Guru-Tattva Basics - 1


Back To Prabhupada, Issue 44, Summer 2014

Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila, text 7.3 defines guru-tattva as the "truth in understanding the spiritual master". One would expect that those who claim to be guru successors to Srila Prabhupada in ISKCON would at the very least be able to agree on the very basics of what it means to be guru. However, they do not!


At the most basic level, one claiming to be a guru should at the very least be clear on what the word "guru" means or refers to. One GBC-elected guru, HH Bhakti Vikasa Swami ("BVKS"), claims that the word "guru" primarily refers automatically to a diksa guru (a guru who initiates):

"However I do not understand why you consider the 'yare dekho' verse to not substantiate that preachers of Krsna consciousness on the order of Caitanya Mahaprabhu should also initiate. After all, the common understanding of the word 'guru' is one who initiates."
(BVKS, 19/2/13)

However, his guru colleague and GBC member HH Sivarama Swami ("SRS") states the exact opposite. He states that identifying the word "guru" with one who initiates, i.e. a "diksa guru", should actually be avoided, as such a course of action leads to "pitfalls":

"And in this way devotees can avoid the pitfalls of identifying the word 'guru' with 'diksa guru'".
(SRS, 6/12/12)


Surely one who is claiming to be a guru at least knows how and why he is a guru? BVKS claimed that he is a diksa guru simply because he asks others to receive transcendental knowledge from Srila Prabhupada:

"My Vyasa-puja [...] So you may think, well, what is my qualification to accept the honour and affection [...] I'm not qualified, intrinsically, but qualified because I can point, 'here is Prabhupada, and follow his instructions, and ask you to have faith in what Srila Prabhupada has given.'"
(BVKS, "Vyasa-puja" Lecture, 5/1/08)

However, BVKS had also claimed that the vital part of functioning as a guru is bestowing transcendental knowledge upon the disciple:

"Admittedly, as has often been said, the vital link in the guru-disciple relationship is not the act of sitting in a ceremony, but the bestowal and receiving of transcendental knowledge."
(BVKS, 19/2/13)

Yet, we just saw BVKS admit that he is not performing this role, but rather Srila Prabhupada is, with himself simply directing people to receive knowledge from Srila Prabhupada. Thus, by BVKS's own definition, it would mean that he is not the diksa guru, but Srila Prabhupada is.

Thus, BVKS:

a) First claims that he is the diksa guru because he asks people to receive transcendental knowledge from Srila Prabhupada.
b) Then claims that the person who gives the transcendental knowledge, i.e. Srila Prabhupada, is actually the diksa guru.


So, those claiming to be guru may not agree on what a guru is, or how and why one is a guru, but surely at least they know how such a person is to be worshipped? Again no luck, I am afraid. SRS first claims that it is worship of one's own GBC-sanctioned ISKCON diksa guru that should be performed during mangala-arati, followed by worship of Srila Prabhupada as the "Founder-acarya" during guru-puja:

"[...] devotees ask that, and they're not particularly fixed in any meditation, I encourage them to meditate on, during mangal-aratik, on diksa guru, and on guru-puja to meditate on Srila Prabhupada as the Founder-acarya."
(SRS, 8/1/13, "Questions on worship of the spiritual master")

This would mean, therefore, that all of SRS's disciples would worship SRS as their diksa guru during mangala-arati, but then switch to worshipping Srila Prabhupada during guru-puja as the "Founder-acarya".

However, SRS had earlier said that it is the diksa guru who is worshipped during guru-puja:

"[...] those purificatory activities by which Krsna accepts someone as His very own within His family, that is called diksa. And then in further detail, what does that mean? It means divyam jnanam yato dadyat kuryat papasya sanksayam, that... that divya-jnana, or that, one has the transcendental knowledge; just like we sing every day, divya-jnana hrde prokasito*. Transcendental knowledge by which ignorance is destroyed, because that's the real sum and substance of what purification is about."
(SRS Podcast, "Scotland Initiations", 9/1/08)

*SRS refers here to a verse that is sung every day during guru-puja to Srila Prabhupada.

This would mean that:

1) Srila Prabhupada is actually worshipped as one's diksa guru during guru-puja.
2) Or that, rather than Srila Prabhupada being worshipped as the "Founder-acarya" or diksa guru during guru-puja, one's GBC-sanctioned ISKCON diksa guru, such as SRS, is worshipped during guru-puja.
3) Or, if we stick with the answer that SRS gave in 2013 that we first quoted, then Srila Prabhupada is worshipped during guru-puja, not as one's diksa guru, but as the "Founder-acarya", since one has already worshipped one's GBC-sanctioned ISKCON diksa guru earlier in the morning during mangala-arati.

All 3 contradictory answers are possible according to SRS's own statements because clearly he does not have a clue himself regarding what should be done!


We have seen that those who claim to be Srila Prabhupada's guru successors are unable to agree on even the very ABCs of acting as a guru. Surely they can at least agree on who can claim to be a guru successor to Srila Prabhupada? However, even here they are unable to agree on whether 50% of the population, females, can be diksa gurus. Thus, while the GBC has decreed that females can be diksa gurus, there is a faction of GBC members and gurus that openly disagrees with the GBC's position, and the GBC does not have the confidence to declare this opposing faction as being philosophically deviant. Instead, the debate between these two factions continues to rage on, with the GBC still not having authorised a single female diksa guru, even though it gave permission for female diksa gurus some time ago. Of course, the fact that for ISKCON, no guru successors, male or female, are either authorised or necessary, since Srila Prabhupada is ISKCON's permanent current link, diksa guru and acarya -- thus making this debate irrelevant -- is another matter entirely!


Hence, although they claim to be "as good as God", the gurus in ISKCON cannot even answer basic guru-tattva questions regarding who they are, and what they should be doing.

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