The Institutionalisation of False Prestige


Back To Prabhupada, Issue 44, Summer 2014

The Bhagavad-gita teaches that false prestige is a demoniac quality:

"The demoniac, taking shelter of insatiable lust, pride and false prestige, and being thus illusioned, are always sworn to unclean work, attracted by the impermanent."
(Bg., 16.10)

Thus, even the GBC demands that a person be free from false prestige in order to become one of their voted-in gurus:

"4. Must be free from the following undesirable qualities: [...]
b. Pratistha, false prestige and personal ambition".

(GBC Resolution 308, 2010, Mandatory qualification for diksa guru approval)

However, as we shall now demonstrate, the GBC's guru system is actually based on the concept of false prestige. All emphases below are added.

Conditioned gurus

As we have copiously documented, ISKCON's unauthorised guru successors are continually facing spiritual problems. To rationalise such errant behaviour, ISKCON guru and GBC member, HH Sivarama Swami ("SRS"), explains that this is because the guru can be a conditioned soul, subject to karma, and an offender:

"I think there are two circumstances in which we do see spiritual masters getting affected by accepting disciples. First, when the spiritual master is a conditioned soul he has his own anarthas to deal with, and those anarthas certainly don't diminish his own spiritual practices, but they cloud them."
(SRS Podcast, 4/4/14)

"[...] when a spiritual master accepts a disciple he accepts the karma of the disciple. Now let's be clear about that, that the spiritual master doesn't accept 100% of a disciple's karma. I got enough problems with my own karma, what to speak of 100% of the karma of say 500 initiated disciples. [...] But the guru does accept some karma."
(SRS Podcast, 4/4/14)

"So when we are accepting other karma the clouds become thicker, the anarthas become more stirred up and agitated. And the overall effect is that it does influence the spiritual life of the guru. The effect appears to be that the spiritual life of the guru diminishes because he's faced now with so much more of a challenge in order to fully benefit from the devotional activities that he performs."
(SRS Podcast, 4/4/14)

"(Niranjana) Maharaja also elaborated on this yesterday, when accepting a disciple actually does diminish or even destroy your devotional creeper. And when is that? When the guru is an aparadhi. If he commits nama-aparadha then his spiritual creeper will be stunted."
(SRS Podcast, 4/4/14)

Pretend they are pure

Thus, SRS has clearly explained that ISKCON gurus are very likely to be conditioned souls full of anĀ­arthas and karma. However, the system in ISKCON is that such gurus should always be treated as if they are pure devotees, regardless of their actual spiritual standing:

"Once having accepted a spiritual master of course, one does not go around with the consciousness that my spiritual master is a kanistha-adhikari or a madhyam-adhikari, but rather as is being stated here, quoting Mahanidhi Swami, that the disciple thinks 'saksad-haritvena samasta-sastrair': the spiritual master is as good as God. Whatever the actual spiritual advancement of the spiritual master, but, for him to be worshiped as guru, guru means 'saksad-hari'. He has to receive the same respect that one would give to the Supreme Lord. And of course because the Supreme Lord is 'uttamasloka', therefore one would worship the spiritual master and deal with him in the same way as one would deal with a uttama-adhikari."
(SRS Podcast, 23/6/14)

"When a junior guru, spiritually junior guru, is sincere and strictly follows his spiritual master, the predecessor Acaryas and Krsna, doesn't deviate from the path of devotional service, then a devotee should worship that person as the Supreme Lord".
(SRS Podcast, 23/6/14)

"[...] there may be so many other types of personality traits or even lack of realization that may be there within a spiritual master. But still saksad-hari. Still he has to be treated as good as God, otherwise the process doesn't work."
(SRS Podcast, 11/1/09)

False honour = False prestige

Thus, SRS is clearly stating that ISKCON's guru system is based on:

a) Falsely accepting that a person is an uttama-adhikari (topmost devotee), regardless of his actual spiritual level. Srila Prabhupada states that this is the definition of false prestige:

"So these are the signs of false prestige. [...] The result is that I am accepting something which is false."
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, 31/1/69)

b) Giving honour to personalities as though they are as good as the Supreme Lord, even though this is not their actual level of advancement, i.e. they are accorded a false honour. And this must be done because otherwise the "process doesn't work". But Srila Prabhupada has not taught that someone who may even be a kanistha-adhikari (neophyte) should be worshipped as good as God. Rather, he has stated that only those who are actually on the topmost level should be worshipped as being on the topmost level:

"When one has attained the topmost position of maha-bhagavata, he is to be accepted as a guru and worshiped exactly like Hari, the Personality of Godhead. Only such a person is eligible to occupy the post of a guru."
(Cc., Madhya-lila, 24.330)

Therefore, SRS is putting forward a false religious principle -- that those who are not maha-bhagavatas should be worshipped as if they are maha-bhagavatas -- so that through artificial means a false honour is created for them. Srila Prabhupada states that such behaviour is characteristic of the demoniac, induced by false prestige:

"Induced by pride and false prestige, they create some principles of religion which are not approved by the Vedic injunctions. Although such demoniac people are most abominable in the world, still, by artificial means, the world creates a false honor for them."
(Bg., 16.10)


The ISKCON guru system has institutionalised a system whereby dozens of ISKCON gurus and their thousands of disciples combine to generate false prestige. The system is, therefore, actually demoniac in nature.

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