Comments Posted By Gaura Keshava das
Displaying 1 To 10 Of 21 Comments
I must be living under a rock! I had never heard of this Atma Yoga before. I can understand your concern that the principles of ISKCON not be watered down but at the same time I feel impelled to applaud these young people for some inovative preaching techniques. Perhaps it would be wise for the GBC to have some comprehensive evaluation of inovative preaching techniques and present guidelines as to what is OK and what should be clearly distanced from ISKCON, it’s temples and members. I noticed that the founder of Atma Yoga, Atmananda das is a disciple of Bhaktitirtha Swami. Clearly he feels his movement is inspired by his guruji. It may be that the GBC should clearly delineate what they consider acceptable about Atma Yoga and what they do not.
Also I would like to mention that Pranayama is described in Hari Bhakti Vilasa and is mentioned as a process that can destroy sinful reactions. Also the practice of certain asanas is clearly given there for when sitting and performing deity worship, japa or other forms of mantra meditation.
In case anyone is interested the word Iyengar, from BKS Iyengar of Iyengar Yoga fame means Initiated Vaisnava in Tamil. Iyenda meaning 5, Iyengars are those initiated into panca samskara or pancaratric Vaisnava diksha. Iyengars are none other than Ramanuja Vaisnavas. Of course modern followers of Iyengar and his form of Yoga do not necessarily follow the precepts of the Ramanuja Sampradaya.
Comment Posted By Gaura Keshava das On 04.10.2006 @ 04:14
I am sort of interested to know what prompted you to insert a call for Polygamy as a response to this article. It doesn’t seem to have any direct relationship with it at all except for the fact that a marriage was taking place. Perhaps you don’t want to be identified for your views, and that’s why you have choosen Vedic.Hindu as a pseudonym. Be that as it may, I agree with you that polygamy is Vedic. However in order to re-introduce such concepts and/or practices one has to have a society that is amenable to allowing it. Since clearly the emphasis in ISKCON is to restrict sex life what would be the advantage for ISKCON to allow or encourage polygamy?
Comment Posted By Gaura Keshava das On 13.10.2006 @ 01:00
FYI From Wikipedia:
The Witherspoon Institute is a conservative think tank based in New Jersey started in 2003. The Witherspoon Institute has ties to both The Family Research Council and Opus Dei. The organization advocates a Federal Marriage Amendment to the United States Constitution that would define marriage as being between one man and one woman only, protecting low-income married couples from the marriage tax, hindering “no-fault” divorces and the importance of the family to the health of the future of the United States of America. Luis Tellez is its current president.
The Institute “works to enhance public understanding of the political, moral, and philosophical principles of free and democratic societies. It also promotes the application of these principles to contemporary problems.” 
The Witherspoon Institute supports scholarship through a fellowship program and by organizing meetings.
It is named after John Witherspoon a member of the Continental Congress, signer of the Declaration of Independence and the sixth President of Princeton University.
Comment Posted By Gaura Keshava das On 26.08.2006 @ 16:01
My hopes and prayers for all that they are worth are now being offered for my friend Bhojadeva das. I was moved to tears at this story. May Lord Krsna bless him.
Gaura Keshava das
Comment Posted By Gaura Keshava das On 20.08.2006 @ 15:10
When Srila Prabhupada was phyically present with us, the pujaris would offer to his picture on the altar, then offer to the deities, then turn and offer to him on the vyasasana then the assembled devotees, then after the pujari offered the lamp to the assembled devotees it would again be taken to Srila Prabhupada to touch and then for the assembled devotees to touch.
Why is everyone so concerned with offering to Srila Prabhupada first after the lamp comes off the altar and yet not concerned with the lamp being offered to his disciples in front of him on that altar? Or that the pujari offers it to to him and then the assembled devotees and then it is offered again to him?
Also how is a grand-disciple to do Srila Prabhupada’s gurupuja? Does he offer to his guru first like he does on the altar? Where is the little picture placed in this case?
What about offering to gurus in Tulasi arati, this was never done during Prabhupada’s time, how should it be done today?
It would seem that there is a lot of confusion about the system of offering.
Comment Posted By Gaura Keshava das On 10.08.2006 @ 02:52
Shiva obviously you have a lot of time on your hands to reply to my postings. If I get time I’ll try to cover all your points. In the meantime you stated:
Srila Prabhupada left instructions for a certain number of people to give diksa after he left.
Could you please prove the above statement. I think that there are a lot of people who would disagree with you on that one.
And by the way if what you say is true, how’s it working out with these people that were appointed by Srila Prabhupada to give diksha after he left???
De-institutionalization of the post of Guru in ISKCON is a sastric idea whose time has come, no matter what you think. I am sure that thoughtful people will realize that this is not only the way things ought to be but also the way they will have to be.
Comment Posted By Gaura Keshava das On 23.07.2006 @ 18:06
Thanks Krishna Dharma ji, I read your article and agree with you 100%. You have definitely stated the case much better than I have and come to the same conclusions. I suggest to anyone interested please read his article on this subject.
Comment Posted By Gaura Keshava das On 23.07.2006 @ 04:10
Mutual Testing is the only way.
GKD: “The sastras enjoin that before we take a guru we study him carefully to find out whether we can surrender to him. We should not accept a guru suddenly, out of fanaticism. That is very dangerous. The guru should also study the person who wants to become a disciple to see if he is fit. That is the way a relationship is established between the guru and disciple.” SSR P59
“Your book should describe the characteristics of the bona fide guru and the bona fide disciple. Then, before accepting a spiritual master, one can be assured of the spiritual masterās position. Similarly, the spiritual master can also be assured of the discipleās position….”
“As far as the mutual testing of the spiritual master and disciple is concerned, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura explains that a bona fide disciple must be very inquisitive to understand the transcendental subject matter. As stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.3.21):
tasmad gurum prapadyeta
jijnasuh sreya uttamam
āOne who is inquisitive to understand the highest goal and benefit of life must approach a bona fide spiritual master and surrender unto him.ā A serious disciple must be alert when selecting a bona fide spiritual master. He must be sure that the spiritual master can deliver all the transcendental necessities. The spiritual master must observe how inquisitive the disciple is and how eager he is to understand the transcendental subject matter. The spiritual master should study the discipleās inquisitiveness for no less than six months or a year.” CC Mad 24.330 Trans. & Purport
Shiva wrote: What you propose is in fact anarchy when it comes to āletting others decide who is qualified for themselvesā.
GKD: Actually this is simply a recognition of what goes on anyway, and is the sastric system. The potential guru and potential disciple mutually test each other on the basis of sastra. It is not anarchy as each one test the other on the basis of the authority of sastra (Srila Prabhupada’s teachings).
Shiva wrote: If Iskcon were to totally deregulate the taking of sannyasa or guru as you propose how is that not anarchy? Anarchy means the absence of authority. If anyone can initiate or be a sannyasa at their whim then that is indeed anarchy when it comes to those positions.
GKD: Not at all. The GBC should certainly run ISKCON according to Srila Prabhupadaās instructions, one of which was:
“It is imperative that a serious person accept a bona fide spiritual master in terms of the sastric injunctions. Sri Jiva Gosvami advises that one not accept a spiritual master in terms of hereditary or customary social and ecclesiastical conventions. One should simply try to find a genuinely qualified spiritual master for actual advancement in spiritual understanding.”
You seem to think that Srila Prabhupada Himself gave us the present GBC system of approval or non-disapproval of gurus and sannyasis. That is not true. He indicated that qualified persons would take up the position of diksha guru. The only question is who decides who is qualified? You say that the GBC should decide, but there is absolutely no evidence that the GBC were mandated by Srila Prabhupada to do that. We assume that because they are the ultimate management authority in ISKCON that they are also able to appoint and un-appoint gurus, sannyasis, etc. But where is the evidence for such a claim?
In Srila Prabhupadaās presence he would approve candidates for sannyasa just as he would approve candidates for first and second initiation. Based on the recommendation of Temple Presidents and other senior devotees. Your mistake is to think that these functions of the initiating guru (in this case Srila Prabhupada) giving approval, should now be taken on by the GBC. The system that Srila Prabhupada showed us was that he as sannyasa guru and as initiating guru approved of those whom he was giving either sannyasa diksha or vaisnava diksha.
Similarly today those who give either sannyasa diksha or vaisnava diksha should also be the ones to approve who they give that diksha too, NOT the GBC as the GBC does not give either one of these dikshas (or any diksha). You cannot take initiation from the GBC so why should you think that the GBC would be able to approve or disapprove of who actually gives diksha.
No doubt there should be standards for ISKCON membership which the GBC can and should enforce but as to who amongst those who actually follow those standards can initiate, that decision should be between the prospective gurus and prospective disciples, as Srila Prabhupada and sastra clearly state, and as Srila Prabhupada showed us by his own personal approval of candidates for initiation and sannyasa.
ONLY the guru can approve a disciple and ONLY a disciple can approve a guru. Srila Prabhupada followed the sastric system which he also taught us to follow. Yet the GBC has misunderstood their role in that system. Their role is not to approve who takes sannyasa diksha or vaisnava diksha. That is to be approved by the sannyasa guru and initiating guru respectively.
The GBC role is to manage the society (but not over-manage it). They should not interfere in the natural relationships between gurus and sishyas (or husbands and wives or parents and children). They should instead emphasize (and enforce if necessary) that all devotees in ISKCON (whether they be gurus or sishyas) follow Srila Prabhupada’s teachings.
When Srila Prabhupada wanted to take sannyasa, the acarya of the Caitanya Math told him that he had to follow the system, join the Math and show him by years of his service, etc that he should award that order to him. Instead he choose to approach his old friend Bhakti Prajnana Keshava Maharaj who accepted him and awarded him sannyasa. He thus bypassed the institutional system which the Caitanya Math would have imposed upon him. This was based on his acceptance of Bhakti Prajnana Keshava Maharaj as a person who he felt qualified to give him sannyasa in the physical absence of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta. I am not saying that the Caitanya Math acarya would not have also done mutual testing with Srila Prabhupada before giving him sannyasa. Obviously in both institutions the acaryas made that decision not the GBC. Yes, contrary to popular belief the Gaudiya Math DID establish a GBC after Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. But no Gaudiya Math GBC has ever made a system for approving gurus.
Did Srila Prabhupada ever set up a system of how the GBC would appoint gurus in ISKCON? If so please give me the proof of this. Srila Prabhupada stated ” When I order, āYou become guru,ā he becomes regular guru. Thatās all. He becomes disciple of my disciple. Thatās it.” Conv. 5/28/77 So did he ever tell the GBC to make a system whereby they can approve gurus?
Shiva wrote: You seem to think that Iskcon should be run in the same way that traditional vedic society is run. Why?
GKD: You seem to think that ISKCON should not adopt traditional spiritual methods of doing things which were actually taught to us by Srila Prabhupada and his example. Why?
Don’t we also have Srila Prabhupada’s order to establish Varnashram? But besides this, as I stated above, by Srila Prabhupada’s teachings and example He was the one to approve people for sannyasa and initiation. Therefore your interpretation is that that now should be done by the GBC, but my understanding is that it should now be done by those actually offering sannyasa and diksha to disciples.
My understanding not only conforms to the way Srila Prabhupada acted himself but also to his teachings. Your idea can be justified only if you can prove that Srila Prabhupada ordered the GBC to collectively take up this traditional responsibility of approving who should be allowed to take initiation from whom. If you can please show me exactly when he mandated the GBC to approve gurus, sannyasis and disciples and how, I’ll be interested, otherwise not.
Shiva wrote: Srila Prabhupada didnāt allow anyone to take sannyasa or initiate at their whim.
GKD: No, he as the initiating guru was the one to give the approval. You cannot legislate what people do anyway. Certain of his disciples did actually leave ISKCON and take babaji or get re-initiated by gurus outside of ISKCON. One disciple took harinam from Srila Prabhupada and then took diksha and sannyasa from Bon Maharaj. And if people want to do that today they certainly can, but obviously they are going to have to leave ISKCON to do it. So within ISKCON who is doing these things? No one. But if someone is actually following Srila Prabhupada’s teachings and is within ISKCON then why should he not be able to take sannyasa or initiate?
You do not understand my point obviously. The GBC should certainly hold devotees in ISKCON responsible to follow Srila Prabhupada’s teachings. But if the are following, then what problems does it make if they take sannyasa or initiate? The problems come because the GBC do not enforce devotees following Srila Prabhupada’s instructions, not because they have many good devotees who want to be sannyasis or gurus.
Shiva wrote: Why do you think he didnāt follow the āsastricā method as you claim Iskcon should be doing?
GKD: See above, Srila Prabhupada did follow the sastric system. He also taught us that system. He did not take permission from his godbrothers before starting ISKCON or initiating. If you want to follow the example of Srila Prabhupada then his example was to start his own movement and give initiation.
However he also wanted his disciples to work within ISKCON. Some have left and done exactly what he did, when he became frustrated with the bureaucracy of the Gaudiya Math. Others have remained and tried to work under the GBC.
However the question still remains whether the GBC was mandated by Srila Prabhupada to decide who gives initiation or who takes sannyasa?
Shiva wrote: Traditional vedic society was not a religious organization set up for the purpose of distributing the sankirtan movement. Iskcon is not the same thing as traditional vedic society. The same rules do not automatically apply.
GKD: I agree. Management will be different. However guru is not a management position. It is a spiritual position. Sannyasa is also NOT supposed to be a management position. Temple President is, Secretary is, Treasurer is, GBC is. We do not see spiritual definitions of these positions. They are management positions and are useful in ISKCON. However Sannyasa is an ashram, it has certain spiritual responsibilities and is not a management position, neither is guru.
Shiva wrote: When Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati told his disciples how to run the gaudiya math after his leaving did he instruct them to allow anyone to be acharya or anyone to be sannyasa at their whim?
GKD: No, and that’s not what I am suggesting either. You have to carefully understand my point. People take sannyasa and become gurus in India all the time. Even in the west people become leaders of new religions all the time. The only people who follow them are the ones that don’t know any better. It is the GBC and other members of ISKCON whose responsibility is to educate people to see the real qualities of real sannyasis and real gurus. NOT to rubber stamp gurus and sannyasis.
Rubber stamping even if the person is qualified for the spiritual post means that the GBC stand by their decision to allow some one to take sannyasa and/or take disciples. If later on that person falls down then who is to blame? Since the GBC approved the person they are now put in the position of un-approving them or asking them not to initiate (for 6 months or whatever).
What a waste of time and energy, that could be better put to use dealing with their real purpose, management. This is why the sastra tells disciples to carefully test their prospective guru, this is why sastra also tells gurus to carefully test prospective disciples.
Srila Prabhupada had a system for this, he would ask for a Temple President to recommend the person based on whether the person had been following for some time. In the case of testing Srila Prabhupada we were all convinced by his teachings that he was a bona-fide guru so no one told us that he was approved by the Gaudiya Math. However these days those that are approved gurus are put forward as “bona-fide”, yet this has not always been demonstrated as true, and those that are not approved are by implication “not bona-fide” so they are not even considered by prospective disciples.
Disciples have to take responsibility for their choice of guru, people have to take their own responsibility for taking sannyasa, if and when there is a fall-down it is simply the individuals fault NOT the GBC’s. But when the GBC approves of these non-managerial spiritual positions then they leave themselves open to the fault of misleading the rest of us about the true status of such people.
Shiva wrote: Both Iskcon and the Gaudiya Math were set up for the same purpose and in both cases the acharyas chose not to follow your recommendations on how these organizations should be run.
GKD: Not true. In both cases the guru was and is the person who made the decision as to who he gives sannyasa and diksha to. There is no system of approval of guru or sannyasa in any other organization but post-Prabhupada ISKCON. The only person who approves the awarding of sannyasa and diksha in any other organization and during Srila Prabhupada’s presence was the guru himself. Never, Never, Never, Never has a GBC or any other form of management body mandated who can take sannyasa or become a guru in these organizations.
Shiva wrote: In essence you are inferring that Srila Saraswati Thakura and Srila Prabhupada were both in the wrong when it comes to these topics.
GKD: Not at all. I am not inferring anything of the sort. Please see how both Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and Srila Prabhupada approved of sannyasis and initiates. I am simply suggesting we follow their example. If you can point to the GBC system of approving sannyasis and initiates under Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and Srila Prabhupada please do. I have never heard of it.
Shiva wrote: Neither of those acharyas allowed what you claim is sastrically correct nor did either of them inform their disciples to change the system they set up after their leaving.
GKD: You are exactly 180 degrees wrong. Both of these acarya’s personally approved of people to take sannyasa and take initiation from them in their presence. As for approving of a system after their leaving for the GBC to approve of diskha gurus or sannyasis NEITHER of them set up such a system. Today in all Gaudiya Maths (and in all other Vaisnava organizations) it is only the sannyasa guru who tests and approves of a candidate for sannyasa diksha and also only a diksha guru who tests and approves a candidate for diksha. Please show me two things:
1. Where anyone has ever mandated a system of GBC or other management approval for any type of diksha?
2. Where this system came from in ISKCON?
Shiva wrote: You (GKD) quoted Srila Prabhupada when you wrote:
It is imperative that a serious person accept a bona fide spiritual master in terms of the sastric injunctions. Sri Jiva Gosvami advises that one not accept a spiritual master in terms of hereditary or customary social and ecclesiastical conventions. One should simply try to find a genuinely qualified spiritual master for actual advancement in spiritual understanding.
Shiva wrote: What Jiva Goswami is saying is that a guru shouldnāt be accepted on the basis of being a hereditary guru or an ecclesiastical guru.
GKD: Actually Srila Prabhupada says “in terms of hereditary or customary social and ecclesiastical conventions”. We are not concerned here with hereditary guru’s, so far this has not been a problem within ISKCON. However what does the phrase “customary social and ecclesiastical conventions” mean. “Ecclesiastical” means “relating to the church” and “conventions” means “rules and regulations or systems” so, one should NOT accept a guru according to ISKCON conventions. Is not ISKCON the church we are talking about here? If the organization of the church has some convention like “you must take initiation from your Zonal guru or you must take initiation only from these people on this list of GBC approved gurus” then is this not an ecclesiastical convention?
Even if we differ on this negative point of who one should NOT take initiation from, then there is the positive: “One should simply try to find a genuinely qualified spiritual master for actual advancement in spiritual understanding.” Does the present system ENSURE that we will get a “genuinely qualified spiritual master”? If I take initiation from someone who is GBC approved, am I assured that he is a “genuinely qualified spiritual master”. If not then don’t I have to make my own investigation? And if I have to make my own investigation then why should I only limit that investigation to people on the GBC approved list? In fact from reading this quote I might even begin to think that I should look elsewhere than the GBC approved list. So what is the actual system, and what is the supposed system?
Shiva wrote: No one in Iskcon is being forced to accept initiation from anyone they donāt have faith in as a bona fide guru.
GKD: Correct, no one is forced to take initiation, period.
Shiva wrote: Iskcon doesnāt promote the blind acceptance of ecclesiastical gurus.
GKD: ISKCON promotes only GBC approved gurus. You are right that ISKCON does not promote blind acceptance, but neither does ISKCON promote “one not accept a spiritual master in terms of hereditary or customary social and ecclesiastical conventions. One should simply try to find a genuinely qualified spiritual master for actual advancement in spiritual understanding.”
ISKCON promotes that devotees take diksha from only those in ISKCON who have been approved by the GBC. And I am not necessarily saying that those devotees are not worthy of being gurus. My point is that whether someone is worthy or not is determined by mutual testing between the prospective guru and disciple. The Society as a whole and the leadership (GBC) in particular has no right or mandate to promote one group of disciples as worthy over another group based on who is “approved” and who is “not approved”.
No one was ever approved by Srila Prabhupada or Srila Bhaktisiddhanta so it is up to the individuals to make their own decisions. Naturally we can take some advise from those we respect as to who would be good to take initiation from but ultimately the choice of guru is up to the individual disciple. Similarly the choice of sannyasa guru is up to the individual sannyasa candidate and the choices who each of these gurus initiates with diksha or sannyasa diksha is similarly up to the guru.
Shiva wrote: Iskcon allows certain individuals the opportunity to give diksa.
GKD: Not ISKCON but the GBC. Where does the GBC get this right? And does this not also mean that the GBC denies the “opportunity” to give diksha, to those who it has not approved, or those who it has approved before but who have had problems. Some have to be told by “secret” resolutions to stop initiating till they get their act together again, others are outright banned from initiating, others are asked to voluntarily renounce initiating, others fall-down so badly that their disciples take so called re-initiation, (some devotees I know are on their 3rd GBC approved guru) and yet others leave and take their disciples with them, or send their disciples fleeing from ISKCON to the Gaudiya Math and beyond.
Shiva wrote: The non initiated people are free to choose amongst them to take diksa.
GKD: Freedom to choose amongst the GBC approved gurus only.
Shiva wrote: If none is to their liking then they can remain uninitiated.
GKD: Sounds like a good choice, considering the track record! Of course anyone can choose to remain uninitiated, but since diksha is emphasized as being necessary, is this really a choice?
Shiva wrote: They can take siksa from anyone.
GKD: OK, you say “They can take siksa from anyone.” Isn’t that also the same type of anarchy you are accusing me of? Siksha guru and Diksha guru are EQUAL according to Srila Prabhupada’s teachings and the sastra. So if anyone can be a siksha guru then why can’t anyone be a diksha guru? “The initiating and instructing spiritual masters are equal and identical manifestations of Krsna…” CC Adi 1.34 Purport
Shiva wrote: Nobody in Iskcon is being forced to accept anyone as their ecclesiastical or hereditary guru.
GKD: “Ecclesiastical” and “hereditary” have two different meanings. Please look them up if you don’t know what they mean. I agree 100% with you that no one is being forced to accept “hereditary” gurus. However the GBC approval system absolutely does limit the choice of guru in ISKCON to ONLY “ecclesiastical” gurus. An “ecclesiastical” guru is one that is ordained as such by the church or is approved of by the church. Any system of guru approval based on GBC resolutions or ISKCON institutional approval is ecclesiastical or related to the church.
Shiva wrote: Anyone can accept anyone as their siksa guru.
GKD: I have already answered that above. “The initiating and instructing spiritual masters are equal and identical manifestations of Krsna…” CC Adi 1.34 Purport
Shiva wrote: From Srila Prabhupada
There are two kinds of instructing spiritual masters… There is no difference between the shelter-giving Supreme Lord and the initiating and instructing spiritual masters. If one foolishly discriminates between them, he commits an offense in the discharge of devotional service.
GKD: Thanks for that quote. So you agree with me that “There is no difference between the shelter-giving Supreme Lord and the initiating and instructing spiritual masters.” OK, then if as you say “Anyone can accept anyone as their siksa guru.” (Your words), then anyone can accept anyone as their diksha guru also, since these two types of gurus are equal.
Shiva wrote: You (GKD) then wrote:
There is no committee that can sastically elect a guru, or a sannyasi, or any of these other positions in society. The qualities must be manifest according to sastra and the individuals will be self evident.
Shiva then wrote:
Iskcon is not āsocietyā. Iskcon is a yoga ashrama/religious organization. It has a specific purpose which is to distribute the sankirtan movement of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Vedic society was not set up for the sole purpose of distributing the sankirtan movement. The two are not the same thing. So your claim that the standard religious model of vedic society should be what Iskcon adopts is based on what? The acharyas who created Iskcon and the Gaudiya Math did not set up their organizations along the traditional vedic model, why should their vision be changed to accommodate your vision of how they should be run?
GKD: Yes, ISKCON and Gaudiya Math are organizations. Yes, they are therefore different from a Vedic Social System. I agree with you and I have never said otherwise. That does not change the fact that NO MATTER what material managerial organizational structure you have, whether you are ruled by a King or a GBC or a President or whoever, NO ONE has the right to legislate, approve or disapprove of who IS and who IS NOT a guru, except the guru himself and his potential disciple. That relationship is clearly, sastrically between the guru and disciple. This was taught to us not only by Srila Prabhupada but also by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and every other guru. There has never in the history of Vaisnavism been a committee approving of or disapproving of someone giving diksha or sannyasa or taking diksha or sannyasa. This is clearly a function of being guru. When you preach people will naturally be attracted to taking diksha, they should test the prospective guru, and the guru should test them (mutual testing based on sastra). No one else can legislate about it.
Shiva wrote: You (GKD) then wrote: People see by oneās activities and qualities if one is rightly situated. No one offers a bogus swami or bogus guru any respect
Shiva wrote: I am surprised you would make such a claim. From my experience in this life I have seen or heard of millions of people accepting bogus swamis and bogus gurus as bona fide and giving them much respect, wealth, fame, etc. Most people are easily fooled into accepting bogus swamis and gurus if those swamis and gurus are proficient at acting the part. Even in Iskcon so many people believed various swamis and gurus to be on the very highest level of bhakti rasa only to later find out those people were simply good at pretending. How many of disciples of fallen guru/swamis in Iskcon truly believed, not due to ecclesiastical convention, but truly believed because of those guru/swamiās charisma and sastric fluency that they were vaisnavas on the highest level of self realization? Thousands upon thousands. So your claim is false. Not only in society at large are people easily fooled into accepting unqualified people by dint of charisma and scriptural fluency but also in religious organizations like Iskcon or any other.
GKD: When I said that no one offer respect to a bogus guru or sannyasi I meant “if they know that they are bogus”. I agree with you. Many people outside of ISKCON have been cheated. And even many people within ISKCON have been cheated. And the GBC themselves were also cheated by approving such people. That’s exactly my point. There will always be people who take sannyasa or become gurus who have problems. NO system will ensure 100% bona-fide guru approval. Therefore if the GBC continue to endorse gurus and sannyasins they will only loose more and more respect from the members of ISKCON.
The onus is not on the GBC to endorse gurus and sannyasis. It is on the rest of us to judge people according to sastra and act accordingly, not blindly accepting a committee’s rubber stamp approval of advancement. When anyone can take sannyasa and when anyone can be a guru then everyone will need to very carefully scrutinize the actual qualities of those persons. No longer will I automatically assume that a man holding a danda is advanced.
Shiva wrote: You (GKD) then wrote: When someone with high institutional status falls down the institution itself is weakened. How can we have faith in a system that cannot guarantee that the people that it chooses for leadership positions are advanced and qualified for those positions? The answer is simple. The institution should NOT put itself in the position of guaranteeing that such individuals are advanced.
Shiva wrote: Iskcon does not guarantee those individuals who are given sannyasa and who are allowed to give diksa are enlightened souls.
GKD: I have yet to see the GBC disclaimer. It should read as follows: Although the GBC currently has no objection to such and such prabhu/swami initiating disciples in ISKCON we reserve the right to withdraw our approval. This no objection certification in no way indicates any suggestion on the part of the GBC that such and such prabhu/swami is qualified as a bona-fide diksha guru and should not be construed as such. Both prospective guru and disciple are cautioned to do mutual sastric testing of each others qualification before entering into any binding spiritual relationship.
Shiva wrote: Iskcon used to promote like that during the zonal acharya system, but not anymore.
GKD: The zonal acarya system was based on the instructions by Srila Prabhupada in the “so-called” appointment letter and tapes where he said that devotees should approach certain individuals who were geographically closest. Of course some people deny the status of the appointed persons but there is no denying that system of people approaching a geographically closer person to become at that time Srila Prabhupada’s disciple by proxy.
The mistake was to institutionalize the geographical area after Srila Prabhupada’s departure (some would also argue that another mistake was to assume the appointees and only those appointees were qualified to themselves continue giving diksha on their own behalf after Srila Prabhupada’s departure).
Clearly those appointees, whatever they were appointed to do, even though personally chosen by Srila Prabhupada failed in most cases to come up to the standard of the qualifications of diksha guru. So this is another reason why any attempt to choose who is guru and who is not fails. Even Srila Prabhupada was not able to ensure that the devotees he chose were qualified. How then can the GBC guarantee that it’s approval process is any better?
At least Srila Prabhupada as the previous acarya and guru of the appointees was sastrically justified in choosing successors (if that’s what you consider them to be). Where as the GBC is NOT the spiritual successor of Srila Prabhupada but a management team with ultimate authority in ISKCON on management issues. Does this mean that they can change doctrine? No, I cannot see where the authority for adjusting spiritual teachings is ceded to the GBC by Srila Prabhupada. They are to enforce Srila Prabhupada’s teachings in ISKCON. They cannot make up their own ideas (on the purely spiritual matter) of approving gurus without a directive from their guru. Is there such a directive for this approval system? Please provide it.
Shiva wrote: If certain people within Iskcon promote people like that then that is their business.
GKD: Don’t be naive. The next generation of ISKCON is going to be even more divisive than this one. Think of all the disputes that have arisen when all devotees were direct disciples of Srila Prabhupada. Even then there were people pushing their own “favored guru” agendas on new members. In the next generation grand-disciples will most certainly lead new comers to their own guru rather than allow the new comers to make their own assessments (and actually for a disciple this is natural and sastric).
To a large extent the damage to the system is already done. Actually it would be good if the GBC made an apology and a disclaimer statement. First apologize for suggesting that only certain persons in the past have been considered as qualified to give diksha in ISKCON and secondly to state categorically that whoever knows and follows Srila Prabhupada’s instructions is fit to be not only a siksha guru but also a diksha guru as well. Thirdly make the disclaimer given above or something of that nature stating that the GBC neither endorses nor does not endorse any follower of Srila Prabhupada as a diksha and/or siksha guru. The choice is completely open to the investigation of the individual.
Shiva wrote: Iskcon does not officially promote anyone as infallible.
GKD: That’s nice to say in theory, however ISKCON promotes Srila Prabhupada’s teachings and those teachings do promote the guru as being infallible. (It’s another whole argument as to what the nature of that infallibility is, which I do not want to get into here). Naturally when new comers read Srila Prabhupada’s teachings they rightly assume that if the GBC has approved someone to be a guru that the person should match the qualifications presented in Srila Prabhupada’s teachings of what a guru should be. As I stated above it is very doubtful that any approval system can guarantee this, considering that even Srila Prabhupada’s personal choices of the best persons at the time was shown to be mostly wrong within only a few years. This is not Srila Prabhupada’s fault but the fault of the individuals who are themselves totally responsible for their own fall-down. Similarly any past or present fall-down of a GBC approved guru is not the fault of the GBC but the fault of only that individual. So why would the GBC perpetuate a system which:
1. Was not given to them by Srila Prabhupada
2. Is not sastric or follows Srila Prabhupada’s teachings
3. Does not guarantee qualified gurus
4. Only makes individuals loose more faith in ISKCON and the GBC
Shiva wrote: What you propose would have the effect of making it more difficult to distinguish between advanced devotees and pretenders.
GKD: No, actually it would be much easier. You would have to investigate everyone, you could not take for granted that anyone is advanced. This is far better than simply “blindly” accepting anyone with saffron cloth and a danda as advanced or anyone with a letter of “no objection” from the GBC as advanced. People may be investigating these people even today to see if they match up to the sastric qualifications, but if that is true in all cases then again there is absolutely no reason to have an institutional (ecclesiastical) approval process. So either way, if people are actually doing the mutual sastric testing or if they are not, there is no reason for an institutional (ecclesiastical) approval process.
Shiva wrote: You know as well as I do that for someone who has been educated in gaudiya siddhanta that it is not difficult to act like an advanced self realized soul when others are watching. How will novices be able to tell the advanced devotee from someone who is pretending? It is always difficult under the best of circumstances. If you make it so that there are thousands of people who can give diksa and act as a bona fide spiritual master at their whim, then that is going to make it more difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.
GKD: Nothing worthwhile is achieved easily. I did not say that choosing a guru was not difficult. But the Lord says that he sends His representative to the sincere disciple. So if people are sincere and follow Srila Prabhupada’s teachings then they will be able to find a guru. And actually I do not believe that the choice of diksha guru is all that critical. One should receive the mantra in disciplic succession because that is the traditional sastric system, however there are many examples in history of Vaisnavas whose main guru was not their diksha guru.
Shiva wrote: You (GKD) wrote: If there is no one telling me who I should revere as a sannyasin or guru then I am forced to investigate the actual character of that person rather than just accepting him as advanced because I am told that the GBC accepts him as such.
Shiva wrote: People can pretend to be advanced and fool novices quite easily. The GBC are not fooled as easily as the novice devotee who is new to gaudiya vaisnavism. The GBC performs a firewall function in that it attempts to protect novices from unscrupulous people who seek to exploit them in the name of being their spiritual mentor. It may not be perfect and in accordance with traditional vedic society, but it is the best way to preserve some level of safeguard.
GKD: Actually there are plenty of devotees in ISKCON who can advise newer devotees about who is more advanced and who is less advanced. It does not require the GBC for this function. Neither does this function need to be institutionalized.
The system as it is today relies on 10 local devotees in good standing to recommend a person. The GBC then takes these 10 local devotee’s word for it that the person is qualified, and issues the no objection approval. Unless one or more GBC men question whether the person is qualified based on some other information or personal knowledge, in which case it is taken up at the annual Mayapur meeting for a vote. IMHO therefore many devotees with the help of 10 local devotees could pretty easily get approved. Therefore I ask again “What kind of system is this?” Since the GBC don’t actually take up the job of determining whether the person is qualified or not unless there is some doubt. They basically take the word of 10 local devotees. So once you get the clear from 10 local devotees, if no body else knows anything about you, enough to object, you get a pass by the GBC. IMHO if the GBC are going to go to the trouble of having a system of approval they should at least investigate the qualifications of the persons themselves. Since this is only done in the cases where someone has some doubt about something how can the GBC approve someone on this negative proof. In other words “Well, we haven’t heard anything bad about this guy so he must be qualified to be a guru.”
Does this really sound like a better system than the natural sastric system of mutual testing which has to go on anyway? Does this sort of system really provide a better way, or is it just another level of useless bureaucracy, which Srila Prabhupada never authorized, never used, never supported, never mandated the GBC to do. There is no authorization for it and it is unnecessary and unsastric. It is not even a deterrent because it is completely based on “not hearing anything negative” which is only half the qualification. There is no investigation of any positive qualifications. Of course both negative and positive traits should and almost always are tested by both guru and disciple.
Shiva wrote: and it also follows the wishes of the founder acharya of Iskcon.
GKD: No, it does not. Please provide the proof of that statement. We should follow Srila Prabhupada’s example. In ISKCON just as he tested his disciples by having them follow his teaching and they tested him by observing him, learning his teachings and following them so present day gurus and disciples should do the same. The GBC’s job is to manage and keep the whole lot of them in line with Srila Prabhupada’s teachings. That’s all. And the GBC should not place themselves in the position of being blamed for the fall-down of unscrupulous sannyasins and gurus because they approved of them. Then they simply have to waste more time trying to undo what they should never have done in the first place.
Comment Posted By Gaura Keshava das On 22.07.2006 @ 04:59
Like it or not the system of being “awarded” sannyasa or being given permision to initiate in ISKCON is determined ultimately by the GBC. And what the GBC giveth the GBC can taketh away. So devotees should stop trying to equate these positions in ISKCON with their counterparts under the same names outside of ISKCON. They are different. If devotees want a system that is sastric concerning how people can take sannyasa or take disciples then the GBC must relinquish it’s control over these choices. I am not proposing anarchy, simply that the GBC manage and let others decide who is qualified for themselves. This is the natural sastric system. Those who are renounced become naturally sannyasins, not those who simply want some status. Those who are preaching and making people devotees become those very devotee’s gurus (both siksha and even diksha) by a process of mutual sastric testing. This is not the job of the GBC. Just as it is not the job of the GBC to marry off certain individuals to other individuals or legislate who can become a father or mother. The GBC can guide us all with sastric standards for being married, having children, taking sannyasa and being disciples and gurus. And these things are all given in Srila Prabhupada’s teachings. But their mistake (yes I say mistake) has been to over regulate these positions in an institutional way which is never approved of by the sastra.
āIt is imperative that a serious person accept a bona fide spiritual master in terms of the sastric injunctions. Sri Jiva Gosvami advises that one not accept a spiritual master in terms of hereditary or customary social and ecclesiastical conventions. One should simply try to find a genuinely qualified spiritual master for actual advancement in spiritual understanding.”
There is no commitee that can sastically elect a guru, or a sannyasi, or any of these other positions in society. The qualities must be manifest according to sastra and the individuals will be self evident. Guna Karma Vibhagasah. People see by one’s activities and qualities if one is rightly situated. No one offers a bogus swami or bogus guru any respect. Yet people will naturally revere those who show advanced qualities even though they may not have high institutional status. When someone with high institutional status falls down the institution itself is weakened. How can we have faith in a system that cannot guarantee that the people that it chooses for leadership positions are advanced and qualified for those postitions. The answer is simple. The institution should NOT put itself in the postion of guaranteeing that such individuals are advanced.
If there is no one telling me who I should revere as a sannyasin or guru then I am forced to investigate the actual character of that person rather than just accepting him as advanced because I am told that the GBC accepts him as such. What is even more fitting is that if I do not take the time and effort to really judge by sastra who is advanced and who is not, then I have no one to blame but myself if I am mislead. I cannot say that I was duped into revering a person who was pesented to me by the GBC as an advanced devotee. No, I must become educated in the qualities and symptoms of advancement by inbibing Srila Prabhupada’s teachings.
Comment Posted By Gaura Keshava das On 20.07.2006 @ 06:08
Shiva, no matter what I say I knew that you would not agree. You and most of ISKCON are not ready for what I am saying even though it is satrically correct. I can wait, eventually you will all have to change your ideas.
However this does not change two facts:
1. Any system of Institutional “approval” is not Sastric. Srila Prabhuoada says “It is imperative that a serious person accept a bona fide spiritual master in terms of the sastric injunctions. Sri Jiva Gosvami advises that one not accept a spiritual master in terms of hereditary or customary social and ecclesiastical conventions. One should simply try to find a genuinely qualified spiritual master for actual advancement in spiritual understanding.
Comment Posted By Gaura Keshava das On 16.07.2006 @ 07:05