Resolving the Swing Thing
Posted October 21, 2005
There is a certain pendulum swing reaction from the problem of guru falldown as exemplified by the recent articles of Garuda and Visnurata Prabhus. On the one hand, Garuda suggests there should be many local gurus initiating; Visnurata disagrees, no, not many- not any!
Whenever Srila Prabhupada gives contradictory instructions on any matter, one has to try to see exactly why, because it is almost certainly a matter of time, place and circumstance. Accepting many disciples is a dangerous business and is warned amply about, and yet accepting disciples is not forbidden. Indeed, Srila Prabhupada at times encouraged it- hence the contradiction. So one has to examine the circumstance: what is the danger? It is explained beforehand by Srila Prabhupada: "One should not try to be an artificially advanced devotee, thinking, "I am a first-class devotee."
When such pride is the motive of accepting disciples, then "it is best not to accept any..." It is better to simply preach. But if a preacher is very committed, and those whose hearts have been touched and transformed by him naturally see him as a representative of the Lord and want to surrender, then it is actually compassionate for the guru to accept such disciples, just as it is beneficial for the disciples to be accepted and be trained in a submissive service attitude. That is training to be the servant of the Lord- by learning to be the servant of His servant. However, when pride such as described above enters the guru's heart, he will enjoy the situation, and his own position of servant will be hampered. He will at that time be fully opaque, and a block rather than a window into Krsna's pastimes. Therefore, the warnings are there and they are not to be ignored.
Unfortunately, in ISKCON they are ignored, blatantly, and thus there are some gurus who accept thousands of disciples, and become aloof from their day to day struggles with the external energy while they enjoy the massive material perks that multiply with each impersonal ritualistic initiation ceremony. As they grow in stature, they become more and more distant and unapproachable, but they justify this abomination by comparing themselves with Prabhupada who was -only due to his utter absorption in translation of Srimad Bhagavatam which increased as the years went on- less available for his disciples than in the early days of ISKCON. By translation Srila Prabhupada was setting the foundation of the future shelter for his disciples in place, and he saw his death approaching fast. His relative unavailability at that time in his extraordinary circumstance of being founder acarya should never be imitated by those who are not. But his example of accepting disciples for the sole purpose of training them should be followed, as it purifies both the initiator and the initiated, provided only that the motivation for accepting a disciple be exclusively to elevate that soul.
To ensure this dynamic stays pure the guru must therefore continually introspect his heart for hidden motives. He should wonder "why am I accepting so many disciples that I cannot train each and ensure their best chances of spiritual survival? How do I know that such grandiose worship and facility from so many adoring disciples will not be my downfall?" If he thinks himself beyond such introspection because he is first class devotee, then he is already fallen, as he has gone against the order of Srila Prabhupada to avoid such a mentality.
So, in summary, the equilibrium of the boat is this. Yes, many local gurus
are needed, for that ensures personal training on an individual basis, as
contrasted to the impersonal bureacratic process where one feels guilty for
impinging on one's guru's valuable time, even for important issues or
doubts. Yet on the other hand, it is better that no one accept disciples!
That way one can be protected from the falldown of seeing oneself as a
topmost devotee. Yet if one is compassionate and wants to not only preach to
people to inspire their initial faith, but to also take them further along
the path and train them in a humble service attitude, then the role of
inititating guru is essential. It should be filled by that person whom the
prospective disciple has the most faith in as his transparent via medium to
Krsna, by a person who is determined to stay transparent, who does not feel
himself above falldown or portray himself as such, but who simply wishes to
further the devotional service of the Lord and to this end only, is willing
to shoulder this enormous burden of representing the Lord externally.