It is time again for the annual international GBC meetings in Sridam Mayapur. The purpose of the meetings is to improve devotional service in Srila Prabhupada’s mission, the International Society for Krsna Consciousness, ISKCON. The most important unresolved ever-changing issue is the guru issue. There continues to be a lot of speculation about the guru issue within ISKCON.
One of Srila Prabhupada’s last requests to us was to show our love for him by cooperating to push on the movement. To cooperate we need to communicate openly and honestly and give up the excommunicating mentality if someone disagrees with your opinion.
What we need to do is stop speculating and start trying to understand what Srila Prabhupada said to do regarding initiations in ISKCON after his physical departure. We need to do what he said not what we think would be best. I was with Srila Prabhupada when he first decided to leave the planet in 1977 and I heard him say that he wanted us to initiate on his behalf when he left the planet.
I have been trying to convince the senior devotees about the truth in this matter for over 30 years now to not much avail. I have tried to speak to the GBC members and requested time to address them at the Mayapur meetings. I have been refused with excuses that the GBC did not have time for me, a personal witness to testify to the truth which is also documented on tape and in writng. If it came before a court the evidence would support the fact that Srila Prabhupada ordered that a ritvik initiation system to continue in ISKCON after his departure. But since Srila Prabhupada did not want us to resort to the karmi courts as did/does the Gaudiya Math, I am trying to avoid that last resort. If the GBC continues to avoid communication on this matter for the good of the movement what else could we do? We need to fulfill the orders of the spiritual master in our lifetimes or suffer after for not doing the right thing.
We had a debate on this matter in 1990 in San Diego temple with the North American GBC’s. It was voted on that another meeting with the International GBC would happen in Mayapur. Instead of allowing another meeting on the matter the GBC made anti-ritvik resoulutions banning the discussion of ritvik within ISKCON and anyone who would discuss it would be kicked out of ISKCON. This is an offense to Srila Prabhupada and so many of his devotees including my own son, Damodar Prasada who dared to take shelter of Srila Prabhupada in L.A. but was asked to leave since he accepts Srila Prabhupada as his guru, siksa and diksa. Instead of giving Srila Prabhupada as guru they have put a patent on Prabhupada, saying he is no longer available for initiation. This is like saying Christ is no longer available; you must accept a ‘living’ Christ. This idea was smashed by Srila Prabhupada in Seattle way back in 1968. (See BTG article ‘Function of the Soul”)
It is never too late to do the right thing. Good things take time. After Sri Advaita left the planet there was chaos for quite some time. So it is time for change in ISKCON. Change is needed. Change is good.
In a nutshell here is what I witnessed: On July 5th 1977 I was attending to Srila Prabhupada in his garden in Sri Vrindavan Dham. The secretary, Tamal Krsna Maharaja was reading letters from some of the temples asking for initiations for some of the devotees. Srila Prabhupada said, “Tomorrow I will appoint some ritvik acharyas who will initiate disciples on my behalf when I leave the planet.” He also mentioned this back in May a few days after arriving in Vrindavan from Rishekesh in mid may. It was actually 2 days later on July 7th 1977 that Srila Prabhupada dictated a letter about future initiations in ISKCON. There is a recording available of this conversation. The secretary then typed up the newsletter addressed to all temples and GBC’s dated July 9th 1977. This letter was read to Srila Prabhupada who approved the final version and signed it. That letter is ‘the final order’ on initiations in ISKCON for the future.
The ritvik representative is not a bad thing as he has been made out to be to date. He or she is doing a great service by linking devotees up to our great sampradaya. They and others can act as siksa gurus and help the devotees, but Srila Prabhupada is the one diksa guru. The representatives are respectable, even lovable. We need a reality check. So many devotees have left after their gurus fell down. They felt frustrated and cheated. (which they have) With Srila Prabhupada’s all intelligent practical ritvik system that would not happen. More and more devotees would cooperate and strengthen Srila Prabhupada’s mission and get back to what we are really here for: To develop Love of God and spread that love to society at large.
I hope that I see this most needed change in ISKCON before I leave the planet. I feel that is the reason I was sparred by Krsna to live after being electrocuted on Srila Prabhupada’s roof in Sri Vrindavan Dham in 1977. I was shocked with 220 volts and Srila Prabhupada yelled out to Upendra to save me. He came running and pulled the plug that was shocking me. The lights went out and I was unconscious for 2 hours. Premana Swami continued to pound on my heart and I started to see faces above me. Srila Prabhupada called me into his room and asked if I was alright. I said I was and then Srila Prabhupada looking compassionately like a father, said, “So you should take this as a good lesson that death can come at any time; and you should always be ready.” I said Thank you to Srila Prabhupada and left the room. It would of been nice to leave my body in the service of Srila Prabhupada in Sri Vrindavan Dham. The ritvik issue had been swept under the rug in 1977/78 to date, but I and others have kept it alive as Srila Prabhupada is still alive. I feel I was saved by Srila Prabhupada to help save his mission just as the spider kicked the sand to help build the bridge to Sri Lanka for Lord Rama.
Dear GBC members please don’t let my life purpose go in vain. Actually I am already linked up and am only pursuing this for the benefit you and all the devotees past, present and future. I am always available and at your service. I will never give up this mission because it will save and expand Srila Prabhupada’s mission and do real good to us and the world.
Thank you so much for you attention in this most important matter,
Hoping this meets you in best of health and Krsna Consciousness,
Gauridasa Pandita Dasa
Letter to: All G.B.C., All Temple PresidentsTo All G.B.C., and Temple Presidents
9 July, 1977
9 July, 1977
Dear Maharajas and Prabhus,
Please accept my humble obeisances at your feet. Recently when all of the GBC members were with His Divine Grace in Vrndavana, Srila Prabhupada indicated that soon He would appoint some of His senior disciples to act as “ritvik–representative of the acarya, for the purpose of performing initiations, both first initiation and second initiation. His Divine Grace has so far given a list of eleven disciples who will act in that capacity:
- His Holiness Kirtanananda Swami
- His Holiness Satsvarupa dasa Gosvami
- His Holiness Jayapataka Swami
- His Holiness Tamala Krsna Gosvami
- His Holiness Hrdayananda Gosvami
- His Holiness Bhavananda Gosvami
- His Holiness Hamsaduta Swami
- His Holiness Ramesvara Swami
- His Holiness Harikesa Swami
- His Grace Bhagavan dasa Adhikari
- His Grace Jayatirtha dasa Adhikari
Hoping this finds you all well.
Tamala Krsna Gosvami
Approved: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
[Srila Prabhupada's signature appears on the original]
The Function of the Soul — Published in Back to Godhead 1968
This exchange between His Divine Grace A C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place in Seattle, Washington, on October 10, 1968.
Srila Prabhupada: How is the body growing? On account of the presence of that small particle, the soul. Take, for example, this boy. This boy has got a small stature of body. Now, this boy will grow a very stout and strong body in his young manhood, say by the age of twenty-four years. Then that young-man body will go; another body will come.
How is it all becoming possible? On account of the presence of the small particle, the soul. But if that particle of soul is taken away or if it goes away, this body will no longer grow or change.
These are the subject matters of meditation. But when you come to the point of understanding that “I am not this body — I am spirit soul,” then the next stage will be “What is the function of the soul?”
That function of the soul is Krsna consciousness, working in Krsna consciousness. So in the present age, one has to take directly to the function of the soul. Then other understandings will automatically come.
It is not possible at present that you can go to a secluded place and peacefully sit there and meditate. It is not possible in this age. It is impossible. If you try artificially, it will be a failure.
Therefore, you have to take to this process: harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam/ kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha — “In this age of Kali, there is no alternative for self-realization but this chanting of Hare Krsna, chanting of the Lord’s holy name.” That is the practical, real fact.
Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, is there any way for a Christian in this age — without the help of a spiritual master — to reach the spiritual sky through reading the words of Jesus Christ in the Bible and trying to follow his teachings?
Srila Prabhupada: When you read the Bible, you are following the spiritual master. How can you say “without a spiritual master”? As soon as you read the Bible, that means you are following the instruction of Lord Jesus Christ. That means you are following the spiritual master. So where is the opportunity of being without the spiritual master?
Disciple: I was referring to a living spiritual master.
Srila Prabhupada: There is no question of whether the spiritual master is “living.” The spiritual master is eternal.
Now, your question was what to do “without the spiritual master.” Without the spiritual master you cannot be, at any stage of your life. You may accept this spiritual master or that spiritual master. That is a different thing. But you have to accept.
When you say “reading the Bible,” that means you are following the spiritual master, represented by some priest or some clergyman in the line of Lord Jesus Christ.
So in any case, you have to follow the spiritual master. There cannot be the question of “without the spiritual master.” Is that clear?
Disciple: I mean, for instance, we couldn’t understand the teachings of Bhagavad-gita without your help, Srila Prabhupada, without your presentation.
Srila Prabhupada: Similarly, you have to understand the Bible with the help of Christ and the priest in the church.
Disciple: Yes, but is the priest receiving a good interpretation from his disciplic succession or his bishop? Because there seems to be some kind of discrepancy in the interpretation of the Bible. There are many different sects of Christianity that interpret the Bible in different ways.
Srila Prabhupada: Of course, there cannot be any interpretation of the Bible. Then the Bible itself has no authority. It is just like the old saying. “Call a spade a spade.” Now, if someone calls it something else, that is another thing. He’s not a spiritual master.
For instance, this is a watch. Everybody has called it a watch. But if I called it a spectacle, then what is the value of my being a so-called spiritual master? I’m misleading. [Laughter.] “It is a watch.” That I must say.
So when someone makes some misrepresentation, he’s not a bona fide spiritual master. Reject such a spiritual master immediately.
That intelligence you must have: Who is a pseudo spiritual master, and who is a real spiritual master? Otherwise, you’ll be cheated. And that is being done. Everyone is interpreting in his own way.
The Bhagavad-gita — there are thousands of editions, and all of them have tried to interpret in their own way. All nonsense. They should all be thrown away. Simply you have to read Bhagavad-gita as it is. Then you’ll understand.
There is no question of interpretation. Then the authority is gone. As soon as you interpret there is no authority.
Take a law book. Do you mean to say that in court, if you say before the judge, “My dear lord, I interpret this passage in this way,” it will be accepted?
The judge will at once say, “Who are you to interpret? You have no right.”
After all, then what would be the authority of the law book if everyone came and said, “I interpret in this way”?
When is interpretation required? When a thing is not understood. If I say “This is a watch” and everyone understands that “This is a watch, yes,” then where is the opportunity of interpreting that “This is a spectacle”?
So unnecessary interpretation is not required, and that is not bona fide. And those who are interpreting unnecessarily — they should be rejected immediately. Immediately, without any consideration.