- What is the Guru Issue ?
What is the Guru Issue ?
Article found on The Skeptic Tank
After the departure of Srila Prabhupada in November 1977, it has been questioned who would succeed the founder and spiritual master of ISKCON. Debate has continued up to and including today where it is very much a part of the controversy surrounding ISKCON's new gurus.
Why is the guru issue so important?
The guru is not a mere ordinary religious teacher but is actually a spiritual authority. There are countless mundane religious men who speculate about the existence and philosophy of God, but only a bona fide guru has the authority to give a religious idea. On the other hand, a bogus guru is materially motivated. One should know who is the bogus and who is the bona fide guru.
We would like to thank His Grace Tamal Krishna Goswami for openly addressing this controversial guru issue. He had originally been selected as one of Prabhupada's eleven successor acharyas. However, he has recently stated that such appointment was actually done after the departure of Prabhupada and now admits that such action was a mistake. From what we understand in the Bhagavad-gita (9.30), when a devotee commits an error and admits such mistake, the Supreme Lord Krishna does not at all see such error as serious. All sincere devotees can learn this very valuable lesson from His Grace Tamal Krishna Goswami and remain constantly under the protection of guru and Krishna.
Prabhupada's Godbrothers also underwent a very similar form of the guru issue and we can learn how such bona fide spiritual masters in our disciplic succession sometimes leave behind them disciples who act to destroy the disciplic succession.
Note the following letter by Shrila Prabhupada about his Godbrothers.
Hyderabad 28th April, 1974 Washington D. C.
My dear Rupanuga Maharaj,
I do not wish to discuss about activities of my Godbrothers but it is a fact they have no life for preaching work. All are satisfied with a place for residence in the name of a temple, they engage disciples to get foodstuff by transcendental devices and eat and sleep.
It's interesting to note use of the phrase: "transcendental devices". Ordinarily "transcendental" means in connection with Krishna in pure devotional service. However the use of "devices" means somehow scheming and trickery to gain material comforts such as a "place for residence" or "to get foodstuff". How many religious leaders today are simply bilking the innocent public just to gain material comforts? If Prabhupada's Godbrothers in India were engaged like this, we should not be very much astonished if such "transcendental devices" are sometimes employed by devotees in ISKCON also.
They have no idea or brain how to broadcast the cult of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. My guru maharaj used to lament many times for this reason and he thought if one man at least had understood the principle of preaching then his mission would achieve success. In the latter days of my guru maharaj he was very disgusted.
Prabhupada is mentioning here that Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta was very much disgusted with his neophyte disciples. It is sometimes portrayed that Prabhupada was very pleased with his leading disciples before he left this world that he actually felt eleven of them competent to become diksha-gurus or initiating spiritual masters. However, there is no evidence to this appointment and His Grace Tamal Krishna Goswami is humbly now trying to rectify this mistake.
Actually, he left this world earlier, otherwise he would have continued to live for more years. Still he requested his disciples to form a strong Governing body for preaching the cult of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He never recommended anyone to be acarya of the Gaudiya Math.
Even though Prabhupada is a bona fide guru, he was never officially appointed by his guru, Bhaktisiddhanta, as such. Bhaktisiddhanta recommended that a GBC be set up and among his disciples, the successor guru would come out by Krishna's arrangement. That successor guru was Prabhupada. But those who acted to create the successor guru were actually disobeying the order of Bhaktisiddhanta.
But Sridhar Maharaj is responsible for disobeying this order of guru maharaj, and he and two others who are already dead unnecessarily thought that there must be one acarya. If gurumaharaj could have seen someone who was qualified at that time to be acarya he would have mentioned. Because on the night before he passed away he talked of so many things, but never mentioned an acarya. His idea was acarya was not to be nominated amongst the governing body. He said openly you make a GBC and conduct the mission. So his idea was amongst the members of GBC who would come out successful and self effulgent acarya would be automatically selected. So Sridhar Maharaj and his two associate gentlemen unauthorizedly selected one acarya and later it proved a failure.
This excerpt is important for those persons who have left ISKCON and have now taken shelter within Shridhar Maharaja's camp. They should know that the propaganda spread by Dhira Krishna Swami in favor of Shridhar Maharaja is not actually approved by Shrila Prabhupada. In Chicago, many senior Vaishnavas like Tripurari Maharaja, Jagatguru Maharaja and others have now taken shelter within Shridhar's movement. They should be notified of Prabhupada's instruction within this letter.
The result is now everyone is claiming to be acarya even though they may be kanistha adhikary with no ability to preach. In some of the camps the acarya is being changed three times a year. Therefore we may not commit the same mistake in out ISKCON camp.
Unfortunately, many of the Prabhupada's so-called successor gurus were prematurely selected and now more and more gurus are being selected by a voting process. Prabhupada warned against this happening and to prevent this from going on, we suggest that the GBC immediately make a clearly written statement to all devotees admitting the errant policy that was enacted after Prabhupada's departure. The importance of such a statement is to make it very clear how this selection of gurus is not bona fide and future generations of devotees shall not make the same mistake again and again. Then they may establish the proper method of how a devotee becomes a guru by researching extensively into the subject matter.
Actually amongst my Godbrothers no one is qualified to become acarya. So it is better not to mix with my Godbrothers very intimately because instead of inspiring our students and disciples they may sometimes pollute them. This attempt was made previously by them, especially Madhava Maharaj and Tirtha Maharaj and Bon Maharaj but somehow or other I saved the situation. This is going on. We shall be very careful about them and not mix with them. This is my instruction to you all. They cannot help us in our movement, but they are very competent to harm our natural progress. So we must be very careful about them.
Regarding how initiations can be done today in ISKCON, because there is an absence of a fully Krishna conscious devotee, initiations can be done by the following method.
Bombay 10th November, 1975 Stockholm
My dear Alanath dasa, Please accept my blessings. Upon your recommendation I am accepting the following as my initiated disciples. It is your responsibility as the president of the temple to see that these devotees strictly follow the rules and regulations such as chanting 16 rounds minimum on the beads. You should hold a fire sacrifice and they may hear the mantra from my recorded tape through the right ear. The beads may be chanted on by Hamsadutta.
On the recommendation of a bona fide devotee, the initiate accepts the spiritual vows and becomes a disciple of Shrila Prabhupada. Prabhupada's physical presence is not required. If someone thinks that the personal presence of the guru is required, this truism is not supported anywhere in Prabhupada's books. However, to accept a guru and to undergo initiation requires that the initiate be prepared to accept the transcendental instructions of the guru. If he does so, then he is a bona fide disciple in the disciplic succession. There are disciples who do undergo formal initiation in the presence to the spiritual master, yet neglect to execute his instructions. Therefore the actual importance is to follow the instructions, and that we have in Prabhupada's books, tapes, letters, etc.
Regarding the controversy that is going on there in Stockholm, what is the reason. This must be considered at a full meeting of the GBC. You may suggest a way to mitigate this difficulty and if it is not accepted, then both of them should resign. I know that Hamsadutta is very expert in selling books but books are not only for selling but also for reading. Now has the GBC become more than Guru Maharaja? As if simply GBC is meant for looking after pounds, shilling, pence. The GBC does not look after spiritual life. That is a defect.
It is sometimes said that the GBC is equal to Prabhupada. However from this comment we can understand that only when the GBC is following the policies and instructions of the guru, then they are as good as guru. Prabhupada chastised the GBC severely like this on more than one occasion.
All of our students will have to become guru, but they are not qualified. This is the difficulty. Your ever well wisher, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
Prabhupada desired that his students advance far along in spiritual life so that they can become mature devotees with potency to become worthy enough to become gurus. However as late as November 1975, he is lamenting that his students are still not yet on the level of guru.
What Now? Who will be the successor?
How many times have we recently been asked, "Who will succeed His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada as the spiritual leader of the Hare Krishna movement?" And how often have we been confronted with the ominous inquiry, "Will the Hare Krishna movement be able to survive without His Divine Grace?"
The reply to Satsvarupa Goswami's query is that the Hare Krishna movement cannot survive without His Divine Grace. Now that ISKCON is suffering from a guru identity crisis, there is every chance that ISKCON will become another mundane religious institution simply by following concocted methods of electing gurus. A religious institution is immediately finished when the acharya's instructions are neglected; and not when the acharya leaves the world.
How then will ISKCON--the International Society for Krishna Consciousness--go on? The answer is that our spiritual master has given us a complete arrangement for pushing forward the worldwide Krishna consciousness movement. During his last months in this world, Shrila Prabhupada selected eleven senior disciples to act as initiating gurus who could accept disciples after his disappearance. In this way he insured the continuation of the parampara.
This idea was adopted by post-Prabhupada ISKCON. Prabhupada selected eleven men to act as initiating gurus(?) However, there is no way possible that he could have "insured the continuation of the parampara". On the contrary, ISKCON and many of these new gurus are suffering severe reactions for disobeying the orders of Prabhupada by creating gurus and posing as gurus. If such an appointment by Prabhupada were actually true, it would have come with the supreme blessings of Krishna and Prabhupada himself.
His Holiness Tamal Krishna Goswami has been very kind to bring this guru issue into the open even after our often strongly worded letters.
January 12, 1987
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Shrila Prabhupada and his disciples. I hope that this letter finds you in good health and in blissful Krishna consciousness. This letter is in regarding my last letter dated 4 January concerning the topics surrounding the proper placement of bona fide gurus within our sampradaya.
Dear prabhu, we are very much surprised at the lack of knowledge our devotees are displaying in the matter of understanding who is guru and who is not. Please be aware that a lack of understanding in this matter as displayed by most all the devotees, in all levels does not indicate a healthy situation for ISKCON.
Could we reiterate what we have already stated in previous letters? What we are proposing is controversial but is backed up by statements by Prabhupada. Let's begin before the departure of Prabhupada.
1) Satsvarupa asks how initiations will go on after Prabhupada's departure (May 1977).
Satsvarupa: Then our next question concerns initiations in the future particularly at that time when you are no longer with us. We want to know how first and second initiations would be conducted.
Prabhupada: I shall recommend some of you, after this is settled up. I shall recommend some of you to act as officiating acharya.
Satsvarupa: Is that called ritvik-acharya?
Prabhupada: Ritvik. Yes.
2) These new initiates would be Prabhupada disciples (June 1977).
Tamal Krishna: These men. They can also do second initiation. So there's no need for devotees to write to you for first and second initiation. They can write to the man nearest them. But all these persons are still your disciples. Anybody who would give initiation is doing so on your behalf.
Prabhupada: Yes.... So without waiting for me, whoever you consider deserves. That will depend on discretion.
Tamal Krishna: Oh yes, discretion.
3) In Prabhupada's final instructions (BTG Vol. 13, 1-2), he states specifically that he did not appoint any leaders which means no one as successor guru(s).
"When asked who would succeed him as the leader of the Krishna consciousness movement, Shrila Prabhupada replied: 'All of my disciples will take the legacy. If you want, you can also take it. Sacrifice everything. I--one--may soon pass away. But they are hundreds, and this movement will increase. It's not that I'll give an order: "Here is the next leader." Anyone who follows the previous leadership is a leader.'
4) Despite this clear instruction, Satsvarupa Maharaja in the editorial of the same Back to Godhead issue and in his Lilamrita Volume 6 declared that Prabhupada did select eleven men to succeed him as initiating guru, therefore today there is controversy and confusion.
Now in your letter dated 19 November 1986, you did establish that Prabhupada did not appoint gurus but he appointed ritvik-acharyas which is established by the above mentioned line of reasoning. Then you indicated that if gurus were appointed, such appointment was done after Prabhupada's departure. Such appointments as done by GBC are not in line with Krishna consciousness as you have pointed out in your letter dated 27 December 1986. Prabhupada explains that (CC Mad 1.220 Purport), "Mundane votes have no jurisdiction to elect a Vaishnava acharya. A Vaishnava acharya is self-effulgent and there is no need for any court judgement." However in Satsvarupa's new book called, "Guru Reform Notebook" (p. 62), he declares that "The process for deciding who gives diksha must come from the GBC."
If you do discuss the matter at any length with any devotee as I have done with the publishing of my book, "The Science of Accepting a Spiritual Master--A Handbook for the Beginning Student of Spiritual Life," you'll find that as many devotees there are, there are that many different ideas, opinions, do-not-knows and confusions as to who is guru and how does one become guru. I again reiterate that this diversity of opinion is not good for the foundation of such a spiritual movement like ISKCON and is typical of pseudoreligious movements which have little or no spiritual potency. It appears that there exists to be a difference of opinion between yourself and Satsvarupa Maharaja as you take the shastrically correct position that the GBC has no jurisdiction to appoint gurus while Satsvarupa holds that GBC intervention is necessary. Simply the research has to be done as found in Prabhupada's books and summarized tightly in our literary attempt.
Without authorization, eleven men had accepted the title of guru upon Prabhupada's departure. This was a mistake as Prabhupada did not appoint anyone to act in this manner. In retrospect, this error should be admitted and the proper method of how to become guru very firmly established. Now is the proper time for such action.
The question is, how did Prabhupada want his society to continue after his departure? Now we can answer your question of how can the departed guru accept disciples. This is most controversial point of our presentation not because it lacks sufficient evidence but because it requires some transcendental intelligence to comprehend.
1) Prabhupada did not appoint successor gurus. That means that the successor guru would have to come out by the will of Krishna. That method is the same method as was practiced by Prabhupada himself. The successor to Prabhupada would have to display the influence of a Vaishnava guru by the following version of Upadeshamrita (p. 58). "Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has given some practical hints to the effect that an uttama-adhikari Vaishnava can be recognized by his ability to convert many fallen souls to Vaishnavism. One should not become a spiritual master unless he has attained the platform of uttama- adhikari. A neophyte Vaishnava or a Vaishnava 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."
2) Therefore not only the originally named eleven men who succeeded Prabhupada, but all of Prabhupada's disciples, could potentially be spiritual master. However, none of them being fully conversant with the philosophy of Krishna consciousness were not qualified to immediately begin to accept disciples other than what is now commonly referred to as the "monitor" guru as explained in "Easy Journey to Other Planets". If anyone were qualified as uttama-adhikari, or fully conversant with the philosophy of Krishna consciousness, he would have detected the flaw in such a succession by the eleven successor acharyas. The fact that such lack of knowledge still remains today is evidenced by the necessity of a "Guru Reform Notebook" which, in and of itself, wrongly suggests that a guru is ignorant. However a true guru, uttama-adhikari is fixed and as stated above, "One should not become a spiritual master unless he has attained the platform of uttama-adhikari."
3) Initiations would go on by the ritvik process. Prabhupada's physical presence is not necessary. Towards the end, he was accepting disciples without his own approval and the new initiates were becoming Prabhupada's disciples simply on the recommendation of the ritvik- acharyas. That process was meant to continue until the successor acharya had appeared. Although it is not natural that the guru does not have a worthy disciple to succeed him, initiations should continue by ritviks until the successor comes out.
4) It is stressed over and over again that one must go to a guru. However, that guru does not necessarily have to be physically present. This is a material consideration. Usually, it is a physically present guru who can guide one personally. However, it is not all-important. It is suggested that one should not take shelter of less qualified gurus but only take shelter of the uttama-adhikari guru. Prabhupada states (CC Concluding Words Antya 5, p. 319), "Physical presence is sometimes appreciable and sometimes not, but vani continues to exist eternally. Therefore we must take advantage of the vani, not the physical presence." And what is diksha? It is not accurately described as a fire sacrifice performed by a physically present guru but it is when the disciple agrees to follow the instructions of the guru--personally present or not, the orders are equally beneficial when obeyed properly. Diksha is defined (Bhakti-sandarbha 868), "By diksha one gradually becomes disinterested in material enjoyment and gradually becomes interested in spiritual life." Why should that not come from an exalted guru like Prabhupada? Simply because he is not personally present does that mean that one cannot have access to his teachings in his books that has been described to be with us for the next ten thousand years?
5) The process shall go on exactly as it states in your letter, "Someone can become Prabhupada's shiksha-disciple when he first joins, reading Prabhupada's books. After he sufficiently understands the books, if he meets a devotee who inspires confidence in him and exemplifies the teachings of the book, he may accept such a devotee as his initiating spiritual master and also accept instruction from him." However, as stated above, this process should only go on if there is an uttama-adhikari devotee who can properly accept disciples. This process can go on without a uttama-adhikari devotee as done at present but should not be encouraged. Rather initiations should go on by the ritvik process until such uttama-adhikari becomes manifest.
In summary, therefore, Prabhupada did not appoint gurus and since the GBC should not do so, all initiations done since Prabhupada's departure were done in a errant manner. Consider, for example, my scenario. I joined the movement as you were leaving Chicago in 1980 when the temple moved from Evanston. Instead of searching out a bona fide guru and being taught the science of how to know who is guru, we were automatically given a guru by zone. First it would have been Jayatirtha, then it was to be Acharyadeva, then finally it was Rameshvara; however, we had no idea what were the qualities and character of such a guru. The temple authorities had assured us that he was the topmost servant of Prabhupada, an incarnation of Nityananada and confidant to Radharani. Not knowing better, we did accept such arrangement, however this was indeed bad training and faulty practice and definitely should not be allowed to continue.
By calling you as not an uttama-adhikari I did challenge your position. If so, how did you allow this misunderstanding to go on? You are perhaps the most advanced devotee of Prabhupada and it is not at all a fault that you are not quite on the platform of uttama-adhikari. It is my opinion that no one yet is on that most exalted platform of being fully conversant with the science of Krishna consciousness simply by witnessing the present confusion and controversy surrounding this guru issue.
Because I have risked my spiritual assets and in the name of Vaishnava aparadha, I may go to hell. We would like you to please chastise us by strong arguments how we have erred in our serious research in which we have spent long hours so that we can make some apology and make advancement in Krishna consciousness.
If we are right however, then let us adopt the suggestions and proposals we have outlined in our essay, "Some Practical Suggestion on the Guru Issue" which, in a nutshell suggests that the whole ISKCON society should contain all Prabhupada disciples until that time a highly advanced guru comes out to not only rectify ISKCON, but to see that the interests of Krishna consciousness are impacted on modern society. That's a safe way to see that Prabhupada is put in the center as we have just begun to scratch the surface of the fathomless teachings of his books and lecture tapes. By having everyone study Prabhupada, there is less chance of sectarianism and party spirit to factionalize ISKCON. Please consider this suggestion very carefully as it is quite controversial.
I have done this in pursuance of the truth as given by the infallible disciplic succession. Just like the exalted six goswamis who have scrutinized the Vedic literatures to establish the sva-dharma or the occupational duty of people in this age, we have studied Prabhupada's books in order to come to the proper conclusions concerning the guru and topics surrounding him. We are nothing but since we have done this without trying to do any harm or without any pretension, we hope that we have supported the conclusions of the science of Krishna consciousness. If divine truth is effortlessly passed through the ages intact, then there would be no necessity for our writing such book and letters.
Just like a weed sprouts up when the devotional creeper gets watered, we see the guru issue as a weed that should be nipped as soon as possible. As Narada warned Vyasadeva in the first canto of the Bhagavatam during Vyasa's despondency, Narada exclaims that any deviation, no matter how slight, is a cause for havoc on the path of devotional service. Declare everyone as Prabhupada disciple. They may remain the eleven acharyas' disciples if they opt for it, but don't encourage it. Let them all drink the nectar of the lotus feet of such a highly advanced guru directly without guilt as this privilege is due them according to the mercy of Krishna. It is their right. This process can go on for many thousands of years if necessary until the successor comes out. If the Gaudiya Matha had initiated on Bhaktisiddhanta's behalf, after his departure, they would have not become the dead or dying branch they are today. A radical departure requires a radical cure.
We have presented our case just like a lawyer with various evidences from the lawbooks of Prabhupada. I hope that this attempt to address the guru issue meets with your interest and stimulates some thought. You are an expert judge and have heard our side as well as others now you can render some decision for the good of ISKCON during your meetings with other GBC men. I do realize the extremely controversial suggestions we are proposing but perhaps they only appear incredible due to their simplicity. However, due to extensive and impartial research, all arguments have led us to such conclusions. In other words, the conclusion reached herein has been supported by all angles of shastric vision. Otherwise we would not dare try to lecture anybody like you. Please consider all these points and we hope that you may see fit to reply. Please excuse our strong words and offenses. All glories to you because you have adopted service to Prabhupada as your mission in life. I apologize because sometimes you have to listen to such verbal abuse from belligerents like me. May all the higher authorities bless you in all your endeavors, may Prabhupada be pleased with you always.
-- Sincerely, Vaishnava dasa --
May 1, 1987
Hare Krishna. Please accept my humble obeisances. Thank you for your letter dated 26 Feb 1987.
In your letter, you had mentioned the possibility of sending me the results of the Mayapura ishta-goshthi concerning our proposals on the status of all gurus within ISKCON.
I do realize the great deal of controversy that this issue evokes and cannot comprehend what form of reply you would care to make about this matter. As far as I can understand, not much had been resolved at Mayapura about understanding the requirements or the method of selecting gurus within ISKCON in reference to the revealed scriptures or the directives of Prabhupada.
As far as I had understood, you have openly stated in your lectures and conversations that Prabhupada did not select anyone to act as diksha-gurus. So, we have suggested to you as chairman of the GBC that devotees may take advantage of Prabhupada's mercy directly by being initiated as Prabhupada disciples under the guidance of the bona fide devotees within ISKCON.
This proposal may be further supported by this quote from a letter by Shrila Prabhupada to Dinesh (10-31-69): "Regarding the disciplic succession coming from Arjuna, disciplic succession does not always mean that one has to be initiated officially. Disciplic succession means to accept the disciplic conclusion."
As far as we are concerned, we do not simply say that Prabhupada is our guru and neglect the desires and opinions of the contemporary bona fide devotees of Krishna. We are trying our best to try and support the disciplic succession by service and cooperation as far as possible. But when there may be deviation within ISKCON in some areas, then how can we support that? And when we say that Prabhupada is the direct guru for everyone, there is nothing wrong with that. Any guru who comes after Prabhupada must be in perfect agreement with Prabhupada.
But how can we understand gurus that have done so many controversial things that they must be disciplined, "bloop" or removed altogether from ISKCON? And now there are more and more new gurus. So what is the qualification of these new and newer gurus? We are simply trying to understand the reasoning of the GBC.
I hope that you have time to reply. Please also find enclosed a new publication called the Vedic Advocate; a newsletter that I have started earlier this year. I hope that it meets with your approval.
Thanks again for being so kind as to give your attention to these matters. Lord Krishna and Prabhupada have blessed me with your association. Thank you very much. Hare Krishna.
-- Sincerely, Vaishnava Dasa --
April 27, 1987 Dallas Temple
My dear Vaisnava Prabhu,
Please accept my obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated January 12, 1987.
Rather than going into a lengthy discussion, I feel that you have made a very cogent presentation and I would be prepared to agree with you on a single point: Everyone in ISKCON is Prabhupada's disciples. Rather than trying to discuss the nuances of whether they are diksa disciples, ritvik disciples, siksa disciples, etc., let us be satisfied to come to this mutual agreement: Everyone in ISKCON is Prabhupada's disciple. That does not bar them from being the disciples of others as well. But we should understand that the greatest emphasis has to be laid on the indebtedness that each ISKCON member has to Srila Prabhupada. Although there may be advantages to discussing the finer nuances on each individual's relationship, I think such a discussion would be more profitable if there were a number of people present to add their conclusions rather than a discussion between only ourselves. I do not know whether such a discussion will take place in the future, but I hope that it will. In the meantime, I am certainly embracing this mood of encouraging all devotees of ISKCON to feel their connection with Srila Prabhupada is legitimate and equal, whether they have met him physically and taken initiation from him, or not. The entire issue is how much they take shelter of his instructions. That will actually determine their legitimacy as his disciples.
Again I thank you very much for your enlightening words and hope this meets you well.
Tamal Krishna Goswami
We hope that the Vedic Advocate can at least help provide the forum requested by Shrila Gurudeva so that the guru issue can be resolved. As stated by Hanumat Swami in his periodical "Hanuman Express Dispatch": "All that is needed for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing." Our humble request is that devotees give some thought of how to try and resolve the guru issue to the satisfaction of the disciplic succession.
-- Vaishnava Dasa --
Conclusion: The bottom line of the [ISKCON guru] issue is whether or not any guru is subjected to the dictates and discipline of the GBC. The fact that Prabhupāda established the GBC as the Governing Authority for ISKCON rules out the possibility of any diksha gurus in ISKCON except him. Prabhupāda ruled out the diksha guru system in ISKCON by saying that a bona-fide spiritual master is never subjected to the discipline or restrictions of a GBC or anyone else. The fact that the GBC is in the position of having to regulate and restrict the activities of the ISKCON gurus shows that indeed there can be no gurus in ISKCON except Prabhupāda. A real guru is never subjected to the control and discipline of any committee, Godbrother, disciple or anyone else. Śrī Guru is a free agent independent of committee regulation or control. ISKCON clearly has a whole set of rules and laws that regulate, discipline and restrict all the diksha gurus in ISKCON. This situation is clearly in violation of the teachings of Śrila Prabhupāda. We find his instructions in the matter in the Nectar of Instruction text 6 purport:
"It is also an offense to consider an empowered Vaishnava an object of disciplinary action. It is offensive to try to give him advice or to correct him…The spiritual master must not be subjected to the advice of a disciple, nor should a spiritual master be obliged to take instructions from those who are not his disciples. This is the sum and substance of Śrīla Rūpa Goswami's advice in this sixth verse."
Śrila Prabhupāda is saying here that in the Rūpānuga sampradāya a spiritual master should not be subjected to the discipline or regulations of any committee, individual or group of individuals. A real spiritual master is not subject to such regulation.
Therefore, by establishing the GBC as the managing authority of ISKCON, Śrila Prabhupāda ruled out the possibility of a multiplicity of gurus in ISKCON by making the GBC the functioning authority over all ISKCON affairs. In ISKCON today there is a class of spiritual masters who are all subjected to the regulation and discipline of the GBC. This is totally incongruent with the concept of a traditional spiritual master who is above and beyond all such committee regulation.
Prabhupāda said it is an offense to try and discipline or regulate a spiritual master. Therefore either the regulating of ISKCON spiritual masters by the GBC must stop or [the ISKCON] diksha guru system must stop. Refusing to do so results in offenses which will destroy devotional service and make [devotional service] fruitless and futile.
THE TRUTH ABOUT RITVIK
LET'S START AT THE BEGINNING
I was about 19 or 20 and lived in the woods in a bungalow colony. It was great, but I didn't move out there merely to be around trees, although that was part of it. But also because I believed nature can bring a person closer to God. Therefore I was open to hearing about various spiritual paths, especially yoga.
A young couple who lived about two bungalows down from me had a friend who was a Hare Krishna devotee. He came over, took us all outside to sit on a madras, under the sun, and with kartals in hand he started chanting "Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare." We were all open to this chanting and everyone had a good time. I took it to the next level.
Moving into the temple is still so clear to me. And later, packing my bookbag for Sankirtana, filling those plastic baggies with lunch prasadam, including salad, and sitting in the car at noon trying to eat from them. What a mess! ha And 'nodding out' due to those heavy biscuits they baked for us. I swear, they must have used iron instead of baking soda. I was never very good at book distribution but since I understood Prabhupada wanted a preaching movement, I kept trying to find a way suitable for me to do that, a way to fit in which I believe to this day was acceptable to try to find my nitch. Seek and ye shall find, and I have.
We were all one big united family. Not a perfect family, and we had our dysfunctional brothers and sisters, but we had the functional ones, and we were a striving family. A genuine one with the same goal - to get out of the material world and go back to Krishna in one life. That was IT! We were all endeavoring so sincerely, putting every drop of our energy into this direction.
The earliest devotees had the most unique and special experiences with Prabhupada and with preaching. They did crazy and sane things to get the movement going, spent hours talking about the absolute truth in dink little closets or in beautiful parks, they realized what a blessing it was to have found and met Srila Prabhupada, they took both him and his knowledge with such great appreciation and respect, with such thankfulness, there was bliss 24/7!
ALL devotees who surrendered prior to the end of 1977 were doing things which were crazy and sane, wonderful and transcendental, far-out and sensible, unusual and the usual. Whatever it took to spread this movement, everyone wanted *in.* It was a responsibility, OUR responsibility, which we accepted as a privilege. The knowledge we had received! As we realized the guru we had, we knew he was special. That which he taught us - what rare knowledge indeed, - difficult to come across. Somehow or other it came out way! We sat around, sometimes for hours having 'rap sessions' talking about who am I and Who is God. You name it, we talked about it. And Prabhupada's teachings gave us answers.
I would rise early, chant my japa early morn, do chores before breakfast, go out daily on Sankirtana, take cold showers every single morning -- sometimes under the most unusual circumstances that I have to laugh now, as I could have only done such a thing when young.
And oh….. the things we did when we were young! LOL
Or was it transcendence? --- Some of both.
Anyway, it was worth it.
We felt connected.
We *were* connected. For better or worse, like any other family.
With age maybe we can't live in under-heated buildings or take icy showers in the morning anymore (not recommended, ha), however we can still have other types of unique experiences.
There are stories, so many stories, of Prabhupada's mystical abilities. What he stressed as most important is to develop love of God. However, we must take note that Prabhupada was not an ordinary human being, and such stories help in that way. Here are a few.
One day Prabhupada was alone and walking down the stairs, when suddenly a devotee walked in. They noticed he was FLOATING down them! The minute Prabhupada saw the devotee, his feet hit the stairs!
Another similar one, yet separate experience: Once the devotees were on a morning walk with Prabhupada. There was dew on the grass so it was wet. The devotees began to notice that their footprints were being left in the moist grass, but there were no footprints were Prabhupada was walking! He was not crushing the grass!
Devotes use to go out on Harinama Sankirtana regularly, often daily. This was back in the late 60s. So the devotees were out chanting on the street and a police officer walks up to one of them. He had a question. He asked (paraphrased), "Who is that person who is glowing? He is glowing so bright I can't see!" And it was Prabhupada he was speaking of! The devotees there did not see Prabhupada this way at that moment, not because they weren't blessed, but because it was this officers turn to have a special experience, a regular person. Everyone got the mercy.
Then there are different types of experiences, like when Narada Muni joined one of our kirtana's, Prabhupada let us know us he was there. Or in England, Prabhupada instructed us to build a vyasana for Lord Shiva because he was coming to the aroti's regularly! Only Prabhupada can see these special souls. It takes a special soul to see a special soul. (They did build one for Lord Siva, though I have heard it has been taken down. If this is true, it should be put back. After all, this too was one of Prabhupada's instructions.)
Prabhupada can see on all planes. He use to chase the ghosts out of temples with his cane. Then there were the two spiders in a drinking glass or the cat who use to visit the temple daily for maha prasadam. Prabhupada made unique comments about who they were. 'Special' or even 'yogis.' He could see the soul. Two devotees revealed that Prabhupada commented on their pregnancy when they had not told anyone and they did not yet show physically. Of those two, one's husband had left home for renunciation. She explained how surprised she was when Prabhupada informed her husband (rough quote), "You're wife is pregnant, go home." ……… Only Prabhupada could see such things.
So, back at the ashram…… in time we were told, on and off, that Prabhupada was sick. Then we were told, "Prabhupada is better." Then "Prabhupada is sick," and still, "Prabhupada is better." Although we pushed forward, and though we all felt Prabhupada would never leave us, we were still worried about him.
Next we were told, "Pray to Lord Nrsimhadeva for Prabhupada." And so we would pray:
"My Dear Lord Nrsimhadeva, please help Srila Prabhupada get better."
We had hope. The pure devotee was never going to leave us, we thought, because after all, he doesn't "have" to. He has total control, if he chooses to use it.
November 1977 he no longer chose to use it. Srila Prabhupada disappeared from this planet and we were all in shock. I will never forget that day. No one who was a devotee at that time has ever forgotten that day. It marked our soul. Men were crying in temple rooms, women were crying too of course, the most staunch of devotees were showing emotions. I cannot begin to find words to express what we all went through.
And what would we do now? And why did he go? As we thought about it, we remembered it was choice. The story of Bhismadeva choice to stay alive while on a bed of arrows came to mind. So why did Prabhupada want to leave us?
Maybe he did not want to leave all of us, maybe there were reasons we do not know about. I do not profess to know what they are, only that we must push on and try to spread Prabhupada's mission.
So much of that mood has changed. His original mission felt different, was different. Everyone had unity through Srila Prabhupada and worked toward getting along rather than working towards fighting and proving their point. I remember that unity. I miss it. What was the cause of such a loss? A few. In part, our own failings, our willingness to settle rather than (appropriately) speak up.
Any considerable personal problem that may have existed, each should be dealt with individually and sometimes privately. These things need to be taken care of and resolved so we can all preach again, collectively and correctly.
Next, in part, the loss is a result of reducing Prabhupada's position and his importance. Therefore the part we can cover here is the one about Srila Prabhupada because each devotee examination of themselves for anarthas, and what to do about them, is up to each devotee.
Much fighting goes on between the ritviks and those who are not ritviks. When it comes to name calling I find it hard to view either side as rightly preaching.
Ritviks claim those who disagree with what they say have threatened them in various ways.
Those who are not ritvik claim those who disagree with what they say have also threatened them.
This web page is to present my understanding of Prabhupada's instructions without any such insulting, etc., and to present it with as much simplicity as possible. I merely wish to give the facts. From there you can decide as you like, in peace, in privacy, in the safety of your home, library or similar. Then whatever choice you make, I will respect. I may not always agree <s>, but I am respectful of a better-informed choice.
I know that all the facts are not publicly available for all to view, so how can anyone make an accurate choice? Therefore I have presented many of the unknown or misunderstood facts here for devotees to read this point of view. I have done my best to do so in peace, friendship, a light mood, and am trying not to offend anyone while telling it.
DID YOU KNOW???
There is a misunderstanding, on both sides, about the definition of the word "guru." Many in this movement, especially in the West, view the word guru as synonymous with a position as that of Prabhupada's (jagat guru & pure devotee). However, the word 'guru' has more than one definition. In India your kindergarten teacher is considered your guru, your music instructor is your guru, and so on. We can see that even ritvik can include a form of guru if one wants that, just not jagat guru like Srila Prabhupada. Devotees can be still guru, as Prabhupada said we are guru when we go out on Sankirtana to preach. Thus in this humble way, anyone can become guru.
Prabhupada called the new gurus "officiating acaryas" and "ritivk acaryas."
Anything is possible and so it is possible that one day someone could shine, someone could actually exhibit the qualities of a pure devotee and thus be qualified to become a guru. However, many devotees fear this is a recipe for disaster because they are thinking it opens the door for institutional consent for anyone and everyone to claim that they are qualified and ordered by Srila Prabhupada to be diksa guru, and that there's no fool proof way that we can verify their claims. This is a reasonable fear. Yet it can be figured out, and more will be discussed below. Briefly, we are too quick in this movement to label someone "(diksa) guru." Such a high position requires a unique soul. When they arrive, we will know who they are by qualification, not by a voting system, as Prabhupada was strongly against voting in a guru. Their soul will sparkle, they will not have any fall downs even of the smallest nature. I suspect such a soul will not manifest in our movement for a very long time. If they are there, which they might be, they are hiding. Wisely. One qualification of a guru is that they don't want to be one.
THE FAMOUS JULY 9th LETTER
I don't mean to be redundant. You may have all ready read this ten times. But some out there never heard of and/or seen it one time. In case you never read it or would like to read it again for clarification, here is the famous July 9th letter:
ISKCON INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY FOR KRISHNA CONSCIOUSNESS
Founder-Acharya: His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Vrindaban July 9th 1977
To All G.B.C., and Temple Presidents
Dear Maharajas and Prabhus,
Please accept my humble obeisances at your feet. Recently when all of the GBC members were with His Divine Grace in Vrndavana, Srila Prabhupada indicated that soon He would appoint some of His senior disciples to act as "ritvik" - representative of the acarya, for the purpose of performing initiations, both first initiation and second initiation. His Divine Grace has so far given a list of eleven disciples who will act in that capacity:
His Holiness Kirtanananda Swami
His Holiness Satsvarupa dasa Gosvami
His Holiness Jayapataka Swami
His Holiness Tamala Krsna Gosvami
His Holiness Hrdayananda Gosvami
His Holiness Bhavananda Gosvami
His Holiness Hamsaduta Swami
His Holiness Ramesvara Swami
His Holiness Harikesa Swami
His Grace Bhagavan dasa Adhikari
His Grace Jayatirtha dasa Adhikari
In the past Temple Presidents have written to Srila Prabhupada recommending a particular devotee's initiation. Now that Srila Prabhupada has named these representatives, Temple Presidents may henceforward send recommendation for first and second initiation to whichever of these eleven representatives are nearest their temple. After considering the recommendation, these representatives may accept the devotee as an initiated disciple of Srila Prabhupada by giving a spiritual name, or in the case of second initiation, by chanting on the Gayatri thread, just as Srila Prabhupada has done. The newly initiated devotees are disciples of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad, the above eleven senior devotees acting as His representative. After the Temple President receives a letter from these representatives giving the spiritual name or the thread, he can perform the fire yajna in the temple as was being done before. The name of a newly initiated disciple should be sent by the representative who has acceted him or her to Srila Prabhupada, to be included in His Divine Grace's "Initiated Disciples" book.
Hoping this finds you all well.
Tamala Krsna Gosvami
Secretary to Srila Prabhupada
(signed) A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
[Since the date on this letter, there has never been one document by Srila Prabhupada with a different instruction. Take a look and try to find one. There isn't any.]
HOW ABOUT A JULY 10th LETTER?
Letter from Srila Prabhupada to Hansadutta, July 10th 1977
The very next day, after the July 9th letter, Hansadutta received a reply from Prabhupada:
"You are a suitable person and you can give initiation to those that are ready for it. I have selected you among eleven men as Rittvik representative of the Acharya, to give initiations both first and second initiation on my behalf."...A newsletter is being sent to all temple presidents and GBC in this regard, listing the eleven representatives, selected by His Divine Grace. Those who are initiated are the disciples of Srila Prabhupada, and anyone who you deem fit and initiate in this way, you should send their names to be included in Srila Prabhupada's disciples book." Srila Prabhupada letter to Hansadutta, July 10th, 77
A story was recently related to me about a devotee couple who were seriously considering ritvik. At one point they personally met up with a ritvik devotee who immediately become hard hearted, insulting them over an extremely delicate and personal matter. I was shocked to hear not only of his hard heartedness, but how little maturity so many have yet to achieve over all these years. Do they not see the suffering devotee who turned to them for solace but instead it was used as an opportunity to blast such a devotee? Do they not notice the difference between preaching and using preaching as an excuse to release their pent up anger?
I can all ready hear some saying: "Ahhh see? You ritviks are all angry. Those of us with new gurus are not like that. We have compassion." Lets clear this up. There are just as many anger based devotees on new guru's side as on the ritvik side, if not more. After all, this anger and these weird preaching methods were not taught to us by Prabhupada, but by (some): authorities, sankirtana leaders, and devotees in general. End of debate - so we can move on.
Let us take the time to notice real spiritual qualities and not evaluate a path based on how a "follower" of a path treats us, but instead let us make that decision based on Prabhupada's instructions.
This is not to let ritviks off the hook either. Certain ritvik "preachers" also need to attend anger management sessions, or do something about their anger. This is often passed off, even to themselves, as preaching or Krishna consciousness. It is not. It is a problem that will not only make life difficult on this planet, but how are we going to get in the gates past Jaya and Vijaya to live in that lovely community of peaceful Vaisnavas if we can't do it here? This is where we start, so let us find our hearts and find our compassion, with balance of course, and begin real Vaisnava etiquette or at least we should be as polite as a nondevotee is capable of. It all starts by controlling the mind.
Part of the problem is we miss the 'point' of the rules and regulations, which is to develop love of God, Krishna. We have turned into the International Society for Rules and Regulations, therefore we are under the impression that Krishna consciousness means turning into sergeant rather than finding our hearts. In truth we don't believe such fault finding to be very spiritual, what to speak of Krishna conscious. We are looking for something higher. We could have stayed with our churches of family origin for that. No, we were looking for Prabhupada and Krishna, for love of God, not hell fire and damnation.
Prabhupada started a society where we were supposed to be able to get some "good" (read: sane and spiritual) association. This is not to indicate that all current association is not. The point made is that first, due to training (or lack thereof), it has been significantly reduced. It's nto what it was.
Secondly, something is missing, and that "something" is the *connection* between each other. We have lost that connection as a result of splicing up the movement due to worshiping various gurus instead of everybody worshiping only the purest of pure, Srila Prabhupada. Thus there are guru wars. The unity is gone. Some of the highest knowledge has been hidden or minimized. We no longer feel connected the way we did in the late 60s or the 1970s. It is not about the era, it's about jagat guru.
We are not making this up. What can I say? Our experience under Prabhupada taught us what we are currently preaching. Those who were not there have nothing to compare to, no memory that Prabhupada said this or that, so how can they know? But I pray they are open to learning by hearing. It can be experienced again by anyone if we put Prabhupada back in the center. This is what we need in this movement to get right spiritually.
The guru can only take you as far as they are going. Make sure you know where yours is going, without a shadow of a doubt.
"ALL MY DISCIPLES WILL BE ALLOWED TO INITIATE"
"ALL MY DISCIPLES WILL BE ALLOWED TO INITIATE"
"Maybe by 1975, all of my disciples will be allowed to initiate and increase the numbers of the generations. That is my program." Srila Prabhupada Letter, Hansadutta, LA CA, 1968
Certainly we all give recognition to this quote as we would any that Prabhupada spoke. However, we must recognize that it is due to our own lack of qualification why it no longer applies. In 1968 Prabhupada had hoped we would become much more advanced than we did in truth. By 1975, he saw we did not. He has said this. A pure Vaisnava guru *can * give a *new* instruction which overrides a previous one.
Here is a story I was told by a senior devotee, and feel free to investigate it if you want. It's a known fact. When Prabhupada first came to America his instruction for japa was to chant 64 rounds a day. When he had been informed that the devotees could not do this, he cut the number of rounds in half to 32. Again he was told the devotees could not even chant this, so he once again cut it in half to 16 rounds, but he said that was it! <s> Anyway, from this example, and there are many others, we can see the jagat guru can change the instructions he gives his disciples. And not only did he change this instruction, he sealed it in his Will.
It makes sense that, had this quote been of top priority Prabhupada would have reminded us about it during his last days, would have told us the same instruction again. Many years passed since he initially spoke it and he saw, and said, that we were unqualified. Prabhupada had the perfect opportunity to follow up on this quote of his from the early 70s. He knew he was leaving the planet so it was certainly an important point, to make sure everything went on working correctly he had to put it all in order. He never "spaced out" or left things incomplete. He was not an senile old man, as some have said and this is offensive. He made a conscious aware choice not to use this former instruction at all, but gave us a new one.
"I may say many things to you, but when I say something directly, 'Do it', your first duty is to do that. You cannot argue, 'Sir, you said me like this before.' No, that is not your duty. What I say now, you do it. That is obedience." Srila Prabhupada on Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.5.3, Hyderabad, 15 April, 1975
A ritvik system had all ready been put in place by Prabhupada long ago and is not something new. Temple president, GBC or sanyasi had all ready been doing it for years. Later when Prabhupada become sick, he gave a list of ritvik officiating acaryas, but he never said that they would eventually become full or jagat guru. There is no genuine evidence that Prabhupada ever said this at all. There is, however, genuine evidence that he did say they can continue as ritvik acarya. There are absolutely no signed documents or orders from the last six months or more that Prabhupada was with us which state otherwise.
Prabhupada use to criticize the Gaudiya Math for using a voting system to vote in or a guru, and warned us never to do this. He let us know that if there ever is to be another acarya, that person will be self effulgent. Yet, the GBC votes in a guru. To this day.
I am not going to spend a lot of time criticizing the GBC. That is not my purpose. My purpose is only to tell you a point of view which many readers have not been "allowed" to read or hear due to various authorities, or forbidding them to read the net, or to read anything ritvik on the net. Or such devotees have heard it, but it was highly misrepresented. So you read, you study. From there you make your own choice. However, no one can make a real choice if they read it with a closed mind or preconceived ideas. Read it honesty, as I am hopeful most will try to.
"[Srila Bhaktisiddhanta] never recommended anyone to be acarya of the Gaudiya Math. ... If Guru Maharaja could have seen someone who was qualified at that time to be acarya he would have mentioned. Because on the night before he passed away he talked of so many things, but never mentioned an acarya. ... Therefore we may not commit the same mistake in our ISKCON camp." Srila Prabhupada letter to Rupanuga Dasa, 28 April, 1974
SHASTRA & FOLLOWING THE INSTRUCTIONS OF THE PURE DEVOTEE
One may wonder, or have been told that Prabhupada has written so much about guru in the shastra which goes against the concept of ritvik. However, there are problems using shastra against ritvik when we understand that this was what His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada himself instructed us do to. You may disagree and that's fine but it's also a different point, as this is not about agreeing or disagreeing. Understand that everyone who follows ritvik does so based on the fact that they believe 100% this was Prabhupada's instruction. Therefore it is not about what "we" think is right, or what "you" think is right. It's about what Prabhupada instructed us to do based on what "he" knows to be right, even if we don't always understand it or agree. Taking that into consideration, lets look at one example of using scripture to try to disprove various points of the ritvik belief. (Yup, that's what I said.)
Nectar of Devotion instructs that we are not to wear red or blue in front of the Deities. If we do so, we have made an offense. Prabhupada instructed us we do not have to follow this. Countless devotees have all worn red or blue in front of the Deities many times, and in a movement that is quick to critique you, close to nothing has been said. The few times it was brought up it was simultaneously and quickly countered, "Prabhupada told us we do not have to follow this." That ended it. This is only one example of many which we do different from shastra simply because Srila Prabhupada instructed us to do it different from scripture. Here are more:
A sanyasi is not to travel over an ocean. Yet Prabhupada, as a sanyasi, traveled over ocean to save us. This is not in accord to shastric instruction, yet he did it. And, he was following his guru's 'instruction.'
Again, it is not shastric for a sanyasi to travel by air, yet Prabhupada traveled by air.
Prabhupada created brahmacarini ashramas which is not a instruction to be found in the shastra and literally unheard of.
Prabhupada had women lead kirtans, give Bhagavatam class, talk on streets to men for the sake of preaching and book distribution, and had them hold leadership positions in ISKCON. Again, not in accord with shastric instruction.
Prabhupada performed marriage ceremonies, which again was not shastric for a sanyasi.
Our linegae and shastra requires the chanting of 64 rounds daily, and Prabhupada's original instruction was indeed 64. Later, he changed that instruction to 16. (Which also shows that he can give an instruction and later change his mind about that instruction, replacing it with a new and better one for us.)
Prabhupada gave gayatri mantra to women, which is not the instruction of shastra.
Srila Prabhupada did much that is not in line with shastra or with our sampradaya, yet who dare to criticize his choices? Who dares to say he's wrong? Nothing personal, and this is about me and not you, but I find it shocking I am even having this conversation, as I so clearly remember the days when, if Prabhupada spoke, it was gold. It was consider more than shastra.
However, it's not that this question never came up regarding the instruction of the guru vs. the instruction of shastra when they differ; which does the devotee believe and follow? It was asked at that time too. But when we looked at ourselves we realized we don't know what is really the Krishna conscious thing to do more than Srila Prabhupada would know. How can anyone presume they understand shastra more then jagat guru Srila Prabhupada? Without him, most of us would not know shastra in the first place, or would know impersonal shastra at best, or belong to some wishy-washy church.
It is a fact that the instruction of jagat guru should always be followed even if we notice that scripture contradicts it, thus we think we should follow scripture instead. To compare Prabhupada's his instruction for us to the instruction of shastra, and next evaluate it, is not our job. It's his job to make such comparisons, relate them to us, decide what would be in our best spiritual life. When he has made that decision, we are not to turn into doubting Thomas. I have seen some fall down who argue about wearing red clothing or reading various Sanskrit translations, thinking they know Sanskrit better than Prabhupada. Many of them are gone or practicing Krishna consciousness in some odd way, as they can no longer understand the true philosophy due to their offenses.
Of course, Prabhupada is very forgiving as is Krishna, but first one must have genuine remorse and ask for forgiveness, sincerely trying to free themselves from this anartha again.
Bottom line on this topic? Between the instruction of jagat guru vs. the instruction of shastra, the one of jagat guru has always been the more important between the two. Therefore one has to figure out, "What were his instructions?" Many think they know, and some do. Yet so much has been hidden. We are here to try to uncover and recover some of that.
Notice I say jagat guru and not any guru, as all other guru, siksha guru's, must strictly follow jagat guru Srila Prabhupada instructions.
Once I was informed that disciples of certain new guru's said their spiritual master warned them to be careful about reading Prabhupada's books because they may not understand them, did not recommend them to read them, and only he could properly explain the books to them. -- This is a mistake. Prabhupada went out of his way to write these so everyone *could* understand them. Let's not take him out of the center even as an author of his own books, that he did not know how to do it good enough and needs his disciples to achieve that for him. He never said such a thing. And evidence is, even at the time, so many were reading and joining, more than now. Many did not get the opportunity to see or experience Prabhupada personally through got to know him and his teachings though reading his books, thus became his disciples. Some do not know this but Prabhupada has, to this day, disciples who never saw him ever but were motivated due to reading his books. There is much more evidence that we can all understand regarding his books, too lengthy to go into at the moment and deemed unnecessary as the point has been sufficiently made. We can all handle reading A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami's books. That's why he wrote them.
One very important and clear point was Prabhupada's Will. Its worth considering so I hope with an open mind and heart, you will at least take a look at this point. If you still disagree, that's fine, but please give it an honest chance because I must say that for me, the July 9th letter no longer was as important (though still important), the tape was no longer as important, nothing else was of as much importance, especially since so much confusion had been going on, or many topics were not presented clearly. Prabhupada always did that which was legal, clear and properly. Just as he desired them to be. The minute I heard of this Will, I knew the wish and instructions of Srila Prabhupada would be included there. Take a look and decide for yourself. Here it is:
"The system of management will continue as it is now and there is no need of any change. Each new executive director for the ISKCON properties must be my initiated disciple"
Please note that there is no way this would be possible, for *his initiated disciple* to be the *new* executive director of the properties unless they were his disciple, and not the disciple of his disciple. Fifty or 100 years from now, all those who stood in front of him to take initiation will be dead. Thus, there is no other way for this instruction to be followed other than ritvik. After all, this is his last Will and Testimony. .
Also please note, as a secondary point, Prabhupada said management will continue as it is now (then) and there is no need of any change. -- That has not been the case. These instructions also have not been followed.
I have heard some devotees scoff, "Oh, that's only his will." Somehow they think that since it wasn't shastra it was mundane (?!) law, that the word of the pure devotee was lesser, or he was playing a game. After reading it one can see that is not the case. Besides, Prabhupada was never messy with buying land for example. Especially when he is going to leave this world he would want everything to be put in the hands of the right people of his choosing, thus he included that point in his will. (i.e. "His" initiated disciples.) That made it so clear.
That segment is not long. It didn't need to be long for me, it just needed to be clear, which it was.
Others claim that this current Will is not so important and may not even count, because it is not the original Will but a second draft. Wait a minute, back up. Did Prabhupada ever sign something he didn't approve? Never. And so he did not approve of the first Will. That was more like a rough draft. He consciously made changes to that one had a second Will drawn up with intent, which indeed did contain this specific wording because that is exactly what he wanted.
He was not a senile old man as some have offensively claimed, but a pure devotee who was fully conscious of what he was doing, as the pure devotee always is. This second Will is the real Will, the approved as well as authorized Will. Prabhupada rejected the first Will.