ISKCON's Guru-course Analysed 

Autumn 2005

Bhaktivedanta Manor, the headquarters of ISKCON in the UK, runs a one-day course primarily for newcomers to Krishna consciousness called “The Spiritual Master and Disciple”. The course is presented by three of the Manor’s senior management team, namely:
Kripamoya Das, the head of congregational development in the UK;
Srutidharma Das, the Manor’s Vice-President; and
Sitarama Das, the head of Manor Training and Education and the Principal of the Manor’s “College of Vedic Studies”.

According to the Manor’s newsletter, “The course enables participants to explore the procedure for formally accepting a spiritual master (initiation) within ISKCON.” The course facilitators indeed have several years’ experience between them of Gurus in ISKCON:
Kripamoya Das is a direct disciple of Srila Prabhupada;
Sitarama Das is a disciple of Sivarama Swami;
while Manor Vice-President Srutidharma Das has had the ‘benefit’ of being initiated by no less than three ISKCON Gurus: Jayatirtha, who left ISKCON to start his own LSD drug cult, and had his head hacked off by one of his followers in a drug-induced attack; Bhagavan, who left ISKCON after being caught engaging in illicit activity, was later imprisoned and is now hanging out on the fringe of the movement; and the aforementioned Sivarama Swami, whom the GBC had at one time suspended from initiating.
Moving on to the contents of the course itself, we find a number of rather disturbing contradictions and anomalies. We highlight some of these herewith.

Course notes say: A “qualification and characteristic of the spiritual master” is that he is a “pure devotee”.

 BUT ISKCON’s GBC says: “When the GBC allows a devotee to take up the service of initiating, it does not thereby endorse him as an uttama adhikari or “pure devotee” or certify his having achieved any specific state of realization.” (GBC Resolution No. 409, 2004)

Course Guru Sivarama Swami says: “In this regards Srila Prabhupada clearly states that a devotee other than an uttama adhikari can initiate.” (Sivarama Swami, Continuing the Parampara, p. 29)

Course notes say: “The time has gone by when at the age of five one would be sent to a gurukula and live under the care of a guru and have the opportunity to render him personal service and hear from him directly. In this age of Kali, this opportunity is a very rare one. Indeed, most spiritual masters in ISKCON travel and preach all over the world and you may be lucky to spend little time in their physical presence”[…]
A “realistic expectation of a spiritual master” is that the disciple should be “prepared to be ‘blanked’”

BUT ISKCON Guru says: “The student, therefore, surrenders to the spiritual master as a disciple and serves him, and the master responds by answering the disciple’s questions, enlightening him with transcendental knowledge.”
(Jayadvaita Swami, ‘From Master to Disciple’, BTG #29-04, 1995)

Course notes say: “There is nothing more devastating for the disciple when the spiritual master himself becomes weak in spiritual practise or falls away completely. This has happened several times in ISKCON’s short history since 1977.”

BUT Srila Prabhupada says:


“A bona fide spiritual master is in the disciplic succession from time eternal and he does not deviate at all from the instructions of the Supreme Lord.”
(Bhagavad-gita As It Is, 4.42, purport)

“There is no possibility that a first class devotee will fall down.”
(C.c. Madhya lila, 22.71)

Course notes say: “Many disciples do not follow their former guru’s erroneous path however”

BUT Srila Prabhupada says a bona fide Guru can never follow an erroneous path to begin with, for he is a completely liberated soul:

“In calculating where to find salvation we have to follow the liberated souls. The difference between the conditioned soul and liberated soul is that a conditioned soul is imperfect in four ways: A conditioned soul is sure to commit mistakes, is in illusion, has the tendency to cheat others, and has imperfect senses.”
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, March 7th, 1966)

Thus in each case, we can see that the guidance on initiation given by the senior management at Bhaktivedanta Manor is contradicted either by the GBC, or by the Guru of two of the course leaders, or by a fellow Guru of this Guru, or by Srila Prabhupada, the Guru of the third course leader and the real Guru of ISKCON.
As a final point illustrating the confused thinking caused by promoting the false ISKCON Guru system, the course notes state:

“Prior to initiation, it is advised that you regard Srila Prabhupada as your guru”.

Most people who come into contact with ISKCON for the first time will have done so after reading one of Srila Prabhupada’s books. It will be Srila Prabhupada who inspires them to renounce sinful activity and to seriously take up spiritual life, particularly the regular chanting of Hare Krishna.
In this way, they will automatically become initiated by Srila Prabhupada, as Srila Prabhupada himself makes clear:

“The chanting of Hare Krsna is our main business, that is real initiation. And as you are all following my instruction, in that matter, the initiator is already there.”
(Srila Prabhupada Letter to Tamal Krsna, 19/8/68)

Yet the course then goes on to advise that Srila Prabhupada is no longer the initiator and that one of ISKCON’s 80 voted-in substitutes should be accepted as a replacement initiating Guru, despite the fact that previous substitutes have, according to the course notes, fallen down “several times in ISKCON’s short history since 1977”.

This, of course, makes no sense. Since Srila Prabhupada has said that his position as the initiator has already been established (“the initiator is already there”), why would anyone want to accept an artificial replacement Guru manufactured from a system that has been admitted to have created so many casualties?! Ironically, course leader Kripamoya Das has privately acknowledged that the IRM position on this issue – that Kripamoya’s own Guru Srila Prabhupada is the real initiating spiritual master – is “justified”.

“They can find sufficient quotes to justify their position, and of course so can we. What to do? Ultimately it comes down to your choice.”
(Letter from Kripamoya Das, 23/6/2005, Head of Congregational Preaching, ISKCON UK)

But you won’t find the IRM allowed to “justify” Kripamoya’s Guru on the property of Bhaktivedanta Manor, from which they have been banned by the management from entering.