An Analysis of Devotee Feedback|
by Niscala dasi
Posted September 18, 2012
Recently a devotee wrote to CHAKRA about an alleged incident- the kicking of a female disciple by her guru, Ravindra Swarupa Prabhu. The devotee feedback from this article was varied, as is usual, but the type of variation is worth noting. One viewpoint held that the kick was actually the guru's "mercy" upon the hitherto blessed and fortunate disciple. One viewpoint offered that it was a simply violent and abusive loss of temper. The third viewpoint was that it was utterly trivial, and why are we making such a big fuss out of it? The fourth, held by the guru himself, was that it could not be called a "kick" as such, but a "symbolic gesture with my foot", which baffles all but those who believe that feet, when of the lotus kind, can make all the gestures normally associated with hands. The fifth viewpoint was that we don't have both sides of the story, so how can we judge?
To the fifth viewpoint holder, we actually do have both sides of the story, as the guru himself concurs that a kick, or a he puts it, "a symbolic gesture", issued forth from his lotus foot. This fourth viewpoint is the very definition of euphemism, that subtle replacement for truth, which no genuine guru would descend to. Euphemisms blur the facts, and thus obstruct truth. Srila Prabhupada wrote about truth in this way, which certainly precludes the use of such pleasant vagaries: "Satyam, truthfulness, means that facts should be presented as they are, for the benefit of others. Facts should not be misrepresented. According to social conventions, it is said that one can speak the truth only when it is palatable to others. But that is not truthfulness. The truth should be spoken in a straightforward way, so that others can understand actually what the facts are. If a man is a thief and people are warned he is a thief, that is truth. Although sometimes the truth is unpalatable, one should not refrain from speaking it. Truthfulness demands that the facts be presented as they are for the benefit of others. That is the definition of truth." (Bg 10.5 pp)
The first viewpoint holder is also indulging in euphemism, and thus untruth. A kick is a kick, not a rain of mercy, nor a symbolic gesture, it is a kick. There are different types of kicks, just as there are different types of any kind of bodily contact. A pat on the head makes one feel one way- a little childish perhaps. When given to the arm, it can be a solace in times of distress. However, when given on the posterior by a member of the opposite sex, it is grossly demeaning. Any unwelcome contact with any of the private parts of a person, especially those of the opposite sex, is called sexual assault and is liable to court action.
At this point, the third viewpoint may seem relevant- that the matter is trivial, and it may seem so, compared to the fact that many of the boys in the gurukula in Mayapura are being repeatedly raped by the older boys, while the self-professed child abuser headmaster justifies it by comparing the boys to animals in the breeding season. Compared to that travesty, anything may seem trivial, but in a society of gentlemen, which is a precursor to a society of devotees, to kick a woman, or to make contact with the private parts of the fair sex in any way whatsoever, is hardly trivial and can only be called what it is—disgusting.
To be fair, however, all of us have "bad days", and just because one succumbs to anger, lust or any of the other pushing of the senses, on one day, does not mean that one has lost the war on the illusory energy altogether. When fall down happens, one should just get back up, dust oneself off with the maha-mantra, and get on with serving the Lord and His dearly beloved devotees. One should not lose heart- that is the essential message of all those verses in the Gita, where Krsna says "If you can't do that, do this...If you can't do that, then do this!" In other words, no one is exempt from bhakti. Just the desire to be a devotee, despite all one's faults and inadequacies, means certainty for success, and one person's path to bhakti may be very different from another's. However the certainty for success does have one exception- offenses to the Lord's devotees. If one does not become purified of this tendency, then all one's chanting amounts to nothing.
It is certainly offensive to kick a devotee, and when the kick is administered to a private part of the body, it is deeply humiliating as well. When such a kick is administered by someone whom one believes is one's guru, it is also deeply shocking. The appropriate mercy for a disciple who is repeatedly late for Deity service, is vani, instruction. Maybe the disciple is not completely aware of the need to be punctual, or lacking in direct realization that the Deity is the Lord, or simply short of time. The timing for such instruction should not be when the disciple is already late for service, thus making the service even later, and the instruction, therefore, hypocritical. The timing should be afterwards. And it should be verbal, so that it can be clearly understood.
Implicit in the belief that the guru's kick is "mercy" is the assumption is that the guru is like God in every respect. When Krsna or His incarnations kick, or even kill, the body, the recipient is liberated instantly, from all distress. Simply the touch of Their feet is sufficient, for each part of Their transcendental bodies can perform all the functions of the other parts. They can impregnate with their eyes, taste with Their ears, and instruct with Their feet. Those who believe that the guru is like unto God in all respects are succumbing to the illusion of impersonalist philosophy- and should not be preaching in our society. Srila Prabhupada never excommunicated anyone from our society- except three sannyasis who claimed he was God. Every other variation of personality and character, he either tolerated or appreciated- but never rejected. Recognizing that the kick was not a "symbolic gesture" but was a deeply humiliating and offensive action, Ravindra Swarupa should apologize and humbly beg forgiveness from his devotee disciple. Maybe he has done so already- thus setting an excellent example of humility and modesty, befitting his position. If not, then I hope this article will inspire him to do so.
Response to "Change of Asrama is Not Guru Falldown"
by Gaurav Mittal
Posted February 13, 2012
Niscala DD brings interesting issues in her article "Change of Asrama is Not Guru Falldown". Before this issue is addressed, one needs to know the meaning of "falldown". Falldown refers to going down from high elevated state to lower state of spiritual advancement. To understand this, the spiritual advancement needs to be understood. The spiritual advancement is inner state of realization. In ISKCON, this is misunderstood. The spiritual advancement is judged by external material circumstances or rituals.
One common characteristics of advanced devotee accepted in Iskcon is the ability of the devotee to convert people to one's faith. If this is accepted, then the advancement is dependent on number of followers one has. The followers of Christianity and Islam have converted millions of people to their religion. That does not mean that the leaders of those conversion were spiritually advanced. Conversion as the quality of advancement is never mentioned in Vedic literature by Vyasa Deva. Advancement of person is independent of one's ability change other’s faith and make followers.
It is widely accepted that one who knows the science of Krishna is advanced or fit to be guru. “Knowing” is used quite loosely. This is from the verse - yei krsna tattva vetta sei guru hoya. “yei krishna tattva vetta” means one who realizes Krishna tattva. Realizing the principles of Gita and Bhagavatam is essential quality of guru. It is not just theoretical knowledge but it refers to the vision of the devotee. Another widely accepted qualification of the advanced devotee is that the person who repeats the words of scriptures or guru (transparent medium). Parrot can also repeat the scriptures. Just repeating the words, does not make one advanced. What makes one advanced is realizing and practicing them!
Niscala DD article points to confusion among devotees about the qualification of the advanced devotee. That is the reason of the problems in Iskcon. Due to lack of knowledge of the qualities of devotee, the devotee fail to progress in bhakti. Due to this failure, there are not many qualified people to become leaders and the unqualified people become leaders. Some people start criticizing the leaders and become angry over them. Will removing them solve the problem? Are there realized devotees who can take the position of leaders? Society will fail to develop these people if the members don't know who is advanced devotee and how to advance themselves.
Advancement of person is internal quality. It is quite difficult to judge advancement by external actions. Sometimes, people tend to judge themselves and others by ashrama they are in, the food they eat, the rituals they follow, the mantras they chant etc. All these is important. Still, one needs to follow very basic dharma as mentioned below in Padma Purana -
Shrooyataam dharmasarvasvam shrutvaa chaivaavadhaaryataam|
“Dharmasarvasva” meaning if the entire “Dharma” (spiritual and moral laws) can be said in a few words, then it is - that which is unfavorable to us, do not do that to others.
This is described as “the Golden rule” and it is accepted in all religions. Wikipedia states:
The Golden Rule or ethic of reciprocity is a maxim, ethical code, or morality that essentially states either of the following:
(Positive form): One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.
(Negative/prohibitive form, also called The Silver Rule): One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated.
Any person who follows above golden rule is quite advanced person whatever situation (like gender, religion, ashrama) that person is in. Good news is that this is not something special. It is known to all people. Actions should be based on this principle. Don't complicate it and find excuse of not following it. Just follow it. If this is followed, then automatically actions will be right. Whatever bhajan or sadhana is performed from this level will bear fruit and result in advancement.
As one advances in spirituality (bhakti), then the realizations of the Absolute Truth develop. This starts with glimpse of these realizations and they continue to get more stronger and stronger. Advancement should be judged based on these realizations. Some examples of these realizations are as follows:
1) Self is not the body and self is eternal, full of knowledge and bliss.
2) Self is not the doer but prakriti (material nature) is the doer of actions.
3) Krishna is in everyone.
4) Krishna is everywhere.
5) This world and all living entities are His manifestation.
6) Sharangati (acceptance that Krishna is mine and I am Krishna's)
7) Everything belongs to Krishna.
8) Offering objects which belong to Krishna in Krishna's service. As everything belongs to Krishna, offering everything to Krishna.
9) Serving others with the vision that they are manifestation of Krishna.
These are just examples. Advancement happens when these are realized i.e. one develops above vision. Chanting of the holy names, following 4 regulative principles, diety worship etc lead to above vision. But the test is whether these realizations develop. Presence of these realizations should be the qualification of advanced devotee. This is independent of any material situation. Understanding these qualification of the devotee will help Iskcon members to develop them and will result in appointment of the leaders who have these qualifications.
I noticed a comment to "Swans, Crows, and Preaching" in which the commenter was alarmed that an ISKCON swami "has been burying Kirtanananda's body in a 'samadhi' in Vrndvana, why does Kirtanananda deserve a samadhi in Vrndavana, and why is [the ISKCON swami] supporting this? Incidentally, many of our Brijabasi friends are appalled that Kirtanananda was buried there under the direction of [the ISKCON swami]."
I have to admit that it was astonishing to see the photos of two ISKCON swamis in Vrndavana paying obeisances to the dead corpse of a convicted racketeer. For the past twenty years, ISKCON has taken great pains to disassociate itself from Bhaktipada Swami, as rightfully it should. Compared to Bhaktipada (Kirtanananda), is there anyone else in the world who did more to devastate the lives of devotees and to defame the reputation of Srila Prabhupada and the Hare Krsna movement before the eyes of the public?
So this latest move has caused distress among many Brijibasis, Gurukulis and other devotees. Hopefully, the GBC will issue some statement to help us understand why, after so many years of trying to distance itself from Bhaktipada Swami, it decided to send two prominent ISKCON swamis to venerate a man whom most people regard as a criminal, a cult leader and a fraud.
There have been many devotee discussions lately on the issue of diksa -- whether one should become initiated by Srila Prabhupada (ritvik), by one of his disciples (ISKCON and its affiliates), or by a vaisnava guru outside of ISKCON (such as in the Gaudiya Matha). Most of those discussions have centred around what group one should belong to, but it seems to me that more important than determining that for others, when it is a matter of faith it is vital to determine how we should conduct ourselves within and among those groups.
Srila Prabhupada told us: "Your love for me will be shown by how you cooperate to push on this Krsna consciousness movement." The Krsna consciousness movement includes all the vaisnava groups. Among and within these groups, dealings should be based on love and acceptance. Whether in ISKCON or outside of it, if one’s dealings with other groups and those within one’s group are friendly and respectful -- if possible, even loving and trusting -- it assures us of Krsna’s mercy.
There are many friendly and well-qualified devotees in all the above groups, but also some individuals who seem bent on animosity, division, hatred and offending others. In particular, it seems acceptable in all the groups to neglect Sri Krsna’s instruction not to take accidental falldown of His devotees very seriously, as well as Srila Prabhupada’s instruction never to broadcast such falldown. The ritviks -- some of them -- broadcast such falldown to persuade us to take initiation from Srila Prabhupada, which is disobeying his direct instruction. Others outside ISKCON do so to persuade us to take initiation from their guru. In ISKCON, as soon as one’s guru experiences any difficulty with a sexual attraction, it becomes a cause for a total loss of faith, as well as public knowledge.
One must keep in mind what pleases Krsna. That is the goal of the guru-disciple relationship, and of the association of devotees in whatever group one is in. When a devotee is having difficulty, whether he is one's disciple, one's friend or even one’s guru, one must reach out in friendship and assistance, not treat him with self-righteous condemnation.
We must try to cultivate a soft heart and a clear head. When the heart become hard, we block out people, and we thus fall into the kanistha mentality of "us" and "them" -- with "us" being in the superior category. We then try to put others down, and we rationalize this tamasic activity as devotion to the guru or to the group one belongs to.
With a clear head, we may avoid fanaticism, and we cultivate the contemplation of compassionate realism -- the consideration that although my guru is a powerful preacher, inspirational, even empowered by the Lord, and although I may on that basis want to take initiation from him or have done so already, still he is not God, possibly not even an eternally liberated soul, and so he may fall down. If he does fall down, or experiences difficulty, I will repay him for all the spiritual help he has given me by reaching out in friendship. How would Lord Bhakta-vatsala not be extremely pleased by such an attitude?
I have said that we should cultivate relationships of love and trust, and to do that we must be loving and trustworthy. All those who have left ISKCON have had their psychological skins burnt in some way. When the skin is burnt, it becomes sensitive to any touch whatsoever. Let that touch be only to apply the ointment of unconditional love for the Lord and His devotees.
We are here to become Krsna-conscious, not group-conscious. Krsna does not belong to any group or guru. He may be found in other religions, and He may inspire from within those who call themselves Christian, Muslim and so on. He can speak to us, and instruct us through anyone, even through a prostitute like Cintamani. Vaisnavas are found the world over, in all groups, but not all those in the ostensibly vaisnava groups are necessarily vaisnava. External symbols such as saffron clothes, danda, tilak and dhoti or title and position, etc. are not proof of being a vaisnava. Being in ISKCON or being a ritvik is no proof of loyalty to Srila Prabhupada, and being in another group is no proof of loyalty to the founder-acarya of that group.
A vaisnava is self-effulgent -- not by how his silken dhoti shines in the sun, but by his vaisnava qualities of compassion, tolerance, humility and so on. On the basis of advancement in such qualities, we offer friendship to devotees in different ways. We offer very respectful and humble friendship and service to those who are very advanced in vaisnava qualities. To those with similar advancement to our own, we offer friendship. To those less qualified, we do not condemn, but we offer friendly and gentle guidance. This is the instruction coming down in parampara. Even the envious we do not condemn, but we avoid. So all our relationships should be friendly. If we see someone in our group being unfriendly, we may try to instruct that person, or if unsuccessful we may avoid him. Condemnation or self-righteous judgment of others as lesser, on the basis of their group or guru, is totally alien to vaisnava character. It is a symptom of the kanistha or materialistic devotee.
So does it matter at all what group one belongs to? They are all based on the Krsna-conscious decision to associate with sadhus, either by instruction (vani) or personal presence (vapuh).
Srila Prabupada Ritvik Initiation
Another mistake one may make is to cut off all the other channels through which Krsna may choose to instruct. One can have many, many siksa gurus. Srila Prabhupada can speak and instruct through many imperfect persons (this happened when he was here personally), and they should be respected for instructing us, not disrespected for being imperfect. On the other hand, if a person is ostensibly advanced but showing symptoms of rajas and tamas -- is divisive, blasphemous, jealous or twisting the philosophy, even if everyone says he is a guru -- he is not. He is not even a vaisnava.
That popular opinion can lead to a thoroughly illusioned state of mind is illustrated in the story that Srila Prabhupada once told of how a man’s group of friends decided to play a joke on him. In separate incidents, they each told him that he had become a ghost, and pretended to be appalled and scared at the sight of him. Eventually, the man believed it. One is not a guru or sadhu because others say so, no matter how many say so. Divesting oneself of such illusory proclivities, and with keen discrimination, one should cultivate being open to genuine vaisnava guidance and examples, from wherever and whomsoever they may issue.
Gaudiya Matha Initiation
Many ISKCON devotees go out on book distribution to save the fallen souls, and some of us also want to make ISKCON more loving and caring so that those who read the books will find a shelter here. Rather than demonize the so-called opposition for "stealing" our members, we should understand that members are not property that can be bought, sold or stolen. They are Krsna's property, and -- as with servants of the master on an estate -- our duty is to care for His property with great attention. Therefore, our only duty towards devotees, whether in our own group, or in another, is to care for them.
In order to care for someone, one must find out their needs, which are not the same as everyone else's needs. This is why we need to introduce varnashrama, to be able to care for and accommodate people differently. We also need to listen. No one in this movement is so exalted that he is above listening to the needs of those below him. Indeed, a truly advanced person in spiritual vision makes no such distinction of "higher" and "lower." All are the Lord's property, through whom He accepts service and the mood of friendship, until we are qualified enough in service and in mood to associate with Him personally.
Change of Asrama is Not Guru Falldown|
by Niscala devi dasi
Posted January 31, 2012
Our books make cute additions to our book cases, no really. They have nice binders, gold lettering, and for many devotees, it seems their value is only decorative, or as items to distribute...
If we do read them then we do it as a ritual only, for basic knowledge of the philosophy totally eludes us. Sri Chaitanya taught that it doesn’t matter what ashrama one is in, if one knows and preaches the science of Krsna, one is qualified to be guru. Yet when a guru changes ashrama from sannyasa to grhastha, the disciples describe themselves as feeling cheated, crushed, devastated and various other hyperbolic melodramatic adjectives. All that we are being cheated from is our own illusions that our guru is a superman, a superhero, who will scoop up his utterly helpless disciples and fling them into the abode of transcendence by his superhuman powers.
Actually, the process described in the tad-viddhi-pranitanena verse is somewhat different- he teaches, we learn. We ask questions, intelligent ones, not “How could you do this to me?” Nor should we hoist our personal problems on to him, which is one of the reasons that my diksa guru gave for his recent change of ashrama, in his letter to his disciples. I know it not to be an excuse or rationale- for he wrote a letter to me last year, revealing that he was not coping well with his role of arbiter in many devotee disputes. That letter was honest and open, and it was pleasurable to read. Honesty is the basis of being a devotee, and surpasses all external considerations such as varna and ashrama. As Srila Prabhupada advised “Better an honest street-sweeper than a charlatan meditator”
Seeing a guru’s shortcomings can only make us angry and bitter when we see in terms of ideals, not reality. We do this when reality is too crushing for us, and the guru then becomes our escape. For example, if we are lacking close friends, we may want the guru to be a close friend and confidante, a shoulder to cry on, ever patient to hear every problem we have, rather than someone to go to when we are in doubt about the philosophy or how to apply it. For women especially, lacking a healthy marriage, we may hoist upon him the role of ideal husband- and develop emotional bonds. Either of these dispositions can lead to us being emotionally crushed when he changes ashrama. This disappointment can turn to the anger of self-righteous condemnation, and all his attempts at inspiring people in their Krsna consciousness are seen as just so much hypocrisy.
Rather than judging and condemning, we should, out of a sense of compassion, penetrate and try to understand. There are no victims here, because there was no act of enmity, nor of viciousness. We should not be like the ritviks, who categorize it in the same way as child abuse. Child abuse has victims, falldown does not. As I wrote to one ritvik:
"Criticism has to be done out of a sense of compassion. In the case of falldown of a sannyasi, where he has hurt no one but himself, then we must be compassionate and kind, for the sense of shame must be very great. If he has the... heart of a demon, and has taken pleasure in abusing children, hurting children, inflicting pain, then in this case, the sense of compassion is for those whom he has abused. Out of compassion for them, who can be suffering severely, we must angrily criticize, insist he be stripped of position and authority over children especially, and given a simple task that will threaten no one, that will gradually purify his heart, such as washing pots. He misused power and position, so he should be given a service which has neither. He should also beg to be of service to his victims and their families- for if he is to make advancement, he MUST get their forgiveness (re Durvasa and Ambarish story). Otherwise, he will face the wrath of the Sudarshan chakra (unless we believe this story is just a cute little anecdote with no meaning)”
In the gita, Krsna describes the nature of a demon as being very hateful and destructive, and in the Srimad Bhagavatam we read of various demons who misused power to oppress vulnerable citizens. On the other hand, Krsna describes that if His devotee accidentally falls down into some abominable action, he is still to be considered saintly. Therefore, the abominable action cannot be cruel and oppressive, for a devotee is not a demon. Acts of cruelty and neglect are never to be spared from criticism, for they define who is a devotee and who is not. But for someone who is not cruel and oppressive, for someone who has devoted his life to Krsna consciousness and teaching the message of the gita, a slip-up is never to be considered a reason not to still consider him saintly- i.e. of the nature of a saint. A saint, therefore, need not be perfect in all respects, and the same goes for the guru, for his only perfection is that he does not change the message of the parampara.
The qualified guru never describes himself as perfect, and he also tries to dispel any such illusions in his disciples. His perfection is that he is not skewering the transcendental message to his own ends. He is presenting it unchanged. To set an example for his disciples, as much as possible, he tries to lead an ideal life, in any one of the four ashramas, and in any one of the four varnas. Which one, is utterly irrelevant. Which one, is only his concern, no one else’s. He should just change to white, no explanation required. White is pure, the colour of honesty. It is also the colour of peace, as in the waving of a white flag. Let him be peaceful, honest and open, as he has been in his letter and in his recent decision. Let us learn to respect each other, instead of being like vultures, ready to swoop on any sign of weakness. Swooping means coming low down, means stooping, and stooping is stupid, if one aspires for elevation.
The important thing is that one trusts in Krsna’s protection, not the protection offered by an institution in His name, nor by wealthy disciples, so when a sannyasi suddenly feels some attraction to the grhastha ashrama, and he is open and honest about his position, not fearing the consequences, we should be happy for him and applaud his courage and openness. Seeing that he actually trusts in Krsna’s protection, we gain trust in his devotional character. If others lose it, even if 99% of devotees lose their faith and trust in his character, it does not affect us.
I'm happy for him, and happy whenever people become open and honest, but it seems to make others very angry, and I believe it is because they see in terms of ideals, not reality, in terms of judging and condemning, not penetrating the situation and trying to understand it. In his letter to his disciples, he is open and honest about his limitations. Out of respect for him, and for Srila Prabhupada’s instruction never to propagate the falldown of a sannyasi, I have omitted his name from this article, as I refuse to contribute to the condemned propaganda in any way. If we value the instructions of Srila Prabhupada, which he told us are more important than his personal presence, we need to all do the same.
In 2001 I wrote Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link (PL), and therein described the PL model, which, according to our understanding of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings, is consistent with his vision and guidance for continuance of the disciplic succession. The purpose of this article is to delineate specific principles and practices that indicate alignment with the PL model. This is necessary because over the years I have frequently heard from or about persons who claim to agree with the PL model, but whose actions and statements, given in other contexts, are distinctly contrary to PL model principles. My hope and intention is to provide well-defined guidelines to determine whether or to what extent someone, ourselves included, is in genuine agreement with the PL model.
I first heard the term “prominent link” at an initiation lecture in 2001 in Alachua, Florida, and from that hearing I decided to use the term in the title of Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link. The Vaisnava conducting the initiation ceremony described the relationship between Srila Prabhupada and the initiates, as “prominent link”- that is, Srila Prabhupada was the prominent link to the parampara for the initiates. A few weeks after this initiation lecture the devotee who performed the initiation ceremony expressed to me in-person in Mayapur that he is not in agreement with the PL model, though also he acknowledged that he hadn’t actually read the short book, Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link.
The above illustrates that the term “prominent link” may be used in a manner that might to some persons indicate adherence to the principles described in Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link, but that actually does not align with what genuine supporters of the PL Model consider to be a Srila Prabhupada-centered approach. Other such terms include describing Srila Prabhupada as the preeminent siksa guru, or primary or main guru, or the “universal permanent Siksa-guru of ISKCON”, or the Founder-acarya or the “foundational siksa guru for all ISKCON devotees”. Also there are longer phrases, such as “…everything in ISKCON, including even all the devotees, belongs to Srila Prabhupada…”, and “Srila Prabhupada is the proprietor of ISKCON”, which similarly serve to sometimes mislead listeners, or readers, to believe that the speaker, or writer, is aligned with the precepts of the PL model.
We’re not minimizing or criticizing these terms and phrases. They are all true, and certainly they have their appropriate use. We’re simply pointing out that they can and have been used, whether deliberately or inadvertently, in a misrepresentative manner. This essay does not focus on supporting or explaining the PL model. That is done in many other places, such as Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link (www.divyajnana.org and Click Here), and articles including Response to the Sastric Advisory Committee (SAC) (Click Here), Sound and Presence (www.divyajnana.org/ and Click Here), The Weightiest Argument (Click Here and Click Here), 32 (Click Here and www.divyajnana.org/), and "’Guru’ in the Singular and Clarity about ‘Fall Down’" ((www.divyajnana.org/pl-guru-singular.htm or Click Here).
This paper highlights terms and practices that clearly distinguish the authentic PL model from spurious appearances. Two terms that I’ve found almost always represent a genuine consciousness and understanding of the PL principles are “current link” and “direct link”. When these terms are used to describe Srila Prabhupada’s relationship with the initiate, and with all members of his movement, whether or whenever they’ve participated in a formal initiation ceremony, it usually indicates, from my perception, that the speaker or writer is undeniably aligned with PL principles. To clarify and emphasize this point- describing Srila Prabhupada as the “current link” and “direct link” is much more indicative of a fully Prabhupada-centered approach than terms such as “main guru”, “primary connection”, “preeminent siksa guru”, “prominent link”, or other terms above mentioned. Thus, what has till now been called the Prominent Link model will now be referred to as the Current and Direct Link model (CDL).
I’ve even seen “current link” used in slippery ways. Not long ago I was sent a link to a video of an initiation ceremony. I watched it and noticed that during the lecture the conductor of the ceremony expressed that Srila Prabhupada is the current link…”within our society”, and I’ve heard Srila Prabhupada described as the current link, or direct link, for ISKCON, or for the institution. This is substantially different than asserting that Srila Prabhupada is the direct link and current link for the person who is receiving formal initiation, and for any individual who has contacted Srila Prabhupada’s movement.
“Current link” indicates full presence, including presence through vani, and in the form of murti. I mention this because there are places in Vaisnava society where Srila Prabhupada is regarded as a “previous acarya”, and where Srila Prabhupada’s presence in his murti form is denied. These conceptions are opposed to the CDL model, wherein Srila Prabhupada is understood and realized as the present acarya and fully present in his murti form.
As I wrote in Response to the ISKCON Governing Body Commission's (GBC) Sastric Advisory Committee (SAC) (Click Here):
“In correspondence, SAC members would refer to Srila Prabhupada as a ‘previous acarya’, a term with which this author is not comfortable in reference to Srila Prabhupada. We maintain that Srila Prabhupada is living in his instructions and murti form, and is a present acarya.”
Regarding Srila Prabhupada’s murti form, Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link (PL) states:
“Just as Sri Krsna, Srimati Radharani, and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu are non-different from Their Deity forms, and are fully capable to act and relate in Their Deity forms, the murtis and pictures of the parampara acaryas, such as Srila Prabhupada and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, can similarly act non-differently from the acaryas. Obviously this requires special empowerment from the Supreme Lord. Ordinary persons, or even aspiring Vaisnavas, are not able to reciprocate in their picture form in the way that the great acaryas do.”
In response to the above a member of the GBC Sastric Advisory Committee replied: "This is a novel theory, or at least one I am not familiar with, that the murtis and pictures of specially empowered acaryas are equally potent to the murtis of the Supreme Lord and His internal potency, while the images of less empowered Vaisnavas are impotent. The arca-murti of the Personality of Godhead is a special incarnation, nondifferent from His original self, and manifests all His potencies to those who worship Him with love. The murti or picture of one's guru is recognized as the proper place to make offerings in worship, but as far as I know the Vaisnava sastras do not identify the guru's image as the same kind of arca-murti."
Many followers of Srila Prabhupada, including this author, possess full conviction that Srila Prabhupada is living and present in his murti form, and this conviction is essential in the Current and Direct Link (CDL) model. The terms “direct link” and “current link” also signify particular practices.
Followers of the CDL model, of the understanding that Srila Prabhupada is their current link and direct link to the parampara, recite Srila Prabhupada’s pranam mantras, and they don’t recite the pranam mantras of others as their link to Srila Prabhupada. Also, they worship the picture of Srila Prabhupada, and they don’t worship the pictures of others as their link to Srila Prabhupada. In addition, when such a follower of Srila Prabhupada refers to “my guru’s Vyasa-puja”, he is referring to the Vyasa-puja celebration of Srila Prabhupada. He does not celebrate a Vyasa-puja event of anyone else, as his link to Srila Prabhupada, because Srila Prabhupada is his direct and current link to the parampara.
The above practices do not imply that other Vaisnavas are not pure, or not worthy of pranams, worship, or Vyasa-puja celebrations. Rather, they clearly indicate that the devotee regards Srila Prabhupada as his current and direct link to the parampara. These three practices, and their accompanying proscriptions, are essential in the CDL model. Whatever an initiate or a devotee who performs an initiation ceremony, or anyone, may state verbally, these practices are vital in walking the walk of realizing Srila Prabhupada as the current and direct link to the disciplic succession.
With reference to the list of acaryas at the end of the Introduction to Bhagavad-gita As It Is, one who recognizes and realizes Srila Prabhupada as the current and direct link to the parampara relates to Srila Prabhupada as “32”, without a “33”. Naturally the devotee who regards Srila Prabhupada as his direct and current link to the parampara gets inspiration and guidance from other Vaisnavas. These Vaisnavas support him in directly connecting to Srila Prabhupada, and in directly cultivating his relationship with Srila Prabhupada. That is different than becoming the link to Srila Prabhupada. Below I have included some excerpts from the article 32 (www.divyajnana.org and Click Here). These excerpts reference the concepts of “guru in the singular” and “guru in the plural”. “Guru in the singular” refers to the guru in whom we have absolute and unconditional faith, with full conviction that he is not in any way influenced by the gunas. “Guru in the plural” refers to the fact that devotees naturally have many Vaisnavas who inspire them in Krsna consciousness, and in that sense they are gurus. These “gurus in the plural” may or may not be on the absolute platform of pure devotional service.
“At the start of Bhagavad-gita there is a list of 32 Vaisnavas. My understanding is that the Vaisnava preceding is the current, direct and primary link to the parampara for the Vaisnava succeeding. So, for example, #26, Srila Narottama dasa Thakur is the current, direct and primary link to the parampara for #27, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur.
“A study of the history of this parampara reveals that not all of the current and direct links were on the planet at the same time as their successors. Also, we'll find that in several instances no formal initiation ceremony happened between these links.
“Therefore, based on the disciplic succession as given to us by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, neither a formal initiation ceremony nor simultaneous presence on the same planet is required for one Vaisnava to serve as the current, direct and primary link to the parampara for another Vaisnava.
“Based on the above references to logic and parampara precedent, my understanding is that A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami is available as the direct, current and primary link to the parampara for those who sincerely follow his guidance. There is… an abundance of additional sastric evidence to support this. In addition there are the experiences of thousands of Vaisnavas to support this.
“Can this model, of accepting Srila Prabhupada as one's current and direct link to the parampara, be misused? Yes, of course it could. And certainly it has been used to avoid spiritual responsibility, and to avoid genuine surrender ("Srila Prabhupada is my guru so I don't have to listen to anyone, …") I believe that any model can be misapplied and abused, and this one is no exception. That, though, is a discussion of psychology, sincerity and personal character. Herein I wish to focus on siddhanta, a deepening of our understanding of philosophical truth.
“…Simultaneously, the devotee described above served in Srila Prabhupada's movement. In that service and capacity he accepted others, such as, for example, the temple president, the visiting sannyasi, and the bhakta leader, as his "gurus in the plural". Maybe one or more of these gurus in the plural were, or are, pure devotees of Krsna. Maybe not. In any case, Srila Prabhupada is the current and direct link to the parampara for this person. These gurus in the plural represented Srila Prabhupada, though they, regardless of their level of spiritual advancement, did not serve in the capacity of ‘33’.”
[[[End of excerpts from “32”. For more on “guru in the singular” and “guru in the plural” see "’Guru’ in the Singular and Clarity about ‘Fall Down’"- (www.divyajnana.org/pl-guru-singular.htm or Click Here).]]]
Çréla Viçvanätha Cakravarté Öhäkura wrote:
yasya prasädäd bhagavat-prasädo
dhyäyan stuvaàs tasya yaças tri-sandhyaà
“By the mercy of the spiritual master one receives the benediction of Kåñëa. Without the grace of the spiritual master, one cannot make any advancement. Therefore, I should always remember and praise the spiritual master. At least three times a day I should offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of my spiritual master.”
The above verse refers to “guru in the singular.” One who genuinely accepts Srila Prabhupada as his personal, direct and current link to the parampara meditates on Srila Prabhupada when chanting or singing the above verse. Devotees receive mercy from many Vaiñëavas, who all, in a sense, are serving as his guru.“Gurün is plural in number because anyone who gives spiritual instructions based on the revealed scriptures is accepted as a spiritual master” (Çré Caitanya-caritämåta Ädi-lélä 1:34 Purport). For devotees in Çréla Prabhupäda’s movement, however, the Vaiñëava whose mercy without which we would not receive the benediction of Kåñëa and would not make advancement is Çréla Prabhupäda. This is evidenced by the fact that the mercy and grace of other Vaiñëavas may be withdrawn, and the former recipient of that mercy continues to make advancement in Kåñëa consciousness and to receive benedictions from Kåñëa. This is possible because Çréla Prabhupäda continues to bestow his mercy and grace.
This can also be appreciated in relation to the verse:
tasyaite kathitä hy arthäù
“Unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master, all the imports of Vedic knowledge are automatically revealed” (Çvetäçvatara Upaniñad 6.23).
Here again, “guru in the singular” is referenced. Çréla Prabhupäda is the one in whom implicit faith must exist in order for the imports of Vedic knowledge to be automatically revealed. As the direct link, Çréla Prabhupäda is the person to whom the devotee surrenders absolutely.
These two verses serve as another measure of one’s claims of putting Srila Prabhupada in the center. On whom does one meditate when considering these verses? If a devotee conducts a ceremony of formal initiation, whom does he expect the initiate to consider the “guru in the singular”, as referenced in these verses?
Over the years I’ve heard the CDL model misrepresented, perhaps unintentionally in most instances, in many ways, and then the misrepresentations are attacked and condemned. Herein I’ll address a few of these misconceptions.
Some have asserted that the CDL model implies, or directly states, that there are no pure devotees in Srila Prabhupada’s movement, and this line of thought goes on to question the supposed CDL assumption that Srila Prabhupada didn’t create pure devotees. The understanding that Srila Prabhupada is the current link and direct link to the parampara does not assume or imply that there are no pure devotees in Srila Prabhupada’s movement. Perhaps there are some, or hundreds or thousands. The existence or nonexistence of pure devotees does not affect the principles of the CDL model. We strongly believe that if there are pure devotees of Krsna in Srila Prabhupada’s movement, they would enthusiastically encourage everyone to connect with Srila Prabhupada as the direct and current link to the parampara, and they would fully support and live by the principles and practices described in this paper.
Often we hear that the CDL model minimizes the importance of Vaisnava association. That is not the case. While it is true that one could misuse a pseudo-form of the CDL model, the precepts of the model itself fully encourage devotees to serve, associate with and receive guidance from other Vaisnavas who will inspire them in cultivating their direct relationship with Srila Prabhupada. As I wrote in the Prologue to the Second Printing of Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link (www.divyajnana.org/):
“Throughout PL there are many references to the importance of service and teacher-student relationships between Çréla Prabhupäda’s followers. The principles of serving, honoring, and glorifying Vaiñëavas 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 Çréla Prabhupäda’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 Çréla Prabhupäda as the prominent link to the disciplic succession.”
Other issues and straw men are addressed in Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link, including the Scenarios and Questions and Answers sections, and in related articles (see www.divyajnana.org).
Summary of Eight Principles and Practices
Here are the eight principles and practices described in this essay, for supporting us in identifying whether and to what degree someone is actually “Prabhupada-centered”, genuinely and actively aligned with Srila Prabhupada as the current and direct link to the parampara. We can apply these precepts and guidelines to ourselves, in determining the extent to which we truly accept Srila Prabhupada in the capacity as direct and current link to the disciplic succession.
Also these principles and practices can be utilized to evaluate suitability for accepting roles in a formal initiation ceremony. In that regard, it is important that the initiate and the devotee conducting the ceremony are philosophically on the same page. Suppose that the initiate is interested in a formal initiation ceremony that is fully aligned with Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link, and the CDL model. He can use the guidelines herein to formulate questions for the devotee performing the ceremony, to determine whether there is full agreement with fundamental and vital issues.
1) Referring to Srila Prabhupada as the current link to the parampara.
A relevant question for a potential initiate, to a devotee who will potentially conduct the formal initiation ceremony, could be “After the ceremony, who will be my current link to the disciplic succession?” The principles of the CDL model would mean that all parties in the initiation ceremony clearly understand that Srila Prabhupada is the current link, and will remain the current link for the initiate after the formal ceremony.
2) Referring to Srila Prabhupada as the direct link to the parampara.
A relevant question would be the same as in #1 above, with “direct link” rather than “current link”. Please note that, as emphasized earlier in this essay, “primary link”, “prominent link”, “main guru”, or other such terms are not equivalent substitutes for “direct link” and “current link”, in establishing the genuine Prabhupada-centeredness of someone, including a devotee who conducts initiation ceremonies.
3) Pranam mantras for Srila Prabhupada, and not for anyone else as a link to Srila Prabhupada.
4) Worship of Srila Prabhupada’s picture, and not worshipping the picture of anyone else as a link to Srila Prabhupada.
5) Celebrating Srila Prabhupada’s Vyasa-puja, and not the Vyasa-puja of anyone else as the link to Srila Prabhupada.
As described above, the CDL model enthusiastically encourages humble service to Vaisnavas, and receiving guidance from experienced devotees. In the CDL model devotees who provide such guidance view their role as being to inspire others to establish their direct, personal relationship to Srila Prabhupada. This is distinct from viewing oneself as the link to Srila Prabhupada, as the person through whom another must go in order to connect with Srila Prabhupada.
Requiring or expecting pranams to, or worshiping the picture of, or celebrating the Vyasa-puja of, the person conducting the ceremony of formal initiation, would clearly indicate practices and understandings contrary to the CDL model. In the CDL model the formal initiation ceremony is an official acknowledgement that the initiate has already directly connected with Srila Prabhupada through directly receiving divya-jnana, transcendental knowledge, from Srila Prabhupada. The essential quality and nature of this direct, personal relationship does not change at the time of the formal initiation ceremony.
6) 32. The devotee regards and relates to Srila Prabhupada as “32”, with respect to the disciplic succession listed at the end of the Introduction to Bhagavad-gita As It Is. There is no 33. That doesn’t mean that there won’t ever be a “33” somewhere, sometime, for some devotees. A Vaisnava who accepts Srila Prabhupada as the direct and current link to the parampara accepts Srila Prabhupada as “32”. For such a devotee, whose consciousness is aligned with CDL, there is no “33”.
It might be helpful for a devotee who is in agreement with CDL and who is considering to participate in a formal initiation ceremony, to inquire from the Vaisnava who potentially will conduct the ceremony, whether that devotee, the performer of the ceremony, regards himself as “33”, or will regard himself as such, after the ceremony.
7) Srila Prabhupada is the Vaisnava referred to and meditated on by the verse “yasya prasädäd bhagavat-prasädo…”
8) Srila Prabhupada is the Vaisnava referred to and meditated on by the verse “yasya deve parä bhaktir…”
Clarifying questions for a devotee who is considering to be an initiate in a formal ceremony might be “When I sing or chant these verses, on whom should I directly and personally meditate, Srila Prabhupada, or the devotee who conducts the formal initiation ceremony?”
As expressed earlier, the focus of this paper is to assist in clarifying what constitutes a genuine understanding of Srila Prabhupada as the direct and current link to the parampara. This hopefully will assist the reader to distinguish this understanding from words and statements that present a thin veneer of apparent “Prabhupada-centered” dedication, concealing, perhaps less than consciously, something quite contrary to principles and practices actually aligned with realizing Srila Prabhupada as the current and direct link to the disciplic succession. We are not claiming that CDL is necessarily the only viable model. We do assert that it is philosophically valid, and it is experienced as true by thousands of Vaisnavas. We humbly request that the worldwide community of Vaisnavas at least respects and honors this understanding of Srila Prabhupada as the current and direct link to the disciplic succession for members of his movement who sincerely approach him in that capacity, regardless of whether or when they participated in a formal initiation ceremony. My hope and intention with this effort is to enrich philosophical conversation and understanding around these important topics, to enhance appreciation for Srila Prabhupada, and to inspire implementation of the principles and practices of CDL, Srila Prabhupada’s model for continuing the parampara.