The Dangers of Soft Philosophy


Back To Prabhupada, Issue 46, Winter 2014/15

In BTP 32 we had analysed the "Qualified Succession" ("QS") philosophy (known as "soft rtvik" by the GBC), and demonstrated how it is incorrect. Here, we offer a practical case study of the dangers of this philosophy by profiling its founder.

Soft rtvik genesis

"Qualified Succession" or the "soft rtvik theory" ("SRT") states that Srila Prabhupada remains the diksa guru of ISKCON through the use of rtvik representatives only as a stop gap, simply there to "hold the fort" until other gurus can permanently replace him as the diksa guru for ISKCON. In 1990, Rupa Vilasa Dasa ("RVD") was excommunicated from ISKCON for putting forward this idea:

"In 1990 I was officially expelled from ISKCON by GBC resolution for expounding and propagating what is now (I believe) referred to as "soft rtvik" philosophy. [...] My understanding was that rtvik was a useful system established by Srila Prabhupada to tide over the society during a period of transition and which was intended to continue the disciplic succession, not abolish it."
(RVD Letter to ISKCON GBC, 29/1/04)

RVD had taken the lead in presenting this philosophy at the famous "San Diego Debate" in 1990, and thus is identified as the founder of this philosophy.

Hard rtvik genesis

Conversely, the "hard rtvik" theory correctly states that as far as the institution of ISKCON is concerned, Srila Prabhupada alone is its Acarya, which includes acting as its diksa guru, and no one else will ever occupy this position in ISKCON. RVD goes to great pains to point out that he was never a proponent of this philosophy, and that rather it is the BTP Editor who was the first person to promote Srila Prabhu-pada as ISKCON's permanent diksa guru (and ISKCON could exist for up to another 9500 years):

"I was NEVER a proponent of what is now called by some HARD Rtvik, i.e. the idea that only Srila Prabhupada can ever be the guru and that devotees who dare to execute the office of guru are pretenders. This idea is untenable and continues to be untenable. It is the product of Krishna Kant's imagination and envy: a philosophy of fanaticism and continuous aparadha in my estimation."
(Private RVD email, November, 2014)

GBC guru apologist

The letter from RVD to the GBC quoted in the first section was written specifically by RVD to beg the GBC to readmit him back into ISKCON. The letter achieved this because, as we quoted, RVD made it clear that he only ever supported the SRT rather than the "hard" version, and that Srila Prabhu-pada only ever existed to "tide over" the Society. In that letter, RVD elaborates that this is no longer necessary, since he believes:

"[...] there are presently persons in ISKCON who are well qualified to accept disciples and are successfully preserving the line taught by Srila Prabhupada with grace and dignity."

And, in an associated letter of clarification written for the GBC deputies to GBC member Malati Devi Dasi, RVD states:

"I can see many elevated souls, exhibiting all the symptoms described in shastra of liberated persons."

Thus, RVD has become an enthusiastic GBC guru apologist, declaring boldly that there are "many" liberated persons in ISKCON acting as gurus -- something that even some of the ISKCON gurus themselves do not state! And, in the previous section we saw that he condemns the notion that Srila Prabhupada continues to remain ISKCON's diksa guru as being a philosophy of "continuous aparadha*". Additionally, RVD is now listed on the website of ISKCON UK's headquarters as a well-known ISKCON lecturer, author and Bhakti Shastri** teacher.

* Offense.
** Scripture.

Seamless transition

RVD has been able to achieve this newfound status as GBC guru sycophant and ISKCON leader without even needing to accept that his original advocacy of the SRT was incorrect! In the letter to Malati mentioned above, he states:

"I do think that whether rtvik is right or wrong is irrelevant presently as there are bona fide gurus presently preaching Srila Prabhupada's message that are liberated souls."

And, summarising his position, he writes that therefore:

"I don't think that rtvik has any relevance anymore."
(Private RVD email, November, 2014)

Thus, it is not that RVD believes SRT was wrong; it's just that it is not relevant anymore, since RVD now accepts that "many" liberated souls have emerged in ISKCON to become gurus.

Hence, so compatible, and thus dangerous, is the SRT with today's GBC guru hoax, that its founder has been able to go from being a leading "rtvik advocate" to avid GBC guru apologist and ISKCON leader without skipping a philosophical beat!

Liberation magic

One key reason that the SRT is so compatible with the guru hoax is that it gives full freedom for a person to subjectively declare someone as being qualified as guru, whenever they please. Thus, back in the early '90s when RVD decided to play the role of revolutionary, he claimed that none of ISKCON's gurus were liberated. Just over a decade later, when he decided to be part of ISKCON again, he is able to conveniently claim under the SRT that he now "sees" that actually there are "many" liberated gurus in ISKCON. Thus, in a short space of time, and under the authority of the same exact GBC guru voting system that RVD had earlier condemned, we miraculously go from no guru liberated to many gurus liberated!

GBC defeat of SRT

As we documented in our book -- Srila Prabhupada: The Founder-Acarya of ISKCON -- the GBC foundational "Founder-Acarya" booklet accepts that only Srila Prabhupada will ever occupy the position of Acarya in ISKCON, and that the position of Acarya includes him acting as the diksa guru. Thus, through their acceptance of Srila Prabhupada's permanent Founder-Acarya position in ISKCON, the GBC have also accepted, albeit unwittingly, that Srila Prabhupada alone will remain ISKCON's diksa guru. And the IRM had established the same conclusion long ago by presenting Srila Prabhupada's statements in The Final Order. Thus, the SRT is actually defeated from every angle!


As this case study of the very founder of the "soft rtvik" theory demonstrates, anything less than the adoption of Srila Prabhupada's permanent status as ISKCON's diksa guru is just a prelude to a guru hoax by another name.

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