of the zonal acaryas and the GBC is, therefore, to be expected in the attitudes of the new offshoots; they all have devastated the spiritual lives of thousands. Practically speaking, it is only the most intense of the serious who are still absorbed in the “as-it-is,” unsophisticated understanding of Krishna consciousness that Srila Prabhupada imparted.
The faithless deviations and offenses of the zonal acaryas threw all who followed them onto the material plane—and into the lower modes, at that. Very few were capable of seeing their misfortune according to sastra, and even fewer were able to see it as Lord Krishna’s arrangement – it was a manifestation of a very different type of mercy. Those who became fried and bitter, who saw themselves primarily as victims, failed to recognize this.
“Yes, Of course, to search out a guru is very nice. But if you want a cheap guru, or if you want to be cheated, then you will find many cheating gurus. But if you are sincere, you will find a sincere guru. Because people want everything very cheaply, they are cheated.” Science of Self Realization, Chapter 2, “Choosing a Spiritual Master-Saints & Swindlers”
Being cheated or misled in this way should serve as indication that one is not educated in spiritual life, that one is not sincere or serious enough to pick up the promptings from the Supersoul regarding who should be followed and who should be avoided:
“The first requirement is that one become educated in spiritual life. Spiritual life is not something one can understand by a few minutes’ talk. . . And if, by chance, someone becomes a little interested in spiritual life, he wants something immediate and cheap. Therefore, he is cheated.” Science of Self Realization, Chapter 2, “Choosing a Spiritual Master-Saints & Swindlers”
Avoiding this sastric conclusion (regarding the cause for being misled), virtually all those who have been cheated by ISKCON institution “gurus” still want to hold on to the symbols of their advancement. They use their so-called initiated names; they expect to be allowed to go on the altar and so on. As described previously, the rittviks roll out the red carpet for these deluded people. For all practical purposes, they have built their whole movement on disregarding the principles immediately described above.
The tendency has been for disciples of disgraced “gurus” to look at rank-and-file disciples of Srila Prabhupada according to mundane vision (vaisnave jati-buddhi) and think, “I am a better manager than him,” or “I am a book distributor and he isn’t” or “I have a better sadhana than that guy.” Such rittvik “disciples” then conclude that they must be initiated – because they are, in their own estimation, so much better than all of the disciples actually initiated by His Divine Grace (1967-1977). There are many such rationalizations – another is: “I joined the movement so close to the departure of Srila Prabhupada that his having left is not relevant to my initiation.”
“I Am Also Initiated”
There are others who have witnessed the fates of those who foolishly accepted the guidance of GBC “ISKCON” and who don’t trust either the rittvik leaders or the Gaudiya matha. Therefore, they have rightly decided to forego the various “initiation” processes. Unfortunately, some of them have also fallen victim to the temptation of “easy” (sahaj) initiation. At least one group claims the equivalent of initiation from Srila Prabhupada. They say that they are, by virtue of accepting him as their “Prominent Link,” initiated into the disciplic succession of the guru-parampara.
The group (known by this name, i.e., Prominent Link) previously did not emphasize any of the formalities of the initiation process, although they do lean more recently largely toward rittvik. Their idea is that, at a certain point in performing Krishna conscious activities, one comes to some vague level of “divya-jnana” and, therefore, becomes “initiated.” The logical next step in this disregard of the sampradaya system – a kind of devolution from the ISKCON institution to rittvik to Prominent Link – is that devotees will just declare themselves initiated by their own selves. The Prominent Link advocates, and others who believe something similar, have searched high and low for friendly quotes from Srila Prabhupada – and they’ve found some! – like the following:
“So anyway, from 1922 to 1933 practically I was not initiated, but I got the impression of preaching Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s cult. That I was thinking. And that was the initiation by my Guru Maharaja.” Lecture, Hyderabad, 10/12/76
“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.” Letter to Tamal Krishna, 19/8/68
“Well, initiation or no initiation, first thing is knowledge. . . Initiation is formality. Just like you go to a school for knowledge, and admission is formality. That is not very important thing.” Interview, 16/10/76, Chandigarh
“Initiation is a formality. If you are serious, that is real initiation. My touch is simply a formality. It is your determination – that is initiation.” Back To Godhead, Search for the Divine
These quotes can easily be interpreted to suit the wishes of those who want to minimize the standard process of approaching a physically manifest guru. Srila Prabhupada is in no way encouraging this sort of thinking in any of these quotes, however. All manner of self-proclaimed “initiations” have always been held suspect by serious devotees. Such cheap initiations are preached by those who want to avoid discipline. Certainly, as the quotes substantiated, if one is truly serious, one is already initiated by the manifest guru one is serving. Unless there is falldown, there can be no doubt about one’s seriousness if he or she has accepted formal initiation from a pure devotee like Srila Prabhupada. However, if one has not yet come into contact with a bona fide spiritual master, one’s alleged seriousness has no manifest indication of existence:
“So if you are actually serious about Krishna, then Krishna will send you some of His representative, and he will take charge of you. That is the process. If you do not find a guru, that means Krishna is not yet pleased . . . you are not serious.” Conversation with Bajaj and Bhusan (at their home) on September 11, 1972 in Arlington, Texas (emphasis added)
Anyone who thinks that they are already initiated by virtue of quotes like those just previous to this one, and not this important statement made by Prabhupada in Arlington, Texas, is a great fool. Similarly, those who advocate, even indirectly, that new people can so consider themselves initiated by a spiritual master who is no longer externally manifest are doing a very great disservice; they are hurting those people. We are responsible for our influence. When someone falsely believes himself or herself to already be initiated in this unauthorized way, he or she will give up seeking out a genuine spiritual master, a type of spiritual suicide.
When Srila Prabhupada enjoins that one should accept a spiritual master, he is not talking about rittvik or what Prominent Link advocates. He is speaking about what he himself accepted and offered, what both Lord Krishna and Lord Chaitanya accepted and demonstrated, and what is described repeatedly in the Srimad Bhagavatam and Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita. Initiation entails submitting oneself to a qualified person who is physically manifest; it means accepting strict discipline from an advanced devotee who is directly manifest on this plane, who tells you what to do and what not to do.
“Krishna is the first spiritual master, and when we become more interested, then we have to go to a physical spiritual master. That is enjoined in the next verse: tad viddhi pranipatena pariprasnena sevaya upadekshyanti te jnanam jnaninas tattva-darsinah.” Bhagavad-Gita Lecture on 4.34 in New York on August 14, 1966
It is monkey-like to suddenly jump up and claim that one is initiated because he or she has been chanting for so many number of years or has attained some unspecified level of “divya-jnana.”
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. 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.” Is that very practical proposal? You must eat. We don’t say all these bogus proposition.” Lecture on Srimad Bhagavatam, 6.1.1 in Melbourne on May 21, 1975
“It is imperative that a serious person accept a bona fide spiritual master in terms of the sastric injunctions.” Purport, Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 1.35
Just as the previously described flight of many devotees to the Gaudiya matha could not have occurred were it not for the chaotic environment created by the zonal acaryas, these self-imagined kinds of “initiation” are taking place within a warped paradigm composed of three sahajiya cults. This is another indication of how cognitive dissonance has spread far and wide throughout the world of Srila Prabhupada’s followers. Since many have achieved fame, adoration, and distinction by joining these groups, others will be influenced to think that they also deserve some recognition, without realizing the necessity of doing the hard work described below that must come first:
“The crux of the matter lies not in the external nature of the ceremony of initiation as it appears to us, because that is bound to be unintelligible to us (being an affair of the other world) but in the conviction of the necessity and the successful choice of a really good Preceptor. We can attain to the conviction of the necessity and the successful choice of a really good Preceptor by the exercise of our unbiased reason in the light of our ordinary experience. When once this conviction has been truly formed, Sri Krishna Himself helps us in finding the really good Preceptor through the revealed Shastras. In the second, He Himself sends to us the good Preceptor himself at the moment when we are at all likely to benefit by his instructions. The good Preceptor also comes to us when we reject him. In such cases, also, it is certainly Krishna Who sends him to us for no reason whatsoever.” Initiation Into Spiritual Life by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada
“To cut something, a sharp instrument is required; to cut the mind from its attachments, sharp words are often required. The sadhu or teacher shows no mercy in using sharp words to sever the student’s mind from material attractions. By speaking the truth uncompromisingly, he is able to sever the bondage. For example, at the very beginning of Bhagavad-gita, Krsna speaks sharply to Arjuna by telling him that, although he speaks like a learned man, he is actually fool number one. If we actually want detachment from this material world, we should be prepared to accept such cutting words from the spiritual master. Compromise and flattery have no effect where strong words are required.” Perfection of Yoga, Ch. 4: Yoga as Body and Mind Control
There are many devotees who have separated themselves, to some extent, from the three organized sahajiya groups. Many of these devotees have websites, blogs, or social media pages where they make compromised – but less compromised – presentations of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings. However, most of their versions of siddhanta contain any number of “easy” malinterpretations allegedly from Srila Prabhupada’s teachings. Most of these inexperienced people also accept the three cults as, more or less, still representing Srila Prabhupada.
As this article should make clear, it is very easy to find the philosophical contradictions and deviations of the big groups. Therefore, it is quite easy to make one’s self-serving adaptation appear superior to them, at least on paper or on the screen. One problem, however, is that virtually all of these independents have, at some point in the past, been a victim of one of the cults, and, more often than not, that one was GBC “ISKCON.”
As described earlier, very few devotees are sincere enough to admit that their knowledge and seriousness were insufficient, and that is why they were misled by the zonal acaryas; this also extends to quite a few disciples of Srila Prabhupada, i.e., those genuinely initiated. There were only a handful of devotees who rejected the zonals as an act of Conscience in combination with their complete dedication to Srila Prabhupada. Very few of the others (the smorgasbord) have made any truly honest assessment of the bad effects that have attended the following of the zonal deviants.
Primarily these effects have manifested in the form of acting on the mental plane and fault-finding. When someone is jilted in a mundane love affair, it is virtually impossible to get one’s mind off the “ex”; these people are just like that. In terms of their previous relationships with GBC “ISKCON,” they have become self-appointed experts in saying how what remains of the movement should or should not be run. This has increased exponentially since the initial difficulties and falldowns of the zonal acaryas. There is an endless back and forth, along with party spirit rhetoric, from anyone and everyone; pretender “gurus” set the bad example, giving rise to others thinking that they are also now “acarya,” or at least “authority.”
Most of those who followed the zonal acaryas did so out of some sentiment of duty and loyalty to Srila Prabhupada’s movement. They thought that they should continue to follow the authority that had previously represented Srila Prabhupada. They were either unable to realize that this was no longer the case, or they were afraid of leaving – and again living amongst the vikarmis. Neither group was spared the bad effects of serving the zonal pretenders, however. Because they were cheated by that so-called authority, they are now inherently suspicious of accepting anyone else as superior; “Once burnt, twice shy.” The zonals were faithless, not actually accepting Srila Prabhupada’s instructions regarding succession, and they passed that same disease of faithlessness and contempt to all those who served them.
What the zonals actually did was subvert and destroy the original Krishna consciousness movement; they turned it into a show-bottle facsimile. Those who assisted them in this were certainly not serving Krishna or Srila Prabhupada, although, in delusion (and up to a point), they thought that they were. The malignant effects of this insanity continue to play out amongst those who still falsely believe that serving the zonal acaryas back in the day was, somehow or other, service to Krishna. Trying to keep the corpse of this myth alive only perpetuates the greatly harmful effects.
Another factor in the continuing inability to cobble together a viable alternative is that most of the smorgasbord were previously mis-trained in the science of Krishna consciousness; they were indoctrinated by the zonal pets. Very few of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples understand that what is most important – and, therefore, the only real platform of unity – is the philosophy, the siddhanta. Virtually all of them think that they know what was emphasized most during Prabhupada’s manifest presence – and there is a great deal of disagreement as an inexorable result. Some will say book distribution, some Harinam, some advocate varnashrama, and others will say cooperation with “the godbrothers.” Therefore, when someone stands up, goes against the grain of these lower modes, and says that what is needed is acceptance of the real siddhanta, most will disagree. They think that those devotees are too much under the influence of jnana and/or that they are just ambitious and want to be the new leader (“the next zonal acarya”). This confusion has resulted in a unique type of “Western-Hindu” hodge-podge.
“Therefore, because we are presenting Krsna as He is, therefore our preaching is perfect. I may be imperfect, but our preaching is not imperfect. It is very simple. We are preaching all over the world, ‘Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.’ And these foreign boys and girls who are after me, they also accepted. They do not say that ‘Here is another God, sir. Why you are asking?’ That is the difficulty in India. As soon as we shall say, ‘Krsna is the Supreme Lord, Krsna is the . . . there is no more superior person than Krsna,’ others will say, ‘No, why this gentleman is not superior than Krsna?’ That is the difficulty. They’ll not accept. Their brain has been full with hodge-podge things. Therefore they cannot take Krsna consciousness . . . Of course, at heart, in India, everyone feels for Krsna, but they have been educated in such a wrong way, they cannot accept Krsna as the Supreme, as Krsna says, mattah parataram nanyat [Bg. 7.7]. This is the difficulty.” Lecture on Bhagavad-gita, 7.7 in Bombay on February 22, 1974
Note: An earlier version of this article, 21st Century Meleccha Sahajiya Cults, was posted on the Sampradaya Sun and Vaishnava Foundation websites and was extensively edited by Sriman Kailasa Candra dasa. Much of that edited content remains herein, for which the author is grateful.