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Comments Posted By Akruranatha

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Rethinking Our Institutional Guru-tattva?

Even in a wedding there is a point in the ceremony when the priest announces, “If anyone has any grounds for objecting, come forward now.”

A marriage is a private family matter, but it has broader social dimensions. If the marriage is abusive or the parents are unfit, sometime the state has to step in to prevent mistreatment or criminal neglect.

A wedding ceremony invites family and friends, members of the couple’s community, to witness and approve the union, and everyone hopes and blesses that it will prove successful and exemplary and will produce a new generation of good members of society who make positive contributions.

And similarly with the guru-disciple relationship in ISKCON, even though the relationship is between the guru and the disciple, there are broader implications. The disciples’ respect for their guru as a confidential representative of Krsna has to be honored and respected by the rest of the society.

So, as in a marriage, there is some general social oversight. But still, it does not absolve the disciple and guru from the responsibility of forming their own relationship based on faith and sincerity and strict observance of the rules and requirements that govern such relationships.

This is healthy. We are not an institutional personality cult. The institution of ISKCON is promoting more than just following some charismatic leader: we have a grand tradition of numerous past acaryas and revealed scriptures and commentaries on those scriptures, Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam and Nectar of Devotion. For charismatic personalities, we have the Personalities of Godhead, Lord Caitanya and Nityananda. And also we have our Founder-Acarya, Srila Prabhupada, who emphasized that his credit was only to present exactly what he heard through parampara, without adding or subtracting anything.

We may have many charismatic individual devotees who are empowered by the Lord as His instruments, but we have much more: the entire authorized science of bhakti-yoga as presented in the great scriptures and by the great acaryas.

The guru-disciple relationship is something different. It is not a cult of public hero worship but a necessary method of changing a disciple’s heart by formal acceptance of a particular advanced devotee as God’s representative and mentor. It is a confidential, private affair.

But because it has public implications for ISKCON, there must be some oversight via a ‘no-objection’ process.

» Posted By Akruranatha On Dec 21, 2013 @ 6:16 pm

It sounds like we are all on the same page. I think I was thrown off by the double negative in Puskaraksa’s question. In an earlier draft of my comment I raised this possibility, but then as I got writing more I cut that part out to keep within the word limit. The question probably should have been phrased:

“…don’t you think that a pure devotee chosen by Sri Guru and Krishna to represent the Parampara *would* be able to go through this no objection process…?” (instead of “would not”)

And the answer of course would be, “Yes.” If not, we would have to improve the “no objection” process, because the last thing we want is to be excluding people whom Srila Prabhupada wants to be serving as diksa gurus.

Sometimes in jurisprudence they say things like “We would rather let ten guilty men go free than to convict one innocent man.” And yet we do convict innocent men, all the time, apparently.

I wonder if we might have a similar attitude toward approving gurus via “non-objection”: Any process being inherently imperfect, should we think, “We would rather let ten (or five, or two) not fully qualified devotees initiate disciples in ISKCON rather than have one who has been specifically ordained by Srila Prabhupada and Krsna for that confidential service excluded via the ‘no objection’ procedure”?

At any rate, the whole idea of “no objection” should be clear (sometimes in talking to devotees I find some are still unclear about this):

When the GBC gives its “no objection” blessing that a devotee in ISKCON may initiate disciples, the GBC is NOT certifying that person as a perfect paramahamsa, an advanced devotee, or even a bona-fide guru.

That is NOT what is going on. It is NOT a stamp of approval or certification that ISKCON has determined this person to be a bona-fide guru, an uttama-adhikari, a madhyama-adhikari, or anything.

It is nothing more or less than the GBC exercising some oversight to prevent clearly unqualified or troublesome,worrisome candidates from having disciples. Because even though a guru-disciple relationship is a personal matter between the guru and disciple, it has broader social dimensions (like a marriage). People outside of the relationship still have to approve and respect that relationship.

Even in a wedding ceremony there is a point when they announce, “If anyone has any grounds for objecting to this union come forward now.”

And similarly with the guru-disciple relationship in ISKCON…

» Posted By Akruranatha On Dec 21, 2013 @ 5:51 pm

The articles and comments, especially Pusta Krsna Prabhu’s comments, seem very clear and correct.

I am not sure I understand, though, what Puskaraksa means in this statement:

“So, don’t you think that a pure devotee chosen by Sri Guru and Krishna to represent the Parampara would not be able to go through this no objection process…?”

I think a pure devotee chosen by Guru and Krsna to represent the Parampara should easily pass the “no objection” process of the GBC. Why would any GBC member object to such a person’s candidacy?

Perhaps a part of the no-objection process should include an interview with the candidate himself (or herself) to determine the candidate’s motives and whether they have really received and understood the order of Sri Guru and Lord Caitanya to become initiating gurus? But I think that is already covered by the questionnaires filled out by a local council and by the GBC members’ own personal familiarity, in many cases, with the candidates, and the requirement that the candidates attend a seminar with other senior devotees and GBC members.

I sincerely hope that no one will want to take up the service of being an initiating guru to solve the economic problems of old age, thinking “I will get some disciples to support me”, as Puskaraksa suggests.

But the reason for the “no objection” process seems clear to me. There may be people in ISKCON who could attract disciples, who have such impure motives, or who are not behaving or speaking in line with Parampara or in cooperation with the institutional management. Such people should not be permitted to serve as diksa gurus in ISKCON. It would cause too much of a disruption. The current system is working to prevent this.

One who is actually ordered by Srila Prabhupada and the previous acaryas to initiate disciples should be by nature cooperative with the desire of the Supreme Lord and the senior devotees. A guru is an exemplary disciple. The hand feeds the stomach, and thus there is harmony, cooperation.

We expect to see this kind of cooperation between our senior leaders and spiritual masters in our society. A guru does not have to be some kind of “renegade” or “law unto himself” in order to prove his purity or freedom from institutional rules. Rather, he should sympathize with the legitimate need for some rules in a preaching institution. Even if he does not agree with every detail, he or she should agree with the system Srila Prabhupada established.

» Posted By Akruranatha On Dec 20, 2013 @ 6:23 pm

Female Diksha Guru — some considerations

The quote I was thinking of was Cc. Adi 7.45:

“There are many Vaisnava families in Bengal whose members, although not actually born brahmanas, act as acaryas by initiating disciples and offering the sacred thread as enjoined in the Vaisnava tantras. For example, in the families of Thakura Raghunandana Acarya, Thakura Krsnadasa, Navani Hoda and Rasikananda-deva (a disciple of Syamananda Prabhu), the sacred thread ceremony is performed, as it is for the caste Gosvamis, and this system has continued for the past three to four hundred years. Accepting disciples born in brahmana families, they are bona fide spiritual masters who have the facility to worship the salagrama-sila, which is worshiped with the Deity.”

I am not claiming to be an authority on the history but am just raising the question. Were any of the women devotees that Basu Ghosh condemns as being in caste goswami lines from any of the above families? Even if they were from other families, should we consider them bogus and disparage their names without having sufficient knowledge about the character and activities and devotion of each of the “hundreds” of women in question?

Regarding Srila Prabhupada’s letter to Arundhati Dasi, which Basu Ghosh quotes as follow:

““Child-worship [for female, grihini] is more important than deity-worship. If you cannot spend time with him [alluding to her son], then stop the duties of pujari. At least you must take good care of your son until he is four years old, and if after that time you are unable any more to take care of him then I shall take care…”

Please note that the material in brackets “[for female, grhini]” is not in the letter and appears to have been added by Basu Ghosh. That fact that Srila Prabhupada offered to personally care of the boy suggests that “child worship is more important than deity worship” may apply to males too. Of course, for Srila Prabhupada, deity worship was unnecessary because he could already see Krsna everywhere, but even for neophyte disciples who need deity worship — male or female — it should not be an excuse for neglecting to care for one’s child. One should also teach the child deity worship at an appropriate age.

I do not see how being a diksa guru and being a child care-giver, homemaker or devoted wife are mutually exclusive. If a housewife knows the science of Krsna, can she not explain it and give the sacred mantras? How would doing so entail abandoning her child?

» Posted By Akruranatha On Dec 6, 2013 @ 7:11 am

“I am thus compelled to ask: “Did Akruranatha P. NOT EVER read the above, well-known statement?” … Yet he also stated: “And he never wrote or spoke anywhere that women were disqualified from serving as initiating gurus.” Does something seem awry here? Will Akruranatha P. explain?”

I have explained repeatedly, I do not read the purport about Suniti to directly address the question, “may a woman ever serve as diksa guru?” For more information, read Kaunteya’s book which addresses this subject.

Srila Prabhupada said various things about various subjects (including this one) such that a determined advocate could make a one-sided presentation of some of his statements and declare victory. The reality is not so simple, however. We should consider the totality of what Srila Prabhupada said and try to determine what he meant without being guided by preconceived positions. Some may have done so and concluded that the Suniti Purport clinches the case against women diksa gurus, but I have done so and believe otherwise.

Another point Basu Ghosh makes (repeatedly) is that because many women diksa gurus in Gaudiya Vaisnava history were in jati gosai lineages, we should not consider them. I think we should be more cautious about this.

We all know that taking birth in a certain family does not automatically qualify one as a bona fide guru, (nor can taking birth in such a family be considered a prerequisite for being a guru). However, can we extrapolate from the above that every guru from a caste-goswami lineage has been bogus? In fact, there is a Purport in Cc. (I have quoted it before) in which Srila Prabhupada mentions that certain jati-gosai gurus are bona fide spiritual masters (!)

Were any of these women bona fide gurus? I cannot say for sure, but I think we should be cautious about disparaging all of them (and all their disciples and supporters) as “bogus” without looking into the matter more closely. It is one thing to criticize the ideology of caste-goswami-ism, and quite another to condemn huge numbers of devotees, about whom we know little, in a blanket generalization, because of their association with that ideology.

Finally, if a woman is qualified to chant (and give) an aprakrta mantra handed down in an unbroken chain from the spiritual world, I don’t see why she can’t also give a male disciple a piece of thread (if she has a male disciple). To over-emphasize form over substance can be niyama-aagraha.

» Posted By Akruranatha On Dec 6, 2013 @ 6:37 am

I am well instructed by you Sankarsana Prabhu. It was really only the first three paragraphs of Basu Ghosh’s article that provoked such a strong reaction from me. I suppose I should have said something about the rest of the article, which does deserve consideration. I do think Kaunteya has considered those issues in his book and I can add little that is new.

I think we all know that women have an important role to play in society as wives and mothers and daughters and the compassionate, faithful, feminine side of human personality.

Nevertheless, they may become pure devotees and professors of the science of Krsna, and if such women (like Queen Kunti and Draupadi and Parvati and Devaki and Radharani) can teach us about Krsna, they are our gurus. Actually Srimati Radharani, the original guru of all devotees, is feminine.

I appreciate the concern that we want to try to reestablish a kind of Vedic social system where each member of society fulfills the roles for which he or she is best suited, based on the qualities they have been born with.

But there is also an urgency to actually spread Krsna consciousness, and this is Kali yuga. To be honest, we should recognize that most of us in this age days are varna-sankara, born with some bad qualities. We need all the help from enlightened devotees we can get, whether they are sudras or women or even if they come from dog-eater families (Vaisnava sva-paco guru).

Between the two goals of setting an example of a more well-ordered, dharmic society, and delivering the pure message of Krsna bhakti, of Srimad-Bhagavatam and Lord Caitanya’s sankirtan, I think the latter is more urgent. Otherwise why would our acaryas have bothered giving brahmana initiation to men and women from non-Aryan, meat-eating families?

There is a kind of “egalitarianism” there, but it is not the egalitarianism based on sense gratification. It is the egalitarianism that recognizes devotional service as the common duty fr all jivas.

And that is not to say that a woman who is a diksa guru will stop being a mother or a wife or a daughter or a keeper of religious traditions in the family. We expect any guru to be an exemplary moral person. But the all important issue for any guru, male or female, is whether he or she can do it. Does he or she have the qualification necessary to transmit the message of Krsna to a disciple? If so, she should do it. There is an urgent need.

» Posted By Akruranatha On Dec 4, 2013 @ 4:55 pm

“The eagerness of a section of devotees to see a female blessed as diksha guru in ISKCON posthaste is akin ‘affirmative action’ in the USA, as well as the reservation system for the backward classes here in India.”

“Posthaste”? That word means “with the greatest possible speed”. I think the GBC approved female diksa gurus in ISKCON back in 2005. Maybe even sooner. So I do not see any signs of impatience or urgency on this issue.

Rather it seems that the opponents are extremely anxious to prevent even a single woman from serving as diksa guru. Are they afraid that it may prove so successful that many more women will follow?

There are many different devotees who accept the principle that women in ISKCON can serve as diksa gurus. Some may indeed be influenced by egalitarianism in western society, as Basu Ghosh Prabhu suggests, but I do not think it is fair for Basu Gosh to speak to the mentality of all of them.

I rather expect that most of the devotees (including most of the GBC apparently) who approve women serving as diksa gurus are more likely influenced by egalitarianism in Lord Caitanya’s teachings and Srila Prabhupada’s explanations of them, as explained by Kaunteya in the “eye of the storm” book (

Why does Basu Ghosh feel he has to tell us what other devotees’ motivations are? He should speak for himself and let others speak for themselves. Does he really believe he knows the minds of his opponents on this issue better than they do? It comes across kind of high-handed for him to presume to characterize the motives and influences of his opponents, especially when he does so in an unflattering light, as if they are opponents of Vedic culture and champions of modernity and its accompanying ills (atheism, materialism, illicit sex, divorce).

I can’t help but think that he is wrong, that he is not listening charitably to his opponents and what they have to say about their own motives, and that rather than directly address their strongest arguments (including the statements of Srila Prabhupada when directly discussing the issue of women serving as diksha gurus), he is stooping to the tactic of impugning his opponents’ character, motives and influences. It strikes me as an illegitimate tactic, the sort resorted to when one has little means of refuting the opposition’s direct statements.

» Posted By Akruranatha On Dec 3, 2013 @ 6:45 am

More On The Hot Issue – Female Diksa Guru

Comment #4 makes a lot of sense. I think the fear some “cultural conservatives” may have — that if women can be approved as diska gurus in ISKCON, we will soon start to see a lot of jet-setting, famous women “rock star” gurus acting as if they were CEOs of big enterprises — will never actually materialize.

Regarding comment #2 and #3, whether Srila Prabhupada actually meant “not so many” to refer only to women, he did certainly say that man or woman should attain the perfection (perfect knowledge of the science of Krsna) to be guru. (I would submit this is the case for both siksa and diksa gurus). Not very many people, man or woman, are going to measure up (“…yatatam api siddhanam kascin mam vetti tattvatah”).

I agree with comment #4 that the “village level”-type guru is probably more ideal for most women gurus, and even for men. Srila Prabhupada writes that it is better not to have too many disciples, especially for a sannyasi (having many disciples, like contacting wealthy or powerful men, may lure a sannyasi back to the attraction of material energy). We hope our spiritual masters in ISKCON are well protected from the allure of maya.

Moreover, the GBC continues to exercise control via the “no objection” blessing process. If a woman candidate (or a man) is eager for fame and power or has a tendency to lord it over others, or is not well-versed in the scriptures or has some irregular habits or questionable morals, somebody on the GBC is liable to have an objection, and blessings may be withheld.

[I guess the issue for some of those opposed to female gurus in ISKCON might be that if a woman even *wants* to serve as a diksa guru, that raises a question as to her moral character, as if that service by its very nature is immoral for women to do. I cannot relate to that, though. It is not as if being a guru is like being a burlesque dancer or bartender or something. I see no reason why a good wife and mother cannot also be a guru to disciples, as she is guru to children.]

But probably there will not be many qualified candidates. This is the real problem: If we want gurus to have fewer and more manageable disciples, we are going to need more gurus. If there are some women who are qualified, at least to serve as “village level”-type gurus, especially for other women, is that a resource we can afford to waste, even for the laudable purpose of showing exemplars of the homely virtues of stri-dharma?

» Posted By Akruranatha On Dec 4, 2013 @ 6:22 am

The Not-So-Hot Issue: Women Diksa-gurus

Raja Gopal’s comment #7 states: Personally I judge SP’s BG 3.9 purport to be wonderful in regard to “disciple” and “guru”.

I looked up B.G. 3.9 (I am always eager to read something wonderful in regard to ‘disciple and guru’) , but I was not sure which part of the Purport he meant. There was a statement in the second paragraph that says, “One should therefore act very diligently, under the expert guidance of a devotee of Lord Krsna, or under the direct instruction of Lord Krsna Himself (under whom Arjuna had the opportunity to work).”

The words “guru” and “disciple” are not actually found in that particular Purport.

I guess I am asking Raja Gopal to explain which part of the Purport he found wonderful in regard to “guru” and “disciple”, or whether he was actually referring to a different Purport?

It is a nice Purport, no doubt, but I just could not see what Raja Gopal meant. I want to hear something “wonderful”.

» Posted By Akruranatha On Nov 26, 2013 @ 12:33 am

The Hot Issue – Female Diksa Guru

Sitadasi writes:

““…why should gender be a bar to initiation?”
Because Prabhupada didn’t establish it. He also didn’t establish children diksa gurus, …”

I find this a particularly weak argument. By the same logic we might say that African men or Chinese men cannot be diksa gurus because Srila Prabhupada did not establish any such diksa gurus among his disciples (at least during his manifest presence).

But Srila Prabhupada clearly taught that anyone who understands the order of his guru, the order of Lord Caitanya (“amar ajnaya guru hana tara ei desa”), who knows the science of Krsna and who controls the six urges, who is fixed in realization of Krsna, can be a guru.

And that includes children, men of all races, women of all races, people in any asrama (“kiba vipra kiba nyasi”), people from any caste (“sudra kena naya”).

When directly asked about it he said that women could be gurus. He wrote that he hoped all his sons and daughters would become initiating gurus. And he never wrote or spoke anywhere that women were disqualified from serving as initiating gurus.

Siksa gurus and diksa gurus are all gurus. One kind of siksa guru is someone who points out the path of devotional service, and that vartmapradarsika guru is also a guru. Mother and father are also a kind of guru. Sannyasis are the “gurus” of society.

But one who formally initiates someone into the sampradaya and accepts responsibility for training that devotee in spiritual life is the diksa guru and performs a very important function. In ISKCON those who perform that service are very advanced devotees (as they should be) and usually get a lot of respect and fame.

We hope that no one decides to enter into the confidential service of training disciples and allowing disciples to worship him (or her) out of a desire to be respected or famous or to make money or receive service and so on. There are warnings in Srila Prabhupada’s books that one should not become a guru for such ulterior motives. Moreover, one should not become a guru (or a mother or father) unless one is qualified to deliver one’s dependents from birth and death.

If we look at it, Srila Prabhupada really did give us many instructions about gurus and guru parampara. It is a very important part of the science of Bhakti-yoga. I am glad that the GBC has requested Bhanu Swami and others to research this important issue. I find Kaunteya’s book very persuasive.

» Posted By Akruranatha On Nov 29, 2013 @ 5:02 pm

Devaki says:

“Finally, Siksa is more important than Diksa. The purpose of Diksa is to receive Siksa. Sad Guru does not need authorisation. Sad Guru can’t be stopped being Guru! People will come, take inspiration and guidance. … Let us simply uplift them and nourish them, without running after recognition and fame, by playing the roles and duties we are meant to play…..!”

If I understand her argument, she is saying that women are already serving as siksa gurus and that is fine, they do not need GBC’s blessings for that and nobody can stop them, but they should not serve as diksa gurus because a woman should not play that role.

That begs the question, however, because Srila Prabhupada never said a woman should not play that role. On the contrary, he said that if qualified she could play that role. Again, “not so many” does not mean “none”. In fact, it implies “some”.

I agree that *an* important function of a diksa guru is to give siksa. Usually the devotee who gives extensive siksa to a junior devotee becomes his or her diksa guru later on. We would not expect the diksa guru to stop giving siksa after initiation (especially in this age were communications and travel are made simple by modern technology). But diksa gurus do have some functions different from sisksa gurus. The difference between a diksa guru and a siksa guru is basically one of function (isn’t it?)

Devaki’s argument seems to imply that the main difference is that diksa gurus get recognition and fame, and women who want to be diksa gurus must be running after such things. I fear that implies men who want to be diksa gurus also are running after recognition and fame. I sincerely hope that is not the case.

I would hope that devotees want to be diksa gurus because they understand their guru to want them to serve in that way.

Diksa gurus give mantras. They formally link their disciples to the sampradaya. They often (though not always) are the prime focus of disciples’ guru bhakti.

Siksa gurus should also be revered and worshiped by disciples

The argument that women can (and do) serve as siksa gurus but their feminine nature militates against them serving as diksa gurus should be fleshed out, with a more careful analysis of exactly what the different functions of diksa and siksa gurus are.

Urmila’s argument (comment #2) appears strong. If a guru-disciple relation already exists, and the guru is qualified, why should gender be a bar to initiation?

» Posted By Akruranatha On Nov 27, 2013 @ 1:15 am

Some people seem to be interpreting Devaki’s article as recommending that the GBC should reverse its decision that qualified women may serve as diksa gurus in ISKCON.

I do not see her as saying that. For example, she says: “Maybe this explains why Prabhupada says that there will not be many female Diksa Guru’s – because it is rare to find a woman who is not controlled by her emotions.”

To say there will not be many female diksa gurus implies that there may be some, or even that there definitely will be some.

Devaki says: “Even being able to lecture to the point is often much more difficult for ladies because of the very same reason.”

Many ladies are not practiced in lecturing. Some, even with practice, might never become good at it. The same may be true for many men.

But there are certainly some Vaisnavis in ISKCON who are very good at lecturing, or at speaking to crowds of people. There are also many women in various fields who excel at public speaking, lecturing in university, holding press conferences, arguing legal cases, etc.

One service I have been fortunate to do is to line up the speakers each year in the Q&A booth at Los Angeles Ratha Yatra. This year I was very impressed at the skill of Kanka Dasi. Actually we have seen many good women speakers over the years. It always helps to have at least one or two women in the line-up. If we do not have women speaking in the booth, at least in America, the audience gets restless. They want to see what Hare Krishna women have to say, and how they carry themselves. They want to see happy, bright, well-spoken, confident Hare Krishna women. We want to show them that we have successful women, whether as contented housewives and mothers or in whatever capacity.

I am not suggesting that those who are good at speaking in the Ratha Yatra question booth should be diksa gurus. I hope that is clear. But I do question the premise, if it is Devaki’s premise, that women should not speak publicly because they are too emotional to be good at it.

As for being diksa gurus, many of Devaki’s arguments would apply equally to men. If you are not suited for it, don’t do it. Certainly we hope no one — man or woman — becomes a guru to get “ego satisfaction”.

Devaki says: “Nobody can bar Sad Guru from being Guru.” I take it she means many women are already serving as siksa gurus…

(To be continued…)

» Posted By Akruranatha On Nov 27, 2013 @ 12:47 am

The Secrets And Beauty Of Spiritual Culture

“Devaki Mataji is also planning in the near future to conduct a course for the men aswell – they certainly also have to learn a few things about spiritual culture….!”

Yes, and we might also want to listen to the course for women if the materials are made available.

Thank you also Kaunteya for reminding us of the “Eye of the Storm” book about Srila Prabhupada’s instructions regarding women preachers and gurus. I am not sure we should get sidetracked into a discussion of this contentious issue here, in connection with Devaki’s course, but it is a good book which does have many relevant things to say about women’s service as preachers and otherwise.

[Basugosh Prabhu might want us to point out that although he is mentioned in the “Acknowledgments” as one whose ideas contributed to the book, he does not approve the book’s conclusions and did not appreciate being mentioned in the Aknowledgments, and was not contacted beforehand about it.]

I myself found the book to be very well written and I appreciated that it bent over backwards to understand and sympathize with the mentality and concerns of those who very strongly oppose the GBC’s decision that qualified women can serve as diksa gurus in ISKCON, although the book disagrees with them. Whenever there are very strongly-held views on some point, this may pose a challenge to the unity of the Society, but we have enough in common in our dedication to serving our common acaryas that we can remain united in spite of our differences.

I realize it may seem “easy for me to say,” because on this point I agree with the majority GBC opinion that women can be diksa gurus (for all the many reasons set forth in the book). I would like to think that if I were in the minority on one of these issues of contention I would be willing to still put my paramount loyalty to the overall Society above my disagreement about a single point such as this one.

» Posted By Akruranatha On Nov 13, 2013 @ 6:30 pm

Who Should Give Bhagavatam Class?

Okay I found a recording of “On Chanting hare krishna” on YouTube:

Most of us have already heard it before but it is the kind of thing that remains always fresh and we can listen over and over again. Srila Prabhupada very clearly and concisely explains the whole philosophy of chanting Hare Krishna. It is really brilliant!

» Posted By Akruranatha On Nov 13, 2013 @ 6:10 pm

“Akruranatha prabhu: You state that we should hear the Bhag. from pure devotees, ‘As far as possible.’ But this is not what Srila Prabhupada says. I don’t know where you got your reference for that one:

“Unless one is personally a realized soul in the science of Krsna consciousness, a neophyte should not approach him to hear about the Lord, for this is STRICTLY FORBIDDEN by Srila Sanatana Gosvami” (SB 10.1.4)”

Vraja Vilas Prabhu:

I want to avoid the kind of tit-for-tat, “debating club” mentality that often for some reason infects internet discussions. But since you ask, I got the “as far as possible” from the recording of “On Chanting Hare Krishna”. Have you heard it? It was something we used to listen to a long time ago (I hope devotees still listen to it). It begins, “As explained on the cover of the record album…”

Many phrases from that recording of Srila Prabhupada are seared into my memory. This phrase sticks out in my mind and I can still hear it in Srila Prabhupada’s voice: “As far as possible, chanting from the lips of nondevotees should be avoided, as much as milk touched by the lips of a serpent causes poisonous effects.”

I do not think you and I have a real disagreement. You seem to agree that devotees should attend lectures in ISKCON because they are carried on under the instruction of pure devotees.

Devotees by nature ought to be able to get along well with one another. They naturally are respectful to all, and display the wonderful daivi-sampat qualities of tolerance and humility. They respect senior devotees, make friends with those on their level and give blessings to juniors.

I admire your determination to keep the teachings of parampara pure and free from speculative ideas introduced by those without realization.

I like Pusta Krsna Prabhu’s observation that Srila Prabhupada had faith in the process of chanting Hare Krishna and that his followers, even if lacking in Vedic culture, would become pure devotees over time. Even beginner chanters should be respected in our minds.

All devotees I know have some degree of transcendental realization, some personal experience with Krsna and the maha mantra. Otherwise they would not be regulating their lives according to the instructions of the scriptures and spiritual master. They may not be fully realized, but they are devotees and we should hear their chanting and encourage them as Srila Prabhupada did.

» Posted By Akruranatha On Nov 13, 2013 @ 5:47 pm

Yes, I have to agree with Pusta Krishna Prabhu. This is one instance where we have to understand the principle (i.e., that as far as possible we should hear the holy name/Srimad Bhagavatam only from the lips of a pure devotee) in light of Srila Prabhupada’s own example of how he personally applied it. Mahajano yena gatah sa-panthah.

Those devotees who are following and are careful not to add or subtract anything are empowered by Srila Prabhupada to convey the message, just as an electric wire carries the current from the powerhouse. If this were not so we would not see so many new devotees joining and making palpable advancement.

Of course, we should also listen directly to Srila Prabhupada’s recorded lectures and discussions, and we must make time to read his books repeatedly, but we also have to follow the whole program as he implemented it. He engaged his “green mango” disciples in giving class. That is his example.

One may ask, what is the difference from some young devotee in ISKCON giving class and a professional Bhagavatam reciter? The answer is given by Pusta Krsna Prabhu: The young devotee is following the principles and serving in accordance with the orders of Guru and Gauranga. His or her realization may not be complete, but as far as he or she has realized he can convey. Srila Prabhupada would point to little children who said “Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead” and say their preaching is perfect.

One devotee told me a story on himself. He went on a preaching tour to India in the early days with Srila Prabhupada and a group of devotees. They engaged paid cooks, and this devotee noticed the cooks were smoking bidis; they were not pure devotees. He complained to the leaders that the food they cooked would not be accepted by Krsna, but the senior devotees said Srila Prabhupada approved so it was alright. This devotee thought, “it might be alright for others, but I must only eat prasadam.” He thought Srila Prabhupada would appreciate that he was not eating what the other devotees were eating, that he was more strict, more pure. But when Srila Prabhupada heard about it he only said, “Why is he making trouble?”

Mainly, we should get over the urge to invent something new. Follow the senior, experienced devotees who saw how Srila Prabhupada was doing things. The secret to success is already known to us. We just have to surrender, not try to distinguish ourselves by adopting some different new policy.

» Posted By Akruranatha On Nov 12, 2013 @ 11:19 pm

These are nice quotes. We should understand that to lecture from Srimad-Bhagavatam one is supposed to have these qualities, “nivrtta-tarsair upagiyamana…”

Still, in practice, at ISKCON temples we are training devotees in the matter of preaching and we want to give devotees a chance to sit on the “hot seat” and represent the disciplic succession by repeating exactly as they have heard according to their realization and learn how to glorify Krsna properly by giving the authoritative information as they have heard from the scriptures and spiritual masters.

I don’t believe it was Vraja Vilasa Prabhu’s intention to ban all but the purest and most perfect devotees from giving classes in ISKCON temples. I agree it is good to remember that ideally the speaker should be as good as Sukadeva Goswami (or Vyasadeva) and the inquirer should be as good as Maharaja Pariksit and the audience should be so rapt in Samadhi that they can go without eating or drinking or sleeping for days on end as they are absorbed in the Krsna-katha.

But realistically we should encourage young devotees after they have been practicing Krsna consciousness and studying and hearing for some time to also learn the art of repeating exactly what is said in the authoritative scriptures without adding or subtracting anything, and we find that remarkably it is effective. That is, the potency is there. The hearers also get inspired in Krsna consciousness. Somehow Srila Prabhupada is empowering his faithful disciples and grand-disciples to effectively convey the message of the Bhagavatam to others.

In practice Srila Prabhupada did this: he gave his young disciples the order to give classes, and trained them to preach and distribute his books. He did not want us to be like the salesman who says, “Oh I cannot say what is in the books; I just sell them.”

Where devotees who are faithfully practicing Krsna consciousness, even in the neophyte stage, are speaking on the orders of Srila Prabhupada and the disciplic succession, it is not at all like the professional Bhagavatam reciters who may know many verses but who are not trying to live the life of pure devotional service. Srila Prabhupada warned us about milk touched by serpents, but he always encouraged us to follow his example and preach as he was doing, without adding or subtracting anything but repeating what we heard from him.

» Posted By Akruranatha On Nov 10, 2013 @ 12:20 am

Revised Initiation Procedures and Standards Policy for Iskcon UK

Okay, here is what I did:

From the home page I pulled down the “Departments” menu and went to the “Mentorship” page.

On the “Mentorship” page I saw the link for the new “Procedures and Standards for Initiation” on the right-hand side under “News and Events”. I clicked on that and it took me to the page that I provided a link for.

On the bottom of that page there is a link to download the document.

It appears that the whole 36-page document is already available right here on Dandavats at the bottom of this article.

Y.s., Akruranatha dasa

» Posted By Akruranatha On Nov 8, 2013 @ 2:37 am

Visakha Priya Mataji,

I somehow clicked the right buttons to find the page where the document could be downloaded:

I don’t remember the steps I took, but the above link ought to take you to the page, and at the bottom of the page you can download the 35-page manual. I have not read it yet, myself.

Your servant, Akruranatha dasa

» Posted By Akruranatha On Nov 8, 2013 @ 2:31 am

God and the Universe

Yes, now that ISKCON is building the long-awaited Temple of the Vedic Planetarium we feel the need to come up with first-class content to present to people who visit, bearing in mind that many visitors may be in the thrall of modern science and will need to have Krsna consciousness explained to them in a systematic and informative way with due regard for the counter-arguments of empirical scientists.

This morning at ISKCON of Silicon Valley I attended a nice presentation about science preaching by Vrindavana Priya Dasa, a physicist with his Ph.D. from Stanford University. We need many such sincere devotees to be able to explain everything nicely with due regard for the knowledge presented in Srila Prabhupada’s books.

I understand that the TOVP will have a kind of screening room where films about Krsna consciousness as science or philosophy of soul and God and nature will be shown. We will have to develop many nice films in different languages that will touch the hearts of those who visit and give them more appreciation for Krsna consciousness and Srimad Bhagavatam and the maha mantra. I think the influence of Lord Caitanya and that holy place and Srila Prabhupada’s instructions will make the project revolutionary and spiritually potent, and will change the deep-seated atheistic and materialistic assumptions of many scientists..

» Posted By Akruranatha On Nov 10, 2013 @ 12:32 am

The Great Need to Understand Mental Illness in ISKCON

So yes, we can understand what it means that psychiatrists are “humbug”, but that does not mean that there is never an appropriate circumstance to make use of psychiatric services.

We have also seen some remarkable instances of devotees with serious psychological problems becoming clean, healthy, successful devotees by chanting Hare Krishna.

Some professional psychiatrists are also devotees, and they may contribute in a small, incremental way to making their profession less “humbug.”

It is the same with devotee politicians and scientists and historians and bankers. They can go on doing their professions and also appreciating Srimad Bhagavatam. They do not have to immediately and openly reject all the notions and norms of their respective professions in order to become devotees. We do not want to raise such barriers to them becoming devotees.

Srila Prabhupada was happy to meet with professional people, and if they could become serious devotees so much the better. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor. Not that they should compromise on their understanding of Srila Prabhupada’s books but that they should know how to apply that knowledge practically in their own life and in their own service.

The same goes for temple presidents. We do not expect our temples to forbid devotees from getting help from doctors, psychologists, lawyers, career-guidance counselors, or whatever may be needed in modern life. We have to encourage people to add Krsna consciousness to their lives in a way that is beneficial and practical for them.

Religion without philosophy is fanaticism. Sometimes we have to take a more philosophical, broader view of Srila Prabhupada’s overall teachings. We should not compromise philosophically, but we should not how to practice what we have learned in a way that produces a successful result.

And no, I cannot agree with Sitalatma that we can speculate that maybe the suicide of that South American devotee was perhaps the best thing for him. We were very sorry to hear that it had happened. We were not able to accommodate him living in the temple, but we wished we could find some way for him to keep chanting and visiting, perhaps getting some medication that could help him with his psychosis. Many people today can live relatively normal, decent, productive devotional lives by taking medication. We do not forbid it. If it works we should encourage it.

» Posted By Akruranatha On Nov 18, 2013 @ 10:37 pm

“I never saw Srila Prabhupad decry common sense when exhibited by his disciples.”

Yes. Pusta Krsna Prabhu is right. Srila Prabhupada said many things which, when taken to some impractical extreme by a beginner, can produce a bad result.

Srila Prabhupada also said many things which, if put side by side and viewed in a particular way, may appear to contradict one another. The intelligent disciple has to understand in such a way as to harmonize these statements and please Srila Prabhupada.

It is safest to follow senior devotees who have been successful in Krishna consciousness for many years, rather than get carried away with ideas of being “ultra” loyal to the letter of some things Srila Prabhupada said, without understanding the practical application.

Sometimes devotees become excited about being “ultras”, radicals, to the point of defying common sense as a kind of wishy-washy compromise. It feels adventurous to challenge the mundane, demoniac civilization and all of its ways. However, unless one is very strong and very wise, such challenges to common sense result in failures. We only end up proving our inability to give proper weight and proportion to different instructions. Experienced devotees can prioritize things correctly. We should understand the principle behind some of Srila Prabhupada’s more radical-sounding statements without immediately doing something foolish and rash.

For example, this morning I was reading Srila Prabhupada’s commentary on SB Canto One, Chapter 17 (Punishment and Reward of Kali). There, he makes some suggestions for strong, God-conscious political leaders to prohibit intoxication (even by imposing death penalty), to make marriage compulsory for boys by age 24 and girls by age 16, with no divorce, prohibiting slaughterhouses immediately and so on. We can understand the principles behind these prescriptions without becoming radical political activists trying to impose such rules on an unready population.

Some crazy devotees once got involved in a terrorist plot to blow up slaughterhouses (I think they died in their own bomb-making operations), and Srila Prabhupada was totally disgusted. He never asked us to do things like that.

Our business is book distribution and harinama and setting a good example while being respectable, decent, law-abiding citizens. The last thing we need is to give the public an impression of devotees as dangerous crackpots.

» Posted By Akruranatha On Nov 18, 2013 @ 10:07 pm

It should be obvious that authorities in ISKCON have to be prepared to handle mental illness issues in a responsible and practical way, as they will come up from time to time. We should not think we are capable or qualified to try to “cure” serious cases, and we should respect the professionals and social services that are available to try to help people who need it.

When I was staying at Berkeley temple in the early 1990s we had a sad, serious case. One devotee from South America was living in the temple but his behavior started becoming more and more strange. He was glaring at some of the women and frightening them. When we spoke to him he was clearly delusional and accused us of having a nuclear bomb under the temple that we were trying to hide from him, and similar incoherent, paranoid things. We contacted his ex-wife in South America who said this had happened to him before which is why she had to separate from him.

Fortunately Hanumat Presaka Swami was visiting at that time and took charge of the situation. We found some free psychiatric services available in Berkeley for such cases and insisted that he started getting professional help. It was clear that was the only thing for us to do. His case was very severe.

Unfortunately, this devotee would not keep his appointments. I drive him a couple of times to see the psychiatrist but he stopped going and refused to go. We told him he could not stay at the temple and we really did our best to help him. For some reason we were not able to get him taken into custody for a 72-hour psychiatric hold. Law enforcement would not do that and starting a court case to get him held for his own protection (conservatorship) was beyond our means and uncertain.

The sad conclusion was that he lived on the streets of Berkeley for some time, could not get the attention and medication he needed, and eventually hung himself.

If there were some way I could have gotten him committed to a psych ward where he could have been given effective drugs, it might have saved his life. At any rate, we could not let him just stay in the temple in that condition and possibly endanger others. I am afraid such cases are not as rare as we might hope, and we should be prepared to deal with them responsibly and in a way approved of by government authorities.

» Posted By Akruranatha On Nov 12, 2013 @ 2:57 am

Who Is This Ramo?

“According to Srila Jiva Goswami, it is mentioned in the Madhyandina-sruti that all the Vedas, namely the Sama, Atharva, Rg, Yajur, Puranas, Itihasas, Upanisads, etc., are emanations from the breathing of the Supreme Being. The only differences are that the Vedic mantras mostly begin with pranava omkara and that it requires some training to pronounce the metrical accent, without which the mantras cannot be successfully chanted. Although Srila Suta Goswami was a preacher of the first order, he did not bother much about the metrical pronunciation of the Vedic mantras. But that does not mean Srimad-Bhagavatam is of less importance than the Vedic mantras. On the contrary, it is the ripened fruit of all the Vedas, as stated before.” (S.B.1.4.13, Purport)

I agree with the article that we should pronounce the Maha-Mantra as Srila Prabhupada taught us, but I just wanted to add this perspective.

The Hare Krsna Maha Mantra, though found in the Upanisads, is not like one of the Vedic mantras used for ritualistic fruitive activities, which have to be pronounced in proper metrical accent in order to bring about a material result. When Lord Caitanya says that there are not even hard and fast rules for chanting the holy names, that is proof that it is not that sort of mantra. For successful chanting, the ten offenses must be avoided, but perfect pronunciation is not required, or at least not in that sense of successfully invoking some effective material vibration.

I am not advocating lazy chanting or sloppy pronunciation, but trying to properly glorify how magnanimous is the holy name. To pronounce it correctly one must pronounce it with prema, but one need not be an expert in Vedic Sanskrt. The prayers of Narotamma Das Thakur, though written in simple Bengali language, are accepted by our acaryas with as much reverence as Vedic hymns.

» Posted By Akruranatha On Oct 12, 2013 @ 2:25 pm

Yes, we should not make it a habit to say “Krsno” “Ramo”.

We should also not make a habit to say “Krsnaa” and “Raamaa”. In Sanskrt the short “a” is pronounced like “u” in “butter”, not like “o” in “mommy”. Often I hear devotees saying Krsnaa, which is a different word.

But actually we should not be sticklers about the pronunciation of others. I agree we should pronounce the Maha Mantra correctly, especially when we teach it to newbies. But ultimately it is more important to avoid offenses than to have perfect pronunciation.

I was looking at some old movies from the 1960s, and the devotees were saying “Kreeshna”. Actually even when I first started hearing about Hare Krsna, American devotees were still saying “Kreeshna” and they were known as the “Kreeshna People”. It seems funny to us now, but it still had the potency to spread the movement among the youth like wildfire in those days.

Many people from different parts of India have their own way of pronouncing. Many Northerners drop the final “a” to make it “Ram” (common) or sometimes even “Krsn” (less common). Some South Indians say something closer to “Krushna” or “Nrushimhadeva”. (And they may know Sanskrt very well).

But I agree with the article that there is a tendency for fads to develop, and if we start saying “Ram-o” too much, we might start hearing the mantra chanted that way more and more often. We should stick to Raama (with the short “a” at the end).

» Posted By Akruranatha On Oct 11, 2013 @ 4:50 pm

ISKCON Baroda Krishna Janmastami festival report 2013

These stories about the Janmasthami festivals in different temples are inspiring to read. 200,000 guests! Wow!

I wanted to comment how nice the newspaper article was about the Utah celebration, but there is no place to leave a comment. The reporter seems to get details correct that may easily be misunderstood, and recites the whole Maha Mantra twice!

In the new ISV temple in Mt. View we had over 4,000 guests for Janmastami. The neighborhood is crowded and the temple building and parking lot are not big enough to accommodate such crowds, but everything miraculously went nicely and smoothly with minimal complaints from neighbors. Attending the festival were Giriraja Swami, Kesava Bharati Dasa Goswami, Rtadvaja Swami and Bhakti Raghava Swami. Also Trai Das was visiting from Italy.

» Posted By Akruranatha On Sep 2, 2013 @ 7:15 pm

Rhythm Tree – Pioneering preaching on the Isle of Wight

Nice video. I especially like the piano-accompanied kirtan soundtrack. It is very melodious and transcendentally peaceful.

It makes me wish I could have been there. San Francisco Ratha Yatra yesterday was very nice. The weather was unusually sunny and pleasant (it often gets foggy and cold).

» Posted By Akruranatha On Aug 19, 2013 @ 8:42 pm

“Gita changes” for chapter eight an eye-opener, now online

The very first sentence in the Purport of 8.2 in the 1972 edition is gibberish: “The Lord of sacrifice accepts Indra and Visnu.” What the heck is that supposed to mean?

The Second Edition published in 1983 restores Srila Prabhupada’s actual intention: “‘Lord of sacrifice’ may refer to either Indra or Visnu.” The rest of the paragraph now makes sense.

The Second Edition in so many ways brings the text closer to Srila Prabhupada’s authorship and corrects mistakes missed by inexperienced editors. Learned, scholarly devotees who have studied the editing closely and compared the two unabridged editions to the original archival materials (manuscripts and transcripts), as critical scholars do, can easily see what a great debt we owe to Jayadvaita Swami for restoring so much of Srila Prabhupada’s original authorship by completing the job of editing that had been mistaken in so many places in the First Edition.

Srila Prabhupada definitely did not want his books to contain so many editors’ mistakes. On numerous occasions he instructed that editing had to be done very meticulously and that all mistakes should be corrected before going to print. Pradyumna records in one letter how Srila Prabhupada told him that a single mistake will “murder” the book.

I am glad the BBT is publishing these annotated scans that permit us to go through each change one by one. When we do, we see how much closer to Srila Prabhupada’s intention is the text of the Second Edition of Bhagavad-gita As It Is.

» Posted By Akruranatha On Jul 29, 2013 @ 3:42 pm

WSN June 2013 – WorldSankirtan Newsletter

I love the “Worldwide Book Distribution” graph at the top of the WSN.

We can see that world distribution was down in 2001-2004 but has been on a steady, gradual rise since then. In sheer numbers, it has not reached the peaks of 1978 or 1983 or 1994, but this time it seems to be making gains at a more steady, sustainable pace. More parts of the world are involved, and more congregational distribution is contributing.

Hopefully, these numbers will keep gradually increasing and will not be as prone to ups and downs as earlier high-volume years, which were heavily dependent on a smaller number of very dedicated and very highly-skilled book distributors who mostly lived in temples.

Aside from the “supply-distribution” side of the equation, we can also expect sales to pick up as demand increases. Srila Prabhupada’s books should get good publicity, word of mouth from satisfied readers, attention from intellectuals and arbiters of what people ought to be reading.

There is a general interest in religion these days (at least it seems to me — I have not done any research), more of a willingness to broaden one’s religious interest outside of the tradition of one’s parents and understand the whole gamut of world religions. The big book chains like Barnes & Noble seem to have a healthy supply of new books on religion, including books about the various religions of the world and how they compare and contrast with one another.

Bhagavad-gita is already a much more recognizable name in the United States than it was when I started distributing books 37 years ago. “Kirtan” and “bhakti” are also more well-known terms, and I can only hope that “Lord Caitanya” and “Srimad Bhagavatam” will start to become phrases that readers become more curious and buzzing about.

» Posted By Akruranatha On Jul 27, 2013 @ 3:35 pm

BBT Only

The BBT has done an amazing job over the years of continuing to keep Srila Prabhupada’s books in print and available for distribution, while also getting them translated into many different languages.

In addition, projects which are very dear to Srila Prabhupada, such as the TOVP in Mayapur, are receiving much-needed funding from the BBT.

Those who want to purchase “classic” reproductions of the 1972 MacMillan edition of Bhagavad-gita As It Is (in spite of numerous editors mistakes in the text) can do so from the BBT as well. There is no need to get them from any other source.

The BBT is accountable and you can know how BBT funds are being spent. Buying books from rival publishers is at the cost of the BBT, and the profits are going to God knows where.

If we want to please Srila Prabhupada, we should buy his books exclusively from the BBT and participate in the system of supporting ISKCON projects and BBTv publishing activities, which Srila Prabhupada created and as Srila Prabhupada demanded of us.

There is no alternative for a loyal follower of Srila Prabhupada. Period. This is perfectly clear.

» Posted By Akruranatha On Jul 27, 2013 @ 3:14 pm

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