Trying to Be More than the Acarya


Back To Prabhupada, Issue 69, Vol 2, 2021

In the previous article, we showed that the GBC Hermeneutics Course is not authorised, and thus we did not even need to focus so much on the content of the course. However, here we will briefly reveal some of the more deviant "lessons" the course aims to teach. Quotes in the shaded boxes are taken from this GBC-authorised course. All emphases added.

Doubting the purports

The course claims that in Srila Prabhupada's purports his words were "often" changed by "editors", who then added their own wording:

"editors often changed specific words, phrases, and so forth. [...] using specific words and phrases from purports as evidence may be done cautiously as they may be wording done by editors. It is best to check if those specific terms or phrases are also used elsewhere, especially in audio or video recordings."

Thus, the course is claiming that any terms and phrases from Srila Prabhupada's purports can be doubted, unless confirmed by Srila Prabhupada having used them elsewhere, because they could in theory have been added by "editors". However, though the course is willing to cast doubts on Srila Prabhupada's purports by blaming "editors", it does not object to such "editing" of Srila Prabhupada's books continuing to be done.

We are not the Acarya

"Traditionally, sannyasis did not use beds or travel by means other than walking. But Srila Prabhupada used planes [...] We do well to find the traditional principles, see how they have been applied in various circumstances, both ancient and by Srila Prabhupada, and then adjust for the particular needs and circumstances of our time."

The course claims that in order for us to understand how to apply and "adjust" sastric principles in our current circumstances, we must look to the "traditional principles". But we are not supposed to "adjust" things, because this is done only by the Acarya:

"If I would say, "I am sannyasi. I will not ride in a car or aeroplane; I must walk," then what kind of preaching would have been? [...] So therefore it depends on the acarya how to adjust things. [...] This is the adjustment. The acarya knows how to adjust things."
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, 20/2/73)

More than Acarya

The course teaches that we have the power to reconcile differences of opinion between previous acaryas ourselves, and only if we find such reconciliation too "difficult" do we then even need to "defer to" Srila Prabhupada:

"Even pure devotees may differ in their understanding of specific sastric statements. [...] Whenever such differences occur, we try to reconcile them with due respect for both. [...] However, when such reconciliation is difficult for us, we defer to Srila Prabhupada's statements, for he is ISKCON's founder-acarya and primary siksa-guru."

But, as shown already in the quote dated 8/12/73 from the previous article, we cannot even understand the teachings of the previous acaryas unless it is through Srila Prabhupada, not to speak of "reconciling" supposed "differences" between such acaryas ourselves without recourse to Srila Prabhupada.

More than Acarya – 2

Similarly, the course claims that guru, sadhu and sastra also differ from each other:

"We might be careful to acknowledge some difference between guru, sadhu and sastra."

"Sadhu-sastra-guru vakya hrdaye koriya aikya: Narottama dasa Thakura in Prema-bhakti Candrika 1.10 suggests by this phrase that there can be more than one or several, possibly apparently opposing, perspectives and insights that we receive from these three foundational sources"

The course then also "teaches" how one should go about "dealing" with such "differences". However, Srila Prabhupada has stated the opposite when explaining guru, sadhu and sastra; that there is no difference between these three sources:

"Sadhu, sastra and guru. Guru means who follows the sastra and sadhu. So there are three, the same."
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, 30/11/76)

"Therefore sadhu and guru and sastra, they are identical."
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, 13/11/72)

Thus, the course has contradicted Srila Prabhupada, and then tried to explain how to deal with the consequences arising from this contradiction. Both these things have allowed the course to basically unnecessarily generate "content". Whereas, if one only accepted what Srila Prabhupada teaches then there would be no need for such a "course" and instead we would be left only with what Srila Prabhupada ordered: the study of his books.

Non-Vaisnava teachings

The course states we should discern sastric truths from "non-devotional" and even "anti-Vaisnava" works:

"Our acaryas may quote from a work that is not entirely a Vaisnava scripture or even anti-Vaisnava in its overall outlook. [...] If a statement or a section agrees with Gaudiya-siddhanta, it may be carefully quoted with due discretion"

And that we can read outside of our sampradaya to understand the Srimad-Bhagavatam:

"there are commentaries to Srimad-Bhagavatam written by non-Gaudiya acaryas. Sometimes our acaryas don't give any explanation to some particular verses [...] To understand it, we might consult the commentary of some other non-Gaudiya acaryas"

Srila Prabhupada was against his disciples reading any books other than his, never mind going completely outside of the sampradaya:

"There is no need by any of my disciples to read any books besides my books – in fact, such reading may be detrimental to their advancement in Krishna consciousness. [...] all such outside reading should be stopped immediately."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, 20/1/72)

"Also, there is no need of studying Manu. Don't divert your attention in that way. We have got so many books. Those you should study."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, 30/4/71)


As detailed above, there is good reason why this GBC Hermeneutics Course is unauthorised. It effectively aims to "teach" its participants to jump over Srila Prabhupada and disobey and contradict him.


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