Sivarama Swami’s slew of straw men



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Back to Prabhupada, Issue 19, Spring 2008

When someone is unable to refute an argument, he will often instead present an argument he can answer, and falsely present it as being the argument he cannot actually rebut. Such a technique is a logical fallacy called a “straw man” argument. GBC voted-in guru hoaxer, HH Sivarama Swami will be shown here being forced to resort to using this technique, due to being unable to refute the IRM’s position.
All his quotations are taken from a book he has written called Suddha Bhakti Cintamani, and will be in the panels, with our responses following underneath.

Ritvik ordered, and standard

“Ritviks agree that their understanding of initiation is not standard, but they say that their recommended process for connecting with the disciplic succession is acceptable due to Srila Prabhupada’s extraordinarily empowered status.”

Straw man argument. This is not what we say. We say our understanding of initiation is standard, as far as Srila Prabhupada’s teachings and practice are concerned. And it is acceptable not because of “Srila Prabhupada’s extraordinarily empowered status” (not that we are denying it either!), but because it is what Srila Prabhupada ordered.

More straw men

"Yet the suggestion that Srila Prabhupada was empowered to act contrary to scripture and Vaisnava tradition - or would use his empowerment to do so - is an insult rather than praise."

Straw man argument. This has never been suggested by us, nor is it a fact. Indeed, the GBC have never been able to produce the scriptural injunction which is violated by one’s continuing to accept Srila Prabhupada as the initiating Guru.

The real spiritual heritage

“To suggest that Prabhupada was unchaste to his spiritual heritage — that he was an independent, absolute authority—is to attribute to him a status the kartabhaja sahajiyas attribute to their gurus.”

Straw man argument. We are not suggesting this. Rather, the spiritual heritage which Srila Prabhupada inherited is explained by Srila Prabhupada himself:

“Every acarya has a specific means of propagating his spiritual movement with the aim of bringing men to Krsna consciousness. Therefore, the method of one acarya may be different from that of another, but the ultimate goal is never neglected.”
(Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila, 7:37, purport)

No explanation at all

“It also resembles the Mayavada philosophy in the way it twists the meaning of scripture to suit its own preconceived conclusions by means of the indirect explanations called gauna-vritti.”

But it is the GBC, which has NO explanation for its position, never mind even “indirect”, having withdrawn its position paper due to admitting it has no evidence to support its conclusion (please see BTP Special Issue, Proof 6).

Explicitly empowered

“Moreover, the rtviks’ core argument that ISKCON’s future generations have an inherited right to a direct diksa connection with Srila Prabhupada is much akin to the jata-gosani sahajiyas, who claim a spiritual lineage to Lord Nityananda, for instance, solely by seminal ties. Both groups lay claim to a concocted spiritual heritage without the explicit empowerment from their founder.”

But, as we have seen, our position is not based on any concoction, but actually “explicit empowerment” from Srila Prabhupada by way of his orders, given in the July 9th, 1977 directive, his Last Will and Testament, the GBC resolutions he approved, and all the other evidences we have produced. Please see The Final Order, and our other papers, as well as the BTP Special Summary Issue. Srila Prabhupada established himself as the sole diksa Guru for ISKCON in 1966, and continually from that time onwards until 1977, he only stated that this state of affairs must continue, and not change. How much more explicit can one be?

“Jumped-up” argument

“This core argument also clears the way for all devotees for all time to jump over the line of disciplic succession to Srila Prabhupada. It obscures the truth that serving the servant of the servant is superior to direct service. It also opens a Pandora’s Box by allowing anyone direct access to any member of the disciplic succession, including Krsna Himself.”

An implied straw man argument, since it deliberately ignores the fact that we specifically follow Srila Prabhupada’s directive that:

“…in order to receive the real message of Srimad-Bhagavatam one should approach the current link, or spiritual master, in the chain of disciplic succession.”
(Srimad-Bhagavatam, 2:9:7, purport)

Thus, it is not possible for anyone to have direct access to anyone except the current link in the disciplic succession, which is Srila Prabhupada.

Pot calling kettle black

“Another faction that may damage the faith of Prabhupadanugas […] These devotees are either former members of ISKCON or current members of the Gaudiya Matha.”

Sivarama Swami here also attempts to attack the followers of the Gaudiya Matha in his diatribe, which of course is one subject he is actually eminently qualified to speak on, having himself been a leading participant in the mid-1990s in following Narayana Maharaja of the Gaudiya Matha, and thus is guilty of everything he speaks of here.


Sivarama Swami continues the GBC tradition of making up false arguments when discussing the IRM’s position, since they cannot address what we actually say. Sivarama Swami does at least concede that the “ritvik philosophy” is coming from:

“apparently well-wishing followers of Srila Prabhupada.”

This is a marked change from trying to characterise us as demons, specifically out to destroy ISKCON, and echoes the statement made in the official GBC paper submitted as part of the debate organized by Martin Luther University, Germany, which stated:

“There is no doubt that both ISKCON’s leadership and the IRM have acted and are acting to establish what each considers the correct theological conclusion with regard to the affairs of gurus and disciples.”

(Full paper available here)

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