As Srila Prabhupada Said: 'Physician Heal Thyself.'
Posted June 6, 2006
The BBT editors changed their minds on an editing choice; will Dhira Govinda also change his mind on his policy of omission?
I read with great interest “The Weightiest Argument” by my friend Dhira Govinda Dasa, on the dynamics and implications of accepting and rejecting Srila Prabhupada’s words due to psychological processes. I agree on various points of principle he makes, such as the importance of carefully removing knowledge filters when we approach Srila Prabhupada’s words. And here the expression “physician heal thyself” becomes pertinent: my observation is that Dhira Govinda’s dissertations on guru-tattva also suffer of the same malady he diagnoses for others, that is (I am using his words) embracing “*a priori* assumptions regarding which roads may be traversed. Rather than impartially presenting Srila Prabhupada's words with an eagerness to discover which roads open, there seems to be an attitude, albeit subconscious, of pre-determining which paths are permissible for visitation, and accordingly adjusting Srila Prabhupada's writings.”
The blatant omissions I am referring to concern direct, explicit statements by Srila Prabhupada himself on the specifics of disciplic succession in ISKCON, which Dhira Govinda appears to purposefully and consistently avoid or even discredit. When asked by an official delegation of GBCs, on 28th May 1977, about “Initiations in the future, particularly at that time when you're no longer with us,” Srila Prabhupada replied using expressions such as “regular gurus” (to indicate the future initiating spiritual masters), as well as “granddisciple” and “disciple of my disciple” (indicating those who will take initiation from the future gurus).
These instructions by Srila Prabhupada are highly disagreeable with the views Dhira Govinda expounds in his Prominent Link, and in fact he carefully avoids any mention of them. As a result (I am quoting from his article again) “Srila Prabhupada's clear intentions are obscured for the reader due to a filter composed of presuppositions.”
Dhira Govinda’s fragile pretext for not including such weighty, conclusive documentation in his Prominent Link theory is that different people have expressed different opinions of the 28 May dialogue and therefore he didn’t want to touch it (I am paraphrasing). I find this line of reason lacking substance and legitimacy. It would be like offering the absurd argument that “the Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad-Bhagavatam have been commented by authors of different schools—including mayavadis—and therefore we will no longer consider them as authoritative references.”
Dhira Govinda knows very well (and he teaches it in his courses) that when we talk about others we often project what is inside us (the “atmavan manyate jagat” principle). A frequent assistant of Dhira Govinda in his courses once shared an observation about him (on a different subject, but applicable here) by quoting a French saying: “the shoemaker goes around with broken shoes.” I find this proverb pertinent to the issue at hand. In the spirit of “honest feedback” (which Dhira Govinda also teaches in his courses), I am proposing a sober enquiry: aren’t the tendencies for filtering knowledge that Dhira Govinda rightly decries also present in his theories?
Yes, I agree with Dhira Govinda that revising Srila Prabhupada's works *might* cause untold damage, but to idiosyncratically disregard and discard those instructions by Srila Prabhupada on guru-tattva that don’t tally with our pet ideas will similarly create a situation in which fantasy is substituted for reality. Not a healthy recipe for the future.
The Prominent Link, while offering valuable food for thought and potentially stimulating discussion on important themes, also expresses ideas which might *appear* to stand on their own internal logic only if we brazenly conceal other fundamental Srila Prabhupada’s statements.
Yes, I agree with Dhira Govinda: we should certainly “launch torpedoes at embedded institutional structures” when they are not in line with the wishes of ISKCON’s Founder-acarya, because they will eventually reveal themselves as dysfunctional and retrograde. But I would also like to see Dhira Govinda spearheading the way by letting Srila Prabhupada’s direct words torpedo his own flimsily constructed Prominent Link structure. Dhira Govinda has the intellectual capabilities and credentials for doing it himself. Will he show that he also has the ethics?