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“ISKCON sees Srila Prabhupada as not just one of many Vedic voices, but rather as that world Acarya sent directly by the Supreme Lord to craft the process of deliverance for this place and time.”









“The simple fact is that Srila Prabhupada and Srila Narayana Maharaja have very different teachings, standards, practices and moods of devotion.”

ISKCON's Position on Srila Narayana Maharaja
Submitted by Badrinarayan dasa, GBC

An Empowered Emissary of the Lord

In September 1965, His Divine Grace Abhay Charan Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (the founder-acarya of ISKCON) walked down the gangplank of the Jaladuta and stepped onto the dock in New York Harbor. He was all alone except for the order of his spiritual master and a few sets of his translation and commentary on the Srimad-Bhagavatam. As he later said himself, “I did not know whether to turn left or right.”

From such a humble beginning flowed the amazing success of Srila Prabhupada’s mission. In twelve short years he opened well over one hundred temples, schools, farms, and prasadam restaurants, inaugurated the worship of dozens of sets of beautiful Radha-Krsna Deities, wrote more than sixty books, started his own publishing house, and launched magnificent Ratha-yatras and other festivals. He initiated more than five thousand disciples from every corner of the world. Such accomplishments, in such a short time, are unprecedented in religious history.

From the teachings of scripture, the members of ISKCON understand that the reason for these phenomenal achievements is that Srila Prabhupada is a most confidential empowered servant of the Supreme Lord. Scripture and saintly persons predicted the appearance of a senapati-bhakta, a great general sent by the Lord to organize a worldwide preaching mission and establish the most effective and certain ways and means to achieve pure love of God. The members of ISKCON believe Srila Prabhupada to be that unique emissary of the Lord.

It is in this light that ISKCON’s members see the special position of Srila Prabhupada, read his Bhaktivedanta purports, and work to maintain the standards, practices, and goals he personally established. ISKCON sees Srila Prabhupada as not just one of many Vedic voices but rather as that world acarya sent directly by the Supreme Lord to craft the process of deliverance for this place and time. Srila Prabhupada himself said, “My books will be the law books for the next ten thousand years.” For the members of ISKCON, the words of Srila Prabhupada are the template by which all other statements are to be measured.


The title founder-acarya is given to an empowered personality who founds a spiritual institution and whose teachings and practices form the basis of that institution. These teachings are then continued by the succeeding gurus in that line. The founder-acarya always remains the preeminent siksa-guru, or instructing spiritual master, for all succeeding gurus, teachers, and students in that line.

This principle of an empowered personality establishing a specific line of teachings and practices, which is in turn preserved and presented by succeeding gurus, is well established in Vedic history. Srila Ramanujacarya and Srila Madhvacarya are examples. More recently, in the Gaudiya Vaisnava line, there is Rupa Gosvami, who expertly presented and codified the teachings of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. As the followers of Rupa Gosvami are known as Rupanugas, the members of ISKCON can be referred to as Prabhupadanugas.

ISKCON As a Spiritual Vehicle

Srila Prabhupada labored long and hard to design his ISKCON as a great transcendental boat. He believed that it was fully able to carry those who take shelter of it across the ocean of the material world to the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord. The planks, the sails, the rigging, and the charts of Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON boat are his standards, his mood of devotion, his instructions, and his system of organization. It is at great risk that one begins to tinker with and retool the craft created by such an empowered personality as Srila Prabhupada.

Differences in Teachings, Mood, and Practices

The simple fact is that Srila Prabhupada and Srila Narayana Maharaja have very different teachings, standards, practices, and moods of devotion. ISKCON recognizes and respects Srila Narayana Maharaja’s right to teach according to his understanding and inspiration. The difficulty comes when Srila Narayana Maharaja and his followers present those teachings as identical to Srila Prabhupada’s or try to change Srila Prabhupada’s instructions and standards when they conflict with those of Srila Narayana Maharaja.

 The following are a few examples of those differences:

  • Srila Prabhupada repeatedly warned about prematurely hearing descriptions of madhurya-lila, the intimate pastimes Krsna enjoys with the gopis. Srila Narayana Maharaja speaks openly about these topics.

  • Srila Narayana Maharaja encourages the reading of literature Srila Prabhupada restricted for his disciples or even dismissed as unimportant or tinged with impersonalism. An example of the former is the intimate writings of the Gosvamis, of the latter Tulasidasa’s Ramacarita-manasa.

  • Srila Narayana Maharaja says that Srila Prabhupada’s work is unfinished because he did not provide us with intimate rasika literature and methods of raganuga-sadhana. Srila Prabhupada  described his unfinished work as the fact that varnasrama-dharma had not yet been established in his Society, that sets of his books had not yet been placed in every home, that people were still going hungry within ten miles of ISKCON temples, that the Lord’s Holy Name had not yet been heard in every town and village, etc.

  • Srila Narayana Maharaja presents a view that one born in a Western body is inherently fallen, especially in regard to Deity worship. Srila Prabhupada engaged and encouraged his Western disciples in Deity worship and accepted them as full-fledged Vaisnavas.

  • Srila Prabhupada said, “[The] acarya is not God, omniscient. He is servant of God.” Srila Narayana Maharaja presents Srila Prabhupada as omniscient.

  •   Srila Narayana Maharaja says that Srila Prabhupada wanted him to guide and lead the members of ISKCON. Srila Prabhupada always said his books and his system of a collective governing body (GBC) should guide his society.

  • Srila Prabhupada said that harinama-diksa (first initiation) is real initiation. Srila Narayana Maharaja teaches that real initiation begins with brahmana-diksa. Srila Prabhupada required candidates for harinama-diksa to be chanting sixteen rounds and strictly following the four regulative principles. Srila Narayana Maharaja regularly gives first initiation without these requirements. Srila Narayana Maharaja and Srila Prabhupada also have very different standards for relations between husband and wife.

  • Srila Narayan Maharaja “re-initiates” disciples of Vaisnvava gurus in good standing. When similarly approached,  Srila Prabhupada refused to do this.

  • Srila Prabhupada worked to create a worldwide society that provided engagement and shelter for his followers. Srila Narayana Maharaja has not done so.

  • Srila Prabhupada and Srila Narayana Maharaja have different teachings about the original position of the jiva (the individual soul).

  • Srila Prabhupada teaches that the initiating guru takes the karma of the disciple. Srila Narayana Maharaja teaches that the guru does not.

  • Srila Prabhupada envisioned a worldwide society where many gurus work collegially under a governing body. Srila Narayana Maharaja practices the Gaudiya Matha single-acarya system.

Note: Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura instructed his followers to also work together under a governing body and Srila Prabhupada often cited neglect of this order as the cause for the break-up of  his spiritual master’s mission

  •  Srila Narayana Maharaja criticized a number of the names Srila Prabhupada gave to ISKCON Deities.

 Why does all this matter?

One may ask, “Why does all this matter?” “Isn’t this just wrangling over details of doctrine?” “After all, aren’t we all trying to serve the same Supreme Lord?”

The answer is that the path back to Godhead is by no means certain or easy. There can be many setbacks, illusions, wrong turns, and dead ends along the way. Shortly after the disappearance of Lord Caitanya and His associates, the pure path of bhakti again became covered and confused. As it was lost once, it can be lost again. If we accept Srila Prabhupada as who he said he was (and as his accomplishments confirm he was) then we should accept the path he so carefully laid out.

Srila Prabhupada often gave the example that medicine should be taken as it is prescribed. We in ISKCON accept Srila Prabhupada as the expert spiritual physician sent by the Supreme Lord with the precisely mixed prescription to cure the conditioned souls of their diseased material life and revive their dormant love of God. A little change in the formula here, a little substitution in the ingredients there, and there is every chance that the potency of the original prescription will be lost. Slightly divergent lines, although initially appearing parallel, in due course of time will lead in very different directions.

The followers of Srila Prabhupada have received a precious legacy from him. We have also been entrusted by him to maintain that gift and to deliver it intact to the next generation. Therefore, while wishing Srila Narayana Maharaja and his followers well, we in ISKCON will strictly follow Srila Prabhupada.


Note: The above “Differences” have been carefully researched and documented. For reference material and papers on related topics contact: ISKCON Los Angeles/ 3764 Watseka Avenue/ Los Angeles, CA / USA 90034 or via e-mail at arcita@webcom.com

© CHAKRA 13-May-2000

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