Misunderstanding Srila Prabhupada


Back To Prabhupada, Issue 62, Vol 2, 2019

Between February 10-12th, 2019, HH Bhakti Vikasa Swami ("BVKS"), a GBC-elected ISKCON initiating guru, gave a three-part seminar titled "Understanding and Applying Srila Prabhupada's Teachings", at the world headquarters of ISKCON in Mayapur, India. The quotes in the shaded boxes below are taken from this seminar, and rather than explain how to understand Srila Prabhupada's teachings, BVKS consistently demonstrates that he misunderstands even the most basic of Srila Prabhupada's teachings. All emphases added.

The parampara principle

"So, my point here is that everything that Srila Prabhupada said can be harmonised [...] if we employ the principles of understanding that he himself taught [...] that a guru has to be understood in reference to the previous acaryas."

By claiming that Srila Prabhupada has to be understood "in reference to the previous acaryas", BVKS has stated the opposite of what Srila Prabhupada taught. It is not that Srila Prabhupada is understood in reference to the previous acaryas, but rather that the previous acaryas are understood in reference to Srila Prabhupada:

"You cannot imagine what my spiritual master said. Or even if you read some books, you cannot understand unless you understand it from me. This is called parampara system. You cannot jump over to the superior guru, neglecting the next acarya, immediate next acarya."
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, 8/12/73)

The guru-disciple principle

"No one in between, there's you and Jesus and the Bible and that's it. Ever heard of anything like that in ISKCON? There's you and Prabhu­pada and his books and that's it."

1) As a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, BVKS should know that there is no one "in between" Srila Prabhupada and himself. This is the basis of the guru-disciple relationship, and was how ISKCON operated pre-1978. Though the guru may connect one to Krsna, and can be said to be "in between" the disciple and Krsna, the guru and disciple are directly connected and there is no one "in between" them. Other devotees may help the disciple, but they are not "in between" the disciple and his guru.

2) Similarly, Srila Prabhupada's books are the basis for all teachings in ISKCON, and they will supply all answers:

"In my books the philosophy of Krishna Consciousness is explained fully so if there is anything which you do not understand, then you simply have to read again and again. By reading daily the knowledge will be revealed to you and by this process your spiritual life will develop."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, 22/11/74)

Thus, again, there is nothing "in between" Srila Prabhupada's books and the reader receiving all necessary transcendental knowledge in order for his spiritual life to develop.

ISKCON's supreme authority

"Within the Astha Matha, later formed by Sri Madhava Acarya [...] Now that system rests on one guru at the top. Srila Prabhupada instituted ISKCON in which the GBC should oversee everything. Not that there's one guru, and who is the ultimate authority, but the GBC is the ultimate authority."

1) The GBC is only the ultimate managing authority, rather than the ultimate authority:

"The Governing Body Commission (GBC) will be the ultimate managing authority of the entire International Society for Krishna Consciousness."
(Srila Prabhupada's Declaration of Will)

2) Rather, in ISKCON, there is "one guru" who is the ultimate or supreme authority, and his name is Srila Prabhupada:

"His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada [...] the International Society for Krishna Consciousness of which He is the Founder-Acarya and supreme authority."
(GBC Resolution 1, 1975)

The Gaudiya Matha

"Srila Prabhupada actually criticised his Godbrothers in the Gaudiya Matha, who he said, after Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura passed away, he had said to have a GBC, a managing body for overseeing all the affairs of the Matha, but the followers of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, they decided, no, we need one acarya, so Srila Prabhupada said that this was a mistake that they made and [...] the idea that there should be one sannyasi in charge, continues to the present day".

Srila Prabhupada only criticised them for appointing the one acarya instead of having a GBC elect the one acarya. Thus, there was supposed to be one acarya in charge:

"none of them were advised by Guru Maharaja to become acarya. His idea was "Let them manage; then whoever will be actual qualified for becoming acarya, they will elect. Why I should enforce upon them?" That was his plan. "Let them manage by strong governing body, as it is going on. Then acarya will come by his qualification." "
(Room Conversation, 21/9/73)

The guru principle

In the same seminar, BVKS criticises the leaders of ISKCON, stating that they:

"don't accept Srila Prabhupada's statements", "don't like what Prabhupada said", "don't accept his authority", are "against" and "don't follow his orders" on "a major issue", and that "following his instructions" has "been dropped" by them.

1) Almost 2/3rds of ISKCON's leaders, the GBC, are also GBC-authorised successor diksa gurus. Thus, these criticisms would also apply to many of these gurus.

2) These criticisms make it clear that these persons, far from being fit to be such gurus, are not even qualified to be disciples, since they refuse to accept the authority, or follow the orders, of their spiritual master Srila Prabhupada. Yet BVKS still accepts that such leaders should be worshipped every morning as persons who are "assisting the gopis", as is the system in ISKCON for the GBC gurus. Because, despite all these valid criticisms, at no point does BVKS ever call for such deviants to immediately be stripped of their guruship. Thus, BVKS is himself unable to figure out that 2 + 2 = 4. I.e., if one is not even a disciple, as he correctly claims about ISKCON's leadership, then one cannot possibly be a guru.


Before giving a seminar teaching the rest of us how to "understand" Srila Prabhupada, it would help if BVKS himself understood some of the most basic concepts of Srila Prabhupada's teachings.

Those who have appreciated reading the above can note that it is but a small extract from a comprehensive point for point rebuttal of the whole seminar, which can be read here.

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