The Problem Cannot Be the Answer


Back To Prabhupada, Issue 68, Vol 1, 2021

Praghosa Dasa ("PD"), a GBC member who sits on various GBC committees, gave an important interview that was titled "Is ISKCON in Peril?" and described as being about "the very future existence of Srila Prabhupada's Movement". All quotes in shaded boxes are taken from the answers he gave in this interview on 18/11/2020. Emphases added.

GBC gurus block Srila Prabhupada

"we tend to insert ourselves into situations, looking for recognition, looking for prominence, looking for appreciation, [...] and to the degree that we do that, [...] we're making it more difficult to establish Srila Prabhupada as the pre-eminent siksa guru in the lives of every single devotee in this movement."

PD explains how the desire for recognition and appreciation comes in between devotees and Srila Prabhupada. PD then immediately continues that the GBC gurus are a specific example of this since they receive such appreciation from their disciples:

"And then in terms of specifics, I think one of the biggest challenges we face is the role of guru in our movement, because [...] they will have deep appreciation, respect, love, and all of those things for their diksa guru [...]"

Hence, to stop Srila Prabhupada being obscured in this way, PD strongly opposes anyone, including GBC gurus, publishing literature about themselves:

"any of our devotees, not just gurus, although often it is gurus, [...] I don't think that there should be any sort of autobiographical type books on the lives of devotees in our movement [...] because I just think it actually deflects away from Srila Prabhupada."

One particular egregious example of such a book which deflects away from Srila Prabhupada, and which has been heavily promoted in ISKCON, is The Journey Home by GBC guru and GBC member HH Radhanath Swami.

Given these problems, PD therefore explains that it is essential that Srila Prabhupada be seen as being much more prominent than the GBC gurus by the disciples of the latter.

"they [the disciples] have to also understand that [...] Srila Prabhupada is the moon, the full moon, and all other siksa gurus and diksa gurus, they are one of these little stars that are around that moon [...] so we have to get to a point where we, ideally everybody in the movement [...] have that understanding and that realization."

PD then concludes that if these things are not done, then, in line with the title of this interview which relates to the very existence of ISKCON, he has a "big fear" for ISKCON's future.

Keeping GBC gurus no solution

Having identified the GBC gurus as being a potential threat to ISKCON's future, PD explains that the GBC gurus are the problem because they become the "be all and end all" for their disciples, which automatically means Srila Prabhupada's position is eclipsed:

"we cannot have, and this is the problem, we cannot have gurus taking such a significant role that they become the be all and end all in the lives of devotees."

However, PD states that such a situation, where the disciple sees their GBC guru as everything, is actually completely "natural":

"it's natural that devotees, second generation, third generation devotees, it's natural that they will have deep appreciation, respect, love, and all of those things for their diksa guru [...] So that in one sense is natural [...]"

PD states this state of affairs is "natural" three times. It is natural because it is actually our philosophy that the diksa guru is indeed treated as everything or like God:

"The murti of the spiritual master should be treated as good as the Deity [...] The guru should be treated as good as God. This is stated in all the sastras."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, 29/1/76)

Srila Prabhupada speaks here of the "spiritual master" and "guru" in general, and not the "Founder-Acarya", and thus in ISKCON there already exist "murtis" of some of the GBC gurus, just as we have murtis of Srila Prabhupada.

Hence, the problem PD identifies, of GBC gurus competing with and taking devotees' attention away from Srila Prabhupada, is integral to having successor diksa gurus. Because, as long as GBC gurus exist, it will always be "natural" for them to be the "be all and end all" for their disciples, and thereby be more prominent than Srila Prabhupada – since the philosophy demands it.

"Pre-eminent" siksa guru no good

PD also explains that just labelling Srila Prabhupada as being everyone's "siksa guru", no matter how "pre-eminent", will not solve the problem of the disciples of the GBC gurus not seeing Srila Prabhupada as much more prominent than their GBC guru:

"they [disciples of GBC gurus] have to also understand that Srila Prabhupada, we say ‘pre-eminent siksa guru', to some degree, now as I'm speaking, I'm thinking those words are not strong enough. Srila Prabhupada is just not another siksa guru, you know, we have many, many siksa gurus or we can have many, many siksa gurus, it's not that Srila Prabhupada is one on a conveyor belt, absolutely not [...] pre-eminent siksa guru's not strong enough actually, it's actually not strong enough of a term because the siksa guru refers to so many different people."

Thus, Srila Prabhupada needs to be more than just a siksa guru.

Diksa guru successors not ordered

However, PD feels that these problems with the GBC gurus, and trying to solve them, are a "real challenge" because he believes the GBC gurus were specifically ordered by Srila Prabhupada, and thus must exist:

"we face a real challenge here because on the one hand Srila Prabhupada said ‘We want hundreds and thousands of spiritual masters' [...]"

But Srila Prabhupada actually made the above statement in 1966 to those who were not his disciples, of whom none existed at the time in ISKCON:

"So we require hundreds and thousands of spiritual masters who has understood this Krsna science and preach all over the world. That is the problem. Therefore we have formed this Society and we, we invite all sincere souls to take part in the Society and become a spiritual master, and preach this science all over the world."
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, 17/8/66)

Thus, this was not an order for successor diksa gurus, but an order for basic preacher gurus who act as simple siksa gurus, as proven by the facts that:

1) Srila Prabhupada asks everyone to become spiritual masters in order to preach.

2) If Srila Prabhupada was asking for diksa gurus in order to preach, then no preaching would have taken place in ISKCON for at least 11 years, until Srila Prabhupada physically departed and it was even theoretically possible for successor diksa gurus to exist. But we know this is false, since many people did join ISKCON from 1966 onwards, who then did "preach all over the world", and none became diksa gurus, but they did become basic preachers or simple siksa gurus.

Hence, the situation is not a "real challenge", since PD no longer needs to falsely believe that Srila Prabhupada ordered "hundreds and thousands" of successor diksa gurus.

Only rtviks ordered

Indeed, PD himself unwittingly proves that Srila Prabhupada's orders were for Srila Prabhupada to remain ISKCON's diksa guru, even after his physical departure, by stating:

"devotees were kind of asking these questions about ‘What happens when you leave, Prabhupada? Who will initiate, who will the gurus be?', Prabhupada was so nonchalant about it. It was quite incredible, you just read that conversation, you know, Prabhupada said, ‘Oh, so and so can do Africa, so and so can do it in India', you know, and then at the end of the conversation that they kinda finished, and someone says, ‘Oh, Prabhupada we forgot about South America', and Prabhupada says, ‘Oh, who's down there? Hridayananda can do that.'"

When we actually read this specific conversation PD references, here is what was said:

Srila Prabhupada: "And... Five, six men, you divide who is nearest." [...]
Tamala Krsna: "Actually they are initiating the person on Your Divine Grace's behalf. [...] But all these persons are still your disciples. Anybody who gives initiation is doing so on your behalf."
Srila Prabhupada: "Yes. [...] You can note down these names. [...] And Hridayananda."
Tamala Krsna: "Oh, yeah. South America."
(Room conversation, 7/7/77)

Thus, as PD correctly states, Srila Prabhupada was "nonchalant" about it because he was only appointing representatives or "rtviks", who would initiate disciples on Srila Prabhupada's behalf, and make them Srila Prabhupada's disciples. Srila Prabhupada was therefore not appointing or authorising any successor diksa gurus, but rather ensuring that he remained the diksa guru of ISKCON.

Ironically, this understanding that Srila Prabhupada alone remains the diksa guru of ISKCON was also put forward by PD, again unwittingly, when as the GBC for the UK, he endorsed the "Vision Statement" put out by ISKCON UK in 2013. That vision statement declared that the term "Guru" in "Guru, Sadhu and Sastra" refers to Srila Prabhupada, which Srila Prabhupada states is the diksa guru one approaches for initiation. The evidence for this, which was documented in BTP 41, can be read here.

Thus, PD has to agree, via his own statements, that the GBC gurus are not necessary in ISKCON, and thus their existence is not a challenge, as they do not have to exist.

The only solution

If we summarise all of PD's conclusions, we will see that he fully agrees with the IRM:

a) GBC gurus are a major problem since they block access to Srila Prabhupada and eclipse his position.
b) This problem is fundamental to their very existence.
c) Promoting Srila Prabhupada as a siksa guru is not enough.
d) Srila Prabhupada's final "nonchalant" order was for rtviks.

It therefore follows, using these conclusions, that:

1) The problem of the GBC gurus eclipsing Srila Prabhupada can only be solved by eliminating them, since the problem is fundamental to their very existence.

2) Srila Prabhupada's position needs to be elevated to the position he had when he founded ISKCON, which is as diksa guru, rather than be relegated to only being a siksa guru.

3) This solution can be implemented because this is what Srila Prabhupada actually ordered – rtviks who would initiate on his behalf – while not ordering successor diksa gurus.

PD suggests that to counteract the GBC gurus, a presentation about Srila Prabhupada must be made at every initiation ceremony that takes place in ISKCON:

"you put together a presentation and that becomes a travelling road show [...] they could attend every single initiation ceremony in ISKCON and that's presented on a screen or whatever, at every initiation ceremony in ISKCON, prior to these devotees taking initiation from whoever the guru is that they're taking initiation from."

This is a wonderful suggestion, because if PD stays true to his own words then this presentation will contain the following conclusion:

Srila Prabhupada is your diksa guru and these initiators are just acting as rtviks initiating you on behalf of Srila Prabhupada.


In proposing his conclusions, PD states:

"I think we do have to be a little bold and discuss these things thread-bare and try to figure out what to do."

He also acknowledges the radical nature of his presentation:

"I think some people would get offended by what I just said, that we shouldn't see the guru as the be all and end all, etc."

Therefore, PD, if he studies this article and all the other evidence presented by the IRM "threadbare", can indeed be bold by presenting the conclusions mentioned above. Because he himself has shown that trying to "reform" or "adjust" the GBC successor diksa guru system, or call Srila Prabhupada only the siksa guru, cannot work, since the GBC gurus themselves are the problem. And thus, the problem cannot, by definition, also be part of the answer. Which means the problem itself, the GBC gurus, must be eliminated, and only the answer, Srila Prabhupada, can be the answer. An answer which is given by Srila Prabhupada, and unwittingly by PD himself. And that is to restore Srila Prabhupada to his original position as ISKCON's diksa guru, and thus eliminate the problematic and unauthorised GBC "successor" diksa gurus once and for all.

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