Officiating Acharya’s

The War is Over
Editorial (VNN) – by Locanananda Das

There is a popular ideology that claims that Srila Prabhupad should still be considered the diksa guru in ISKCON. It is commendable that devotees who espouse this ideology want to see Krishna’s pure devotee unlimitedly and perpetually glorified. That goal can be accomplished by following the system of “officiating acharyas” that he factually authorized. An “officiating acharya” simply teaches by example how to follow in the footsteps of the great preceptor and founder acharya of ISKCON and then engages everyone in the service of expanding the sankirtan movement.

When Srila Prabhupad was asked how initiations would be performed after he was no longer physically present, his response was clear and powerful. He had been contemplating this question for ten years, and his main concern was to guarantee the continuity and future growth of his movement. His reply was “I shall recommend some of you to act as officiating acharya.” This was the term he wanted to introduce to describe the role of his disciples who would initiate new devotees as members of ISKCON after he had concluded his manifest pastimes.

The title “acharya” indicates that one is a guru, or spiritual master, and the qualifying term “officiating” means that the initiation is to be performed on behalf of the founder acharya and his institution. By naming eleven of his foremost disciples who had demonstrated great leadership ability and dedication to his movement as “officiating acharyas”, Srila Prabhupad was laying the groundwork to perpetuate Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s sankirtana movement throughout the world. His plan would be successful as long as his followers kept his teachings intact and protected his movement from any influence that might tend to push Srila Prabhupad into the background. The Krishna Consciousness Movement would ultimately establish His Divine Grace as the greatest vaisnava acharya coming in the line of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the most merciful incarnation of Krishna.

The “officiating acharyas” were to begin to exercise their role of guru while Srila Prabhupad was still present in this world. Because the proper etiquette is that one should not accept disciples of his own in the presence of his spiritual master, those devotees who were to be initiated before Srila Prabhupad’s entering maha-samadhi would be considered his disciples. Those initiated afterwards would be considered his granddisciples. All generations of ISKCON devotees would be, first and foremost, followers of Srila Prabhupad, and they would be formally linked to His Divine Grace through the initiation process. The Krishna consciousness movement would be unique in the history of organized religion because the pure message of Godhead would be preserved for eternity in the form of Srila Prabhupad’s books, and everyone who surrendered would be initiated by a representative of the founder acharya who was purely practicing the principles of Krishna consciousness.

Srila Prabhupad also referred to the “officiating acharya” as being a “regular guru”. As a “regular guru”, he would not necessarily be situated on the highest platform of love of God. His main qualification would be that he had understood his own guru’s order in parampara and that he was conversant with the science of how to become Krishna conscious. Because the guru would be initiating on behalf of the institution, he would always be subject to the watchful eye of the GBC, the ultimate managerial authority of ISKCON. The GBC would also act on Srila Prabhupad’s behalf to authorize other devotees who had done outstanding service to become “officiating acharyas” in ISKCON. They would have to set guidelines to restrict the worship of “regular gurus” to safeguard the position of Srila Prabhupad as the principal acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.

Srila Prabhupad was very concerned that ISKCON not be fractured by devotees who were ambitious or attempting to dovetail their desire for sense gratification in devotional service. He was equally concerned with the influence of Mayavadi impersonalism and the subtle attempts by those who envied him to minimize his role as the all-perfect spiritual preceptor. He especially did not want devotees to leave the movement, but, instead, he encouraged everyone to remain in ISKCON and preach on his behalf. He wanted all of his disciples to become qualified as spiritual masters and, out of compassion, to deliver the conditioned souls of this world from the obscurity of nescience. He felt that the system of having initiations performed by “officiating acharyas” acting as agents of ISKCON would best preserve the legacy he had left to his disciples and protect the movement from the destructive tendency to minimize his position.

Just as Srila Prabhupad is known as the “founder acharya” of ISKCON, his disciples performing initiations should be known as “officiating acharyas” in ISKCON. Other terms have proven to be ambiguous and do not convey the same meaning with sufficient clarity. This was the title chosen by Srila Prabhupad which is perfectly suitable for all future generations of gurus who will represent him in the line of disciplic succession.

There is a popular ideology that claims that Srila Prabhupad should still be considered the diksa guru in ISKCON. It is commendable that devotees who espouse this ideology want to see Krishna’s pure devotee unlimitedly and perpetually glorified. That goal can be accomplished by following the system of “officiating acharyas” that he factually authorized. An “officiating acharya” simply teaches by example how to follow in the footsteps of the great preceptor and founder acharya of ISKCON and then engages everyone in the service of expanding the sankirtan movement.

There is no need to try to introduce something that is contrary to the teachings of our sampradaya out of frustration. We should remember that Srila Prabhupad continually asked us to finish up our business in this lifetime and not oblige him to come back to deliver us. To consider him the current diksa guru does exactly the opposite of what he asked us to do. It makes him come back to this miserable place of birth and death. Instead, we should think of our Guru Maharaja as having returned to the spiritual world to rejoin the Supreme Lord in His eternally blissful pastimes of love.

At the same time, many sincere devotees have felt disappointed and neglected, blaming the current guru system and GBC for allowing the movement to deteriorate. This outcry for reform is quite timely, and strong visionary leaders must emerge now to set the ship back on the right course. Managers can only maintain the status quo, but spiritual leaders can inspire positive transformation. The members of the GBC should seriously take into consideration all of the recommendations being made by the grass roots reform movement that is voicing its disapproval of existing GBC policies. They must now open wide the lines of communication with all ISKCON members and raise the standards for their own performance as leaders of the movement.

Devotees in positions of responsibility must do whatever is in their power to preserve the integrity and continuity of ISKCON. They must become true vaisnavas in their dealings and engage others to their complete satisfaction in the service of Krishna and His empowered pure devotee. ISKCON must become a haven for all devotees seeking to enhance their Krishna consciousness by associating with saintly persons who always chant the glories of the Supreme Lord. The temples are as good as Vaikuntha, and the gatekeepers should be careful to keep the three modes of material nature from entering. But whoever comes to the temple out of appreciation for Srila Prabhupad should not be obstructed from entering.

We are about to enter the next millenium, and it is expected that people all over the world will begin anew their quest for spiritual knowledge. In the words of author John Hogue:

“In the coming years, Eastern culture will heavily influence American thought. Many Western prophets have said the next great teacher will come from Asia. Native American seers, Jeane Dixon, Nostradamus, Cayce, and Blavatsky – to name a few giants in the field – definitively pointed to a “man from the East,” and India in particular, as the source of a change in world consciousness.”

There should be no doubt that the “man from the East” spoken of here is our spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad. He himself predicted that historians would mark this as the time when America (and the world) became Krishna conscious. Our movement must ready itself if we are to lead human civilization into the 21st century. To have universal appeal, we must establish economically stable devotee communities for our families and outstanding schools for devotee children. We must train our men and women to the highest brahminical standard. Everyone who is dedicated to the mission of Srila Prabhupad must be invited to return to his family to help propagate Krishna consciousness, and whatever differences of opinion may exist on various issues should be reconciled on the basis of love and trust amongst godbrothers.

If we concentrate on these features of devotee interaction and always deal with one another with the utmost respect, avoiding the mad elephant offense of vaisnava aparadha, we will become more and more eligible to receive the blessings of guru and Krishna. Because ISKCON is the vehicle through which Srila Prabhupad’s mercy flows, it is essential that we carefully adopt the “officiating acharya” system so that all devotees will be able to experience a direct relationship with the Lord’s most confidential servant and feel secure in the shade of his lotus feet..

The topic of guru tattva is very profound and should be studied thoroughly and discussed by devotees in an open forum for deeper understanding. I would personally be very happy to further elaborate on my realization of Srila Prabhupad’s instructions in this regard, and I invite the reader to correspond via e-mail to discuss this proposal to reform ISKCON by instituting the correct system of initiation.

I pray to be engaged in the service of the devotees who are dear to Srila Prabhupad and I take their footdust upon my head for further enlightenment.

A most insignificant servant,
Locanananda Das (mail:

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Ariel Verdier
    Apr 09, 2011 @ 09:40:24

    Good for post. I think that this article is interesting . I like your article. I need to know how can I subscribe to your blog?. I will be follow you blog each 9 days.


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