Only the Acarya Can Make Changes


Back To Prabhupada, Issue 43, Spring 2014

ISKCON leader, HH Hridayananda Dasa Goswami ("HD") has founded a movement called Krishna West ("KW"). This movement, he explains, is required because the ISKCON way of spreading Krsna consciousness has failed in the West, and therefore he has to launch a new way which offers an alternative destination to ISKCON, where the "Indian" aspects of ISKCON are discarded:

"I have said hundreds of times that we have no intention, no interest, to change other ISKCON projects. We want to do something new, not change what is already there. [...] It is not a bridge, it is a destination. Despite all our bridge programs, our movement is essentially irrelevant in the western world. I believe that the only way to change this is to allow western people to take the spiritual science without requiring them to become Indian."
(KW Q&A, HD Istagosthi website, 1/1/14, emphases added)

Below we examine HD's justification for the changes he is making as part of the KW movement.

An acarya makes changes

Srila Prabhupada teaches that every acarya is empowered to make changes in order to spread Krsna consciousness:

"An acarya who comes for the service of the Lord cannot be expected to conform to a stereotype, for he must find the ways and means by which Krsna consciousness may be spread."
(Cc., Adi-lila, 7.31-32)

"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."
(Cc., Adi-lila, 7.37)

Time and place

Srila Prabhupada further explains how, being an acarya himself, he is authorised to make such changes according to the principle of time and place in order to accommodate Westerners:

"An acarya should devise a means by which people may somehow or other come to Krsna consciousness. [...] For example, since boys and girls in the Western countries freely intermingle, special concessions regarding their customs and habits are necessary to bring them to Krsna consciousness. [...] It is the concern of the acarya to show mercy to the fallen souls. In this connection, desa-kala-patra (the place, the time and the object) should be taken into consideration. [...] it is not possible to completely separate the men from the women."
(Cc., Adi-lila, 7.37-38)

"The teacher (acarya) has to consider time, candidate and country. [...] The acarya's duty is to accept the essence of devotional service. There may be a little change here and there as far as yukta-vairagya (proper renunciation) is concerned."
(Cc., Madhya-lila, 23.105)

HD invokes the right of an acarya

HD invokes this right of the acaryas to make changes according to time and place, citing them as examples, to justify the changes he has made in KW:

"Is ISKCON not already an expression of a Krishna West enterprise initiated by Bhaktivinode Thakur, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati and Srila Prabhupada? How far should it go? Shouldn't we keep to their given standards?
Bhaktivinoda, Bhaktisiddhanta, and Prabhupada also continued to adapt to changing times. Adapting, within a fixed framework, is the history of Vaishnavism."

(KW Q&A, HD Istagosthi website, 1/1/14)

These acaryas made such changes because, as HD explains:

"Every major world religion succeeded by adapting to time and place."
(KW Q&A, HD Istagosthi website, 1/1/14)

HD not an acarya

Though HD is correct that an acarya is authorised to make the type of changes he has made for KW, it is the acarya and only the acarya who is authorised to make such changes, since he knows how to make such adjustments:

"So acarya means, just like Gosvamis, they would read all the scriptures and take the essence of it and give it to his disciples that, 'You act like this.' Because he knows what to give, how to manipulate, so that his ekantatah sreyas will be achieved. Ultimate goal. Therefore the acarya knows how to adjust things, at the same time keep pace with the spiritual interest. That is acarya. [...] Just like my Guru Maharaja. He is the first time that he allowed the sannyasis to drive in a motorcar. A sannyasi never drives in a motorcar, you see? [...] So therefore it depends on the acarya how to adjust things. [...] The acarya knows how to adjust things."
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, 20/2/73)

And, as the GBC's Foundational Document (discussed in the previous article) makes clear, due to his position as the Founder-acarya, Srila Prabhupada alone will aways be the acarya of ISKCON. Indeed, on page 31 the document quotes the same verses we have given here from Cc., Adi-lila 7.37 and Cc., Madhya-lila 23.105 to establish Srila Prabhupada's qualities as the acarya of ISKCON, having first asserted that he alone will remain as ISKCON's acarya. And HD was one of the initial members of the "Srila Prabhupada Position Committee" which commissioned the document! And it states on the KW website that KW is part of ISKCON. Therefore, only Srila Prabhupada, as the acarya of ISKCON, could make any such changes. While HD, who is not the acarya of ISKCON, is not authorised to make such changes.


Thus, the issue is not whether or not changes can be made according to time and place in order to further the preaching. The issue, as Srila Prabhupada teaches, is that only the acarya is authorised to make such changes, period. And that acarya is Srila Prabhupada, not HD; a non-controversial point which even the GBC and HD themselves accept.

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