The Failure of ISKCON India’s “Scholars”


Back To Prabhupada, Issue 73, Vol. 2, 2022

In previous issues, we have exposed the deviations and lack of philosophical understanding displayed by the GBC's "brain", the "Sastric Advisory Council" ("SAC"). The SAC is the body of supposed "brahminical" advisors that was formed to help guide the GBC. ISKCON India has created its own rival "brahminical" advisory body, the "ISKCON India Scholars Board" ("IISB"). Which we will see in this article is just as unscholarly and philosophically deviant as its GBC counterpart. All quotes in shaded boxes are English translations of statements made in Hindi, in a video presentation titled "The Death of Rtvikism", which was published by the IISB on 13/4/22. All emphases added.

Gross ignorance

"See, what Srila Prabhupada said in the first page of the Bhagavad-gita? It is said about the disciplic succession. Not said about the rtvik succession."

This IISB video presentation is dedicated solely to the topic of "rtvikism", by which they mean the position that Srila Prabhupada remains ISKCON's diksa guru through the use of representatives, called "rtviks", to conduct initiations on his behalf. Hence, it is titled "The Death of Rtvikism". However, IISB displays gross ignorance regarding the very subject this whole video presentation is supposed to address. Because there is no question of a "rtvik" succession, nor is anyone proposing such a thing. Rtviks do not succeed Srila Prabhupada, but rather assist Srila Prabhupada in continuing to accept disciples as the current link in the disciplic succession. And, in the beginning of the Bhagavad-gita, which the above statement from the IISB refers to, Srila Prabhupada's name is actually listed as being the current link in the disciplic succession! Hence, there is no conflict between the disciplic succession and a person being the current link in that disciplic succession. For every disciplic succession must have a current link, and for ISKCON this is Srila Prabhupada.

GBC guru cult

"in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, this instruction of the rtvik cult is not found."

1) As we have just seen, there is no such thing as a rtvik succession or rtvik cult and therefore this is an irrelevant argument. There is simply the "guru cult", and the instruction for this is given in the Srimad-Bhagavatam:

"in order to receive the real message of Srimad-Bhagavatam one should approach the current link, or spiritual master in the chain of disciplic succession. After being initiated by the proper spiritual master in that chain of succession, one should engage himself in the discharge of tapasya in the execution of devotional service."
(SB, 2.9.7, purport)

And in ISKCON it is Srila Prabhupada who is this current link in the disciplic succession, from whom we are receiving "the real message of Srimad-Bhagavatam".

2) We can further note that there is no instruction in the Srimad-Bhagavatam for this current link to automatically be terminated the second he physically disappears. On the contrary, the Srimad-Bhagavatam teaches that to "receive the real message of Srimad-Bhagavatam", which the current link delivers, does not depend at all on the current link's physical presence:

"Reception of spiritual knowledge is never checked by any material condition."
(SB, 7.7.1, purport)

"The potency of transcendental sound is never minimized because the vibrator is apparently absent."
(SB, 2.9.8, purport)

Thus, Srila Prabhupada remains ISKCON's current link to the disciplic succession.

3) However, it is a fact that the instruction for a GBC-created guru cult – which ISKCON India has fully supported and through which the IISB member presenting this video (a disciple of HH Bhakti Charu Swami) was himself initiated – is not found anywhere in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. There is no mention in the Srimad-Bhagavatam of a managerial body creating ‘good as God' diksa gurus via voting or any other method.

Yet more ignorance

"in the last Will of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, he did not make anyone a guru. He only made GBC. But, Srila Prabhupada, after disappearance of that Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, he accepted disciples by becoming a spiritual master. So, this conduct of Srila Prabhupada proves that even Srila Prabhupada does not accept the rtvik-sect."

IISB here makes the claim that Srila Prabhupada becoming a diksa guru somehow proves that Srila Prabhupada does not accept the rtvik system of initiation, because his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, left a GBC and did not make anyone a successor diksa guru. However, in making this assertion, the IISB merely reveals its gross ignorance of Srila Prabhupada's teachings. Srila Prabhupada explains what instructions Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura actually gave for his succession:

"His idea was acarya was not to be nominated amongst the governing body. He said openly you make a GBC and conduct the mission. So his idea was amongst the members of GBC who would come out successful and self effulgent acarya would be automatically selected"
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, 28/4/74)

"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 qualifications.""
(Srila Prabhupada, Room Conversation, 21/9/73)

Thus, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura specifically authorised that a self-effulgent successor acarya should be selected by a GBC. "That was his plan". But Srila Prabhupada did not give any such plan or order for a self-effulgent successor acarya to be selected by the GBC. On the contrary, on July 9th, 1977, he ordered that the GBC would manage a rtvik system of initiation for the whole of ISKCON, which would keep Srila Prabhupada as the Acarya and diksa guru of ISKCON. Hence, whilst Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura did authorise a successor acarya, Srila Prabhupada did not. Therefore, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura's orders do not prove what Srila Prabhupada's orders were, as they were actually different.


Srila Prabhupada stated in his Will that the GBC was to be "the ultimate managing authority" of ISKCON:

1. The Governing Body Commission (GBC) will be the ultimate managing authority of the entire International Society for Krishna Consciousness."

(Srila Prabhupada, Declaration of Will, 4/6/77)

However, IISB claims that this statement in Srila Prabhupada's Will does not mean that the GBC was to be ISKCON's ultimate managing authority for after his physical departure:

"So that last Will of Prabhupada [...] here Prabhupada nowhere said that GBC will continue to be the managing director even after my disappearance. So, you are interpreting that GBC will continue to be the managing director even after Prabhupada's disappearance. This is your interpretation. And this interpretation is wrong"

1) By definition, anything written in a Will means "after my disappearance". That is the function of a Will, to list actions to be instituted only and specifically "after my disappearance". Hence, it is not an "interpretation" that the GBC "will continue to be the managing director even after Prabhupada's disappearance". It is a fact. A fact which can be comprehended by anyone who possesses the basic literacy to know what a "Will" is. We suggest that IISB's "scholars" return to the dictionary and look up the definition of "Will".

2) Even the IISB video presenter's own guru, HH Bhakti Charu Swami, accepted this basic fact by referring to the GBC as being the "ultimate managing authority" of ISKCON, being the line of authority "we have" today after Srila Prabhupada's physical disappearance:

"Prabhupada pointed out that the GBC is the ultimate managing authority in ISKCON. In the line of authority, next to Srila Prabhupada is the GBC body, and then there is the GBC member; every zone has a GBC member who is the zonal secretary. So we should be loyal to the GBC body and to the GBC member. [...] In this way we have the line of authority."
(HH Bhakti Charu Swami, Disciples Meeting, 1/8/07)

Same uniformity remains

"So, you are interpreting that GBC will continue to be the managing director even after Prabhupada's disappearance [...] this interpretation is wrong, because our scriptures refer to how the meaning of any dictum should be taken. Our Acaryas have said about this [...] What is said in the foreword, the same uniformity will remain in the epilogue. Only the same will be said."

IISB claims here that the same instruction must be given at the start (foreword) and the end (epilogue). And this therefore somehow invalidates the GBC continuing to be the managing authority of ISKCON after Srila Prabhupada's disappearance. However, even if we accept this argument of the IISB to be correct, we can note that in 1970, Srila Prabhupada mentioned the concept of the GBC for ISKCON for the first time. Thus, this becomes the "foreword" regarding the GBC, and in this he stated:

"As we have increased our volume of activities, now I think a Governing Body Commission (hereinafter referred to as the GBC) should be established. I am getting old, 75 years old, therefore at any time I may be out of the scene, therefore I think it is necessary to give instruction to my disciples how they shall manage the whole institution. [...] While I am living they will act as my zonal secretaries and after my demise they will be known as Executors. [...] The purpose of the Governing Body Commission is to act as the instrument for the execution of the Will of His Divine Grace."
(Direction of Management, 28/7/70)

Thus, in this "foreword", Srila Prabhupada clearly states that his idea is that the GBC is meant for managing ISKCON both in his physical presence and his physical absence. Then, in 1977, Srila Prabhupada states in his Will ("epilogue") the same instruction, that the GBC will be the ultimate managing authority after Srila Prabhupada's physical disappearance (as that is when the Will takes effect) as we just quoted in the previous section. Therefore, there is the same uniformity regarding what is said in the "foreword" and "epilogue" about the GBC always being the managing authority of ISKCON.

Rejecting their own evidence

"At present, many such people come and tell in online media that Srila Prabhupada has not made anyone an initiating spiritual master. [...] So this is a misconception of those people. Prabhupada has said in many places in his scriptures, in many lectures, and in the letters of Prabhupada, that after me, my disciples will become spiritual masters."

IISB presents 2 quotes to try to support this claim that Srila Prabhupada has ordered his disciples to be "an initiating spiritual master":

1) The first quote is from a letter dated 2/12/75 which speaks about the "law of disciplic succession" and this quote refers to it being applicable to "every student" and "my disciples".

2) The second quote is from a letter dated 25/1/69 which also speaks about the disciplic succession and this quote refers to it being applicable to "my disciples" and "these many disciples" (which at the time included females).

a) Thus, both of these letters make it clear that Srila Prabhupada is referring to all of his disciples, both male and female, as proven by the use of the words "every", "my" and "many". These quotes would therefore be applicable to Srila Prabhupada's female disciples.

b) However, we already know that ISKCON India has vehemently rejected the proposition that Srila Prabhupada authorised female diksa gurus. As documented in the last BTP issue, the India Continental Committee ("ICC"), which is the body that represents ISKCON India's leaders, has passed a resolution stating that:

"the current introduction of Female Diksha Gurus (FDG) is [...] deviant and a misrepresentation of Srila Prabhupada's teachings [...] Therefore, it is resolved that: Until the GBC resolution on FDG is withdrawn by the GBC body, the ICC will not accept the GBC as authority and will protest with non co-operation."

c) Therefore, according to ISKCON India, these two letters are not evidence that Srila Prabhupada is referring to ordering initiating or diksa gurus, because they have already declared that Srila Prabhupada never ordered female diksa gurus, period. Hence, they are putting forward as "evidence" something that they have already stated is not evidence!


As noted, the IISB presentation was titled "The Death of Rtvikism", but as we have seen, all the presentation has achieved is the death of the credibility of the IISB and ISKCON India as being any sort of "scholarly" organisation.

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