P.O. Box 1694
Included herein, before the prologue, is another section from the second printing, entitled "Why A Second Printing?"
Why A Second Printing?
This second printing of Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link (PL) includes contributions from several Vaisnavas, from diverse sectors of Srila Prabhupada's movement. These pieces represent the widespread support for the ideas in PL, or at least support for open, straightforward discussion of the issues raised by PL, that is felt throughout the Hare Kåsna movement. This second printing provides a forum for presentation of perspectives on those issues. I believe that this forum is a viable means to contribute to a productive and sober conversation on this vital topic. The author of PL has written the Prologue to this second edition, and he stands behind and welcomes comments on PL and the Prologue. Contributions from others are presented in the mood of a journal that provides opportunity for expression of views. The convictions and opinions of those contributions are not necessarily fully shared by the author of PL, though he does encourage their expression.
Issuances from the GBC body may have created some confusion regarding the actual content of PL, and in the matter of assurances by the author concerning future printings. As described in the Prologue, in March 2002, the author agreed not to reprint PL for four months, if the GBC agreed to issue a letter with a particular tone and content, in response to PL. Instead the GBC wrote A Preliminary Statement from ISKCON's Governing Body Commission, the tenor of which is substantially different from the proposed letter. Thus, even if the GBC had issued the proposed letter, the agreement from the author not to print would extend only through July 2002. The GBC didn't issue such a letter, and thus no such agreement was ever in effect for any time period.
As described in the Prologue and other contributions, the GBC's Preliminary Statement tends to misrepresent or distort the ideas in PL. Therefore, this second printing is presented in the hope of clarifying and reinforcing the messages of PL. Establishing the primacy of Srila Prabhupada's position in the lives of all members of his movement is essential, and I believe that the concepts in PL provide sound principles for this endeavor.
For the past three months the author has been discussing points related to the guru issue in ISKCON with the GBC's Sastric Advisory Committee (SAC). These discussions have been helpful and edifying, and I welcome their continuation. I regard these discussions as complementary to the presentations in this second printing, and it is my hope that such colloquiums amongst learned and sincere devotees on key issues will continue in amiable conjunction with each other. Hare Kåsna.
A servant of the servant of the Vaisnavas,
Dhira Govinda dasa
Written on October 14, 2002
Prologue to the Second Printing of Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link
". . . There was one doubt that was plaguing me . . .I had always been taught when I was first joining that the parampara is like a link, a chain. If you don't have the perfect link, if you are not initiated- You really cannot go back to Godhead . . . I presented this question to Prabhupada. I followed Srila Prabhupada from Rüpa Gosvami's Samadhi back into the courtyard, and just before Srila Prabhupada took the steps, in the courtyard, I said 'We are distributing so many books but if people who read them aren't initiated then they can't go back to Godhead.' And Prabhupada turned and looked at me right in the eyes and he said 'Just by reading my books they are initiated'" (From Memories of Srila Prabhupada Tape #31, Vaikunöhanatha dasa Prabhu speaking about Srila Prabhupada in Våndavana in 1972).
Let us celebrate the fact that Srila Prabhupada can and is giving initiation in the essential sense of the term. We'd like this reality to be proclaimed and publicized throughout Srila Prabhupada's movement.
Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link emphasizes the essential component of initiation and the parampara, which is transmission of transcendental knowledge. With this focus, described in The Prominent Link (PL) with relation to Srila Prabhupada's description of his own initiation from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Maharaja, Srila Prabhupada's usage of the term "initiation" on the first page of Sri Caitanya-caritamåta, and many other references from Sastra and Srila Prabhupada's writings and statements, it is clear that Srila Prabhupada is capable of giving initiation in the fundamental sense and is doing so. This is very wonderful and should in no way be minimized or concealed from anyone who contacts Srila Prabhupada's movement.
Serving the Vaisnavas
Concerning the relationship between the initiate and the Vaisnava conducting the initiation ceremony, PL states: "As we practically experience in Srila Prabhupada's movement, there is an expansive range of healthy, spiritually productive relationships between the devotee who performs the initiation ceremony and the initiate. The PL framework supports a wide latitude of relationships, the litmus test being whether the relationship assists the initiate to strengthen his direct link with Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada, not the devotee who conducted the initiation ceremony, should be the center of the relationship. While not minimizing the importance of the relationship between the devotee who conducts the initiation ceremony and the initiate, this paper does not primarily address that topic. The Prominent Link concentrates on Srila Prabhupada's position and role in his movement, and most importantly, Srila Prabhupada's direct and personal relationship with all members of his movement."
Throughout PL there are many references to the importance of service and teacher-student relationships between Srila Prabhupada's followers. The principles of serving, honoring, and glorifying Vaisnavas are presented about twenty times in PL. Still, some readers perceived that this point was not sufficiently emphasized in the essay, or even that the PL model is opposed to these principles. Herein we reiterate the essentiality for devotees in Srila Prabhupada's movement to submissively and cooperatively serve other devotees, and to learn from and take shelter in senior and advanced devotees. These principles are completely consistent with accepting Srila Prabhupada as the prominent link to the disciplic succession.
It is natural that Vaisnavas who are inspired by a potent devotee may form a sort of family with that devotee as the leader. PL supports such spiritual families, as sub-families within Srila Prabhupada's family of followers, although participation in such a sub-family is not required for constructive involvement in Srila Prabhupada's mission and personal progress in Kåsna consciousness. Sometimes the leader of a sub-family will be the devotee who performed the initiation ceremony for the family members. In some instances it will be someone else. In some cases a devotee will find strong inspiration, throughout his lifetime, from the Vaisnava who performed his initiation ceremony, and sometimes the strongest inspiration might come from a different Vaisnava, at least for some periods of the initiate's life. From the PL perspective, all of these scenarios are fine, provided they enhance the devotee's relationship with Srila Prabhupada and encourage the devotee's progress in bhakti-yoga.
As described in PL and above, there is a broad continuum of helpful relationships between the Vaisnava who performed the initiation ceremony and the initiate. The topic of the nature of this relationship is not the focus of PL. It is an important topic, and we encourage devotees to expound on it, as well as on other relevant issues, some of which are mentioned in the Summary and Conclusion section of PL.
The gist of PL is Srila Prabhupada's personal relationship with all members of his movement. We believe this issue to be primary and fundamental, and thus it is our point of concentration. Without properly understanding Srila Prabhupada's role and relationship, it will be difficult if not impossible to grasp the role and relationship of others.
Integration and Accommodation of Diverse Views and Experiences
PL describes an experience that many members of Srila Prabhupada's movement are having. This experience is supported by Sastra, philosophy and precedent. In describing this experience as well as its supporting evidence, we feel secure. Thus it is with full confidence that we beseech the leaders of Srila Prabhupada's movement to honor and accept the PL model, and the PL experience, as valid and legitimate within Srila Prabhupada's movement. Please make a place in ISKCON for this understanding.
We are almost equally confident that the PL model should be embraced as the preferred model for Srila Prabhupada 's movement. However, there are many sincere devotees who are apparently not experiencing reality as described in PL, and who are doing well in their spiritual lives and making valuable contributions to Srila Prabhupada 's mission. We believe that their position would be more secure if they came to the PL realization. But we may rightly be accused of presumptuousness in this belief, and thus we are open to the possibility that their experience is as valid and healthy as if they were consistent with the PL model. Therefore, in PL the PL model is presented, theoretically, as the preferred model, while acknowledging that we need to be open to the potential for other understandings being equally legitimate.
The tangible issue at present is that the PL model is not even officially tolerated or accepted by managerial entities within ISKCON. Despite the widespread, albeit unspoken support for the ideas in Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link, such ideas are rejected and banned in the ISKCON organization. This is unfortunate. Whether or not the PL model is adopted as the dominant paradigm, we urge that it must at least be respected and allowed.
Support for PL and Apprehension to Express It
Typical comments that I've received, at places like ISKCON leadership meetings and Sunday Feast programs, from devotees serving in all capacities within Srila Prabhupada's movement, including top-level leaders in ISKCON, include statements, delivered in hushed tones, such as "I really liked your paper, The Prominent Link. You wrote just what I've been thinking for many years." Concurring with the statements of Ambarisa Prabhu and Balavanta Prabhu in the Foreword and Preface, many Vaisnavas emphasize the straightforward common sense of the concepts in PL. These concepts include realization of Srila Prabhupada as the prime transcendental initiator, and the practical efficiency for spreading the movement of the practice of all members of the movement accepting Srila Prabhupada as the object of worship as the prominent and direct link to the parampara. Many devotees have expressed disappointment and sadness that these principles have been neglected and overlooked by the leadership of ISKCON.
Tones tend to be hushed in such conversations due to an apprehension that expression of such views is discouraged in the organization, and that such expressions would incur the disfavor of members and leaders of the institution. There is a perceived culture of fear and repression in the ISKCON organization, masked by a pretense of openness to frank discussion of issues.
Ostensibly ISKCON wants innovative, thoughtful members who boldly apply their intelligence, within the framework of guru, Sastra and sadhu, for gaining a deeper understanding of devotional principles. In practice, as experienced by many, if one does not conform to the organizational line on issues such as those addressed in PL, then the institutional leadership, without rational discussion or genuine attempt at understanding, often condemns the dissenter and discourages members of the organization to honestly look at issues from unorthodox perspectives. The implied message is "We have already thoroughly considered these issues. So you needn't apply your intelligence here, because we've thought it through for you." Such a stance is unlikely to attract and retain independently thoughtful members. There is in the organization a veneer of broad-mindedness, accompanied by an implicit assertion that views such as those espoused in Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link are not to be found amongst persons in good-standing in the organization. If someone in the organization advocates such convictions, they are then branded and condemned, and pressured to leave the institution. Once they have left, it is again safe for the leadership to declare to the members that no one in good-standing would hold such views as expressed in essays such as The Prominent Link, and anyone who thinks that way is deviant, and so you'd do better to not even consider thinking in that way.
Authoritarian dynamics, wherein the leadership is fearful of permitting subordinates to analyze and discern for themselves, may be somewhat prevalent in today's religious institutions, but they are not conducive for Vaisnava society or relationships. Such reluctance to allow members to fully utilize their cognitive faculties may stem to a substantial degree from a benevolent desire to protect. The ISKCON organization may also benefit, however, from introspectively looking at other motivations for this authoritarianism, such as fear that members, upon analysis of facts from an alternative perspective, may realize that they are being, in some ways, misled.
We understand that this imperious leadership style is not extant throughout the organization, but it is manifest with sufficient regularity and pervasiveness that many, perhaps most, of Srila Prabhupada's followers, both inside and outside the institution, feel alienated and stifled. Thus, for the purpose of attracting and maintaining satisfied, intelligent members, it is, we believe, imperative for ISKCON leadership, especially at the top levels, to seriously assess its mode of addressing issues and concerns. As Balavanta writes in the Preface to PL, spiritual matters in Srila Prabhupada's society must be resolved through "open and frank discussion amongst mature devotees whose voices are not suppressed."
Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link provides an opportunity for the movement to integrate and incorporate a new, attractive, and Sastrically sound paradigm for carrying Srila Prabhupada's legacy deep into the future. It is the opinion of many, including this author, that ISKCON needs to reexamine its paradigms, with fearless detachment, on issues including the guru issue, to avoid remaining a relatively insignificant cult, and to become a substantial player in the institutions of society at large. We understand that there are many fears, ranging from loss of important personal relationships to loss of legal battles, associated with implementation of the PL model. We contend with confidence that Srila Prabhupada's movement possesses the strength to handle the challenges that will arise with the PL paradigm, and that the movement will undoubtedly be strengthened by accommodating and encouraging the PL model.
History of Dialogue with the Governing Body Commission (GBC)
On March 7th, 2002, four members of the GBC body met with this author and discussed with him some of the contents of Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link, as well as the effect that the essay is having and may continue to have on members of the ISKCON organization. During the meeting they presented a preliminary draft of A Preliminary Statement from ISKCON's Governing Body Commission.
During the next few days Dhira Govinda dasa spoke with a representative of the GBC, who was one of the four members at the meeting of March 7th, regarding Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link, especially concerning how the issue of the paper can most efficaciously be handled by the GBC body. To help clarify matters I wrote the following letter on March 10th, and gave it to the GBC representative:
[Letter dated March 10, 2002, from Dhira Govinda dasa to the GBC body]
March 10, 2002
Dear Members of the ISKCON GBC,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
I would like to clarify a few points regarding the booklet Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link. I am not in any ritvik camp and the essay was not written to support any ritvik agenda. One hope I had in presenting the essay was that the ideas therein would serve as a platform for resolving the ongoing conflict between advocates of the GBC position and advocates of ritvik ideas.
In presenting the ideas of The Prominent Link I have no intention of disrespecting or encouraging others to disrespect the Vaisnavas who serve as initiating gurus in ISKCON. I understand and fully support the prime importance of properly respecting all members of our Vaisnava family. Also, by describing Srila Prabhupada as the prominent link to the parampara for members of his movement, I am in no way minimizing the fundamental principle of being a servant of the servant of the servant of the devotees.
Concerning terminology, in the essay I decided not to employ some of the usual terms that are commonly used in discussions on these topics, because these terms, from my perception, have tended to cloud issues more than clarify them in the current environment of the movement. Instead, I used terms that describe observable behaviors, such as "the devotee who conducts the initiation ceremony", for purposes of precision and to assist in extracting and identifying essential concepts, such as the transmission of transcendental knowledge from guru to disciple. The approach is that after clarifying essential concepts, we can then apply appropriate terminology.
All of Srila Prabhupada's followers have a mandate to give Kåsna consciousness to others, and in this way to expand the sankirtana movement and continue the disciplic succession. We are all meant to be instruments in carrying on the parampara, and I am not advocating that the parampara ends with Srila Prabhupada.
There is a section in Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link entitled Terms of Relegation. In that section I point out what appears to me to be apparently contradictory connotations in GBC resolutions from 1999 and 2000. I did this because I believe that it is important for GBC statements to be clear and consistent. I humbly ask that the GBC takes the opportunity to elucidate their meaning in a way that explains the relationship between those resolutions.
I did discuss the ideas in the booklet with many devotees, including many of Srila Prabhupada's granddisciples. In essence the essay is a description of the experience of many members of Srila Prabhupada's movement. My humble request is that this experience, which I believe is supported by Sastra and philosophy, be validated by the GBC body, in a spirit of seeking to bring in and welcome to the ISKCON organization all of Srila Prabhupada's sincere followers.
I regret and take responsibility for any misunderstandings and disturbances caused by this essay. I am glad if it has stimulated productive discussion on the issue of Srila Prabhupada's relationship with the members of his movement. Also, I am eager to hear from and engage in dialogue with the GBC body regarding any of the ideas in Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link, as well as other topics related to guru-tattva.
Thank you for your attention in this matter. Hare Kåsna.
Dhira Govinda dasa
[End of letter from Dhira Govinda dasa to the GBC body]
The representative of the GBC, on behalf of the GBC, was concerned about further printing and distribution of Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link, with regards to a potentially disrupting effect it could have on members of the movement and on members of the GBC body. I agreed that, under certain conditions, I would be willing not to distribute or reprint Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link, at least for four months. I was and continue to be genuinely interested in meaningful discussion on the ideas addressed in PL. Thus, I offered that if the GBC body would like to engage in such discussion, I'd postpone plans for further distribution of the essay. My thinking was that, through such discussion my thoughts on the matters might be enriched, and thus I didn't object to holding off distributing my views on the matter for the sake of a few months of productive discussion. Also, as part of this agreement, I asked that the GBC body write a letter of response to me, stating something similar to the following:
[Letter drafted by Dhira Govinda dasa and given to the GBC representative, as a suggested letter for the GBC to write to Dhira Govinda dasa, to fulfill the agreement described above.]
March 11, 2002
The GBC body expresses its appreciation to Dhira Govinda dasa for his contribution to the understanding of the guru issue through his essay entitled Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link. We look forward to further discussions with him on the ideas in his booklet and on other topics connected with guru-tattva.
[signed by the members of the GBC Executive Committee]
The purpose of the proposed letter was for the GBC to honor and welcome the contribution of the ideas in PL. With such a mood from the GBC, I'd have been glad to postpone further distribution of PL, in favor of ongoing, reasonably timely, discussion with the GBC, on topics actually raised in PL (as opposed to topics ascribed to PL, but not actually contained therein). After receiving my letter dated March 10, 2002, the GBC responded with A Preliminary Statement from ISKCON's Governing Body Commission, which is included below:
A Preliminary Statement from ISKCON's Governing Body Commission
"Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link" written by Dhira Govinda Prabhu has fundamental inconsistencies with Srila Prabhupada's teachings. Although the work encourages Srila Prabhupada's pre-eminence in ISKCON, it does so in a concocted way. As disciples of Srila Prabhupada, we cannot endorse anything different from what he taught, no matter how it may appeal to sentiment.
Out of respect for the author, the GBC Body requests its Sastric Advisory Council to review the paper and comment on it more deeply. For now, to protect devotees from being misled, the GBC Body offers these specific examples of how "The Prominent Link" deviates from Srila Prabhupada's teachings and instructions.
ISKCON Law establishes Srila Prabhupada as the "pre-eminent and compulsory Siksa guru for all members of ISKCON." Further, it says that any grand disciple may find more inspiration from Srila Prabhupada than from their diksa guru. "The Prominent Link" asserts that such understandings of Srila Prabhupada are offensive to His Divine Grace (p. 26). The GBC Body finds such remarks and their public circulation wanting in scholarship, philosophy, and Vaishnava etiquette.
- The paper begins by improperly dismissing the standard terminology of Siksa and diksa guru - terminology established by Lord Caitanya Himself and followed by all prominent acharyas. Srila Prabhupada uses Siksa and diksa as essential words to define functions of specific gurus. The author, by contrast, calls them "appellations" and "labels" and discards them.
- Having discarded the terms, the author attempts to merge the functions of Siksa and diksa gurus. Noting that Srila Prabhupada is ISKCON's pre-eminent instructing guru, he writes, "it is questionable whether the devotee performing the initiation ceremony can unambiguously be termed 'the diksa guru.'" Srila Prabhupada, by contrast, states unambiguously in the Krishna book, Chapter 80, (and elsewhere): "Siksa gurus may be many, but diksa guru is always one."
- Srila Prabhupada exhorted his disciples hundreds of times to be the next gurus in disciplic succession by simply repeating what they heard and avoiding concoctions. Why would he do so if he intended to be directly responsible for initiating future generations? Srila Prabhupada explains, "One's guide must be a spiritual master who is . . . strictly following the instructions of the previous acarya . . . ." (CC Madhya 10.17, purport).
- "The Prominent Link" specifically contradicts Srila Prabhupada's own description of his relationship with initiates of those he initiated. On May 28, 1977, in a conversation with the GBC in Vrindavan, he said those devotees would be his "grand disciples" and "the disciples of my disciples." Disciples of Srila Prabhupada's disciples are in fact directly connected to him through initiation as his grand-disciples. Srila Prabhupada commented that the grandfather is more kind to his grandchildren than is their father. There is nothing lacking in the connection between Srila Prabhupada and his grand disciples. Some may choose to emphasize their diksa guru and others their Siksa guru. Such affairs of the heart cannot be legislated by anyone.
- In the same conversation Srila Prabhupada described those who would be taking on the service of initiating disciples as "regular gurus." The "Prominent Link" terms them "Vaishnavas who perform the initiation ceremony." Further, the work fails to offer a single statement by Srila Prabhupada in support of the implication that His Divine Grace would serve - in any respect - as a diksa guru in posthumous initiations.
- "The Prominent Link" suggests that if every member of ISKCON makes Srila Prabhupada the "sole object of unconditional surrender," ISKCON will be more united. Srila Prabhupada's teachings suggest that ISKCON will be more united - and Srila Prabhupada more pleased - if every member of ISKCON serves the servants of the servants of Srila Prabhupada: "This is called parampara system. You have to learn how to become servant of the servant of Kåsna. The more you become in the lower position -- servant, servant, servant, servant, servant, hundreds times servant, servant -- the more you are advanced. Here in this material world everyone is trying to be master of the master. Just opposite. And the spiritual world, the endeavor is to become servant's servant. This is the secret. yasya deve para bhaktir yatha deve tatha gurau/ tasyaite kathita hy arthah prakasante mahatmanah. This is Vedic instruction" (London, 8/3/73).
Since Srila Prabhupada entered samadhi, his disciples have struggled to properly establish guru-tattva in ISKCON, and there is more to be done. In that respect the GBC Body acknowledges the overt intent of "The Prominent Link." Unfortunately, the paper fails in its attempt to glorify Srila Prabhupada owing to an incomplete consideration of his teachings or, worse, a willingness to take a little from here, and little from there, and create something new. The result is aviddhi-purvakam - an improper method of worshiping Srila Prabhupada.
The GBC Body acknowledges with appreciation the clarification offered by Dhira Govinda Prabhu in a letter (March 2002) in which he states that he did not intend to teach ritvikism nor support the ritvik agenda through "The Prominent Llink." He also expressed his eagerness to enter into further discussion with the GBC and its Sastric Advisory Council.
Thus the GBC Body encourages Dhira Govinda Prabhu to give serious consideration to the discrepancies mentioned here - and others that can be raised - and discuss them with its Sastric Advisory Council.
Contributing to this paper: Drutakarma dasa, Hådayananda dasa Gosvami, Kalakanöha dasa, and Ravindra-svarüpa dasa.
[End of A Preliminary Statement from ISKCON's Governing Body Commission]
Clearly, the letter of the GBC conveyed a mood different from that proposed in the suggested letter drafted by this author. Thus, the conditions of the proposed agreement were not met. Still, I was and am eager to converse with the Sastric Advisory Council (SAC). The SAC began discussions with this author in July, 2002, and such discussions are ongoing.
Although the statement is entitled A Preliminary Statement from ISKCON's Governing Commission, we wonder how many and which members of the GBC actually endorse the statement. We'd appreciate hearing personally from the members of the GBC body regarding their views on the ideas expressed in PL. Based on what we've already heard from some of them, there is far from agreement with the mood and content of the official GBC statement. We suggest that the culture of organizational fear and repression, as contrasted with a Vaisnava culture of civil, open discourse, is active here, and we encourage ISKCON leaders to voice their genuine views on the issues raised in PL.
Comments on A Preliminary Statement from ISKCON's Governing Body Commission
Herein I will make a few comments regarding A Preliminary Statement from ISKCON's Governing Body Commission. The issue of whether a devotee is Srila Prabhupada's disciple or the disciple of Srila Prabhupada's disciple is addressed in the Questions and Answers section of PL, in the response to the question "Can someone be called 'Srila Prabhupada's disciple' if he didn't receive formal initiation from Srila Prabhupada?" The GBC response to this, based on its policy that Srila Prabhupada is the preeminent Siksa guru for every member of the institution (GBC resolutions, 1999), would seem to be "yes". As far as I understand GBC position statements, the GBC would qualify this "yes" by stating that everyone is Srila Prabhupada's Siksa disciple, but not his diksa disciple. Still, the GBC would agree that all members are meant to be Srila Prabhupada's direct disciple, in some sense, (a Siksa sense), of the term. In the above-mentioned section of PL, the essay presents a "this and that" perspective, rather than a "this or that" perspective, regarding this issue of terminology. We suggest that such a perspective as described in PL can synthesize diverse views in the movement and thus contribute towards harmonious understanding amongst Srila Prabhupada's followers. If we focus on delivery of transcendental knowledge from guru to disciple, then all members of the movement may be considered direct disciples of Srila Prabhupada, and if we focus on the formal initiation ceremony, then perhaps the terminology "disciple of the disciple" is applicable.
PL states "Without contradiction, devotee A is a direct disciple of Srila Prabhupada, and a disciple of the disciple of Srila Prabhupada. Being directly linked with Srila Prabhupada does not negate, and in fact supports, the principle of being a servant of the servant of the Vaisnavas." As described towards the beginning of this Prologue, PL strongly encourages and emphasizes the importance of all members of Srila Prabhupada's movement to cultivate the mood of being a servant of the servant of the servant of Srila Prabhupada. This mood is completely consistent with perceiving Srila Prabhupada as one's prominent link to the parampara.
We ask all members of the Hare Kåsna movement to read PL without contempt prior to investigation, to borrow a phrase from Ambarisa dasa's Foreword to PL. There are many misconceptions circulating about the contents of PL, and we request that the article be evaluated on what is actually stated in the essay.
It would be a relatively simple matter if the issue at hand were whether to support the cultivation of a service mood towards Vaisnavas. But all resoundingly agree that we must, so there is no debate on that cornerstone of Vaisnava practice. Let us not be sidetracked by such non-issues. A substantial issue is whether Srila Prabhupada can and is giving initiation in the fundamental sense of the term. The PL model unequivocally asserts that Srila Prabhupada can and is initiating in the essential sense of the term "initiate". Another substantial issue raised in PL that we believe thoughtful devotees ought to gravely consider is a change to the first page of Sri-Caitanya-caritamrta. This change carries philosophical implications related to guru-tattva and the principle of initiation.
In its letter the GBC has written, "Some may choose to emphasize their diksa guru and others their Siksa guru. Such affairs of the heart cannot be legislated by anyone." Thus, to reiterate a major point in PL, if Srila Prabhupada is the Vaisnava from whom a devotee directly receives the most transcendental knowledge, then for that devotee, regardless of who conducted his initiation ceremony, Srila Prabhupada is the direct and prominent link to the disciplic succession. The GBC seems to recognize that such an arrangement is a valid choice. This valid choice should not be delegitimized, as it currently is within the ISKCON organization. That is, that choice should be acknowledged and honored as legitimate, albeit not the only legitimate option.
Some Proposals Related to The Prominent Link
Herein are some proposals for managerial entities within Srila Prabhupada's movement. These proposals serve to legitimize the PL understanding, while not invalidating other conceptions:
Concerning the Terms of Relegation section of PL, our intended mood is one of humble inquiry, and we apologize if we have conveyed a different impression. There are GBC policies, some of which are described in PL, that, to this author, appear inconsistent. Essentially we are saying, "We don't understand. Please explain and clarify." I believe the pronoun "we" is particularly appropriate here, because, from our experience, many of Srila Prabhupada's sincere followers are similarly unclear about GBC positions on these and other related issues.
Regarding terminology, we herein reemphasize that PL utilizes the methodology of concentrating on functional descriptions rather than on terms that have somehow or other served to obscure understanding, due in no part to lack of clarify in Sastra or the writings of Srila Prabhupada. This method helps to clarify our understanding of the essence of Srila Prabhupada's direct and personal relationship with the members of his movement.
PL devotes a section, entitled Responsibility, to the importance of devotees in Srila Prabhupada's movement taking responsibility for the progress of others, such as junior devotees, in Kåsna consciousness. One purpose of that section is to counter the misconception that the PL model uses the idea of Srila Prabhupada as the primary link to the parampara as an excuse not to be responsible members of Srila Prabhupada's mission in actively caring for one's own spiritual advancement as well as the advancement of others.
Focus on the Essence
Much of the discussion on the topic of guru-tattva has centered on the formal aspect of the initiation process. As described in the Questions and Answers section of PL, this formal component is important, though the most essential aspect of the process is the transmission of divya-jnana. Let us close with a moving and relevant verse and purport from the Srimad-Bhagavatam (SB: 10:2:18), which indicates that this fundamental ingredient of the process of diksa, or initiation, is where our energies may most fruitfully be focused in these discussions. Concentrating our deliberative aptitude thereupon, let us pray for Srila Prabhupada's guidance in understanding his unique relationship with each of us:
Verse: "Thereafter, accompanied by plenary expansions, the fully opulent Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is all-auspicious for the entire universe, was transferred from the mind of Vasudeva to the mind of Devaki. Devaki, having thus been initiated by Vasudeva, became beautiful by carrying Lord Kåsna, the original consciousness for everyone, the cause of all causes, within the core of her heart, just as the east becomes beautiful by carrying the rising moon."
Purport: "As indicated here by the word manastah, the Supreme Personality of Godhead was transferred from the core of Vasudeva's mind or heart to the core of the heart of Devaki. We should note carefully that the Lord was transferred to Devaki not by the ordinary way for a human being, but by diksa, initiation. Thus the importance of initiation is mentioned here. Unless one is initiated by the right person, who always carries within his heart the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one cannot acquire the power to carry the Supreme Godhead within the core of one's own heart."