The following is a response to the above Podcast from His Holiness Sivarama Maharaja (SRS), and as usual statements from SRS shall be enclosed in speech marks “ “ thus, with our comments following underneath:

“Technically speaking, in the very strictest sense of the word, Spiritual Masters, or devotees are only supposed to be Spiritual Masters if they're eternally liberated souls from the spiritual world. However, uh, that's in uh, in a context where you're living in good times when there are many eternally liberated souls coming down from the spiritual world for that purpose and where uh, where you can say that the, the process is more accessible where people are interested in gurus and there are um, are uh, gurus also spread all over the world and people live a very dharmic life in which even if they're not immediately having connection with a liberated soul but the social structure is such that it's bringing them to the position of associating with a guru or a Maha-Bhagavata. Kali-yuga this equation is different. […]Krishna's not willing to compromise. He's willing to make the compromise that less than Maha-Bhagavatas can become gurus but he's not willing to compromise the principle that you have to have a guru.”

Sivarama Maharaja is correct that the spiritual master is supposed to be a Maha-Bhagavata. But he has invented his own “kali-yuga compromise”, that in Kali-yuga Krishna has compromised and allowed less than Maha-Bhagavatas to become Gurus. Neither Krishna nor Srila Prabhupada has stated such a ‘Kali-yuga’ exemption clause. On the contrary, Srila Prabhupada’s books which are meant for the people of Kali-Yuga, specifically state that only the topmost devotee, Maha-bhagavata, can become a spiritual master:

"When one has attained the topmost position of mahabhagavata, he is to be accepted as a guru and worshipped exactly like Hari, the Personality of Godhead. Only such a person is eligible to occupy the post of a guru."
(C.C. Madhya, 24.330, purport, emphasis added)

And to make it even clearer, Srila Prabhupada states:

sp "One should not become a spiritual master unless he has attained the platform of uttama-adhikari. A neophyte Vaisnava or a Vaisnava situated on the intermediate platform can also accept disciples, but such disciples must be on the same platform, and it should be understood that they cannot advance very well toward the ultimate goal of life under his insufficient guidance. Therefore a disciple should be careful to accept an uttama-adhikari as a spiritual master."
(Nectar of Instruction, Text 5, Purport)

Srila Prabhupada here specifically addresses the issue of a non-liberated spiritual master, and states they should be avoided because one cannot advance towards the goal under their insufficient guidance, and an Uttama Adhikari accepted instead.

So in conclusion, not only does Srila Prabhupada not give such a special “Kali-yuga compromise”, he actually rejects it, and tells us to ONLY accept a topmost Maha-Bhagavata devotee as a spiritual master.

“So when people are going to hell therefore Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has really given us a general instruction amara ajnaya guru hana tara ei desa. Your desa, where are you . Wherever you are, whether you happen to be in Lesmahagow or in Scotland or the UK or you're in Europe or South Africa, whoever you come in contact with yare dekha tare kaha you tell them about Krishna. You be their guru. And therefore in that way those who are not liberated souls but even conditioned souls can take the position of guru. But then obviously there's risks that come along with that. One is, is that their instruction is limited in one way or another and then they themselves are also at odds with the material energy. They're not above contact with the material energy so they can also fall victim and uh, that, that brings about the complications of which we don't need to talk about because everyone has experience with... Still, that principle is an inviolable principle. You can't compromise it. Krishna's not willing to compromise. He's willing to make the compromise that less than Maha-Bhagavatas can become gurus but he's not willing to compromise the principle that you have to have a guru.”

SRS reveals here what he thinks is the source of his Kali-yuga compromise – the instruction from Lord Caitanya to the Brahamana Kurma, “amara ajnaya guru hana tara ei desa” (C.C., Madhya Lila, 7:128), to become a guru. Yet the purports to this instruction make it very clear that Srila Prabhupada here is only speaking about Siksa or instructing gurus, which anyone, even a child can become, and not Diksa gurus. In the purports explaining this instruction, Srila Prabhupada states how one should become the guru that Lord Caitanya is speaking of:

  1. It is not advisable in this Age of Kali to leave one's family suddenly, for people are not trained as proper brahmacaris and grhasthas.

  2. It would be better to remain with his family and try to become purified by chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra regularly under the direction of a spiritual master.

  3. If this principle is followed by everyone, there is no need to accept

  4. One can remain comfortably in his residence.

  5. That is, one should stay at home, chant the Hare Krishna mantra and preach the instructions of Krishna as they are given in the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad-Bhagavatam.

  6. One who surrenders to Him and is ready to follow Him with heart and soul does not need to change his location. Nor is it necessary for one to change status. One may remain a householder, a medical practitioner, an engineer or whatever. It doesn't matter.

  7. One only has to follow the instruction of Shri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra and instruct relatives and friends in the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad-Bhagavatam.

  8. It is best not to accept any disciples.

  9. One has to become purified at home by chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra and preaching the principles enunciated by Shri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

  10. To protect His preachers, Shri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has given much clear advice in these verses of Shri Caitanya-Caritamrita.”

(Purports Madhya, 7:127-130, quoted verbatim)

Srila Prabhupada makes it abundantly clear here that he is not speaking of Diksa gurus but siksa gurus, by stating that “it is best not to accept any disciples”. Rather he is speaking about people who should stay at home, and who will just preach to their relatives and friends. So staying in one’s material job like an engineer, staying at home, not accepting sannyasa, and not accepting any disciples – this is at best a direction for one to become an instructing or siksa guru, but it can never be an instruction to become a diksa guru.

It is ironic that SRS also states that when one becomes a guru who is not liberated, then one can fall down. Because if he had read Srila Prabhupada’s purports to the verse he is speaking about, he will see that Srila Prabhupada states that to “protect his preachers”, Lord Caitanya “has given much clear advice”. And part of that advice according to Srila Prabhupada would mean to “stay at home”, “no need to accept sannyasa”, and “best not to accept any disciples”. So clearly if we follow Lord Caitanya’s order to be guru as HE has advised us then there is no question of falling down. This danger only occurs when we follow SRS’s advice to mis-interpret Lord Caitanya’s order to become guru to apply to becoming Diksa guru, when it was only meant to apply to becoming siksa guru.

“That's the chain of disciplic succession which not only does, protects the teachings that uh, uh, the explanation of Vedic literature is the balance that we always say sadhu sastra guru. But it maintains the integrity of this line of servants. That you know that your guru has a servant connection with his guru. In other words it's coming down when nowhere was anywhere the line, line of gurus the servants was broken because if you break that uh, line of servants then what do you have when somewhere down the road someone thought that he was a master. So unbroken chain of disciplic succession is an unbroken chain of servants , and that unbroken chain of servants means that aside from getting all the details of Bhagavad-gita and Srimad Bhagavatam and Vedic literature and Upanisads, you're getting the essence of that is that everyone that you've been in touch with has practiced this principal of being a servant.”

But the chain promoted by SRS is not unbroken. As he himself admits it gets broken many times by ISKCON gurus who fall and leave, such as Balabadra das/Bhakti Bhallaba Puri Swami (BD), and therefore they can not be representing an unbroken chain, especially since SRS then has to “fix” the chain again by re-initiating those whose guru has broken the chain by leaving. Clearly if they were part of an unbroken chain they wouldn’t need to go and get initiated again by SRS to re-connect them once again to the chain. So gurus such as BD are therefore are not bona fide since they do not represent this unbroken chain. Srila Prabhupada states about such gurus who leave the disciplic succession:

“But sometimes, if a spiritual master is not properly authorized and only on his own initiative becomes a spiritual master, he may be carried away by an accumulation of wealth and large numbers of disciples.”
(Nectar of Devotion, chapter 14)

This states that some spiritual masters who are not authorized will get carried away due to not being properly authorized, as in the case of BD. This would mean that any spiritual master who was authorized in exactly the same way as BD, would also be guilty of being unauthorized, even though they may not all get carried away like he did. But SRS and every other ISKCON guru was authorized in exactly the same away as BD - by getting the necessary number of GBC votes to become gurus. Hence if one guru is shown to be unauthorized by being carried away, it means all of the gurus authorized in the same way are unauthorised, even though they may not all get carried away like him. Which in this case means SRS and all other ISKCON gurus.