Chakra Discussions

On Sufficient Guidance

by Ananda das

Posted July 25, 2006

"On sufficient guidance" is a lengthy, well-argued treatise by Kailasa Chandra das that covers a range of topics of great interest to devotees. Kailasa Chandra prabhu, a pioneer debunker of both the now-repudiated "Zonal Acharya" concoction of 1978 and the discredited so-called rittvik movement of the mid-1980s, has written a thoroughgoing essay in which he promises to detail "the qualifications of the bona fide madhyama devotee, the rittvik concoction, and a discussion of the causes underlying the acceptance of an unqualified 'spiritual master'." His magnum opus largely succeeds.

The essay aims to establish a philosophical foundation for guru-tattva grounded in shastra, and explains the concept of acharya in the physical absence of the founder-acharya of ISKCON, along with a discussion of devotee-Bhagavata and book-Bhagavata, and how they are understood by neophytes and sadhus. This is followed by a discussion of faith and fixedness, and the nature of guru and initiation, along with the qualifications for guru nicely given by Srila Rupa Goswami, Srila Visvanatha Chakravarti Thakur and others.

While a prospective disciple is encouraged to seek initiation only from an mahabhagavat devotee, devotees are warned that the licence for initiation from a madhyama-adhikari may be abused by neophyte and sahajiya pretenders to madhyama status. Unfortunately, while some devotees who have served as gurus have been creditable, there have also been some cheating pretenders since the disappearance of Srila Prabhupada. Kailasa Chandra prabhu suggests that the true successor to Srila Prabhupada, the person-Bhagavata, is to be found in the volumes of books Prabhupada wrote and commented upon (the book-Bhagavata).

The essay author gives short shrift to the post-samadhi rittvik movement, which grew out organically as a reaction to the abuses of the "Zonal Acharyas." He correctly labels it as a form of imitation pseudo-Christianity grafted onto a poor understanding of Krsna consciousness, and Kailasa Chandra gives specific evidence of 16 reasons that the poisonous rittvik soup is utterly rejected by Srila Prabhupada himself, including this gem, for example: "For one year the shishya (disciple) and the guru should meet together . . . The aspirant shishya will hear and study to see if [the guru] is actually fit for becoming guru. Similarly, the guru will also study whether [the disciple] is fit..." The author drily points out that no facility for such mutual observation and study can exist among those who falsely pretend to have been initiated by historical personalities..

Kailasa Chandra prabhu carefully directs us to have no truck either with so-called "institutional gurus" -- those sanctified by the majority vote of a society's managing directors -- or with "wild-card gurus" -- those with charisma and power who establish what amounts to a personality cult. While most devotees of today would hurriedly flee unholy personality-cultists and their monstrous obsessions, most would probably accept as genuine many of the "institutional gurus." The author, however, is uncompromising, believing as he does that (like a bad apple) one corrupt or unqualified institutional guru will spoil the others, no matter how honest and qualified.

The author's practical recommendations are largely self-evident, but important: Chant the maha-mantra, maintain a vegetarian diet, renounce intoxication, avoid those who may distort Vaishnava philosophy, cultivate a service attitude, associate with genuine devotees, confirm inner realizations with Vaishnava dharma, and seriously study shastra, the book-Bhagavata.

The article, with its strong attacks on the twin heresies of Zonal Acharyadom and "Rittvik" initiation-by-imagination, appears slightly dated. However, the logical arguments are stark and the presentation is unfailingly interesting and well-written; I highly recommend it.