The Spiritual Master (Part 3)

This is a continuation from our previous posts, The Spiritual Master some time ago, and the further discussion in The Spiritual Master (Part 2) This is a fascinating account by Sriman Locanananda Prabhu revealing his insights into the ‘guru issue’ in our ISKCON society today, from his own personal understanding, and his realizations of the instructions given by Srila Prabhupada shortly before his untimely departure. Our obeisances to him for sharing his personal recollections and realizations. [Note: some of the other comments were edited out so as not to distract from Locanananda Prabhu’s train of thought. You can follow the entire stream of comments by going to Prabhupada News As I stated, this is a fascinating account, however, this does not necessarily reflect our views on the ‘guru issue’. But Locanananda Prabhu makes a very well stated argument, and we are in complete agreement with his assessment that “success in spiritual life, means following the instructions of the spiritual master”.

… the next step is to find a way to convince others of Srila Prabhupada’s actual intention in laying out a ritvik initiation system. It was not to end the parampara with himself as the last guru in our line. It was not to push aside what he himself referred to as the “law of disciplic succession.” It was to introduce a method by which millions of souls throughout the world could be initiated into the society of vaisnavas and attain the mercy of Krishna and the previous acaryas on their journey back to Godhead.

…everyone is taking shelter of Srila Prabhupada and receiving transcendental knowledge, but they are receiving so much more. By his grace, we will be able to enter the spiritual abode and interact with Krishna face to face. Without pleasing Srila Prabhupada, one cannot even make one iota of spiritual advancement.

…Srila Prabhupada had his reasons for introducing the title “officiating acarya” instead of “diksa guru” or “initiating spiritual master,” to designate the giver of diksa when he would no longer be present. Why devotees cannot accept Srila Prabhupada’s terminology is beyond my comprehension. As far as Srila Prabhupada’s present position, we can learn from a letter written to Brahmananda on Nov. 15, 1969 where he said,

“So far as I am concerned, in relationship with my disciples who are so kindly cooperating with me in the matter of my rendering service to my spiritual master, for them I am always ready to come back from Goloka Vrindaban, if they are not delivered along with me.”

The point made here is that one should think that upon his disappearance from our visual perception, the spiritual master has returned to Goloka Vrindaban. What he has left behind is the legacy of the temples he established, the Deities he installed and the body of instructions he imparted. By his inconceivable mercy, Srila Prabhupada, while residing in the abode of Krishna, continues to bestow his blessings upon us. As disciples, we should make every attempt to end the cycle of birth and death by preparing ourselves through the purificatory process of devotional service to go back to Godhead so as not to oblige the spiritual master to come back to this world to deliver us.

Locanananda dasa
26. October 2012

…Concerning the issue of initiation, guru-tattva and the continuation of the parampara, devotees have been exposed to all sorts of interpretations, some inspired and some misleading.

I always give the benefit of the doubt to any devotee who wants to understand and then explain Srila Prabhupada’s instructions. The initiation issue is one that has divided our movement to the point of schism. Anyone who even appears to look upon ritvik advocates as devotees and befriends them can be immediately and without warning ostracized from ISKCON. These managers are not functioning on the spiritual platform where one interacts with everyone in a way by which they are encouraged to serve within the movement. To the contrary, they reside on the mental plane where they see others as either friend of enemy, and so whoever deals with them is subject to their whimsical policies of acceptance and rejection.

What I find most disingenuous on the part of ISKCON leaders is that they are rejecting Srila Prabhupada’s instructions on the matter of future initiations as if they knew scripture better than he did. All of the verses you quoted were known to all of Srila Prabhupada’s senior disciples, and they obviously felt the initiation protocols Srila Prabhupada was recommending were not supported by scripture. Otherwise, why would they not announce his declaration concerning officiating acaryas in the summary report of their May 27-29 meetings in Vrndavana in 1977? After thoroughly evaluating the role he intended them to play, they decided they hated his idea of officiating and taking karma without receiving worship. We all know that ISKCON still hates the idea of ritvik initiations. If they were obedient servants, they would have enacted resolutions in pursuance of Srila Prabhupada’s May 28th instructions. We find though that the GBC in its meetings and resolutions has never even raised the possibility of discussing having initiators act as officiating acaryas.

There is an important point I wanted to make at this juncture. In ISKCON as well as in the ritvik camp we encounter devotees who are focused on drawing a distinction between siksa and diksa guru. I think perhaps the most important thing to remember in this regard is that these are not titles. The tendency to make these titles is deeply engrained in our intellect. Awarding these names as titles has also been imbibed from association with the Gaudiya Math. Diksa guru is not a title, but everyone wants to know “Who is your diksa guru?” It’s funny that no one wants to know who is your siksa guru. It’s is also interesting that ritvik advocates will never name anyone as their siksa guru. For them, Prabhupada is everything — siksa, diksa, the deliverer from birth and death, and the ocean of mercy. In other words, he is the eternal spiritual master.

If we all think of Srila Prabhupada as our eternal spiritual master, there is no need to label him as our siksa or diksa guru. I was initiated in 1970, but I have never said, “Srila Prabhupada is my diksa guru.”

Prabhupada taught us to use the term “spiritual master”, just as in the Bhagavad-gita Arjuna surrenders to Krishna who agreed to act as Arjuna’s spiritual master. “Now I am a soul surrendered unto You”, had nothing to do with Arjuna receiving diksa on the battlefield. Krishna transmitted transcendental knowledge to His disciple and the relationship was technically a siksa relationship, but we don’t say “Krishna was Arjuna’s siksa guru.” Similarly, everyone is taking shelter of Srila Prabhupada and receiving transcendental knowledge, but they are receiving so much more. By his grace, we will be able to enter the spiritual abode and interact with Krishna face to face. Without pleasing Srila Prabhupada, one cannot even make one iota of spiritual advancement. So the term siksa guru does not apply.

For ISKCON-ites, Srila Prabhupada was proclaimed the pre-eminent siksa guru, but in ISKCON, worship of the diksa guru is more essential, as if the initiator is supposed to take the disciple back to Godhead. Srila Prabhupada wrote that the spiritual master is a resident of the spiritual world. A resident of the spiritual world comes here to deliver the fallen conditioned souls. He does not become attracted to the flirtations of maya. ISKCON gurus should cease and desist from all of those practices that call upon others to see them as liberated souls. I will not say that ISKCON gurus are not devotees, but I will say that some of them who were supposed to be as good as Jesus became less than cats and dogs. Srila Prabhupada used to say spiritual life was like a razor’s edge and the tragedy in ISKCON is that when so-called gurus falter, slip, deviate and get a bloody cheek, all of their admirers are thrown into a hellish condition of life. If only they had agreed to officiate on Prabhupada’s recommendation, so many innocent devotees would have been spared the greatest anguish of their lives.

To continue, we all know Srila Prabhupada was formally initiated by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Maharaja, but personally I do not know of any instance when Srila Prabhupada actually used those particular words “diksa guru” to describe their relationship. And only on one occasion did we hear him refer to his godbrother Sridhar Maharaja as “siksa guru.” In other words, it was very rare that these terms would be used in conversation, in classes or in his letters. It was really only when devotees were helping Prabhupada publish the Adi-lila that the topic of siksa vs. diksa came up. As for myself, I was initiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1970, but I never referred to him as my “diksa guru.” The Bhagavad-gita does not make those distinctions as to which type of guru we are related to. And so Arjuna surrenders fully to Krishna without considering whether it is a siksa or diksa relationship. So when we consider the implementation of the ritvik initiation system, we don’t have to worry about designating who is siksa and who is diksa. Again, it was not mentioned on May 28th, so it was not a consideration. My view on this is that Srila Prabhupada’s perspective was perfect. Only he could conceive of how a worldwide spiritual movement could incorporate the giving of diksa without disrupting an existing system of management and still satisfy the demands of scripture and the standards set by previous acaryas. His instructions were dictated by Krishna, just like his books. And as with his books, the ISKCON leaders were prepared to ignore those divine words of his, not thinking of them as sacrosanct.

Will continue when time permits.

Your servant,
Locanananda dasa

Locanananda dasa
26. October 2012 at 3:54 am

I wanted to add a few more things tonight to explore the topic from other angles of vision.

With our tiny brains and flickering minds we may not be able to comprehend how Srila Prabhupada’s recommendation to have officiating acaryas give diksa filfills all of the requirements and scriptural directives concerning initiation. Srila Prabhupada told us that some of our questions would be answered when we return back to Godhead. So some things we cannot grasp in our conditioned state. A godbrother of mine used to say, “Ours is not to reason why. Ours is but to do or die.” In other words, we should put our complete faith in the words of the spiritual master and do exactly what he says. Whatever we see as contradictory in his instructions will be reconciled in due course of time by Krishna.

In the Caitanya caritamrita there is the story of Raghunath dasa. When he was living at home, he received initiation from Yadunandana Acarya. He later went to Jagannath Puri and there took shelter of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Yadunandana Acarya is referred to as “the official initiator spiritual master” of Raghunath dasa. This is very similar to “officiating acarya.” In the pastime, Raghunath received diksa at home and then took shelter of Lord Caitanya. Similarly, in our movement, we are supposed to receive diksa from an officiating acarya who is transparent to the founder acarya. Actually, though, we are meant to take shelter of Srila Prabhupada. So although Srila Prabhupada is not officially the giver of diksa, he is the ultimate object of our worship and meditation.

There is so much more to be said.

Locanananda dasa
26. October 2012

Let’s take another look at the July 9th letter. I think we can all agree that there is no specific mention whatsoever of initiations that were to be performed when Srila Prabhupada would no longer be present — only the word “henceforward.” This word could have many meanings, depending on what the composer of the letter had in mind. When asked about his use and meaning of the word henceforward, the author of the letter said it meant “until there was a change in circumstance,” or, “until further notice.” This makes perfect sense if we consider that the May 28th meeting with Srila Prabhupada and the question of future initiations dealt specifically with that time when he would no longer be with us. I will again present the exchange between Srila Prabhupada and his secretary from the transcript of the May 28, 1977 discussion. It is crystal clear that Srila Prabhupada’s ritvik order was to have ritvik acaryas give diksa when he would no longer be present, and that those initiated would be his grand disciples.

TKG: He is asking that these ritvik acaryas — they are officiating, giving diksa. The people who they give diksa to — whose disciples are they?

SP: They are his disciples.

TKG: They are his disciples?

SP: Who is initiating. He’s grand disciple.

Srila Prabhupada did not say, “They are MY disciples.” He said “they are HIS disciples,” referring to the ritvik acarya. This completely defeats the idea that Srila Prabhupada would continue to initiate after entering samadhi. And he uses the term grand disciple to refer to those people receiving diksa from the ritvik acarya, further defeating the misconception of ritvik initiation. It doesn’t get more clear than this.

Let me give you one more instance of Srila Prabhupada defeating the misconception that he would continue to give diksa. On the appearance day of his spiritual master in February, 1977, Srila Prabhupada spoke in Mayapur about the nitya-lila of the pure devoteee vaisnava acarya. He likened the pastime to changes in time from one time zone to the next. When it is five o’clock in one place, it is six o’clock in another place. An hour later, it is six o’clock in one location and seven o’clock in the second location. So, figuratively speaking, when it is time for the pure devotee to begin his pastime in another place (at 6 o’clock), they end in the first place (at 7 o’clock). This very obvious comparison helps us understand that in nitya-lila, when the pastime begins in a new place, it does not continue in the previous place. By definition, if Srila Prabhupada continued to initiate here after entering samadhi and while physically residing somewhere else, if that was the nature of his nitya-lila, it means he would have been initiating somewhere else while he was physically present here. Would anyone like to make such an absurd statement and be seen as the greatest fool?

Locanananda dasa
31. October 2012

Dear ____

Regarding your comment of October 26, I mentioned your incessant use of the term “diksa guru.” I pointed out that Srila Prabhupada very rarely used this term in his classes and in discussions with his disciples, including the May 28, 1977 conversation and the July 9th letter where the term “diksa guru” is not mentioned even once. Due to the influence of the Gaudiya Math in particular, devotees nowadays are entirely focused on naming their diksa guru. The distinction between siksa and diksa guru is discussed briefly in the Caitanya caritamrita and, based on what was written there by Srila Prabhupada, devotees like yourself have attempted to undermined his proposal to have initiations performed by officiating acaryas when he would no longer be present. This has gone on for thirty five years and, as far as I can ascertain, there is no end in sight.

To make this even more clear to you, in all of his many thousands of letters to his disciples, Srila Prabhupada used the term “diksa guru” a total of three times. In all of his thousands of lectures, he used the term “diksa guru” a total of eight times, and in all of his room conversations, a total of six times.

Counted together, in all of his classes, letters and room conversations, he used the term “diksa guru” a total of seventeen times. In your October 26 comment alone, the term “diksa guru” appears sixteen times.

So in your one comment you have used the term nearly as often as Srila Prabhupada did over a period of eleven years in all of his classes, letters and room conversations.

And then there are his books. In the Srimad Bhagavatam, the term “diksa guru” appears seven times, all in relation to Dhruva’s mother Suniti and his initiation by Narada. And in the Sri Catianya caritamrita, it appears four times, mainly to define what is meant by “diksa guru.” Throughout Srila Prabhupada’s teachings, on the other hand, the term “guru” has 6,668 references on the VedaBase and “spiritual master” appears 5,316 times. So you can easily see that in comparison to Srila Prabhupada’s use of language, devotees have gone way overboard with their constant use of the term “diksa guru.”

Srila Prabhupada had his reasons for introducing the title “officiating acarya” instead of “diksa guru” or “initiating spiritual master,” to designate the giver of diksa when he would no longer be present. Why devotees cannot accept Srila Prabhupada’s terminology is beyond my comprehension. As far as Srila Prabhupada’s present position, we can learn from a letter written to Brahmananda on Nov. 15, 1969 where he said,

“So far as I am concerned, in relationship with my disciples who are so kindly cooperating with me in the matter of my rendering service to my spiritual master, for them I am always ready to come back from Goloka Vrindaban, if they are not delivered along with me.”

The point made here is that one should think that upon his disappearance from our visual perception, the spiritual master has returned to Goloka Vrindaban. What he has left behind is the legacy of the temples he established, the Deities he installed and the body of instructions he imparted. By his inconceivable mercy, Srila Prabhupada, while residing in the abode of Krishna, continues to bestow his blessings upon us. As disciples, we should make every attempt to end the cycle of birth and death by preparing ourselves through the purificatory process of devotional service to go back to Godhead so as not to oblige the spiritual master to come back to this world to deliver us.

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