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ISKCON: More Gurus Needed!

Friday, 19 September 2008 / Published in Articles / 4,704 views

Dear Prabhus, Hare Krishna!

This is not something written by myself, but I wanted to draw your attention to a nice blogpost by Krpamoya Prabhu.

Your servant, Lalitanatha dasa
—————–

By Kripamoya dasa

Whether you like it or not, Jehovah’s Witnesses are always ready to do two things (1) Distribute books (2) Sit down and talk with you, and help you to understand. ISKCON has many book distributors, but we need more gurus.

After people have read one of Srila Prabhupada’s books, and if they want to know more, their first question is often something like this: “How can I find out more about all this? Do you have any meetings in my town?” or “Are there any other Krishna people living near me?” That was my first eager question at the age of 16 when I received a Back to Godhead magazine in the streets of Nottingham, England.

If you’re not English, the answer is yes, the city still has a sheriff, although the Sheriff of Nottingham these days is largely a ceremonial functionary – and no, there’s not much of a forest today for Robin Hood and his merry men to hide away in.

But such things didn’t concern me when I was 16. I wanted to know where I could find out more, and if there were any other Krishna people living in Nottingham. I’d already had some sort of introduction to Krishna the previous year, although quite a mysterious one. My father worked for an office machine company and had brought home an old spirit duplicator. By using carbon paper to create a typewriter original, and fluid to transfer the purple print to a fresh sheet of paper, you could, by cranking a handle, produce any number of duplicates. I’m sure there were Xerox photocopiers already in existence, but I was 15, it was 1972 and I didn’t know anyone who had one.

My friends had formed a band and wanted to put on a show. So they asked me if I could design and print a flyer for the event. “What sort of design do you want?” I asked them, happy to oblige. “Well, it’s going to be called the Ananta Disco,” they replied. “How do you spell that word,” I asked, “and what does it mean?”

My two musician friends looked at each other, as if it was some kind of secret they didn’t want to reveal, then burst out laughing. “Ananta is a snake,” said one. “Kind of like a cosmic snake somewhere in the universe.”

“We met some Krishna people a few weeks ago,” said the other, “they had a flat up the hill on Mansfield Road. We had some of their food – it was yellow.`”

I duly designed the ‘cosmic snake’ so that the curves of the snake’s body spelled out ‘Ananta’ with the head on the final letter. When I brought over the batch of printed flyers my friends were happy, but I was intrigued. I wanted to know more but they couldn’t tell me anything, they had no books, and the Krishnas had ‘gone to London to sing along Oxford Street.’

So when I met a devotee on the street in Nottingham in the summer of the following year I really wanted to know where he lived and whether I could come over and ask questions. “We’re traveling” he replied, “and the nearest place is London.” I was disappointed, and the devotee seemed not to want to talk, and moved away to approach another person. “What’s your address in London?” He fumbled in his shoulder bag and gave me a small spirit-duplicated flyer with an image of a long-haired girl in a dress with her hands raised in the air, together with some words repeated down one side. And then he was gone.

So that was how I missed Srila Prabhupada at the Manor in 1973 when he stayed with the devotees for many weeks; an unusual length of time for him to remain in one place. Had the devotee actually invited me to come – which he didn’t – I would have come. Had he taken my address and written to me, I certainly would have made the effort to travel down to London. As it was, I thought that ‘here are George Harrison’s personal friends, and they don’t want anyone to disturb them by visiting them.’ So it wasn’t until the year after that I was actually invited.

But this blog is not about the personal warmth and after-sales communication skills of Krishna book distributors. Rather, its to stress the fact that spiritual movements like ours need to be prepared to help people whenever their spiritual needs are most urgent. And we need to be able to help them wherever they live. It is not good enough to direct people to the nearest city where there is a temple. Our work is enhanced by temples, but cannot be dependent on them. Medical care is enhanced by a hospital but can never be limited by it. People hurt themselves in the most unlikely of places and often the paramedics must come to them. Help must be given when and where it is needed, otherwise people perish.

Spiritual workers must be available in every village. That’s the request of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the incarnation of Krishna who came in the form of a saintly teacher. He demonstrated his concern by walking village to village in India for six years, teaching the message wherever he went.

ISKCON has been way ahead of most other spiritual groups in its enthusiasm and competence for initial outreach. In the matter of getting out there and boldly going where no man has gone before we’re bold pioneers. Our book distributors have been everywhere: northern Alaska, Siberia, outer Mongolia, Cambodia and even Timbuktu, and we’ve given millions of people the chance to read about Krishna consciousness. It is nothing less than astonishing. We are still raising eyebrows in the publishing world where a ‘runaway bestseller’ is 20,000 copies, but the Hare Krishnas will only ever print 100,000 copies of a book.

Unfortunately, we haven’t done as well – so far – as other comparable groups in our geographic spread. You’ll find us in the major cities but we fade out in the smaller towns. And we’re not really known for our pastoral care either. Where the Jehovah’s Witnesses will sit down with you to study the Bible, we often can’t find the time to talk with people. But people do require the ongoing tuition, support, guidance and a sense of progress that should naturally follow the initial outreach.

If the devotees of Krishna do not provide these spiritual supports as a corollary of their book distribution, then other organisations certainly will. In the past 40 years everyone with something spiritual to say has set up shop pretty much locally. ‘Alternative Lifestyle and Philosophy’ has gone mainstream and is now available in every book store. And you’ll find some kind of guru or master in every local copy of the Yellow Pages. The disparity between our book distribution and our follow-up is such that, over the years, we’ve helped millions to become familiar with the basic concepts of eastern philosophy, then watched as they went to learn more from local teachers who didn’t tell them anything about Krishna. And those local teachers are quite happy with us and think us to be very helpful for their own private missions.

But as Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami said: “Krishna consciousness is so important, so exclusively important,” that it does not make logical sense for the Krishna consciousness movement to become sidelined into a movement for initial outreach and book distribution only. And highly decorated temples in major cities. We need more gurus. Not remote, world-travelling, highly qualified gurus, but locally accessible, less qualified gurus. Thousands of them.

By guru I mean someone who is prepared to personally roll up their sleeves and accept responsibility for the spiritual welfare of a number of named individuals. No wide broadcasting of messages; no generic teaching to anonymous masses; but teaching, guidance, support to named people in a local area. Only with thousands of men and women doing this will we be able to do what this great mission was set up to do.

21 comments

  1. 0

    One solution to a follow up from our Sankirtana parties is that on the same day or even next day we invite people for townhall programs, or something like that , a public program in the cities we distribute books and have lecture, kirtana prasadam and lots of personal attention to everyone that attends these programs, this will help our preaching to be more effective
    ys
    Payonidhi das

  2. 0
    bhaktarob ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I entirely agree with what is written in this article.

    I hope one day these aspirations can be translated into a tangible practical programme of support for those willing to take up this task. I’ve seen here on Dandavats that younger devotees are often decried for their lack of willingness to take responsibility. My experience is that those who are may often be unsupported, or even criticised for their efforts.

    Prabhupada encouraged an “enterprise” culture. He backed good ideas, he encouraged people to use their initiative and make their own decisions, and he liked people who thought for themselves. In order to foster a culture today where individuals feel inspired to take up this kind of grass roots preaching work, the same spirit of enterprise needs to be encouraged. Institutions and their methodologies, whilst often trying to act in the best interests of preservation and continuity, frequently end up stifling dynamism and growth. It is very important to the future of our society at grass-roots level to empower and enthuse young people to have ideas, and guide them to see those ideas through to reality. There will surely be no senior devotee who will become offended if I say that 20 year old man has a better sense of how to connect with the next generation than someone far older than he. So let the youngsters have the big ideas, and let the seniors train them in the practicalities of realizing their ambitions. That, in fact, is Prabhupada’s own example.

    No new leaders, big or small, can be fostered in a system which frowns upon initiative and “independent” behaviour. No individual will be enthused to act in a structure under which he feels too much of a burden of pressure and regulation. It’s worth noting here maybe that Prabhupada set up ISKCON to act as seperate self-registered individual yatras acting under the auspices of an international governing body. When this important administrative instruction is realized in practice, then only will dynamic growth be able to begin again.

  3. 0
    ccd ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Traditional system was always localised and usually every village had a guru, even in Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition. It is not uncommon and probably most effective. High profile gurus and low profile gurus or any gurus are all just representatives of Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu. ‘Just’ maybe a wrong word, but the truth is that local preaching is benefiting from gurus teaching local congregation or temple devotees. I can not agree that there is some mysterious difference between siksa-guru and diksa-guru qualifications or level.

    The mission suffers because of lack of gurus and at the same time because gurus are presented as ‘word acharyas’. Yes acharyas are a very advanced position, but guru is a relationship in training a disciple. We place such a strong stress on diksa and official status, but we should rather put the stress on taking care of the devotees, be it congregation or full time devotees. Care is the essence of the guru-disciple relationship and it is a two way street. Kripamoya Prabhu makes an obvious observation, and it is the recorded wish of Prabhupada, that all his disciples became gurus, why? Lets pause and ask ourselves, what stops us from having all Prabhupada disciples being gurus as he wished? Even if someone who is not up to the very high standard of the current system? Then they can be local gurus, when it is easy to implement simple traditional check and balances system of observation and daily service. Let become more liberal and follow Prabhupadas explicit instructions about it and spread the care for devotees in every town and village, not just momentary care, but consistent care and guidance, under the shelter of our movement… We do not have to copy the Maths system of acharya-gurus, we are smarter and bigger (I hope). ys ccd

  4. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    We are making an effort here in ISKCON Silicon Valley, under the guidance of His Grace Vaisesika Prabhu, to take down contact information from people we meet on book distribution and follow up with them.

    It is a nice program, and it reminds us that we are not just machines trying to pump out the most books in the shortest time, but we are actually representatives of Krishna consciousness, wherever we go. This might be the only contact someone gets with Krishna consciousness, so we have to make it count.

    On the other hand, we cannot waste our time talking with someone who is not receptive, or who simply wants to convince us of his or her own ideology. But for those who are really interested in Krishna consciousness, we have to really listen and answer their questions and try to encourage them to contact ISKCON further. It takes some discrimination.

    Years ago I was in L.A. Airport and I was talking to one man and he was politely listening as I showed him Bhagavad Gita, and then he said “I am a Christian.” I thought he was going to waste my time arguing with me, and I just walked away from him. o then he went over to our leader, Praghosa (ACBSP), and gave him $10 and took a book. And Praghosa came and rightly chastised me for having misread the situation.

    Lord Caitanya ordered, “Wherever you go, to whomever you meet, tell him Krishna’s instructions and on my order in this way become a guru and deliver everyone in that land.” All the book distributers, sankirtan devotees, or even devotees who talk to co-workers and acquaintances about Krishna consciousness, are in that sense gurus.

    It is not the same as giving diksha and developing a formal relationship based on submission and service exactly. Accepting the worship and commitment of disciples in that way is a very serious responsibility that should be undertaken by steady devotees who will not in any circumstances become bewildered, and who are fixed in knowledge of Absolute Truth (brahma nistham).

    But in another sense it is the same, because wherever Krishna makes His appearance to enlighten the heart of some individual is absolutely worshipable. A vartmapradarshika guru, a siksa guru and a diksha guru are all on the absolute platform. Guru is guru.

    Bilvamangala Thakur repeatedly praised his vartmapradarshaka guru, Cintamami, although she was a courtesan, a prostitute. She instructed him that instead of lust he should use that same determination for Krishna, and he understood

  5. 0
    Locanananda dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    This is a very important discussion and spiritual initiative. It is not that those who spread the Krishna consciousness movement expect to be recognized as “guru”. We are doing Krishna’s bidding, and we are not interested in titles or praise. We are simply happy to know that Krishna is pleased with our service.

    Historically, the “follow-up program” was personally demonstrated by Srila Prabhupada on November 28, 1965. That was the day he spoke at the Tagore Society located at the New India House at 3 East 64th Street, New York City. The advertisement inviting people to the event read,

    “A widely respected scholar and religious leader in India, Swami Bhaktivedanta is briefly visiting New York. He has been engaged in a monumental endeavor of translating the sixty-volume Srimad Bhagavatam from Sanskrit to English.”

    Sitting in the audience, and before being introduced as the speaker, Srila Prabhupada met Daoud Haroon whom he asked to keep an eye on several cases of Bhagavatams and his personal belongings when he ascended to the stage. After his discourse, while Srila Prabhupada was busy answering questions from the audience, he engaged Daoud in selling his books to the other guests ($16 for the three volume set). As the event drew to a close, Srila Prabhupada thanked his assistant, sold him a Bhagavatam set and collected Daoud’s name, address and phone number for future reference.

    Every devotee can follow in Srila Prabhupada’s footsteps in this regard. If every day I go out I can find just a single individual who displays sincere interest in Krishna consciousness, and I get that person’s name, address, email address and telephone number,
    then within three years, I would be cultivating 1,000 people directly, what to speak of those who would hear about Krishna consciousness from those 1,000 individuals.
    I haven’t done that kind of follow-up in a while, but as I contribute to this discussion, the idea of cultivating new people in this simple way is getting me all fired up.

    Suggestion: Those devotees who do not generally approach the public themselves, for example, devotees with jobs and family obligations, can team up with a book distributor who is making the initial contact. Get those names and stay in touch with them. Answer their questions, send them literature, prasadam, invitations to devotee events, and so on.
    This is a most worthwhile endeavor. I will present the idea to our Harinam party tonight at Times Square.

    YS,
    Locanananda dasa

  6. 0
    pustakrishna ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Locanananda das rightly expresses that devotees can distribute books and explain Krishna consciousness according to their realization. The position of Guru was defined by Srila Rupa Goswami in his often quoted verse: Vaco vega manasa krodha vega, jihva vegam udaropashta vegam, etan vegan yo vishaheta dhira, sarvan api mam pritivim sasisyat(please forgive any spelling errors). Herein, Srila Rupa Goswami states that the urges or drives of the senses (speech, mind, anger, tongue, genital, stomach), if tolerated without acting on these urges, one is called sober (dhira). Such a sober individual can accept students or disciples throughout the world. Without such practiced control of the senses, one will simply create a disturbance if they play the role of teacher. Srila Prabhupad emphasized that the Vaishnava Guru teaches by example.
    Lord Chaitanyadeva encouraged his followers to become teachers of His sankirtan movement as well. But, remember that the desire for pratishta or position is a flaw of the material consciousness. One should not desire to become a guru, but rather, on the order of a higher vaishnava, one can assume this position for the sake of saving the fallen suffering souls. Mahaprabhu stated: na dhanam na janam na sundarim, kavitam va jagadisaha kamaye…All material desires for accumulating wealth, following, sexlife, poetic prowess, or dominion over the world…none of these should replace the feeling that one is striving for, the causeless service of Sri Krishna birth after birth, without desire even for self-anihilating liberation.
    Many individuals can be our sikshya gurus, giving us instruction and nourishment. Diksha initiation is important for the vow that is associated with this, to strive toward offenseless chanting of the Holy Names of the Lord, but our many instructors are so-many sikshya gurus. Their association is sadhu-sanga.
    I do not have every answer to every situation. The situation is different and the answers may be different. While one mission may have only one diksha guru, by the will of their own guru maharaj, and another mission may have many diksha gurus with a GBC to manage the practical affairs of the mission, the common denominator is hearing and chanting, remembering…nine authorized processes of devotional service. It should not be politicized, but accepted as diversity according to higher authority. That is my observation. Sincerely, Pusta Krishna das

  7. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    This is a great discussion.

    The follow up and personal care we give to people we meet and sell books to (or who just express an interest in the kirtan) is very important. Of course there is no question of feeling possessive, but rather there should be genuine friendship and desire for that person to advance in Krishna consciousness.

    CCd writes: “The mission suffers because of lack of gurus and at the same time because gurus are presented as ‘word acharyas’.”

    I think he really has something there. Local gurus who really care for the spiritual development of disciples in a given community, without having such “world acarya” status and the social distance from other devotees that can create, is like a beautiful vision of the future of ISKCON.

    The kind of publicly-enforced fanfare we have sometimes created around our initiating gurus in ISKCON may sometimes unnecessarily give rise to (1) a lack of genuine, spontaneous personal feelings, (2) an unnecessarily unfamiliar set of social relations (perhaps especially felt in democratic or egalitarian cultures), (3) envy on the part of some observers, and (4) in some circumstances at least, the adulation may go to the head of diksha gurus who come to desire followers and a big position and, as a result, hurt their own spiritual lives and the reputation of ISKCON (not real “gurus”).

    I also think CCd might be right that to be really qualified as a siksa guru or vartmapradarsika guru one has to also have the qualities that Pusta Krishna points out (i.e., control of the 6 urges, basically be a pure devotee with no desire for dhanam, janam, sundarim, kavitam).

    I felt bad after using Cintamani as an example of my idea that we can be “gurus” without these high qualifications. Upon reflection, I feared that Cintamani was probably a great Vaisnavi who just happened by circumstance to be a prostitute, and that my remarks were offensive to her.

    But then, what do we say about preachers and book distributors who cannot control the 6 urges and who are still “sometimes in, sometimes out” of performing sadhana? Can they be “gurus” in any sense?

    I’ll tell you one thing: I met a devotee in about 1974 who sat and talked to me and gave me a prasadam cookie and invited me to the Miami temple. His name was Akincana Das, and I have never met him again. Someone told me he is from Chicago and became an insurance salesman. I owe him a deep debt of gratitude and feel like Krishna was speaking through him.

  8. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    When I read CCd’s comments and then Pusta Krishna’s comments, I felt (as I often do in a good discussion) that CCd’s was right (in refuting me), and then Pusta Krishna’s was right (in refuting CCd). But there was still something important and valid in CCd’s comment that we cannot afford to overlook.

    Prabhupada sometimes said it is easy to be a guru, to just repeat what we have heard in disciplic succession without any alteration or adulteration. (But can we really do that if we have any desires for distinction, adoration and profit? Of course we also need to fully practice what we preach, or we are hypocrites.)

    Other times he said a guru cannot be “fool number one”, and has to be free from the four defects, etc. One gets the vivid impression from reading Prabhupada’s books that a guru should be a cent percent perfect, mature devotee.

    There is the famous passage in NOI where Prabhupada writes: “One should not become a spiritual master unless he has attained the platform of uttama-adhikari. A neophyte Vaisnava or a Vaisnava situated on the intermediate platform can also accept disciples, but such disciples must be on the same platform, and it should be understood that they cannot advance very well toward the ultimate goal of life under his insufficient guidance.”

    I think we all recognize as preachers that when we meet nice people we try to steer them to meet more advanced devotees and of course to take shelter of Srila Prabhupada’s perfect instructions.

    CCd’s idea about local or “low profile” gurus strikes a powerful chord in me somehow, as being right. As usual it might take me too many words to try to say what I mean about this.

    It is not that we should “minimize” the guru or think him an ordinary man (the 3rd offense). “Everything one possesses should be offered to him. . . ” (NOI, Text 5 Purport)

    But our faith and commitment should be on a personal level and we should not make a policy of enforcing such commitment on those whose faith in those advanced devotees has not awakened. That faith is based on the genuine care for the disciple’s welfare that CCd is talking about, on a solid platform of “love and trust”.

    By making the “guru position” too celebrity-like, we may interfere in the close personal relationship and affection that should develop. The guru becomes unapproachable.

    These are some lessons we learned in the first 10-15 years after Prabhupada’s departure (and still are learning).

  9. 0
    ccd ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Thank you Pusta Krishna. Its not that only association with siksa-gurus are sadhu sanga. Even when we discuss matters at this blog, its also sadhu sanga. You are right that we have many diksa gurus (unlike other smaller missions). Prabhupada wanted all his disciples to be and live with humility of this service. If one or two are diksa-gurus/acharyas – that is of course grounds of concern for pratistha motivated individuals to wrongly take the prominent spot. After initial trial we did not follow this model of Gaudiya Maths and we have many gurus, okay now they get less pratistha, so its good; If everyone can reach the level of diksa guru, where would be a question of pratistha? Everyone will get the same respect. So your argument of ‘pratistha’ is working against you. Maybe some will not be able to take disciples ‘all over the world’, but even if they give good example and instructions they should be given the same respect, its good not just for the fruits of preaching but also for the problem pratistha. ys ccd

  10. 0
    Locanananda dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    As a follow-up to post number four above, our Saturday night Harinam party at Times Square attracted two young men of Indian descent who gladly submitted their names, addresses and phone numbers so that we can stay in touch with them. They chanted with us for half an hour and when the kirtan ended, they hugged each devotee in our party
    with warm affection and sincere gratitude.

    Having collected this information, it is now my responsibility to act as their friend and guide in Krishna consciousness for as long as they are willing to reciprocate. My intention is to simply share with them whatever I have learned about the practice of devotional service as a disciple of Srila Prabhupada. I am not interested in discussing with them the issue of initiation at this point because I know that if their attachment to Srila Prabhupada grows, and their understanding of his teachings is assimilated and incorporated into their being, they will remain in Krishna consciousness and serve within his mission for the duration of their lifetime, no matter who the giver of initiation will be.

    Your servant,
    Locanananda dasa

  11. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Locanananda said: “Having collected this information, it is now my responsibility to act as their friend and guide in Krishna consciousness for as long as they are willing to reciprocate.”

    This is the proper attitude of a siksha guru. On Prabhupada’s order we are going out to teach whatever we have learned from Prabhupada about devotional service.

    Even to do that correctly we do have to control the six urges and be free from desire for distinction, adoration and profit. Otherwise we are maintaining material attachments after understanding so many instructions.

    But it is also a “gradual process” and we should certainly not think that, just because we still have some flaws, we cannot go on sankirtan or follow up sanga. We *must* do it, on Prabhupada’s order, even while we are in an immature stage.

    Those who are very pure will be more successful at it, and “an uttama-adhikari Vaisnava can be recognized by his ability to convert many fallen souls to Vaisnavism.”

    One of the things we have learned (and must pass on) is to carefully study Prabhupada’s books together and hear from him. He is our Founder-Acarya and instructing guru of everyone.

    “I am not interested in discussing with them the issue of initiation at this point . . . ” Sure, why rush to that particular topic? I get a sense that one of the things that may make some of us reluctant to discuss initiation with new people is the feeling that we have made some mistakes in that connection or do not have a clear idea ourselves.

    We do seem to be getting a lot better at it than we were 20 or 25 years ago.

    But eventually we have to discuss initiation, and therefore it is important that we discuss it amongst ourselves, the way we are discussing it here. I for one feel like I am learning all the time. I am getting a lot out of hearing Pusta Krishna and Caitanya Candrodaya talk about it.

    Pusta Krishna Prabhu warns us not to “politicize” the differences between ISKCON and Gaudiya Maths. I honestly didn’t know Gaudiya Maths have only one guru per mission. I mean I kind of sensed it, but I never paid that much attention (maybe that was my way of avoiding “politicizing”.) Are they all like that? I still don’t even know.

    But I agree with CCd that Prabhupada did not want us to do it that way. It should not be “official”, or “artificial.” Devotees who preach purely and humbly without concern for official positions will get the genuine order to initiate by and by.

  12. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Another kind of “follow up” we might want to do is to try staying in touch with devotees who do not come around any more, or whom we have not seen in a while.

    For people who really are not interested in being “preached to” or in talking about Krishna, we can just be friendly and interested in what they are doing now with their lives, as genuine friends. It might be awkward because they might always be expecting us to “preach” to them, or they might not be interested in us. Each case will be different and we have to use good judgment and “people skills,” but the point is they are still our family, even if they are forgetful.

    Last Saturday on sankirtan we met a guy who had lived at New Vrindaban and had worked on some of the construction projects there. He seemed to be kind of a “street person” now and tried to impress on us that he had no interest in Krishna consciousness anymore. Still, we felt an outpouring of friendship for him and told him he was still family. He could have any book he wanted or prasadam or anything. He was our brother.

    I quoted him the “na vai jano jatu kathancanavrajen” verse (S.B. 1.5.19), and told him that a beloved son of a rich man, although loitering like a pauper on the street, is not the same as a real pauper. I do not think the philosophical nuances got through, but he seemed to feel our real affection and appreciate it.

    I was inspired by seeing Gauragopala’s post in the “There’s more than one Kurma” thread, with a link to Mahamaya’s directory of all of Prabhupada’s disciples, and I started looking up names of old friends and thinking, “I wonder where this one and that one is now?” And probably most of them are still part of a nice community of devotees somewhere, but I am afraid some have kind of “moved on” and gotten covered over.

    I mean, someone who has gone to morning program every day for years and chanted all their rounds and gotten initiated and attended so many classes, can never be really lost to us, “because a person who has once relished the taste of the lotus feet of the Lord can do nothing but remember that ecstasy again and again.”

    I remember this great story, from Naimasaranya Prabhu’s great book about the life and times of Ramanujacarya, about how Sri Yamunacarya, when he was a king, had become absorbed in worldly matters, and then his grandfather’s disciple came and devised a clever way to inspire him again in Vaisnavism.

    I know I would want to be befriended and inspired.

  13. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    So, basically the story about Sri Yamunacarya: Many of you have already heard how he conquered a Pandya Dynasty king’s pandit in a debate, while he was still a young boy, and due to the king’s bet with his leading queen, the king delivered half his kingdom to Yamunacarya, who became known as “Alabandara” (“conqueror”) due to his victory over the pandit. (What a culture that was, that a boy could win half the kingdom by debating with a pandit!)

    Now, Yamunacarya’s grandfather was a great yogi-poet, Nathamuni. He was sorry to hear his grandson had become an opulent king, a worldly man. He secured a promise from his disciple to bring Yamunacarya back to the simple, devotional life.

    So after the great Nathamuni passed, the disciple went to the palace to speak to the king, Yamunacarya. But the king was busy with affairs of state, meeting with neighboring kings and ministers, and the simple sannyasi could not secure an audience. So the clever sadhu devised a plan. . .

    There is a kind of leafy, green vegetable which is known for its nutritious properties as well as its benefits on the nervous system. (Imagine Popeye’s spinach, but for the brain). The sannyasi knew where some of this rare vegetable grew, and he brought it to the palace, where he was able to secure an audience with the head cook. He presented it to the cook as a token of his admiration for the king, and asked him to prepare it nicely and serve it to the king.

    Every day for some time he presented this vegetable to the cook, and each day the king enjoyed it with his lunch. Then one day, the brahmana did not come, and the cook could not serve Yamunacarya his favorite vegetable. So the king summoned the cook and complained, and the cook said, “Sire, I got this vegetable from a sadhu who has been coming every day and giving it as a present for you. Today he did not come, so I could not serve it.” The king said, “If he comes again, I want to see him.”

    In this way the clever sannyasi gained a royal audience, and disclosed that he was Yamunacarya’s grandfather’s disciple. He said that Nathamuni had left a great treasure in his care to deliver to the king. The king needed a treasure at that moment, because of a war, and was eager to obtain it, but the sadhu said:

    “I have to take you there alone. It is within seven walls, between two rivers, guarded by a huge naga, and inspected every 12 years by a demon, but I can teach you how obtain it with a mantra . . .”

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    In this way somehow the disciple of Nathamuni was able to convince Yamunacarya to leave Madurai alone with him and head off toward Rangakshetra to obtain the treasure. As they journeyed, the sannyasi recited Bhagavad Gita.

    Upon hearing the sannyasi recite the entire Bhagavad Gita, which Yamunacarya had studied in his youth, Yamunacarya realized that there was nothing more important. A great desire for self-realization reawakened in his heart, and he sat with his granfather’s disciple for many days in a secluded place, studying that sacred conversation. He announced his desire to become the sannyasi’s disciple and to abandon his kingdom.

    He did not even want the treasure left by his grandfather, thinking he no longer had any use for it. But the sannyasi said he had vowed to deliver this treasure to Yamunacarya, so they resumed their journey.

    When they got to the island on which the Rangakshetra temple is located, they passed through the temple’s seven walls, and the sannyasi showed Yamunacarya the treasure was Lord Ranganatha Himself, lying on the great Ananta-Sesa Naga, and taught him the mantra through which the Lord’s eternal association could be obtained: “om namo narayanaya.” It was said that Ravana’s brother Vibhisana had established this temple, and that he comes every twelve years to worship the Lord there.

    When Yamunacarya ran up to the beautiful Deity, he lost consciouness due to ecstasy. He remained in Rangakshetra as a humble servant of his guru and of Lord Ranganatha. He gave up his former kingdom (setting aside a part of it to produce revenue for the worship of Sri Ranganath). Eventually, he wrote the “Stotra-Ratna” and other important Vaisnava works, and became the leader of the Sri Vaisnava community.

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    pustakrishna ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Sorry for the length of the story. Anyway, Srila Prabhupad said, that he himself had written something for me. He was so grateful. He had me write down 6 verses on surrender that he extemporaneously spoke in English to me. I wrote them down and still have those on our altar in my home.
    Then, I spoke to Srila Prabhupad…”You are the only person in the world who I trust”. With all humility, as he applied his tilak on his forehead, he spoke these exact words:
    “Do not trust me, I will let you down. Trust Krishna, He will never let you down.”
    At that time, I knew I had come into the presence of a genuine Guru. It struck like lightning. Krishna has said: Surrender unto Me. Srila Prabhupad said: Surrender unto Krishna. Srila Prabhupad did not take the opportunity of my vulnerability to cheat me. He could have said, yes, only trust me, etc. etc. I understood what ‘transparent via medium’ meant. He did not obstruct Krishna, he was not an obstacle to Krishna. He is Krishna, reaching out to me, through him.
    We have all seen how personality cults can develop around individuals. It is not what Srila Prabhupad desired for himself. And, those who become teachers of others in Krishna consciousness can learn from this story. Srila Prabhupad was such an utterly humble soul. We sometimes think of him as a lightning bolt, cutting through the darkness of maya, to bring light to the fallen souls. He was that also, indeed. But, if you had the opportunity to know him personally, as he granted to myself and others as well, you could not help but appreciate the clarity of his being. He was asked many times: “Srila Prabhupad, what do you want from us to best please you?” His answer was consistent: With those beautiful humble eyes and that pleading, faltering voice, he would reply: “That you love Krishna.” That is vaishnava acharya to me. A steady beacon that points to Krishna’s Lotus Feet. He is never an obstacle to Krishna’s Will. The subtle material energy of ahankara, false ego, is not observed. His identity is congruent, one, with Krishna in the inconceivable manner that Lord Chaitanya expressed: acintya bhedabheda tattva.
    What we all hanker for, what we feel separation from, what we appreciate and can find no substitute for, is Srila Prabhupad. He once said that “Guru is one”. We will not be able to digest this with a mundane vision. If only we can submit to Krishna…with humility and gratitude, Pusta Krishna

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    pustakrishna ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The discussion highlights very real concerns. We have all experienced that unqualified individuals may take the “post” of guru or teacher, still infected with the desires for followers, wealth, fame, and adoration. The lack of Krishna consciousness is to blame. Now, I will share with you a very intimate moment I had with Srila Prabhupad in Bombay in March, 1971. I was a new bhakta to the movement, having just come out of Dacca, Bangladesh (East Pakistan) when the war broke out while Gargamuni and I were doing preaching programs there. The Gaudiya Math devotees gave us a place to stay, arranged programs for us, and treated us with the utmost honor. They had never seen white vaishnavas, and they had absolutely no suspicions about giving us shelter and facility. When the war broke out as the West Pakistani army invaded in one night, squashing the revolutionary hopes for independence of the East Bengalis, we were advised by the American embassy to leave the country. Overnight, there was profound devastation in Dacca. So, we left after one month, going first to Karachi, and then to Bombay where Srila Prabhupad had initiated his Indian programs with several dozen American disciples. I had never met Srila Prabhupad personally, nor was I initiated. Srila Prabhupad took great satisfaction that we had risked our lives to preach Krishna consciousness in East Pakistan (perhaps that was why he sent me to South Africa later during the difficult years of Apartheid).
    Anyway, it was around the time of Lord Chaitanyadeva’s Apppearance Day, and I wrote one poem glorifying Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. I gave it, unsigned, to Srila Prabhupad’s secretary, who later presented it to Srila Prabhupad. Srila Prabhupad greatly appreciated the poem, and when His Divine Grace asked his secretary who had written the poem, the secretary could not remember who had written the poem. So, one by one, Srila Prabhupad asked the secretary to find out who had written the poem. After about two dozen inquiries, and clearly by process of elimination, the secretary asked me. I replied that I had written the poem. The secretary said, “Srila Prabhupad wants to speak with you!” It was my first time alone with Srila Prabhupad.
    He sat there in his room without his top, applying tilak to his body. He excitedly asked, so you have written this poem glorifying Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and I replied ‘yes”. Srila Prabhupad said that one of the qualities of a devotee is to be poetic.

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Pusta Krishna Prabhu,

    Thank you for your beautiful story and comments. My follow up questions: Can you post a copy of the poem you read glorifying Mahaprabhu in 1971? Will you please also post the six lines Srila Prabhupada dictated to you about surrender?

    Yes, guru is one, because he is a transparent via medium teaching “surrender to Krishna” with no false ego. Thus, though there have been thousands and millions of different gurus and disciples in history, if they are really pure reflections of their own gurus, they are the external manifestation of Supersoul, although they always consider themselves servant of the servant.

    One cannot really successfully transmit the message of Krishna, intact, without being completely devoid of false prestige.

    Someone told me a story (maybe it did not happen exactly like this), that Prabhupada was having darshan of the Deities, and he was visibly praying, and some disciple asked, “Srila Prabhupada, what are you praying?” And Prabhupada responded, “I am praying that I may not fall down from devotional service.”

    And the disciple wrinkled his brow for a moment and asked, “But Srila Prabhupada, you told us a pure devotee never falls down, so why are you praying that you will not fall down from devotional service?” And Prabhupada replied, “A pure devotee never falls down, because he is always praying that he may not fall down.”

    But I still wonder about CCd Prabhu’s point, that it might be safer to have more gurus, who are not big international celebrities but are just very sincere, humble preachers who take care of the less advanced devotees in their local area, bound by ties of natural, genuine spiritual affection, expressed through the six loving exchanges. Might not such devotees be less susceptible to becoming derailed by ahankara and personality cults?

    Not that we would compare such disciples to the spiritual stature of Srila Prabhupada, but to the extent they are able to purely give Prabhupada without any ulterior motive, won’t they truly reflect Srila Prabhupada?

    For Americans, it is very unusual to bow down, to touch someone’s feet, to offer any kind of puja or words of high praise to a holy man (save maybe a Catholic Pope or Orthodox Archbishop). In some other cultures, people still deeply respect their parents, their teachers, their pious local religious leaders, even monarchs (e.g., in Thailand)

    Not that I think we should water down gurus’ qualifications, but . . .

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Not that I think we should water down guru’s qualifications, or reduce the worship surrender of sincere disciples, but . . .

    Maybe we should become more comfortable with interpersonal relationships in which saintly, strict devotees who are serious about preaching and guiding people in Krishna consciousness, even if they are not internationally famous or worshiped by big crowds like rock stars, are more commonly reciprocating with junior devotees who are honestly moved to offer puja, touch their feet, etc.

    It seems some religious traditions consider it offensive to consider anyone worthy of worship but God Himself. Muslims emphasize the non-divinity of Mohammed (or Jesus), many Protestant Christians deny the sinlessness of Virgin Mary or the existence of any saints whatsoever. The Old Testament’s God is a “jealous” God, and you better not get caught worshiping anyone else, or some smiting will ensue.

    Vaisnavas also do not worship anyone — even powerful demigods like Siva or Brahma — as equal to or independent of Krishna. Those who worship demigods go to demigods (and later return to martya loka). Those who worship demigods actually worship Krishna (who else is there?), but in a wrong way (avidhi-purvakam). Not recognizing Krishna’s true nature, they fall down. (See, B.G. 9:23-25)

    But we know that worship of the Vaisnavas is the highest form of worship of Krishna. “The father likes to see the son become more famous than himself. The Lord declares emphatically that worship of His devotee is more valuable than the worship of the Lord Himself.” (S.B. 1.9.25, Purport)

    It is one of the ten offenses — often said to be the greatest offense — to blaspheme a devotee who has dedicated his or her life to propagating the Holy Name. But nowhere do we find that it is offensive to overly worship a devotee, even an immature devotee.

    Not that I am suggesting that as a society we should overly worship immature devotees. On the contrary, I agree we made some mistakes along those lines in the past, with terrible results.

    But we *should* encourage an appropriate, sincere worship of *all* serious devotees (whether they are initiating gurus or not). Not to tempt them into becoming rock-stars with big personality cults, but out of due recognition for their mercy and for how they are dear to Prabhupada and to Krishna.

    Maybe having “local gurus” or “more gurus” would help us respect all Vaisnavas and gurus properly.

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    And . . . maybe it would also help prevent those Vaisnava preachers who might still be a little susceptible to the dangerous, intoxicating lures of adulation, money and power (sannyasis, especially young sannyasis, should be protected from these stumbling blocks) from falling prey to maya.

    I do not at all mean to criticize any existing gurus in good standing, or even former ISKCON gurus who fell. Please, please do not misunderstand me in that way. I am really not criticizing anyone.

    I am just saying, generally, having dhanam and janam is dangerous for any sannyasi (and sundarim of course there should be no question). [Even for saintly kings such things are dangers which are difficult to renounce when the time comes.]

    It is a rare, great renounced devotee who can basically preside over a huge spiritual empire without some danger of being seduced by the dazzling attractions of power and prestige. Probably Prabhupada has many disciples who can do that, if they have to, but as a society should we really put them in such precarious positions? (Some in the past proved unable to withstand it, which was bad for them and their disciples and ISKCON generally).

    Maybe it is safer and purer for many “small” but sincere, humble, caring Vaisnavas to also receive worship from their students in a loving but less public or “official” way. Maybe some of those disciples would not fare well as rock star “world acarya” leaders of personality cults, but could function very well as transparent via media when they act as simple, humble teachers and followers of Prabhupada’s books, on a smaller scale.

    On the other hand, if we do have powerful, effective preachers who can attract big crowds and distribute books in a big way, and who are able to remain pure devotees, I suppose we should be pleased to see them fully utilize all their talents.

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    One thing is for sure: to see many sincere Vaisnavas all cooperating together to fulfil Srila Prabhupada’s desires, in a mood of mutual respect and friendship, even though many are spiritual masters with many disciples of their own, is a powerful sight.

    The idea that there can be only one big guru per spiritual organization would raise questions for me, I think.

    My concerns would be, “Why can’t many enlightened master devotees live on the earth at the same time? And if they can (surely they can!), why can’t they cooperate with one another and teach their disciples to cooperate with one another to bring about a greater enlightened society?”

    In other words, if spiritual life involves joining the right “team” among competing religions or personality cults, isn’t it just a form of chauvinistic fanaticism or sentimentalism of neophytes?

    These observations are not meant to be any reflection of how different Vaisnavas, whether from different sampradayas or even from Gaudiya Math, have chosen to organize their preaching missions. I do not mean to “politicize,” and I do not even know much about what others outside of ISKCON do. It is certainly not my position to criticize any Vaisnava, let alone those vastly superior to me.

    I am just saying, as a typical, conditioned, western rational man, a rank beginner as a devotee, it would seem to me a big flaw in our philosophy to see that devotees in practice had to divide themselves up into different personality cults.

    To put it another way, it would seem to vindicate and prove our philosophy to see that many who have seriously taken up the process we are teaching have become truly enlightened, pure, blissful, happy and successful in all respects, and that such fully successful and enlightened, happy devotees will naturally band together in friendship to achieve their ends together with all the added force and strength that such unity provides.

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    HaribolX3 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Yes , I have many questions and some interesting stories never told before about the early and late 70,s era untill as of late. Positive imput, a sad story which has a good ending about Devotee’s at the grateful dead concert at watkins glen New York (circa:)1972/73? I am Looking for those devotees if any are around To Do A Movie. Or at least thier rendition of accounts. To write the storyboard for the movie. Anyone interested feel free to contact me; dogjuice011@yahoo.com (note:zero one one) ( Thank-You)As of recently an encounter with an estranged non-Iskcon devotee. The Story of the division( which I still do not have the whole account really?) why it happened and what can be done to create continuity harmony and the continuation of the legitimate efforts of the sincere TO CHANT The Holy Name! again FEEL FREE TO CONTACT ME, HARIBOL!

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