Nama Sankirtana

Sri Panca Tattva Wellington New Zealand

…What the Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself proclaims to be the prime benediction for mankind, and the activity that He Himself appeared in this world to inaugurate, has been very badly neglected by ISKCON’s leaders. To attract devotees, to engage devotees and to elevate the awareness of the public, there is no better method than to perform nama-sankirtana. This same instruction was given to Lord Caitanya by His spiritual master:

“My dear child, continue dancing, chanting and performing sankirtana in association with devotees. Furthermore, go out and preach the value of chanting Krishna-nama, for by this process You will be able to deliver all fallen souls.”

Nama Sankirtana
Editorial (VNN) – by Locanananda Das
Originally Published on Vaishnava News

By reading the Sri Caitanya Caritamrita, one should become convinced that the Krishna consciousness movement is the vehicle through which the mercy of Caitanya Mahaprabhu will deliver the entire world. But events taking place within the movement over the last twenty years have shaken everyone’s faith, and it has become very difficult to take pride in being a member of ISKCON, the organization that Srila Prabhupad risked his life to create. The year of the Centennial having come and gone, ISKCON continues to be plagued by a malaise that is rooted in its leaders’ lack of vision and apparent lack of concern for the spiritual well-being of the devotees. Compounded by the offensive banning of vaisnavas and the enactment of deviant policies, the movement has been thrown into a tailspin from which some think it may not recover.

Personally, I have tremendous faith in the system established by Srila Prabhupad. I am thoroughly convinced that there can be a reconciliation of the parties on the different sides of all current issues, but it will require that we rise above false ego and agree to do what is best for the Krishna consciousness movement.

To guarantee the success of his movement, Srila Prabhupad personally trained the members of the GBC to be both preachers and managers, and he tried his utmost to instill in them a spirit of complete dedication to ISKCON. These men were expected to verify that spiritual standards were being followed in all of the temples and to personally set the best example as representatives of the acarya. Devotees had so much love for their spiritual master that no one even entertained the thought of going outside of ISKCON to get further inspiration. We had it all. The movement also had economic viability based solely on its preaching activities, and temples were able to engage an unlimited number of devotees in the ever-expanding sankirtana movement of Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

After the disappearance of Srila Prabhupad from mundane vision, the movement, its assets and its men were practically kidnapped by self-appointed “so-called” acaryas. Over time, they introduced many deviant concepts and the whole world was made to suffer. Many independently thoughtful men are insisting today that there be further reform and that all deviant elements be expelled from the modified acarya system which still operates in ISKCON.

Perhaps the most significant deviation from the order of the guru has been the de-emphasis of the public chanting of the Holy Name. What the Supreme Lord Himself proclaims to be the prime benediction for mankind, and the activity that He Himself appeared in this world to inaugurate, has been very badly neglected by ISKCON’s leaders. To attract devotees, to engage devotees and to elevate the awareness of the public, there is no better method than to perform nama-sankirtana. This same instruction was given to Lord Caitanya by His spiritual master:

“My dear child, continue dancing, chanting and performing sankirtana in associa- tion with devotees. Furthermore, go out and preach the value of chanting Krishna-nama, for by this process You will be able to deliver all fallen souls.”

Unfortunately, this service of publicly chanting the Holy Name has for years been considered as just part of the new bhakta program, and is no longer required for older devotees. Srila Prabhupad, however, stressed that the chanting should be heard, as much as possible, from the lips of pure devotees. Therefore, out of compassion for the conditioned souls, all senior devotees should participate in the sankirtana movement, chant, dance, preach and become purified. The GBC resolutions of 1996, the Centennial year, demand this, but who is following? And if ISKCON wants its backbone back, then print a Back to Godhead magazine for mass distribution.

Who can forget the telegram sent to His Divine Grace on November 18th, 1975 that announced:

“One million copies of BTG just printed! Devotees gone wild! Promise to distribute all within one month! All possible by your mercy only!”

Now that was some real preaching! Is it possible to return to that level? We must – if ISKCON is to be the conduit of the inundating flow of love of Godhead during this golden age of the Caitanya era.

The current GBC has inherited a complex situation that is beyond the scope of most of its members to resolve. I must commend them for not throwing in the towel in the face of what appear to be insurmountable odds. This is a wonderful opportunity for them to turn to Krishna in utter helplessness and pray for enlightenment. Even the great universal manager Lord Brahma occasionally becomes confused about situations to which there is no apparent solution as when Hiranyaksa had caused the earth to sink into the nether world. Only by appealing to the Lord was a remedy found – He appeared as Lord Boar to save the planet by lifting it on His tusks. As Krishna states in the Bhagavad-gita, “Dwelling in the hearts of those who worship Me with love, I destroy with the shining lamp of knowledge the darkness born of ignorance.” After getting inspiration and guidance from within, by prayer and introspection, the GBC should get confirmation from without by consulting Srila Prabhupad’s books and by hearing opinions from within the community of devotees. By keeping open the lines of communication, getting feedback, and by being proactive, the leaders will earn our respect and confidence.

The most urgent issue they must tackle concerns initiations. With initiating gurus falling like flies, it has become apparent that the system needs an adjustment, or perhaps a major overhaul. It is the responsibility of the GBC to make adjustments, depending upon changing conditions and circumstances. Srila Prabhupad himself was always fine tuning his organization and sometimes made significant managerial changes. Forming the GBC in 1970 was quite revolutionary. Later on, allowing sannyasis to serve as GBC men was another radical modification. Introducing ritvik initiations was another. The point is that the movement is dynamic, not static, and it is the responsibility of the GBC to implement such changes whenever necessary.

It is well documented that on July 9th, 1977, His Divine Grace put in writing his directive concerning how initiations would be performed in the future. Officiating acaryas would now take charge of all aspects of the initiation procedure. Srila Prabhupad would finally be able to retire to finish his translation of the sixty volume Srimad Bhagavatam while his most trusted servants would be acting on his behalf to increase the number of devotees in ISKCON. Srila Prabhupad’s health was not good, but devotees prayed that he would remain in this world for many more years. The ritvik system would continue for at least as long as he was with us.

The eleven GBC men who were thus named by His Divine Grace accepted this role as an additional responsibility entrusted to them as representatives of the spiritual master. They would execute this service, in addition to their other preaching and administrative duties, for the sole purpose of assisting Srila Prabhupad in his mission to spread Krishna consciousness throughout the world. It was a practical arrangement. Initiations would be performed by whoever was nearest. That’s all. And ISKCON would remain strong and continue to grow. There would be no fac- tions, and it would be like one family with Srila Prabhupad and Krishna at the center.

It is true that Srila Prabhupad encouraged all of his followers to become qua- lified so that they could act as spiritual masters and expand the branches of Lord Caitanya’s tree of devotional service. But what he wanted most was for his ISKCON movement to become strong and prosperous, for his books to be distributed more and more widely, and for the devotees to be happy. He wanted us to experience love of God, and he assured us that if we simply followed the regulative principles, chanted the prescribed number of rounds, studied the scriptures and took every opportunity to preach, we would attain the highest goal.

It would be the GBC’s responsibility to protect the movement from whatever might interfere with His Divine Grace’s wishes. He did not appear to be overly concerned with how initiations would be performed after he would no longer be here. He trusted his disciples to carry on in his absence. His main concern was that the GBC be vigilant to protect the movement.The officiating acaryas could simply go on initiating on behalf of ISKCON to connect new members with the guru parampara.

The concept of officiating acarya can be found in the Sri Caitanya Caritamrita, especially in the Adi Lila, Volume 3 where Sri Yadunandana Acarya, a great devotee of Lord Caitanya, is described as the official initiator spiritual master of Raghunath Das Goswami. When Raghunath Das Goswami was a householder, Yadunandana Acarya initiated him at home. It is described how, later, Raghunath Das Goswami took shelter of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu at Jagannath Puri. Yadunandana Acarya himself was officially initiated by Advaita Acarya, but he took shelter of Vasudeva Datta whom he considered to be his spiritual master. In the same way, quite naturally, new ISKCON devotees could officially receive initiation from a disciple of Srila Prabhupad and then take shelter in the movement through which Lord Caitanya’s mercy is manifesting.

Based on the above discussion, taking shelter of a spiritual master after having already been initiated officially by another guru does not mean that one has been re-initiated. There is no such term in Sanskrit, Hindi or Bengali to indicate that this custom is authorized. In fact, it is strictly prohibited in the sastra. If the GBC wants to ban something to protect Srila Prabhupad’s movement, they should ban re-initiation, not advanced vaisnavas from other branches of the Caitanya tree.

After November 14th, 1977, the officiating acaryas should simply have remained humble, continuing to initiate on behalf of their spiritual master and his institution. Srila Prabhupad was no longer physically present to accept disciples. He was with Krishna, engaged in his eternal lila in the spiritual world. Of course, he was still present in the form of his instructions, in sound, and in the hearts of his disciples. Those who had been fortunate enough to be initiated directly as disciples of His Divine Grace, and who followed strictly, had inherited the legacy of becoming leaders of the Krishna consciousness movement. If everyone had been called upon to preach and become qualified to act as a spiritual master, unlimited numbers of souls could have been attracted to the worship of the lotus feet of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna.

Those who initiate in ISKCON today should be doing so on behalf of the insti-tution, not on their own behalf. Although Srila Prabhupad may not be present in terms of his “vapu” or physical manifestation, his presence in this world can be experienced through the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. One’s initiation into ISKCON is, in one sense, a formality since the prospective disciple is already linked with the guru parampara by seriously following the instructions found in Srila Prabhupad’s books.The fire sacrifice is performed to relieve the initiate of sinful reactions from the past, to formalize the taking of vows, and to proclaim one’s eagerness to assist in the spreading of Krishna consciousness.

The new initiate in no one’s property or chattel. The relationship the disciple has with the initiator is a personal matter and cannot be regulated by legislation.The new initiate is therefore, principally, a follower of Srila Prabhupad, who has officially received initiation from Srila Prabhupad’s disciple. Srila Prabhupad is the object of worship, and the grand disciple takes permission from the initiating guru to worship Srila Prabhupad directly. That means that no pictures of gurus other than His Divine Grace would ever appear in the altar area. This system is generally referred to else-where as “acharya purusha” which signifies that the head, or founder, of the institution is the principal acarya for all future generations of disciples in that line.

Because within ISKCON the chain of command is already clearly delineated, the officiating acaryas do not have any extraordinary power over these disciples. Disciples are especially encouraged to take advantage of the association of other senior devotees by cultivating relationships based on siksa. These relationships of siksa and diksa are meant to be internalized and should in no way interfere with the disciple’s execution of devotional service within the authority structure of ISKCON, nor should they create a conflict of interest or divided allegiance.

All devotees should bear in mind that the position of Srila Prabhupad is not just that of everyone’s siksa guru. He is greater than one million siksa gurus. He is the master at whose feet all other masters are seated. Coming to the West at the advanced age of seventy, he single-handedly began a world-wide movement on the order of his Guru Maharaja to fulfill the prediction of the Supreme Personality of Godhead that the Holy Name of Krishna would be chanted in every town and village in the world. He astonished the academic world by his prolific literary output that is unmatched in the history of written language. He established the worship of the Deity form of the Lord throughout six continents and introduced the Ratha- yatra festival of Lord Jagannath to deliver the most fallen. He was greater than any king and more merciful than any saint. With our limited minds we cannot begin to comprehend the extent of the influence he will ultimately have on the world, but, as his followers, we should be careful to never do or say anything that might diminish his position.

I am looking forward to the day when the guru issue will be no longer divide us and distract us from our real work. For the sake of all of those potential devotees who are being held back from joining the Krishna consciousness movement, we should work together cooperatively to find the solution which best enables us to realize Srila Prabhupad’s mission of building a house in which the whole world can live. When that day comes, we will be celebrating every day as if it were Srila Prabhupad’s Vyasa Puja day, which, for many of us, is our favorite day of the year.

Your humble servant,

Locanananda Das

Pasted from;

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