Reviving the Zonal Acarya Hoax


Back To Prabhupada, Issue 51, Spring 2016

In the previous article, we referred to the discredited "Zonal Acarya" system (also known as the "Great Guru Hoax – Part 1") that was foisted upon ISKCON straight after Srila Prabhupada's physical disappearance and later abandoned. However, it seems that one defiant GBC member and GBC-elected guru is determined to revive this discredited system by engaging in historical revisionism and re-writing Srila Prabhupada's statements. All emphases below are added.

Srila Prabhupada's statements

In July 1977, Srila Prabhupada established a system of initiation in ISKCON whereby he could continue to remain ISKCON's diksa guru by selecting representatives (rtviks) to facilitate initiations on his behalf. This system works by a temple president writing to whichever of these representatives is nearest to accept a devotee as an initiated disciple of Srila Prabhupada. The following statement makes this clear:

"Temple Presidents may henceforward send recommendation for first and second initiation to whichever of these eleven representatives are nearest their temple. After considering the recommendation, these representatives may accept the devotee as an initiated disciple of Srila Prabhupada".
(July 9th, 1977 directive, approved by Srila Prabhupada)

Srila Prabhupada reiterates the same points in the discussion about this system that took place two days earlier:

Tamala Krsna: "So supposing someone is in America, should they simply write directly to Kirtanananda or Satsvarupa?"
Srila Prabhupada: "Nearby. Jayatirtha can give. [...] you divide who is nearest. [...]"
Tamala Krsna: "[...] They can write to the man nearest them. But all these persons are still your disciples. Anybody who gives initiation is doing so on your behalf."
Srila Prabhupada: "Yes."
(Room conversation, 7/7/77)

It cannot be disputed, therefore, that Srila Prabhupada is selecting whoever "is nearest" to act only as representatives to facilitate initiations on behalf of himself as the diksa guru, rather than selecting successor diksa gurus.

Sivarama's revisionism

Though what Srila Prabhupada states by his mention of those "who is nearest" is very clear, GBC member and GBC-elected guru HH Sivarama Swami ("SRS") claims:

"So very practical consideration, and we see that that was something that Srila Prabhupada himself also employed when he also selected devotees to give diksa. And he also mentioned those who are nearest, that those devotees who are nearest geographic area they would naturally be the diksa gurus. That's not something that necessarily happens now in ISKCON."
(SRS Podcast, 5/2/16)

He therefore falsely claims that Srila Prabhupada selected those "who are nearest" to be diksa gurus for a particular "geographic area", when we just saw that such persons were actually selected by Srila Prabhupada to be representatives. And this claim that Srila Prabhupada appointed those "who are nearest" to be diksa gurus for a particular geographical area was the basis for the discredited zonal acarya system. But, Srila Prabhupada never "mentioned" anywhere that "those who are nearest" would "naturally be the diksa gurus". Rather, Srila Prabhupada only mentions "those who are nearest" when he selects representatives to facilitate initiations on behalf of himself as the diksa guru, as proven by Srila Prabhupada's statements.

Rejects GBC

In the statement from SRS just presented, he also casually remarks that this geographical diksa guru system is "not something that necessarily happens now in ISKCON." This is because the GBC has completely rejected such a geographical or ‘zonal' diksa guru system for ISKCON. As noted:

"These eleven, the idea went, should each serve as the spiritual master for a specific geographical "zone" of the world. This zonal guru system, as it came to be called, prevailed in ISKCON for about ten years, until its falseness became clear".
(Back To Godhead, #25-01, 1991)

Thus, the GBC has also accepted that Srila Prabhupada never authorised a zonal diksa guru system. Therefore, in his determination to revive the discredited zonal acarya system, SRS is not only rejecting Srila Prabhupada's authority, but also that of the GBC.

"Lord Brahma"-like TKG rejected

HH Tamala Krishna Goswami ("TKG") stated that Srila Prabhupada:

"appointed officiating priests to initiate on his behalf. He appointed eleven and he said very clearly, "Whoever is nearest, he can initiate." This is a very important point, because when it comes to initiating it isn't whoever is nearest, it's wherever your heart goes. Who repose your faith on, you take initiation from him. But when it's officiating, it's whoever is nearest, and he was very clear."
(HH Tamala Krsna Goswami, 3/12/80, quoted in ISKCON Journal (1990), GBC Executive Committee)

Thus, TKG agreed that Srila Prabhupada had only selected "those who are nearest" to be officiating priests and not diksa gurus. SRS claims about TKG:

"His Divine Grace Tamal Krishna Goswami Maharaja [...] there are things in common between Tamal Krishna Maharaja and Lord Brahma"
(SRS Lecture, 8/3/08)

However, in his determination to revive the discredited zonal acarya system, SRS also rejects the authority of one whom he believes is like Lord Brahma.



Fabrication is a clear sign that we are dealing with a hoax. If one was presenting the truth, there would be no need to resort to such cheating tactics. Yet, SRS fabricates what he claims Srila Prabhupada "mentioned" about "who is nearest".

SRS is so determined to revive the discredited zonal acarya system that he will reject not only Srila Prabhupada, but also others, such as the GBC and TKG, whom he accepts as authoritative. Such determination is understandable for he has realised the significance of the zonal acarya system being rejected. Once it is clear that Srila Prabhupada only authorised representatives, and not diksa gurus, to conduct initiations in ISKCON, then the pathway to the Great Guru Hoax is blocked. Because, without these representatives turning into diksa gurus, they remain as representatives, and Srila Prabhupada alone remains as ISKCON's diksa guru.


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