The Tragic Case of  Bhakta v. Guru

by the IRM

A response to Yaduvendu Das

The following is a response to an article entitled “The tragic case of Bhakta v Bhakta” by Yaduvendu Das, in which he attacks the IRM for promoting the fact that Srila Prabhupada is the diksa Guru for ISKCON. Statements from Yaduvendu’s article shall be enclosed in brackets thus [ ], with Yaduvendu referred to as the ‘author’.

Yaduvendu concludes his article by saying he finds the position of the IRM:

[naïve, distasteful, low-minded and fanatical.]

The reason for his ire is made very clear right at the outset of his article wherein he states:

[We presently have many devotees who’ve been practising Krishna Consciousness seriously for thirty to forty years. Now in their 50’s and 60’s and having gone through all that life can throw at them, many senior devotees are actually qualified to train newcomers in the art of devotional service. They have matured, suffered defeats and become introspective, some have died and the rest of us are experiencing the fleeting nature of life. We know we have nothing to gain here and must become serious.]

and later on he adds

[Similarly, his senior disciples should take responsibility for initiating newcomers.]

The author Yaduvendu Das, is of course here referring to himself, since he has been a devotee for over 30 years, is in his 50’s, and is presently experiencing the fleeting nature of life as a ‘senior’ devotee.

He then goes onto argue that Srila Prabhupada cannot remain as the diksa Guru for ISKCON and others must be allowed to take his place. In particular, to ensure that even devotees such as himself, who maybe full of faults, can still be allowed to become diksa Gurus, he even states that Srila Prabhupada himself may have faults:

[There is no such thing as a person without faults and if the qualification for training the next generation in Krishna Consciousness is that we must first be free of all faults we are setting an impossible condition that even Srila Prabhupada may not quite live up to.]

However Srila Prabhupada states that a pure devotee is faultless:

“This ecstasy is possible for a devotee who is fully absorbed in incessant thoughts of Krsna. Such a pure devotee of the Lord is naturally *faultless* because he is always associated with the supremely pure Personality of Godhead.”
(S:B, 3.1.32)

Consequently in his desire to open up Guru-ship to anyone such as himself who is in his ‘50’s and 60s’, and who has been a devotee for ‘thirty to forty years’, the author has resorted to implying that Srila Prabhupada may not have been faultless – i.e. not a pure devotee, and therefore a conditioned soul subject to the 4 defects. As well as this insinuation of the author being highly offensive to Srila Prabhupada, motivated as it is by a desire to become Guru, the idea that one can become a Guru simply due to longevity in the movement is of course proven incorrect by the facts. The *oldest* devotee in the movement, Satsvarupa Das, was has been practising for almost 40 years, and is 66, was only recently exposed as having an illicit affair and had to step down from being Guru. Similarly many other recent casualties such as Prithu Das, Vipramukhya Das and Suhotra Das, were all in their 50s and 60s, having been devotees for ‘thirty to forty years’, and all had to step down from the position of Guru relatively recently.

So immediately the main thrust of Yaduvendu’s thesis, viz. that the IRM’s stance is wrong because as long as someone has been a devotee for more than thirty years, they can be Guru, because Srila Prabhupada himself may not have been free from fault – is proven incorrect, and his thesis stands defeated.

However for completeness we will also rebut some of his other points.

[What a shame that devotees – who were once friends, should clash over something as insignificant as a letter written nearly thirty years ago.]

Yaduvendu here refers to Srila Prabhupada’s final directive on initiation issued to the whole movement on July 9th, 1977, in which he sets out how he will remain the diksa Guru for ISKCON via the use of ceremonial priests (ritviks), who would accept disciples on his behalf. His assertion that as this was a letter written nearly 30 years ago it is ‘insignificant’, is absurd for the simple reason that EVERYTHING Srila Prabhupada wrote would have been written ‘nearly 30 years ago’ or more. So either everything Srila Prabhupada wrote is insignificant, or only directives to the whole movement are insignificant. Either way, again the author reveals his contempt for Srila Prabhupada. How can we sing every morning in Guru Puja to Srila Prabhupada that:

“My only wish is to have my consciousness purified by the words emanating from his lotus mouth”

if we simultaneously think that the orders of the spiritual master are insignificant?

And such a faithless disciple, who thinks Srila Prabhupada may have been a conditioned soul, has the audacity to stake his claim on behalf of all the ‘senior devotees’ to become Srila Prabhupada’s successor.

[Okay, I happen to think that the IRM have a basic point and that Srila Prabhupada did not appoint successors in 1977.]

It is acknowledged by all that Srila Prabhupada DID appoint ritviks in the July 9th directive. If Yaduvendu is also acknowledging that these ritviks were NOT also appointed as diksa Gurus, then obviously they can only have remained as ritviks. In which case WHERE is the authority for these ritviks, or anyone else for that matter, to suddenly become diksa Gurus? Yaduvendu here unwittingly supports the IRM’s basic point – that only ritviks were ever authorised by Srila Prabhupada.

[In fact, the disciplic succession has not only been the basis of Vaishnava tradition since time immemorial, but our parampara represents the very authority of the system in that it has been handed down century after century with minimal change. Take that element away and we are left with nothing more than a narrow, sectarian cult.]

Of course no one, except perhaps the author, is proposing that we take away the element of the parampara. The parampara CONTINUES with Srila Prabhupada, just as it continued with Srila Prabhupada in 1966. The author presents no basis for his implied assertion that the parampara would stop if Srila Prabhupada continued to represent it.

[*How many times have we heard that the spiritual master speaks according to time and place?

* How then do you turn an instruction, three decades ago, into an iron rule for all time?]

Well a simple examination of the July 9th directive would reveal the following:

Time: ISKCON’s duration (as issued for application on a permanent basis, since no limited time-frame is given)

Place: ISKCON (as issued for application in ISKCON)

Circumstance: “For the purpose of performing initiations, both first initiation and second initiation” (as stated in the opening of the July 9th directive)

So as long as ISKCON exists, and there is a need for initiation, the directive IS being applied according to time, place and circumstance.

[If Srila Prabhupada wanted to be the only guru for all time and wanted no continuation of the disciplic succession after his departure he could have made his wishes crystal clear, drumming it into us on a daily basis, in his letters, classes and conversations. He didn’t do that and the little he said about it shows how important it was to him.]

It is accepted that Srila Prabhupada established himself as the diksa Guru for ISKCON. Unless this is accepted, the issue of Srila Prabhupada even being replaced as the diksa Guru for ISKCON does not even arise. Hence that fact that Srila Prabhupada is the diksa Guru of ISKCON does not require proving. What does require proving is that Srila Prabhupada should be REMOVED as the diksa Guru for ISKCON. If Srila Prabhupada had wanted this, then he could have made his wishes crystal clear, drumming it into us on a daily basis, in his letters, classes and conversations. He didn’t do that.

And we have already seen that the disciplic succession CONTINUES with Srila Prabhupada, so the idea that Srila Prabhupada acting as the diksa Guru for ISKCON would STOP the disciplic succession has no basis. What the author is actually trying to say, quite bizarrely, is that the lack of a MATERIAL body of a SPIRITUAL master prevents him from acting as a diksa Guru. However the author offers absolutely no proof for such a fanciful suggestion.

[It is simply not appropriate, reasonable or logical for situations change from minute to minute in the material world. So for IRM representatives to say that Iskcon is no longer Prabhupada’s movement and to disturb people’s minds with inflammatory, anti-devotional literature, as they were doing at London’s Ratha Yatra festival is not only objectionable (Hare Krishna’s publicly criticising Hare Krishna’s), but is a crime against Prabhupada, who always sought to present Krishna Consciousness nicely.]

The author again puts forward a contemptible assertion that to unauthorisedly throw Srila Prabhupada out of his own movement and declare he is dead and unavailable as the Guru, (as has been done by the current ISKCON regime which BTP is exposing) is NOT a crime against Srila Prabhupada; but to simply state the truth about Srila Prabhupada is!

[Guru abuse is destructive because it causes devotees to lose faith in the process. But the IRM solution of broadcasting devotee’s faults in an aggressive and negative way is equally detrimental, as it has the same result.]

We are not broadcasting a devotee’s faults. We are simple repeating the information broadcast by the GBC regarding their unauthorised Gurus. Thus the author needs to take up his complaint with the GBC, who are the source of virtually all our information.

Also it is important that devotee’s DO lose faith in the unauthorised Guru’s and instead develop faith in Srila Prabhupada.

[Truth is likewise to be found in no extreme and Vishnu’s place as the central deity of the tri-murti indicates that the path of bhakti is one of moderation and balance – a middle path between all extremes.]

To say that truth can never be found in an extreme is itself an extreme truth, and therefore the author has contradicted himself. Further the author offers absolutely no evidence for his speculation that truth can only be in the ‘middle’. Truth is to be found in the orders of Srila Prabhupada. We strongly suggest the author consults them, for he has not quoted any such orders even ONCE in his lengthy diatribe against Srila Prabhupada.

[If we therefore apply balanced reasoning we will conclude that Prabhupada should not be the only guru in ISKCON.]

If we therefore apply the instructions of Srila Prabhupada, we would conclude that Srila Prabhupada established himself as the diksa Guru for ISKCON in 1966, sent out a directive that he would continue as such, and never stated anything to the contrary. The only thing the author has applied thus far is a whole string of false and speculative statements, tied together by attacks on Srila Prabhupada for maybe having faults, and on his orders for being insignificant.

So in conclusion, though the author had titled his attack on Srila Prabhupada as being the ‘tragic case of Bhakta v Bhakta’, in reality it should be titled the ‘tragic case of ‘Bhakta v. Guru’, since he who is supposed to be a Bhakta has gone AGAINST his Guru, because he wishes to be Guru himself.