The Necessity of a Specific Sastric Prohibition


Back To Prabhupada, Issue 78, 2023

ISKCON's leaders are united in objecting to Srila Prabhupada remaining ISKCON's diksa guru. One main argument they give for this objection is that Srila Prabhupada remaining ISKCON's diksa guru would somehow be "against sastra". A typical example is GBC voted-in guru HH Bhakti Vikasa Swami ("BVKS") claiming that Srila Prabhupada would have had to "override" sastra to remain the diksa guru of ISKCON (which BVKS calls "rtvikism"):

"the heterodox and dangerous hermeneutic that Srila Prabhupada is so special that he could override guru, sadhu, and sastra, and that he actually did so to establish rtvikism"
(BVKS, Mothers & Masters)

In previous issues, we have covered the dispute between ISKCON's leaders in regard to whether females can become diksa gurus ("FDG"). When arguing over FDG, ISKCON's leaders have also used arguments regarding whether FDG is against or not against sastra. However, we can use their own "sastric" arguments in regard to FDG, to show ISKCON's leaders are self-defeated in their "sastric" objections to Srila Prabhupada remaining ISKCON's diksa guru. (All emphases in article added.)

The sastric argument for FDG

The GBC, and much of ISKCON outside of India, have generally been in favour of FDG. A leading scholar for this side has been HH Hridayananda Dasa Goswami ("HD"), who is considered within ISKCON supposedly learned in sastric matters, since ISKCON accepts his rendering of the 11th and 12th cantos of the sastra Srimad-Bhagavatam. He has presented what he claims is a definitive conclusion regarding what sastra states about the eligibility of one to become a diksa guru, as follows:

"Rupa Gosvami states that fundamental principles of devotional service cannot be changed, but details are variable. [...] Since neither Rupa Gosvami, nor any other great Acarya, nor any basic sastra, states that suppressing Vaisnavi gurus is a fundamental unvarying law of bhakti-yoga, we conclude the obvious: it is a detail."
(HD, "The Vaisnavi Guru", personal website)

Thus, it is accepted that whether or not a certain type of guru is against sastra, will depend on whether sastra states that suppressing such a guru is a fundamental law of bhakti-yoga. Therefore, in the above argument where HD states "Vaisnavi gurus", one can substitute the term "physically absent" gurus, and the same conclusion will be reached regarding Srila Prabhupada's position. Namely, that sastra would need to state that suppressing a physically absent guru is a law of bhakti-yoga, if one wishes to claim that Srila Prabhupada remaining ISKCON's diksa guru is somehow against sastra. But such a statement has never been produced. Thus, by their own argument, whether a guru is female or physically absent is a "detail" of bhakti-yoga, not a principle, and thus such gurus cannot be "suppressed".

The sastric argument against FDG

The anti-FDG side is represented by ISKCON India, and a leading spokesman for this group has been HG Basu Ghosh Dasa ("BGD"), who is also one of the main leaders of ISKCON India. He has presented what he claims is a definitive conclusion regarding what sastra states about the eligibility of a female to become a diksa guru, as follows:

"What Prabhupada wrote in his purport to Srimad Bhagavatam 4.12.32, ought to settle the issue. [...] Srila Prabhupada [...] wrote: "according to shastric injunction". [...]
"According to sastric injunctions [...] Suniti, however, being a woman, and specifically his mother, could not become Dhruva Maharaja's diksa-guru."
It's clear from this purport that: [...] A woman is prohibited from being a diksha guru."
(BGD, 23/1/23, "Akincana Gocara" website)

BGD has thus claimed that eliminating FDG depends on the existence of a "sastric injunction" which specifically prohibits them from acting as a diksa guru. And that because Srila Prabhupada has supposedly presented this prohibition, this should thereby "settle" the issue. As the anti-FDG side also claims that Srila Prabhupada remaining ISKCON's diksa guru is against sastra, one would therefore expect ISKCON India to similarly produce Srila Prabhupada stating the "sastric injunction" prohibiting a physically absent person from acting as a diksa guru in order to "settle" the issue – just as they have claimed to do in the case of FDG. However, ISKCON India has never presented such a statement. And therefore, by their own argument, they cannot claim that Srila Prabhupada is prohibited from acting as a diksa guru.

In both cases, whether FDG or anti-FDG, since Srila Prabhupada remains ISKCON's diksa guru, their arguments for FDG or only male diksa gurus become redundant – as then no successors of any sex are needed anyway!

Self-defeated by their arguments

Thus, both sides in the FDG issue, which constitutes the whole of ISKCON's leadership, agree that in order for a guru to be considered not supported by sastra, it requires that sastra specifically object to such a guru:

FDG group: Such objection must be given as a "law of bhakti-yoga".
Anti-FDG group: Such objection must be given as a "sastric injunction" prohibiting such a guru.

Thus, it is accepted that the burden of proof to show if a guru, with certain physical bodily characteristics, is supported by sastra, is placed on those who object to such a guru. Hence, whether the physical bodily characteristic in question is a female body or no body at all (Srila Prabhupada), both sides have to agree that such a sastric statement of objection requires to be produced. And this has not been done by either side in regard to a physically absent diksa guru (Srila Prabhupada).

We do not need to accept these arguments as being valid. But since they accept that their arguments are valid, then both sides are self-defeated by their own arguments and thus must accept that Srila Prabhupada remaining ISKCON's diksa guru is supported by sastra.


ISKCON's leaders on all sides have tried to prohibit Srila Prabhupada from being ISKCON's diksa guru by throwing around the word "sastra" as if it is some magic wand. However, if they are asked why and how Srila Prabhupada remaining ISKCON's diksa guru is supposedly against sastra, they cannot say. According to their own arguments, they have the burden of proof of presenting a specific statement of objection to a physically absent guru from sastra, in either the form of a law of bhakti-yoga or an injunction of prohibition. But they have never done so.

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