Summer 2005

1) MYTH:

"Srila Prabhupada stated that it was a 'law of disciplic succession' that after the Guru physically departs, his disciples automatically become successor Gurus."


a) Srila Prabhupada used this phrase, "law of disciplic succession", once in a private letter in 1975 to a deviant disciple, Tusta Krishna Das, who just two years earlier had left ISKCON to form his own faction with Siddhaswarupa (see Srila Prabhupada's letter to Madhudvisa Swami, 15/12/73).

In this letter to Tusta Krishna, Srila Prabhupada states:

"But as a matter of etiquette it is the custom that during the lifetime of your spiritual master you bring the prospective disciples to him, and in his absence or disappearance you can accept disciples without any limitation. This is the law of disciplic succession."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter to Tusta Krsna, 2/12/75)

However, the GBC themselves no longer accept this "law", even though they used it for many years as their main piece of evidence for justifying their Guru system, having recently changed their own laws to break this "law", and allow disciples of Gurus to initiate in their own spiritual master's presence. Three "grand-disciples" who have thus far been authorized by the GBC to initiate disciples in the presence of their Gurus are:

And this number will continue to increase, as ambitious disciples are 'bribed' with Guruship to stay in ISKCON and not form their own societies. Indeed the GBC were forced to take the ground-breaking step of breaking their own "law", as detailed in the 2001 GBC resolution below, to deal with rumours that Mahavisnu Goswami had apparently already been secretly initiating disciples in violation of ISKCON's 'law' at that time:

That an EXCEPTION has been made in the case of H.H. Maha Visnu Goswami (pictured right) in regards to the present ISKCON LAW 6.3.2 (which reads as)
"No devotee shall give initiation as long as his own spiritual master is present on the planet. A devotee whose spiritual master is present must take all who approach him for initiation to his own spiritual master (or other approved initiating guru)."

Whereas HH Maha Visnu Goswami is doing dynamic preaching--attracting many to ISKCON and keeping others in ISKCON;

Whereas there are several unique features to the history of H.H. Maha Visnu Goswami that should be considered;

Whereas H.H. Maha Visnu Goswami is often asked for initiation by new devotees;

Whereas H.H. Maha Visnu Goswami is very elderly;

Whereas H.H. Maha Visnu Goswami has displayed allegiance to Srila Prabhupada's teachings;

Whereas the subject of disciple's initiating in the presence of their Guru is an ongoing discussion amongst ISKCON's leaders;

"It is hereby resolved that an exception to the present ISKCON law regarding disciples initiating in the presence of their guru has been made in the case of H. H. Maha Visnu Goswami. That H. H. Maha Visnu Goswami is hereby granted a "no objection" to give initiation to prospective disciples. That all such initiations should follow the standards set by ISKCON law".

We see, however, that this so-called "exception" to the "law" has now become a general principle - i.e. the "law" has been broken for good - with at least 3 "grand-disciple" Gurus, and more waiting in line.

b) In the letter to Tusta Krishna, Srila Prabhupada simply states that after his disappearance, it is possible for a disciple to be a diksa (initiating) Guru himself. This is merely stating the obvious. If such a possibility did not exist, then a diksa Guru could never be succeeded, and there would only ever be one diksa Guru eternally. Only if such a possibility of disciples being Gurus existed, could we even have a discussion regarding whether or not Srila Prabhupada actually authorised his disciples to succeed him as diksa Gurus for the lifetime of ISKCON. The above quote does not say that all his disciples automatically succeed him or that they are all now being ordered to become diksa Gurus as soon as Srila Prabhupada departs. Such an order to the ISKCON society from Srila Prabhupada does not exist. But just before his departure, Srila Prabhupada did order ISKCON to set up ritviks only, as per the July 9th directive.