The Real Final Order


The Real Final Order
10/25/1998 – 2410
Editorial (VNN) – by Sriman Locanananda Prabhu 
Submitted on the disappearance day of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

During what Srila Prabhupada thought might be his final days, he summoned his GBC representatives from all over the world to come to his bedside in May of 1977. He was about to pronounce his final instruction concerning how the movement should be expanded after he was no longer physically present to oversee things. When he was specifically asked how initiations would be performed in the future, he replied that he would recommend some of his GBC men to act as officiating acharyas in his absence. This was a momentous pronouncement. He was going to create the post of officiating acharya by naming some of his disciples to initiate on his behalf. They would actually be gurus, but would act as representatives of the acharya in initiating members into Srila Prabhupada’s movement after His Divine Grace had left this world. Although everyone present said that this instruction was understood, in the twenty-one years since this revelation, not a single ISKCON guru has called himself an “officiating acharya”. This has produced a contrary result.

To resolve the conflict and ongoing debate between the proponents of “ritvik” initiation and ISKCON’s official interpretation of Srila Prabhupada’s instructions, we must find a common denominator upon which both parties can agree. That one camp is ready to excommunicate or overthrow the other is causing a massive headache in the minds of peaceful devotees everywhere. With the greatest urgency, the fracture in our movement must be healed before it becomes a permanent schism. To avoid causing further embarrassment to our spiritual master, and to protect innocent devotees and well-wishers of the Krishna consciousness movement from the devastating effect of our fratricidal follies, all followers of Srila Prabhupada should stop their sabre rattling and calmly consider how to resolve their differences.

In Srila Prabhupada’s 1970 exchange of letters with Professor Staal, he
pointed out that: 

“This quotation and counter-quotation cannot solve the problem.
Argument cannot bring us to a conclusion.” 

He further mentioned that because scriptural quotations are sometimes contradictory, it is difficult to arrive at the correct understanding. In such instances, one has to abide by the judgment of the presiding authority. It is sometimes authorized to reject a particular method that is presented in the scriptures because, under certain circumstances, it produces a contrary result. 

“Taking into consideration the age, time, and object, methods are sometimes rejected, even though bona fide.” 

So if we are to work together to push forward the Krishna consciousness movement with unity and diversity, we must find the statement coming from our authority, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, that reconciles opposite opinions which are both based on quotations from sastra.

During what Srila Prabhupada thought might be his final days, he summoned his GBC representatives from all over the world to come to his bedside in May
of 1977. He was about to pronounce his final instruction concerning how the movement should be expanded after he was no longer physically present to
oversee things. When he was specifically asked how initiations would be performed in the future, he replied that he would recommend some of his GBC
men to act as officiating acharyas in his absence. This was a momentous pronouncement. He was going to create the post of officiating acharya bynaming some of his disciples to initiate on his behalf. They would actually be gurus, but would act as representatives of the acharya in initiating members into Srila Prabhupada’s movement after His Divine Grace had left this world. Although everyone present said that this instruction was understood, in the twenty-one years since this revelation, not a single ISKCON guru has called himself an “officiating acharya”. This has produced a contrary result.

The principle of the “officiating acharya” preserves ISKCON as the institution through which the mercy of Srila Prabhupada flows to all future generations of
devotees. As a member of ISKCON, and because of Srila Prabhupada’s continuous transcendental presence within ISKCON, one who performs initiations is empowered to do so only on behalf of the founder acharya. The initiator thus becomes the official link to the guru parampara, but he never deviates from his role as the humble servant of his own spiritual master. Here is the common ground for mutual understanding. The ritvik proponents must agree that the
initiator is not simply a qualified priest, but that he is actually a qualified guru acting on behalf of the great acharya. And the ISKCON lawmakers should
establish the post of officiating acharya as per Srila Prabhupada’s instructions
and ascertain that those who occupy the post are acting purely in the interest
of His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada. 

This system pertains only to the procedure of performing the official initiation ceremony. Srila Prabhupada’s instruction was for all of his followers to become acharyas, or spiritual masters who teach by example. His Divine Grace said, ” Anyone who is preaching God’s glories must be accepted as a guru.” He also said that all Vaisnavas should be seen as spiritual masters. Amongst devotees who are strict followers of Srila Prabhupada, one should not discriminate between those who are “guru” and those who are “non-guru”.

As Lord Krishna instructed His friend Arjuna, those who are convinced about the message of the Bhagavad-gita should preach and bring others to Krishna consciousness. In this way, they would be doing the greatest service and would become very dear to Him. On the order of the spiritual master, everyone should preach and act as (siksa) guru. But to induct new members, an official initiator spiritual master will perform the initiation ceremony on behalf of Srila Prabhupada and his institution. Thus, new members of ISKCON, when asked, “Who is your spiritual master?”, will reply with deep attachment, “I am a grand disciple of Srila Prabhupada.” For further clarification they might add, “His Holiness _____ Maharaja performed the initiation ceremony, but I especially take inspiration from His Holiness ________ Swami and _______ Prabhu as my siksa gurus.” An uninitiated devotee would simply say that he is a follower of Srila Prabhupada. This system, if properly introduced, will go a long way to eliminate factionalism in our movement and consolidate our spiritual family in the service of our divine master.

It is not possible to turn back the clock twenty plus years and start over, so the best we can do is to learn from our mistakes. The overemphasis of the role of the initiator and the overstatement of his actual qualifications has promoted chaos in our movement. Instead of fostering unity and growth, it has created factions and disharmony, embarrassment and humiliation. There is obvious validity in many of the complaints lodged by ritvik proponents and other reformers. Because their purpose is only to see Srila Prabhupada glorified more and more, they should not be asked to disembark but should instead be invited to remain as permanent crew members on the boat of ISKCON. We should never treat our dear god brothers as enemies. We should always be open to learn something from them as they are also representatives of the acharya.

Once we have agreed to accept the common ground that ISKCON gurus shall act as officiating acharyas for the purpose of giving initiation, we can consider what qualifications one must have to occupy that post. Also to be discussed is the relationship between Srila Prabhupada as spiritual preceptor with his granddisciples and how that differs from the relationship he has with those disciples he initiated directly. 

To discuss how the spiritual master continues to manifest his presence in this world requires very advanced understanding, but our common ground is
our unanimous agreement that His Divine Grace is transcendentally present in his books and can be understood by reading them. In his concluding words to the Sri Caitanya Caritamrita, Srila Prabhupada spoke of the manner in which his own departed Guru Maharaja, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami, continued to manifest himself despite his physical absence. He wrote:

“He is always seeing my activities and guiding me within my heart by his words. Spiritual inspiration comes from within the heart, wherein the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His Paramatma feature is always sitting with all His devotees and associates. Certainly if His Divine Grace were physically present at this time, it would have been a great occasion for jubilation, but even though he is not physically present, I am confident that he is very pleased by this work of translation.” 

In the above statement, Srila Prabhupada indicates that although his spiritual master is present in one sense to offer his blessings, he is not present in another sense which would allow him to show his jubilation. Certain functions require known physical presence because the spiritual master’s power of presence is not all-pervading like the omnipresence of Lord Krishna. Srila Prabhupada made the following statement in this regard in a lecture given on the disappearance day of his spiritual master in Mayapur on February 8, 1977:

“My spiritual master came into this world to execute the mission of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He executed it, and when it was required, he left this place and went to another place — to do the same business. It is called ‘nitya-lila’. Just like the sun rises at six o’clock, and when it’s seven o’clock here, it is six o’clock in another place, and it is eight o’clock in another place. So we have no reason to lament over his disappearance. We should simply remember his activities. That is required. We cannot understand the activities of the Vaisnava. But a Vaisnava comes for some particular mission.”

The concept of Srila Prabhupada continuing to accept diksa disciples here from wherever he has gone is like saying that when it is seven o’clock here, it is also seven o’clock there. It may be helpful for us to hear Srila Prabhupada’s comments on the disappearance of his god brother, Srila Kesava Maharaja, who had urged Srila Prabhupada to take up the preaching mission entrusted to him by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and who became his sannyasa guru. In a class given on October 21, 1968, Srila Prabhupada spoke as follows:

“The Vaisnavas, the representatives of the Lord, are so kind. They bring the ocean of mercy to distribute to the suffering humanity. So I am offering my
respectful obeisances unto His Holiness, because he forcefully made me adopt this sannyasa order. He is no more in this world. He has entered Krishna’s abode. I am therefore offering my respectful obeisances along with my disciples.” 

Here, Srila Prabhupada is expressing the sentiment of one pure devotee of Krishna for another. Although Srila Kesava Maharaja was not the eternal guru of Srila Prabhupada, he still thought so highly of him that he wrote to a god brother asking for a picture of Kesava Maharaja from which he would have a life size oil painting made to be placed in his prominent centers like New York, Los Angeles and London alongside of the painting of their Guru Maharaja, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta. His Holiness Kesava Maharaja had gone back to Godhead, but for his disciples, he would continue to live through their remembrance of his activities and teachings. 

The conclusion one may draw is that the Vaisnava lives in sound and can be served in that form after his physical disappearance because he lives within the heart of his follower. If the departed Vaisnava acharya is still doing the work of guru, i.e., actively accepting new disciples, he is doing it somewhere else. 

We should also consider that Srila Prabhupada was following in the footsteps of his spiritual master and would not violate the eternal principles of disciplic succession by creating a program to perpetuate the guru parampara that did not follow a precedent established by his Guru Maharaja. However, his concern was to preserve the institution he had founded and to expand the family of devotees through the process of initiation. The system he recommended as a final order to his disciples was to create the post of officiating acharya and, in this way, to maintain the continuity of procedures that had already been instituted within his organization. What made this momentous was that he was assigning the title of acharya for the first time to his disciples. But it was qualified by the term “officiating” because he knew they were not perfected beings. They would have to act on his behalf within his institution.

In the course of that same conversation, Srila Prabhupada told the GBC men that they must all be ideal acharya. “Now we should be very cautious”, he said. “Anyone who is deviating, he can be replaced.” He was informing them that if an officiating acharya was not exemplary in his conduct, he would have to be replaced, confirming that this was a post to be filled by the most qualified individuals and not some type of priesthood that one could enter without authorization. It was also not an eternal guruship that would rubber-stamp someone as a guaranteed maha-bhagavata devotee. 

Srila Prabhupada also left room for the number of officiating acharyas to increase as needed to accommodate the ever-increasing number of requests for initiation. His Divine Grace expected that if everyone continued to preach enthusiastically, hundreds of thousands, and one day millions, would take to the process of Krishna consciousness. The glory was in the act of preaching and bringing sincere souls to the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada to be blessed by his transcendental association. Pleasing Srila Prabhupada by preaching is the essence, whether one is a disciple, a grand disciple, a renunciate or a child. He who has life will preach Krishna consciousness without concern for hierarchical position. We must do what is best for the Krishna consciousness movement and what has been specifically authorized by our Gurudeva. He is the captain of the ship that is enabling us to cross this difficult ocean of Kali. May we all reach the ultimate destination together under his guiding hand.

Humbly prostrating myself at the feet of the Vaisnavas, I beg to remain

Your insignificant servant,
Locanananda Dasa 

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Robert Phelps
    Apr 25, 2011 @ 12:45:06

    It sounds like the same thing that happened to Prabupada when his spritual master and his father died in India .Don”t get too involved with politics and loose your Krishna consciousness. Hare Krishna

    Reply

  2. Chetan
    May 01, 2011 @ 11:22:35

    Hare Krsna

    If all devotees (old as well as new) will get Unedited (Original) Srila Prabhupada’s books then only every thing will work fine…

    Your Servant

    Reply

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