The Spiritual Master (Part 4)

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…What Srila Prabhupada arranged in ISKCON was a very safe and very clear path for the new adherent to advance in Krishna consciousness and in the end to reach the ultimate goal of going back to Godhead. The process of sadhana bhakti with morning and evening classes, kirtana and Deity worship coupled with training in preaching and daily Sankirtana activity was the path to purification and the awakening of our dormant love for Krishna. Simple, yet sublime!

As far as acceptance of a spiritual master, in our day it was a foregone conclusion that the initiated disciple was agreeing to worship Srila Prabhupada as good as God and that the spiritual master was promising to deliver the disciple from the cycle of birth and death.

Presently, people are still being attracted to join this movement by coming into contact with Srila Prabhupada’s books, by association with good devotees who represent him with transparency, and by developing a taste for chanting the Holy Name and honoring Krishna prasadam. They agree to abide by the principles established by Srila Prabhupada for all generations of ISKCON devotees — past, present and future. They read and distribute his books, offer obeisances to him when entering the temple, worship his murti, and focus on cultivating a personal relationship with him. In other words, someone who joins our movement today is doing so as a follower of Srila Prabhupada and is accepting His Divine Grace as their eternal spiritual master. It is he who is taking them back to the spiritual world. How could someone who is not a resident of the spiritual world do so?

This is a continuation from our previous posts, The Spiritual Master some time ago, and the further discussion in The Spiritual Master (Part 2)
And The Spiritual Master (Part 3) 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. This new The Spiritual Master (Part 4) is exploring the same theme although from a different source.

The Spiritual Master (Part 4)
by Sriman Locanananda Prabhu

“Whatever I have to speak, I have spoken in my books.”

Because the implementation of an initiation system is basically a function of management, the question becomes whether Srila Prabhupada gave managerial instructions in his books to guide ISKCON in this regard? If so, we should have been able to find all of the information necessary to set up the required initiation protocols by researching them in his books. The fact is that throughout his books there is not even one mention of the GBC, ISKCON’s topmost rung on the ladder of management, what to speak of Srila Prabhupada’s management instructions given to ISKCON’s GBC on the subject of conducting future initiations.

Because Srila Prabhupada was an expert manager and always did everything possible to protect ISKCON and his young disciples, he must have guided the society through channels other than through his books. Those would include his letters to devotees and his room conversations, particular with ISKCON leaders, like the one that took place on May 28, 1977.

It is said that if we receive instructions that are difficult for us to reconcile, our duty is to follow the most recent instruction. The reason why the ritvik explanation is imperfect is because it places the greatest emphasis on the July 9th letter, which was issued in pursuance of the May 28 conversation.

In other words, it was the more recent order and, in the mind of the ritvik ideologist, the final order on initiations.

To understand these references clearly and to be able to see the July 9, 1977 letter in proper perspective, one must first grasp how the May 28th conversation reveals the two phases of initiation protocols Srila Prabhupada was introducing: 1) initiations that would be performed during the remainder of his lifetime and 2) initiations that would be performed when he would no longer be with us visibly. The July 9th letter is in pursuance of the May 28th conversation insofar as it names those disciples who were going to act on Srila Prabhupada’s behalf to conduct initiations during the two phases under discussion. The other protocols that are mentioned in the letter refer to that time when Srila Prabhupada was still with us (1). So when the letter states that those initiated would be Srila Prabhupada’s direct disciples, it is referring to those initiated during Srila Prabhupada’s lifetime. According to the May 28 meeting with the GBC, those initiated during phase two by officiating acaryas would be Srila Prabhupada’s grand disciples.

The term “officiating acarya” was coined by Srila Prabhupada and first introduced in ISKCON during the May 28th conversation. He was being asked particularly about initiations that would be conducted when he would no longer be present, and he replied, “I will recommend some of you to act as officiating acaryas.” Where, then, are ISKCON’s officiating acaryas? In thirty-five years since this conversation took place, no GBC resolution has ever mentioned “officiating acaryas,” nor has a single initiator of disciples in ISKCON ever referred to himself as such. When will a meeting finally take place with the purpose of discussing the role of the officiating acarya as the giver of diksa in Srila Prabhupada’s absence?
We can be sure that Srila Prabhupada was well aware of the conflict of authority that was bound to take place in ISKCON if initiators were thinking of themselves as the ultimate spiritual authority in the lives of their disciples. He meant to curb the tendency in his leading disciples of wanting to control everything by adding the limitation of “officiating” to the term acarya, but that was rejected. Instead, we have had scores of “diksa gurus” and “initiating spiritual masters” who were supposed to be pure devotees making disciples all of the world (Nectar of Instruction, 1). Whether it is because they accepted the karma of too many disciples or became carried away with the worship and praise of their underlings, ISKCON’s leaders obviously have been unable to come up with a system of initiation suitable for a worldwide movement through the process of experimentation and based upon their independent research of Srila Prabhupada’s books.

Perhaps the time has come for everyone to give Srila Prabhupada’s recommendation a chance to succeed. Without doing so, our ISKCON society will continue to be hampered by two non-parallel lines of authority that are in conflict with each other more often than not. This arrogant dismissal of Srila Prabhupada’s recommendation to have officiating acaryas perform initiations has been a great hindrance in the spreading of Krishna consciousness and to the unity of ISKCON. How much longer must the world wait for us to give up our prideful independence and disinclination to act according to the will of the spiritual master?

Text pasted from the series diksa or ritvik

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