Sampradaya Acarya

Sampradaya Acarya
By Sriman Rochan Prabhu 2003

The Sampradaya Acaryas who form the foundation of our parampara teach that the process of becoming Krsna conscious is not sentimental, but is instead an exact science for achieving the perfection of self-realization. As such, all aspects of this divine process are meticulously explained, clearly defined, and systematically presented. Adjustments needed to comply with time, place and circumstance can only be implemented by a maha-bhagavata Acarya ambassador of the past parampara Acaryas.

nama om visnu padaya krsna presthaya bhutale
srimate bhaktivedanta swamin iti namine

namaste sarasvate deve gauravani pracarine
nirvisesa sunyavadi pascatya desa tarine

I offer my respectful obeisances unto
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada,
who is very dear to Lord Krsna,
having taken shelter at His lotus feet.

Our respectful obeisances are unto you, O spiritual master,
servant of Sarasvati Gosvami. You are kindly preaching the message
of Lord Caitanyadeva and delivering the Western countries,
which are filled with impersonalism and voidism.


Initiation into the transcendental association of the Sampradaya Acaryas is consummated due to the limitless mercy of their bonafide representative, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada is the most recent preeminent Acarya representing the Brahma Madhva Gaudiya Vaisnava Sampradaya. Since Srila Prabhupada entered samadhi in November 1977, the atmosphere within the Vaisnava Community has been surcharged with controversy surrounding the process of gaining genuine admission into the disciplic succession. This havoc has negatively impacted not only the individual aspiring bhakta followers of Srila Prabhupada, it has seriously impacted the preaching institution founded by the great Acarya. Countless conditioned souls who are eligible to receive the merciful benediction of unconditional divine love emanating from the Yuga Avatara, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, have been neglected. A commonly heard excuse for this unfortunate state of affairs is that after the nitya-siddha, maha-bhagavata Acarya winds-up his pastimes, confusion reigns. The surviving disciples are left with the seemingly impossible mandate to work cooperatively to maintain the momentum of the preaching effort established by the departed Acarya.

The immaturity of the leaderless disciples is exposed as time passes, and the symptoms of Kali Yuga become manifest. Hypocrisy and quarrel paralyze the process. Getting disagreeable conditioned souls to cooperate together for the benefit of victims of Kali is hopelessly problematic. Regardless, the truehearted servants of Srila Prabhupada should consider it their lifelong duty to struggle against all odds to solve this dilemma.

For many years, I have tried to understand the essence of this seemingly insurmountable predicament. I have concluded that there is great need for a philosophical definition that clearly distinguishes between a Guru (siksa/diksa) and the Sampradaya Acarya. At first read, this statement may appear to be an over-simplification of a very complex circumstance — like the statement that all suffering in the material world is due to the living entities’ desire to be God rather than to serve God.

As a diksa disciple of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, I am placed in an awkward position when presenting this subject. I am boldly declaring that my Spiritual Master rightly deserves to be recognized as a Sampradaya Acarya. Naturally I feel that I am applying objective analysis to this conclusion, but my critics will likely label me an “immature guru cheerleader”. In recent years, my preliminary attempts to debate this issue were met with a hue and cry from the followers of other Gurus. Nevertheless, as a matter of conviction and duty, I present my thoughts here without intention to offend.

At the center of my thesis is the conclusion that Srila Prabhupada must be included in the exalted company of the two previous Sampradaya Acaryas, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur. While I assume that most of my readers hold Srila Prabhupada in high regard, I am also very familiar with the resistance met when attempting to motivate my fellow Vaisnavas to re-examine their uniquely personalized realizations of Srila Prabhupada.

I can honestly testify that transforming my past immature, sentimental perceptions of Srila Prabhupada with a siddhantically supported conception of my spiritual master as a rarified Sampradaya Acarya has enriched my spiritual life immensely. In this paper, I will share my faith that Srila Prabhupada is, in fact, a Sampradaya Acarya based on sound reasoning, logic, and research. I am aware that leaders within the Gaudiya Matha and ISKCON are at odds with my conclusions, and I’ve studied their rebuttals of other thoughtful presentations along these lines. Publicly, the institutional followers may wax poetic on the glories of their wondrous Srila Prabhupada, but when pressed to officially designate him as an equal to other Sampradaya Acaryas, particularly Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, their true colors are revealed.

Definition of a Sampradaya Acarya

The Sampradaya Acaryas who form the foundation of our parampara teach that the process of becoming Krsna conscious is not sentimental, but is instead an exact science for achieving the perfection of self-realization. As such, all aspects of this divine process are meticulously explained, clearly defined, and systematically presented. Adjustments needed to comply with time, place and circumstance can only be implemented by a maha-bhagavata Acarya ambassador of the past parampara Acaryas.

Let us begin with the list of 32 Sampradaya Acaryas presented by Srila Prabhupada in his Introduction to “Bhagavad-gita As It Is”:

“Evam parampara-praptam imam rajarsayo viduh (Bhagavad-gita 4.2). This Bhagavad-gita As It Is is received through this disciplic succession:
1. Krsna
2. Brahma
3. Narada
4. Vyasa
5. Madhva
6. Padmanabha
7. Nrhari
8. Madhava
9. Aksobhya
10. Jaya Tirtha
11. Jnanasindhu
12. Dayanidhi
13. Vidyanidhi
14. Rajendra
15. Jayadharma
16. Purusottama
17. Brahmanya Tirtha
18. Vyasa Tirtha
19. Laksmipati
20. Madhavendra Puri
21. Isvara Puri, (Nityananda, Advaita)
22. Lord Caitanya
23. Rupa, (Svarupa, Sanatana)
24. Raghunatha, Jiva
25. Krsnadasa
26. Narottama
27. Visvanatha
28. (Baladeva) Jagannatha
29. Bhaktivinoda
30. Gaurakisora
31. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati
32. His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada”

While debating these issues in the recent past with followers of other ISKCON and Gaudiya Matha gurus, I have been accused of inventing the term, “sampradaya acarya” to bolster my arguments. The following quotations show that I did not simply invent the title “Sampradaya Acarya” from literary license:

“So we should hear from the sampradaya-acarya by disciplic succession. As Krsna recommends in this Bhagavad-gita: evam parampara-praptam imam rajarsayo viduh.”
la Prabhupada Lecture on Bhagavad-gita, 11-30-72, Hyderabad

“Our Indian spiritual life is guided by the acaryas, sampradaya acarya, the Ramanujacarya, Madhvacarya, Visnuswami and Nimbarka. There is… Whole Indian spiritual culture is dependent on the guidance of these acarya. And in the Bhagavad-gita also, in the Thirteenth Chapter, it is advised, acarya upasanam: “One should follow the instruction of the acarya.” That is our Vedic civilization.”
Srila Prabhupada Lecture to World Health Org., 06-06-74, Geneva

From the above quotations, which I have chosen from many, the reader can see that the term “sampradaya acarya” was introduced by the Sampradaya Acarya himself.

Next we must examine the question of just which past, exalted Vaisnavas are to be included as Sampradaya Acaryas. We see the individuals Srila Prabhupada included in the list, and the fact that he listed himself as the most recent.

The four Vaisnava Sampradayas, including our Brahma Madhva Gaudiya Sampradaya, are the main vehicles with which the Supreme Personality of Godhead fulfills his promise to assist the embodied living entities in escaping the bondage of material life and returning to their eternal constitutional position in the Spiritual World. In order to maintain the purity and potency of these linkages, the Lord personally incarnates periodically, or sends his unalloyed representatives. Our Sampradaya has been blessed by the appearance of the Yuga Avatara, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Since his disappearance 500 years ago, there have been extended periods of dormancy in the Sampradaya. The revival began with the descent of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura over 150 years ago. Those empowered associates of the Lord who are sent specifically to surcharge the parampara are classified as Sampradaya Acaryas. There are innumerable pure devotees who are involved in other capacities and pastimes in the overall transcendental scheme to benedict the suffering souls, but all are not included on the list of Sampradaya Acaryas.

The nomenclature “Sampradaya Acaryas” properly describes the three successive Acaryas, beginning with Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur, then Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. Srila Prabhupada is the third appearance in this most recent succession of prominent Sampradaya Acaryas. As a successive team, they made their nitya-siddha appearance to fulfill the precise mission of spreading Krsna Consciousness to every town and village throughout the planet, as predicted by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. They were deputed to perform this preordained pastime.

Many exalted Vaisnavas are not listed as Sampradaya Acaryas, but this omission does not in any way diminish or relegate them to an inferior position. Nor does it insinuate that they are not included in the parampara.

“Regarding parampara system: there is nothing to wonder for big gaps. Just like we belong to the Brahma Sampradaya, so we accept it from Krishna to Brahma, Brahma to Narada, Narada to Vyasadeva, Vyasadeva to Madhva, and between Vyasadeva and Madhva there is a big gap. But it is sometimes said that Vyasadeva is still living, and Madhva was fortunate enough to meet him directly. In a similar way, we find in the Bhagavad-gita that the Gita was taught to the sungod, some millions of years ago, but Krishna has mentioned only three names in this parampara system–namely, Vivasvan, Manu, and Iksvaku; and so these gaps do not hamper from understanding the parampara system. We have to pick up the prominent acaryas, and follow from him. There are many branches also from the parampara system, and it is not possible to record all the branches and sub-branches in the disciplic succession. We have to pick up from the authority of the acharya in whatever sampradaya we belong to.”
Srila Prabhupada Letter to Dayananda, 04-12-68

We expect that members of the many Gaudiya Matha communities will claim that their founders (Godbrothers of Srila Prabhupada) have an equal right to be placed in the number 32 spot and be considered a bonafide branch. Then there are all the diksa guru disciples of both the Gaudiya Matha and ISKCON diksa gurus who feel their guru should be placed as the last in line. And there lies the controversy.

All the previous acaryas in the disciplic succession are pure devotees or uttama-adhikaris. A new devotee should utilize his intelligence and accept a spiritual master on this same platform as acaryas such as Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, who form the disciplic succession of acaryas.

The prerequisite qualification for all those making claim that they are situated in the “line of disciplic succession” is the accuracy of their realized recognition of the prominent Sampradaya Acarya. Due to frequent gaps between visible manifestations, it behooves those within the parampara constituency to demonstrate an appreciative and appropriate glorification, commitment and assistance to the mission of the latest Sampradaya Acarya.

Being a bonafide member or representative of the Sampradaya is distinctly different than being a Sampradaya Acarya. Sincere members of the Sampradaya make unfettered spiritual advancement when they dedicate their efforts to thoroughly comprehending the prominent Sampradaya Acarya’s teachings, pastimes, mission, and mood. Reinforced with such realized absolute knowledge, the sincere adherent can venture forth in search of the most advantageous transcendental association.

“So Prthu Maharaja was very respectful to the sampradaya-acaryas. As it is said by Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, “saksad-dharitvena samasta-sastraih”: a spiritual master, or the parampara-acarya, should be respected exactly like the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The word vidhivat is significant in this verse. This means that Prthu Maharaja also strictly followed the injunctions of the sastra in receiving a spiritual master, or acarya, of the transcendental disciplic succession.”
Srimad-Bhagavatam 4:22:4 Purport

In this Age of Kali, we know that quarrel and hypocrisy reign supreme. This anti-spiritual force manifests itself in many ways, shapes and forms. The aspiring follower of the Sampradaya Acarya must be capable of discerning the nefarious actions and dubious character of those who attempt to eclipse the real Sampradaya Acaryas. These materially ambitious individuals have taken the poison pill. Unfortunately, there are many examples of this behavior, which blatantly manifested shortly after the disappearance of the past two Sampradaya Acaryas. In both cases, those who aspired to name and fame implemented conspiratorial plans that resulted in the break-up of the Sampradaya Acarya’s mission. Many opposing camps developed thereafter, and they began fighting with one another.

Let us keep in mind that the Sampradaya history also consists of innumerable regular gurus and their disciples. The degree to which they strictly followed the teachings and practice of the unalloyed Acaryas is the degree to which they were connected and benefited. Non-realization of the identity of the prominent Sampradaya Acarya is surely unfortunate, offensive, and has disastrous ramifications. It is my belief that this is the root cause of the dissolving of the two successive Sampradaya Acarya’s preaching missions.

Contemporary Sampradaya History

I assume the reader is aware of our Sampradaya “family history”, that the advent of the nitya-siddha shaktavesa Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was in answer to the fervent prayers of his father, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur. The Thakura beseeched Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu to send Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati from the spiritual realm to fulfill his request. Lord Caitanya’s proclamation that the Krsna Consciousness Movement become a Worldwide community could only be realized if such a divine personality descended.

“And as Caitanya Mahaprabhu was called by Advaita Prabhu, similarly, Bhaktivinoda Thakura, when he saw this condition of pseudo Vaisnava all over the country, he also prayed to Lord Caitanya that “You kindly send somebody from Your personal staff so that I can start this movement.” You see? So by the grace of Lord Caitanya, as we pray, sri-gaura-karuna-sakti-vigrahaya namo ‘stu te. Gaura… He is mercy representation of Lord Caitanya. And he appeared as the son of this Bhaktivinoda Thakura. At that time he was known as Kedaranath Datta. Ken Datta. And he appeared in 1867 as the child of Bhaktivinoda Thakura.”
Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Bhaktisiddhanta’s Appearance Day, 02-07-69, Los Angeles

Our prominent Acaryas, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, have shown themselves to be cent-per cent for the disciplic line as described by Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura writes:

“The Brahma disciplic line is the path recognized by all the followers of Lord Caitanya. This information has been obtained in accordance with the evidence of the book ‘Gaura Ganodesa Dipika’ of Srila Kavikarnapura, written in proper sequence and has been verified by Srila Vidyabhusana. One who does not accept this succession is definitely the foremost enemy of the Gaudiya Vaishnavites.”

The question before us is whether or not A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada was the next nitya-siddha emissary sent by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. I believe that this is the truth, and that it is of paramount importance to all living Vaisnavas to appreciate this reality.

“Even if the sinners reject religion or flee to foreign countries, still they will get the mercy. I will send My senapati (military field commander) bhakta to go there and deliver them.”
Lord Caitanya Mahprabhu, from Sri Caitanya Mangala, Sutra-Khanda by Locana das Thakura

“I think, in 1922, when I was young man, one of my friends, he took me to Guru Maharaja. That was my first meeting. And, of course, he was speaking to everyone, but he found me as something. So immediately after my meeting, he said this, that “Why don’t you preach this Caitanya’s cult in the Western countries?” That is a memorable day.

….So the reply was the same as he wanted me to do this preaching work in 1922, when I first met him, that “You try to preach whatever you have learned from me to the English-knowing people in English. That will do good to you and to the people to whom you shall preach. That is my instruction.” So I took up, direction. And then he passed away in 1936, 31st December.

….This movement should go on, you see, this movement started by Caitanya Mahaprabhu, then accelerated by Gosvamis, and then again Visvanatha Cakravarti. And when… Just like whenever there is… Yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati. When there is some slowness, either Krsna Himself or some representative comes to give it a push. So you should know it, that this movement should be pushed on. This should not be neglected.”
Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Bhaktisiddhanta’s Appearance Day, 02-07-69, Los Angeles

If we embrace this perception of Srila Prabhupada as the third in a succession of nitya-siddhas sent directly by Lord Caitanya, there is hope of pushing forward his divine mission despite the physical absence of a manifest nitya-siddha Acarya. I feel it is imperative that this vision of the successive appearance of the three nitya-siddha Sampradaya Acaryas be enshired as a core belief in order for any Gaudiya Vaisnava preaching association to be successful. An accurate mission statement should attempt to embody the mood, mission and philosophical teachings of these divine personalities. From this time on, these three Sampradaya Acaryas should be included on the list of Sampradaya Acaryas presented by Srila Prabhupada. Defining the spiritual status of Srila Prabhupada’s Godbrothers and disciples in relationship to the Sampradaya Acaryas is the essence of the problem before us today.

The controversy surrounding the bonafide parampara takes us back to time immemorial. In the prominent sloka from Bhagavad-gita, spoken 5,000 years ago, Lord Sri Krsna states that the Sun God and Lord Brahma are the original Vaisnava Acaryas:

evam parampara-praptam
imam rajarsayo viduh
sa kaleneha mahata
yogo nastah parantapa
“This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost.”
Bhagavad-Gita 4:2

Since that time the Lord, in his multitudinous forms, has periodically advented for the purpose of re-establishing the pure absolute teachings of the Sampradaya for the enlightenment of mankind. The spiritual highlights in Vaisnava history have been the transcendental pastimes of direct Visnu-tattva incarnations and nitya-siddha shaktavesa Vaisnava Acaryas.

Srila Prabhupada writes in the Caitanya-caritamrita, Madhya lila 25:9 Purport:

“Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura then comments: “Without being empowered by the direct potency of Lord Krsna to fulfill His desire and without being specifically favored by the Lord, no human being can become the spiritual master of the whole world. He certainly cannot succeed by mental concoction, which is not meant for devotees or religious people. Only an empowered personality can distribute the holy name of the Lord and enjoin all fallen souls to worship Krsna. By distributing the holy name of the Lord, he cleanses the hearts of the most fallen people; therefore he extinguishes the blazing fire of the material world. Not only that, he broadcasts the shining brightness of Krsna’s effulgence throughout the world. Such an Acarya, or spiritual master, should be considered nondifferent from Krsna-that is, he should be considered the incarnation of Lord Krsna’s potency. Such a personality is “krsna lingita-vigraha”- that is, he is always embraced by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna. Such a person is above the considerations of the varnasrama institution. He is the guru or spiritual master for the entire world, a devotee on the topmost platform, the maha-bhagavata stage, and a paramahamsa-thakura, a spiritual form only fit to be addressed as paramahamsa or thakura.”

In sastric depictions of Krsna’s appearances — particularly Lord Sri Krsna 5,000 years ago, and Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu 500 years ago — we find a common theme. Very few of the individuals involved in the lila fully realized, especially philosophically, that these extraordinary personalities were the Supreme Personality of Godhead. How many souls assembled on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra appreciated that Arjuna’s chariot driver was God? Lord Caitanya refused to hear mention of his true identity as an incarnation of the Lord. Our Sampradaya Acaryas have mercifully given us their complete vision and deep understanding of The Supreme Personality of Godhead’s pastimes. Yet few seem to realize that the same principle applies to the appearance of the nitya-siddha, shaktavesa avatara Sampradaya Acaryas.

Srila Prabhupada made it abundantly clear that he considers his Spiritual Master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, and his divine father, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, to be Sampradaya Acaryas sent by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. All objective evidence points to the fact that A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada is situated on the same spiritual platform. Yet from all our established contemporary Vaisnava communities, particularly the Gaudiya Matha and ISKCON, we don’t find a commitment to this perspective. I’m not speaking of flowery, sentimental depictions, but of philosophically formulated “creeds” that all members are sworn to uphold.

Understandably, Srila Prabhupada’s Godbrothers lacked the insight to detect his spiritual status prior to the ISKCON lila period. The unfolding of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s true identity is quite similar, what to speak of Srila Rupa And Sanatana Goswami. The Sampradaya Acaryas’ declaration of the exalted spiritual status of Jagannatha and Gaura Kishora dasa Babjis stands as yet another example. Spiritually preparing oneself to develop the empowered perception in order to precisely identify who are advanced devotees and who are imitations is essential to success.

Undermining Srila Prabhupada’s Status as Sampradaya Acarya

Over the past twenty-five years, many insidiously subtle forces have seriously undermined the conception of Srila Prabhupada as a nitya-siddha, shaktavesa avatara and Sampradaya Acarya. The most serious influences are the spurious preaching against Srila Prabhupada originating from his Gaudiya Matha Godbrothers, the undignified vision of Srila Prabhupada enshrined in the “Lilamrita” by the Zonal Acaryas, and the overall influence of Kali Yuga on neophyte disciples.

Gaudiya Matha Influence

I. The ISKCON Lila Era

In the early years of ISKCON, most of the active participants embraced the recognition of Srila Prabhupada as spiritually situated on the same transcendental echelon as Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur. The collective conclusion was that Srila Prabhupada is more advanced than his Godbrothers. Due to our isolated circumstances, many of the rank and file gave little thought to making a comparison – but all unquestioningly perceived Srila Prabhupada as residing in a lofty spiritual state. For most, this perception flowed from a spontaneous exhibition of dependent devotion and youthful exuberance, and was not generally based upon deep philosophical comprehension. Little or no open discussion took place on this subject.

Outside the borders of ISKCON, other Vaisnavas in our line not only did not accept the exuberant conclusions of Srila Prabhupada’s foreign disciples, many within the Vaisnava community voiced disapproval. During the ISKCON lila period, the deprecation of Srila Prabhupada emanating from the Gaudiya Matha made little impact on members of the Society, primarily because most of the disciples were serving in the West. Nonetheless, their protestations will be preserved as part of Vaisnava history.

His Godbrothers denigrated A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami for adopting the honorific title “Srila Prabhupada” — the same endearment given their exalted Spiritual Master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. This disagreement was exacerbated by Srila Prabhupada’s endorsement of non-traditional practices within ISKCON, such as those relating to the worship of the guru: daily elaborate guru-pujas, use of throne-like vyasasana, and allowing his disciples to glorify him in what his Godbrothers considered to be an ostentatious manner. In reality, Srila Prabhupada was finally declaring himself to be the preeminent Sampradaya Acarya that he truly was all along.

Throughout his ISKCON lila, Srila Prabhupada projected a humble persona, giving all credit for his success to his Guru Maharaja. He related to his disciples in the mood of a kind father, thanking them for their sincere efforts, and never abusing his power and opulence. All these factors contributed to the disciples’ image of Srila Prabhupada as being the one and only living Sampradaya Acarya. The society-wide reverential mood and daily guru puja practice introduced into ISKCON by Srila Prabhupada reinforced the concept that it was his desire to have his followers view him as a nitya-siddha Sampradaya Acarya.

We can emphatically state that Srila Prabhupada broadcast definitive, society-wide instructions to all his disciples to avoid intimate relations with his Gaudiya Matha Godbrothers. In part, this directive stemmed from a desire to spare his neophyte disciples the anxiety of hearing the many insidious innuendoes and the occasional outright criticisms born of his Godbrothers’ envy and their lack of realization of his status as the Sampradaya Acraya.

“So I have now issued orders that all my disciples should avoid all of my godbrothers. They should not have any dealings with them nor even correspondence, nor should they give them any of my books or should they purchase any of their books, neither should you visit any of their temples. Please avoid them.”
Srila Prabhupada Letter to Visvakarma, 11-09-75

The ultimate insult in the minds of the Gaudiya Godbrothers was Srila Prabhupada’s articulation of his profound philosophical disagreement with them, which he published in his purports to the Caitanya-caritamrta. Srila Prabhupada had broken the tacit accord, “I’m OK, you’re OK…. don’t publicly criticize each other”. Of course they had already broken that trust, but for Srila Prabhupada to enshrine his opinion in immortal context was unthinkable. Acting in his elevated status as a Sampradaya Acarya, Srila Prabhupada had the right – or more accurately, the sacred duty — to speak out truthfully for the benefit of future generations and to maintain the purity of the Sampradaya. If you don’t agree with Srila Prabhupada’s controversial statements or the fact that he broadcast his opinions in such an irreversible manner, then by definition you are at odds with my proposition of Srila Prabhupada’s elevated status as Sampradaya Acarya.

“Why this Gaudiya Matha failed? Because they tried to become more than guru. He, before passing away, he gave all direction and never said that This man should be the next acarya.’ But these people, just after his passing away they began to fight, who shall be acarya. That is the failure. They never thought, Why Guru Maharaja gave us instruction so many things, why he did not say that this man should be acarya?’ They wanted to create artificially somebody acarya and everything failed. They did not consider even with common sense that if Guru Maharaja wanted to appoint somebody as acarya, why did he not say? He said so many things, and this point he missed? The real point? And they insist upon it. They declared some unfit person to become acarya. Then another man came, then another, acarya, another acarya. So better remain a foolish person perpetually to be directed by Guru Maharaja. That is perfection.”
Srila Prabhupada Room Conversation, 08-16-76, Bombay

“Any opinion different from the opinion of the spiritual master is useless. One cannot infiltrate materially concocted ideas into spiritual advancement. That is deviation.”
Caitanya-caritamrita Adi-lila 12.9 Purport

Today’s Gaudiya Matha avoids discussion on the distinction between the lofty spiritual qualifications of the Sampradaya Acaryas and the regular diksa gurus. They do not recognize Srila Prabhupada to be of equal stature with his predecessor Sampradaya Acaryas, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur. The Gaudiya Matha leadership’s practice of actively seeking and encouraging siksa relationships with the Sampradaya Acarya’s own disciples is a practice that clearly ignores Srila Prabhupada’s elevated spiritual status. The Gaudiya Matha does not differentiate between the potency of the disciple’s direct connection to the Sampradaya through a Sampradaya Acarya, as opposed to the connection made through any other diksa or siksa guru.

Srila Prabhupada possessed extraordinary powers of personal perception. This was evident when he shared his realizations about the unfortunate events following His Spiritual Master’s disappearance. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati requested the appointment of a GBC to maintain the preaching mission upon his departure, but he was silent as to the appointment of a successor Acarya. History has repeatedly demonstrated that both Acaryas placed the burden of responsibility squarely upon their respective GBC appointees, without precise instructions as to how their tasks should be accomplished. The onus was on them to come to the proper conclusion that their guru was much more than a “regular” spiritual master, but was rather a rare Sampradaya Acarya. As such, the normal course of events did not apply. During his lila, Lord Caitanya choose not to provide a nitya-siddha, maha-bhagavata, parampara-Acarya to replace him.

By purposefully sidestepping the succession issue, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati’s final instruction was for a cooperative effort. This was also the case with Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada’s Godbrothers were left with the same dilemma faced by Srila Prabhupada’s GBC. Both GBC’s (1937 – 1977) had to ponder the question of whether they should simply revert back to the traditional process of allowing disciples to assume diksa guru responsibilities, or work together to come up with a practical alternative that would maintain the momentum within the surcharged mission established by a shaktavesa avatara. Common sense and historical memory indicates that taking the traditional direction would likely cause the Acarya’s organization to self-destruct, which they both undoubtedly did.

II. Post-Samadhi Era

Disregarding Srila Prabhupada’s directives for his disciples to distance themselves from his Godbrothers influence, the post-samadhi GBC went “across the river” to beg consultation from Swami B.R. Sridhara. Predictably, Sridhara Goswami navigated the good ship ISKCON on the identical disastrous course embarked upon by the original Gaudiya Matha after Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati departed.

The following letter was widely circulated amongst all senior management, especially the GBC. Yet many disciples, disappointed by ISKCON’s lack of leadership and in grief over Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance, followed the GBC’s lead and took shelter of Sridhara Maharaja. The all-too-familiar attitude of Srila Prabhupada’s past friends infected many disciples, who abandoned Srila Prabhupada’s mission. After twenty years, there remain a few surviving camps spawned from that seed, such as Tripurari Swami.

Tirupati 28 April, 1974 Washington D.C.
My dear Rupanuga Maharaja,
Please accept my blessings.
“You are right about Sridhara Maharaja’s genuineness. But in my opinion he is the best of the lot. He is my old friend, at least he executes the regulative principles of devotional service. I do not wish to discuss about activities of my Godbrothers but it is a fact they have no life for preaching work. All are satisfied with a place for residence in the name of a temple, they engage disciples to get foodstuff by transcendental devices and eat and sleep. They have no idea or brain how to broadcast the cult of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. My Guru Maharaja used to lament many times for this reason and he thought if one man at least had understood the principle of preaching then his mission would achieve success. In the latter days of my Guru Maharaja he was very disgusted. Actually, he left this world earlier; otherwise he would have continued to live for more years. Still he requested his disciples to form a strong Governing body for preaching the cult of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He never recommended anyone to be acarya of the Gaudiya Math. But Sridhara Maharaja is responsible for disobeying this order of Guru Maharaja, and he and others who are already dead unnecessarily thought that there must be one acarya. If Guru Maharaja could have seen someone who was qualified at that time to be acarya he would have mentioned. Because on the night before he passed away he talked of so many things, but never mentioned an acarya. His idea was acarya was not to be nominated amongst the governing body. He said openly you make a GBC and conduct the mission. So his idea was amongst the members of GBC who would come out successful and self effulgent acarya would be automatically selected. So Sridhara Maharaja and his two associate gentlemen unauthorized selected one acarya and later it proved a failure. The result is now everyone is claiming to be acarya even though they may be kanistha adhikari with no ability to preach. In some of the camps the acarya is being changed three times a year. Therefore we may not commit the same mistake in our ISKCON camp. Actually amongst my Godbrothers no one is qualified to become acarya. So it is better not to mix with my Godbrothers very intimately because instead of inspiring our students and disciples they may sometimes pollute them. This attempt was made previously by them, especially Madhava Maharaja and Tirtha Maharaja and Bon Maharaja but somehow or other I saved the situation. This is going on. We shall be very careful about them and not mix with them. This is my instruction to you all. They cannot help us in our movement, but they are very competent to harm our natural progress. So we must be very careful about them.”

After Srila Prabhupada’s departure, the Gaudiya Math leaders, who understood the potential of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples, transformed their previous, smoldering animosity into a deceptively welcoming ‘uncle-like’ mentality. This was accompanied by an expert subtle sorcery of philosophical ideas that served to undermine the previously held conception of Srila Prabhupada as the preeminent Sampradaya Acarya. Post-samadhi they equated him as an equal member of the multi-matha leadership. Prior to his departure, the commonly held opinion in the Gaudiya Math community was that Srila Prabhupada was an inferior upstart who had succeeded in duping the “western monkeys” into thinking he was something extra-special. They held the opinion that Srila Prabhupada had convinced us that we were properly trained up bonafide Vaisnavas, which wasn’t the case.

Today, B.V. Narayana Swami boldly declares himself to be Srila Prabhupada’s successor – thinking himself equal to the Sampradaya Acarya. As such, he is the most prominent personification of the ongoing threat emanating from the Gaudiya Matha mentality. After decades of systematically orchestrated propaganda aimed at deflating Srila Prabhupada’s true status, many hapless victims gravitate towards this blatantly obvious imposter and surrender to him instead of maintaining their exclusive allegiance to the true Sampradaya Acarya.

The same unwritten “code of silence” that discourages public criticism is still practiced today within the multiple “mini matha” associations operating under the ISKCON banner. Many ISKCON gurus flauntingly disregard the GBC mandates pertaining to their outward exhibition of “acarya-like” status. This behavior indicates their not-too subtle competitiveness towards the authentic Sampradaya Acarya. The level of worship Srila Prabhupada enjoyed was equal to his true status. Being the disciple of a Sampradaya Acarya has its potential pitfalls along with its many benefits. If the disciple fully realizes who initiated them, then benefits abound, but if they falsely view him as an “ordinary guru”, reactions are in store for the offensive.

The GBC is supposedly the official philosophical representative of ISKCON. In Bhakti Caru’s “Guru Asraya” report we find the following statement, “Now that Srila Prabhupada is no longer physically present, those who truly take shelter of Srila Prabhupada are those who take shelter of his servants”. Throughout this 15 page report there is no definite instruction on developing a direct relationship with Srila Prabhupada or taking shelter of him, what to speak of declaring him be the Sampradaya Acarya. Rather, the GBC’s “guru asraya” states, “Nonetheless, to fulfill the ongoing needs of spiritual life, a disciple of a fallen guru, should try to develop a sincere relationship with an advanced devotee and receive his mercy”. In conclusion, the paper suggests, “Devotees should take shelter of the representatives of Srila Prabhupada, who are in the current link of the disciplic succession.”

In Nectar of Instruction, Text 5, we read:

“One should not become a spiritual master unless he has attained the platform of Uttama-Adhikari. A neophyte Vaisnava, or a Vaisnava situated on the intermediate platform, can also accept disciples, but such disciples must be on the same platform and it should be understood that they cannot advance very well toward the ultimate goal of life under his insufficient guidance. Therefore, a disciple should be careful to accept an Uttama-Adhikari as a spiritual master.”

The Zonal Acarya’s “Lilamrita” Influence

During the ISKCON lila period, an elite group of senior disciples enjoyed exclusive access to Srila Prabhupada’s direct association. This privileged exposure unfortunately resulted in an overly familiar attitude towards the Sampradaya Acarya. In stark contrast, ISKCON’s rank and file membership displayed a mood of awe and reverence in relation to Srila Prabhupada.

The historical record shows that within a few months of the Acarya’s disappearance, the elite amongst the senior disciples conspired to form the notorious Zonal Acarya fellowship. The first task executed under their calculated plan was to capture the minds and hearts of ISKCON’s grassroots followers, which were exclusively reposed in Srila Prabhupada. In order to accomplish this goal, they went about undermining the prevailing “myth” of Srila Prabhupada being a nitya-siddha Sampradaya Acarya. Their diabolical plan called for propaganda that simultaneously elevated the eleven imitator’s spiritual image while at the same time deflating the all-pervading exalted conception of Srila Prabhupada. To accomplish this goal, they made absurd claims within their published papers, saying they had received divine benedictions anointing them with instant “kripa-siddha” Acarya status. Next they diverted copious BBT funds towards the creation of the voluminous “Lilamrita”, which immortalizes their spurious “human” conception of Srila Prabhupada, degrading his transcendental pastimes into mundane events. Tragically, these intrigues temporarily accomplished the Zonals’ desired objectives. Despite Lord Krsna’s exposing and deposing most of these infamous Zonal conspirators, the Lilamrita remains unchallenged to this day, carrying on the embodiment of their fallacious conception of Srila Prabhupada.

The Succession Controversy

Today, all the warring camps that have spawned from the original, pre-samadhi ISKCON share a common hypothesis, which is that before departing, Srila Prabhupada ordered us/GBC to implement a specified process pertaining to future initiations in ISKCON. In my opinion, this supposition is incorrect. Srila Prabhupada followed in his Spiritual Master’s footsteps and proposed that the focus of worship be on the Sampradaya Acarya.

This irresolvable controversy centers on the existence – or absence – of proof positive. To date, no unequivocal evidence of Srila Prabhupada’s official authorization has come to light approving his senior disciples’ assumption of the responsibilities of diksa initiation…. what to speak of their absurd title, “Zonal Acarya”. The same problem holds true for the Rtvik proponents, who have no proof positive in support of their conclusions. All parties are relying on interpretations of the very same vague statements and institutional documents, while coming to diametrically opposing conclusions – which indicates just how inconclusive the “proof” actually is.

It appears to me that no irrefutable document or statement has yet been found or is likely to be found, hidden away within Srila Prabhupada’s archive. After twenty years of futile research, exponents have had to resort to concocting a meaning from the now famous July 9th letter, preceded by the May 28th room conversation. When challenged on their dubious documentation, most Rtviks ultimately resort to the conspiracy theory.

Neither ISKCON, the Gaudiya Matha nor the Rtviks entertain the notion that Srila Prabhupada might simply have followed in the footsteps of his spiritual master, asking that we cooperate and await the next Sampradaya Acarya. Yet considering their elevated spiritual status and pre-determined missions, it seems logical that nitya-siddha shaktavesa avatars would depart in just such an untraditional manner.

The ill-conceived notion that all diksa initiations within ISKCON should be carried out by Rtvik priests representing the departed Srila Prabhupada is inconsistent with all of his teachings, all sastra, all predecessor Acaryas, all sampradayas, and all Vedic and Pancaratrika tradition. This conception will lead to a digression from pure Vaisnava philosophy into religiosity. The concept of recognizing and immortalizing the Sampradaya Acarya is commendable. Expanding this vision into post-samadhi diksa unnecessarily complicates the Sampradaya Acarya notion. For all the reasons listed above, this idea becomes a lightning rod for those who wish to relegate Srila Prabhupada to normalcy for their own envious reasons.

The Rtvik manifesto, “The Final Order”, appears to be modeled on the western Judeo/Christian model of organized religion. Srila Prabhupada is transformed into a Christ-like personality who, in absentia, is supposedly willing and able to forgive all the sins of those who are baptized/initiated. Rtviks are, after all, priests by definition. Organizations like the IRM are establishing procedures for Rtvik initiation that will likely evolve over time in ways that create even greater similarity to the western model. The West Coast Rtviks have absorbed the “poisoning of Srila Prabhupada” conclusion into their depiction of Sampradaya history. The result engenders a similarity to the persecution and crucifixion of the Biblical Christ. Religions tend to promote sentimentally dramatized stories over and above disseminating spiritual philosophy.

The very supposition of Rtvik-ism, as described by its proponents, depends upon an institutional context for its implementation. While the IRM began in an institutional setting, the West Coast Rtviks have not yet explained how their process will function outside the institution. Who decides which personalities are qualified to perform the Rtvik priestly functions? What are the priest’s responsibilities before and after initiation? So many questions have been put forth but remain unanswered. Promoting the Sampradaya Acarya vision of Srila Prabhupada is so much more digestible.

ISKCON leaders are also into sentimentalism as opposed to philosophy. Many have written autobiographies that tell unverifiable pastime stories involving their relationship with Srila Prabhupada. Many Bhagavatam classes morph into story-telling sessions wherein the speaker puts a little more shine on their public image. Srila Prabhupada’s absolute spiritual position as Sampradaya Acarya is never philosophically presented. Instead, he is depicted in the manner of the speaker’s mental conception.

“The Supreme Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, in pursuance of the teachings of the scriptures enjoins all absence of conventionalism for the teachers of the eternal religion. It does not follow that the mechanical adoption of the unconventional life by any person will make him a fit teacher of religion.”
Putana by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati

Practical Application of Siksa

Srila Prabhupada introduced Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati’s GBC administrative model into ISKCON. This organizational model not only served an obvious practical function, more importantly it acknowledged the potency of empowering siksa gurus directly representing the Sampradaya Acarya within an institutional framework. Srila Prabhupada structured his Society so that siksa gurus were afforded due reverence relative to their proven success in contributing to the missionary efforts of the bonafide Sampradaya Acarya. In an institutional scenario, Srila Prabhupada wove the successful western institutional model with the traditional Sampradaya Acarya system. In retrospect, we can see that ISKCON was a far cry from a traditional guru/disciple scenario.

Srila Prabhupada’s “rtvik” or proxy initiation program was also based on the principle of the Sampradaya Acarya empowering the localized siksa gurus. His proxy program involved entrusting the local leaders to recruit and train, then recommend eligible candidates to Srila Prabhupada for diksa initiation. After Srila Prabhupada formally approved them, he permitted Temple Presidents, sanyasis, or GBC to perform the agni-hotra ceremony. In fact, the now-famous July 9th letter officially authorizes the eleven regional GBC/”Rtviks” the responsibility to choose spiritual names, chant on japa beads and Brahmin threads. These activities are in adherence with the Vedic definition of a Rtvik priest. The institution’s regional Rtviks performed a needed function on behalf of Srila Prabhupada, but they were not fulfilling the responsibilities of siksa guru to the same degree as the Temple Authorities.

In pre-samadhi ISKCON, the siksa gurus were most often found within the ranks of the grassroots — they were recruiters, trainers, and preachers at the temple level. Temple leaders and sanyasis, (not the GBC or “Rtviks”) recommended candidates and afterwards engaged Srila Prabhupada’s disciples. As such, they played a more traditional guru role and met more closely the sastric definition of “siksa gurus”.

In Kalyana-kalpataru, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur writes:

“The initiating spiritual master (diksa-guru) shows his cause-less mercy by giving his disciples instructions in chanting the mantra. By so doing, he points the disciples in the direction of the truths pertaining to the Supreme Lord, Sri Krsna. I consider the numerous instructing spiritual masters (siksa-gurus) to be more important, for they show more mercy by training the sadhakas in all the essential aspects of sadhana-bhakti.”

The Siksa Conclusion

The abbreviated definition of “initiation” is the admission of a neophyte disciple into the unadulterated philosophical and transcendental mysteries handed down by a succession of past Gaudiya Vaisnava Sampradaya Acaryas. As Srila Prabhupada stated:

“Well initiation or no initiation, first thing is knowledge… knowledge. Initiation is formality. Just like you go to a school for knowledge, and admission is formality. That is not very important thing.”
Srila Prabhupada Press Interview, 10-16-76, Chandigarh

The past Acaryas have established the principle that a sincere candidate can be connected to the Sampradaya via the advanced siksa guru. In fact, one of the distinguishing common features of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati and Srila Prabhupada is that both emphasized and reinforced the concept and principle of siksa guru being as important as diksa.

“Thakura Bhaktivinoda was not official Spiritual Master of Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji Maharaja. Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji Maharaja was already renounced order, Paramahamsa, but Thakura Bhaktivinoda, while He was even playing the part of a householder, was treated by Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji Maharaja as Preceptor, on account of His highly elevated spiritual understanding, and thus He was always treating Him as His Spiritual Master. The Spiritual Master is divided into two parts; namely, siksa guru and diksa guru. So officially Bhaktivinoda Thakura was like siksa guru of Gaura Kisora das Babaji Maharaja.”
Srila Prabhupada Letter to Dayananda, 05-01-69:

Over 100 years ago, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura challenged the religionists of his day, which he identified as Caste Goswamis, Smarta Brahmins, mundane intellectuals, western scholars, and even those purporting to be in direct disciplic succession to associates of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura introduced the relevance, significance and importance of the siksa guru as a bonafide initiator into our Sampradaya. His own brother, Lalita prasad, sided with the representatives of traditional diksa lines that traced their linage clear back to the Caitanya Lila. These “Goswami lineage” successions claimed that initiation through them was the only possible way to link to Lord Caitanya’s Sampradaya. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati dismissed this self-serving concept, stating that regardless of one’s spiritual genealogy, the prerequisite qualifications for successfully linking up to the Sampradaya are achieved wholly and solely upon the genuine advancement in Krsna consciousness by contacting a genuine Sampradaya Acarya. As such, he included Jagannatha dasa Babaji and Gaura Kisora das Babaji as qualified members of the Sampradaya, and he excluded all the established diksa lines who traced themselves back to the Caitanya Mahaprabhu lila period.

Creating a worldwide network of siksa gurus helps to prevent the transgression away from the Sampradaya Acarya’s transcendental spiritual movement into another world religion. This doesn’t just apply to western style over-institutionalization, but also to reverting back to the traditional diksa linage. In Kali Yuga, diksa guru ashrams are essentially an Indian cultural format for decentralized religiosity.

The current ISKCON has experimented with merging and mixing the traditional independent diksa gurus within the western religious institutional model. In all honesty, it has proven to be a failed attempt even if the goal was the creation of a worldwide religion. The more traditional diksa guru formats, like those existing within the Gaudiya Matha community, are nothing more than Vedic mini-mathas with diksa lineage religious format. The telltale symptoms of religiosity are found in both settings. The most serious and obvious sign is the predominant de-emphasis on the unalloyed purity, power, and teachings of the true Sampradaya Acarya, and the transference of focus to imperfect via-medias (matha acarya or GBC).

Individually, we all now stand at the crossroads of Vaisnava history. The Sampradaya Acaryas’ spiritual movements have all been diverted down the slippery slope towards organized religion. The litany of persuasive arguments woven together with sastric sophistry, institutional rationalizations, and relationship psychology has replaced pure siddhanta. The underlying motivation of the leadership is to eclipse and/or minimize the Sampradaya Acarya, replacing him with a less-than perfect personality or oligarchy such as the GBC. Some well-known examples of the under-valuation of the Sampradaya Acarya are:

the GBC decree that only their approved representatives are via media to Srila Prabhupada;
the proposal that B.V. Narayana Maharaj is the next Sampradaya Acarya;
Rtvik-ism, with approved priests performing post-samadhi proxy diksa; and
changing the Sampradaya Acarya’s transcendental literatures under the guise of improving them.
I’m sure we could all add many more illustrations to this devolution.

Anyone aligning themselves with today’s ISKCON, Gaudiya Matha or Rtvik groups are inadvertently contributing to an unwanted transformation from spirituality to religiosity. In a religious setting, our spiritual advancement stagnates due to the institutional restrictions placed on inquisitive philosophical spirituality. The current guru-tattva positions deceive us into thinking the diksa/acarya, organizational elite or the Rtvik group-think have some measure of exclusive control over the transcendental knowledge offered by the Sampradaya Acaryas. The Absolute Truth clearly states that no living entity or worldly institution can claim to have controlling power over the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If the Caitya guru/Lord of the Heart chooses to benedict the sincere seeker with admission to the secrets of the Sampradaya, there is no restriction — not even by protocol such as “only through diksa initiation”.

Granted, under ideal circumstances such as those found in ancient Vedic culture, it is preferable to follow the prescribed sequence of events: when the diksa guru departs, his disciples begin to initiate. In that age, however, highly qualified diksa gurus were abundant. For us, the reality of spreading Krsna consciousness worldwide requires practical arrangements other than the traditional formula, which cannot facilitate this phenomenon today. Srila Prabhupada’s initiation program, for example, was far from traditional. The current Sampradaya Acarya advocated the proliferation of the Sampradaya teachings by massive book distribution throughout the planet. Those who are impacted by books authored by the bonafide representative of the Sampradaya may come to the temples, ashrams, and even the Internet for association. This is the merciful, far-reaching, visionary spirit of the Sampradaya Acarya, which cannot be compared to the restrictive, artificial barriers imposed by the institution or the religionists.

“The idea of an organized church in an intelligible form, indeed, marks the close of the living spiritual movement. The great ecclesiastical establishments are the dikes and the dams to retain the current that cannot be held by any such contrivances. They, indeed, indicate a desire on the part of the masses to exploit a spiritual movement for their own purpose. They also unmistakably indicate the end of the absolute and unconventional guidance of the bona-fide spiritual teacher.”
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur

In the minds of the leaders of these religious groups, giving prominence to the siksa guru threatens to undermine their power base. Diksa initiation is their greatest tool for maintaining power. The telltale indication that religiosity is eclipsing spirituality is the degree of aggressive close-mindedness aimed at those perceived to hold and expound opinions that differ from the camp’s ‘absolute’ creed. The member’s unquestioning allegiance to the religious group’s unique perspective on tattva is paramount, insulating the group supporter from scrutiny of other sastric considerations. Accurate appraisal of an individual’s character, motivation, qualities, behavior, and so on, become based not on the principles found within the Sampradaya siddhanta, but rather on loyalty to the organization. By definition, the “science of self-realization” depends upon the spiritualist’s objectivity and inquisitiveness, which is the antithesis of blind obedience to religious doctrine interpreted exclusively by those protecting their power base.

The bonafide Acaryas, representatives of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, indiscriminately distribute the transcendental knowledge that culminates in Pure Love of Godhead. Anyone who has developed a thorough understanding of the essential intentions of the nitya-siddha Acarya is a true Guru, whatever prefix one assigns to the Guru title. Unfortunately, the role and importance of the siksa guru in spreading the Sankirtan Movement is not emphasized in the institutional context.

Not only is the siksa position a safe alternative because it eliminates the risks of philosophical deviation, it also provides many practical spiritual benefits. The sastric definition of siksa guru encompasses a much wider range of potential spiritual relationships than does diksa. Siksa requires no absolute eternal commitment on the part of either disciple or guru, so there is less chance for aparada if the relationship declines.

There is no precise definition concerning how a disciple should worship their siksa guru, which reduces pressure on the disciple to make the diksa the exclusive focus of all loving affections. If siksa relationships are the norm within the Vaisnava Community, then there is a far greater chance that Srila Prabhupada will remain the highest standard of purity and respect for all siksa disciples. By keeping Srila Prabhupada at the center, the disciple is relieved of the potential for a great deal of bewilderment which can lead to a loss of faith.

The siksa disciple’s ultimate desire is to please and serve the Sampradaya Acarya (the pre-eminent siksa). The siksa disciple may have the satisfaction and confidence of knowing that their primary object of affection, Srila Prabhupada, is unquestionably a transparent via media to Sri Krsna. In other words, they have undeniably been admitted into the Sampradaya, and there will be no chance of fall down of the Acarya.

According to Vaisnava philosophy, one can aspire and diligently apply oneself to the spiritual process in expectation that in the next life, you can directly associate with Srila Prabhupada. Under this scenario, a traditional diksa relationship can eventually transpire. In the meantime, there are plenty of qualified living siksa gurus who are completely dedicated to serving Srila Prabhupada and to assisting the aspiring disciple in obtaining his or her goal.

Diksa gurus tend to want the independence to adapt, change or “personalize” the previous Sampradaya Acarya’s program and mood. Most diksa gurus hanker for their own independent ashram or institution, occupied primarily by those who are their cent percent followers. Siksa gurus, on the other hand, tend to follow closely the Acarya’s established mood and program, and are less likely to run the risk of changing the Founder/Acarya’s established undertaking.

Prabhupada: “Then so siksa and diksa-guru… A siksa-guru who instructs against the instruction of spiritual, he is not a siksa guru. He is a demon. Siksa-guru, diksa-guru means… Sometimes a diksa-guru is not present always. Therefore one can take learning, instruction, from an advanced devotee. That is called the siksa-guru. Siksa-guru does not mean he is speaking something against the teachings of the diksa-guru/Acarya. He is not a siksa-guru. He is a rascal.”
Srila Prabhupada Lecture on Bhagavad-gita 17:1-3, 07-04-74, Honolulu

Siksa disciples are free to search out other siksa gurus who may be better qualified to satisfy their various spiritual interests and needs without having their educational pursuits sanctioned and/or vetoed by a disagreeable diksa. If the disciple’s affections lie with Srila Prabhupada, then the words and actions of the siksa guru can be freely scrutinized based on Srila Prabhupada’s writings, without risking offense.

Siksa affords an opportunity for serious followers of the Sampradaya Acarya who are inspired to teach and preach to assume the role of guru without running the risk of committing offenses that result in karmic reaction to himself or the disciple. Sastra dictates that there is no karmic burden placed upon the siksa guru, whereas there is an assumed acceptance of vi-karma of the new initiate upon the diksa guru. Those who are not in a spiritual position to give diksa, but pretentiously project themselves as bonafide, are actually only giving siksa, because they are not transparent via media conduits for the disciple’s past karmic reactions. The unsuspecting disciples are deceived into believing they have been freed from karma, and the unqualified diksa guru accumulates karma without being able to transfer it to the spiritual realm.

Siksa places the power to determine one’s spiritual path in the hands of the individual seeker. Advocating an emphasis on the siksa alternative will likely reduce the institutional power base of die-hard diksa advocates, including the diksa gurus, the GBC, leaders of Rtvik organizations, and the Acarya-led Mathas.

Spiritual missions that are established by Sampradaya Acaryas should have as their primary focus an imperative to preach and teach the unalloyed message of the founder. While there will always be a role for diksa initiation in the spiritual community, nothing should eclipse our focus on the Sampradaya Acarya.

In Closing

I pray that I have presented my case for the recognition and appreciation of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada as a bonafide Sampradaya Acarya. For those readers who are moved by my arguments (either pro or con), and wish to discuss in greater detail, please contact me. I welcome the opportunity to explore these issues more deeply. It will require the work of others far more spiritually elevated than I to present to the world the unalloyed version of Srila Prabhupada’s purpose and pastimes. I sincerely pray that I can make a small contribution or play a part in establishing this truth. The only absolute conclusion I can make is that as an aspiring Vaisnava struggling to come up to the standard of being a disciple of a Sampradaya Acarya, I cannot take the spiritual risk of not totally embracing the conclusions I have arrived at and presented herein.

Rocana dasa
Vyasa Puja, 2003

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