The Fallacy of Going Beyond Srila Prabhupada


Back To Prabhupada, Issue 78, 2023

One aspect of challenging Srila Prabhupada's authority, which was mentioned in the previous article, was the need to go outside of Srila Prabhupada's teachings. Here we will cover two common arguments that are put forward to justify doing this. (All emphases added.)

Eliminating bias

One argument put forward by ISKCON leaders to justify going outside of Srila Prabhupada's teachings is summarised below by ISKCON Jaipur Temple President HG Pancaratna Dasa ("PRD"):

"conditioned souls can also misunderstand the purports of Srila Prabhupada due to their conditioned and biased nature. That's why Basu Ghosh Prabhu [ISKCON India leader – Ed.] and others are saying we follow Srila Prabhupada to the letter but we understand his meaning by cross referencing with Sastra because we know he will never say anything against Sastra. [...] That way we can know that our understanding of Srila Prabhupada is proper and not a biased misunderstanding."
(PRD, Email, 30/1/23)

Thus, he explains that ISKCON leaders claim that:

1) Our understanding of Srila Prabhupada's words may be wrong due to our bias.

2) Therefore, we check our possibly biased understanding with what sastra states, as we know that Srila Prabhupada's actual teachings will always be in line with sastra.

3) In this way, we can eliminate our biased understanding of Srila Prabhupada's words.

However, this argument is based on a massive logical fallacy as shown in the "Bias" diagram above. If one's understanding of Srila Prabhupada's words is biased due to our conditioned nature, then reading any other words, wherever they are from, will also be similarly biased, as one's conditioning will be the same. It is not that:

a) When one opens Srila Prabhupada's books one is conditioned and biased;
b) Then when one opens the pages of "sastra" one's conditioning and bias magically disappear;
c) Then when one returns to opening Srila Prabhupada's books, the bias and conditioning return just as magically.

Thus, simply reading something else will not eliminate the bias, if it exists. And thus, this is not a justification for needing to go outside of Srila Prabhupada's teachings.

Checking "understanding"

A related argument for going outside of Srila Prabhupada's teachings is given by HG Krsna Kirti Dasa ("KKD"), the Convenor of the ISKCON India Scholars Board:

"And the example of ritvikism is most appropriate here. [...] they still come to a wrong conclusion. This is because whatever they THINK Srila Prabhupada meant by what he said is not in line with the teachings of the shastras or the acharyas or their shishtachara. And for us to point out that someone's particular understanding of Srila Prabhupada is inconsistent with relevant shastras and teachings of other acharyas is NOT "checking the veracity of Srila Prabhupada's vani." [...] We are checking the veracity of your claim or someone else's claim that SP meant something by what he said."
(KKD, Email, 2/2/23)

Thus, it is argued that one can check what someone claims Srila Prabhupada meant:

1) By comparing such claims with sastra;
2) And seeing if there is a difference.

However, if it is possible to check what one claims against a statement from sastra, then it is even easier and more accurate to check that claim with Srila Prabhupada's original statement, as now one is dealing with the actual, original source of the claim. Thus, again, there is no justification for going outside of Srila Prabhupada's teachings.

Srila Prabhupada will suffice

To prove how easy this is, we can use an example from KKD's own ISKCON India organisation. ISKCON India's leaders passed a resolution on 25/11/19 in regard to the issue of female diksa gurus. They claimed the reason there should not be any female diksa gurus is:

"he [Srila Prabhupada] never appointed a single woman as a TP, GBC, or ritvik (guru – as per the July 9 letter)"

Thus, they claim that the July 9th, 1977 letter appoints "guru". So one can read the original July 9th, 1977 directive, and note that there is no mention that the "rtvik" is a diksa "guru". Indeed, there is no mention of "guru", period. Hence, one can "check" that the claim made by ISKCON India regarding what was "meant" by Srila Prabhupada is "inconsistent" with what is actually stated by Srila Prabhupada. One does not need to find some sastra (not given and translated and explained by Srila Prabhupada), to see if such a claim is inconsistent with what sastra states. Srila Prabhupada's authoritative statements will do just fine. This is summarised by the "Checking" diagram above.

Srila Prabhupada's system

We have used simple logic to prove that the arguments for going outside of Srila Prabhupada's teachings are seriously flawed. But, more importantly, Srila Prabhupada himself never taught that the way we should avoid "misunderstanding" his teachings is by jumping over him and instead directly consulting "sastra" ourselves. Rather, he ordered his disciples to repeatedly read his books and taught that by this process the correct meaning would be revealed:

"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)

Hence, those who propose going outside of Srila Prabhupada's teachings possess neither the logic nor faith required for sticking only with Srila Prabhupada.

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