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“I suggest that it would substantially enhance the flagging integrity of the GBC if, instead of continuing to express regret for what others did 15 and 20 years ago, they instead acknowledge how they are presently obscuring Srila Prabhupada’s natural position for ISKCON devotees.”

DHIRA GOVINDA DASA
      ISKCON Office of Child Protection


Comments on the Year 2000 GBC Resolution 601
By Dhira Govinda dasa

This year, the GBC body passed the following resolution: “A duly initiated disciple in ISKCON can accept Srila Prabhupada, the founder-acarya of ISKCON, as his principle siksa-guru. During his devotional life, he may experience that he derives more spiritual inspiration from Srila Prabhupada's books and vani than from his own diksa-guru.”

The wording of this resolution seems to imply that the default position is that a duly initiated disciple in ISKCON will derive more spiritual inspiration from his own diksa-guru than from Srila Prabhupada’s books and vani, though it is asserted that the disciple “can” accept Srila Prabhupada as his principle siksa-guru, and “may” experience more spiritual inspiration from Srila Prabhupada’s books and vani than from his diksa-guru. 

Of course it’s nice that the GBC is granting this possibility, though the resolution appears to be somewhat of a regression from the direction of the resolutions from 1999 and previous years. For example, the 1999 GBC resolutions include statements such as “And the Founder-acharya himself remains the preeminent siksa guru for every member of the institution,” “At the time of diksa initiation, all disciples will be further instructed by their initiating guru that Srila Prabhupada is their preeminent siksa guru,” "As it is enjoined in scripture that a devotee must honor his spiritual master, ISKCON members shall be trained to place their faith, trust and allegiance first and foremost in the Founder-Acarya who is the preeminent siksa guru for every member of ISKCON,” and “ISKCON's founder-acarya, Srila Prabhupada, is the preeminent and compulsory siksa-guru for all vaisnavas (gurus and disciples) in the Society.”

If in 1999 it was repeatedly acknowledged that Srila Prabhupada is the primary siksa-guru for all members of ISKCON, how is it that in 2000 it is only with apparent reluctance that the GBC acknowledges that Srila Prabhupada may be the primary source of spiritual inspiration for second and subsequent generations of devotees? 

Many, perhaps most, of Srila Prabhupada’s followers have understood for a long time that Srila Prabhupada not only can, but naturally will, take this preeminent position for all members of ISKCON. That the GBC is hesitatingly arriving, at least in theory, to this understanding is, in one sense, commendable, but in another sense, worrisome. It is worrisome because Srila Prabhupada wanted the GBC to lead the movement. Here we have an example where the GBC is, apparently against their will, stubbornly agreeing to follow the realizations that masses of devotees, most of whom have lost faith in the GBC’s ability to guide Srila Prabhupada’s movement, have had for many years.

The approach that the GBC seems to be trying to take on the issue of Srila Prabhupada’s position is one of gradual, consistent adjustments (although, as described above, the 2000 resolution seems to be an inconsistent turnaround). 

While it is praiseworthy that the GBC is progressing towards a comprehension of Srila Prabhupada’s position relative to their own, in their capacity of diksa-gurus, there are unfortunate consequences of this “consistent adjustment” approach. Like the evolutionists, whose hypothesized intermediate stages of organismic development render the theorized entity dysfunctional by dint of not being sufficiently fit to survive, these intermediate stages that the GBC is offering for Srila Prabhupada’s position leaves the GBC dysfunctional, in the sense that it cannot command the respect of an increasing percentage of Srila Prabhupada’s followers, who perceive that the GBC still has not come to a proper understanding of Srila Prabhupada’s position. Without this understanding on the part of the GBC, Srila Prabhupada’s followers do not accept the authority of the GBC, even if, along the way, the GBC displays some partial realization of Srila Prabhupada’s position in relation to that of the current diksa-gurus.

We can imagine, in a year or three or ten, a GBC resolution that states something like “A duly initiated disciple in ISKCON is recommended to accept Srila Prabhupada, the founder-acarya of ISKCON, as his principle siksa-guru. During his devotional life, it is expected that he will experience that he derives more spiritual inspiration from Srila Prabhupada's books and vani than from his own diksa-guru.”

The status of “recommendation” from the status of “reluctantly admitted possibility” will perhaps be touted by the GBC as a profound step in the consistently adjusted revelations, and as further evidence of its capabilities to guide the movement. Meanwhile, the reaction of most of Srila Prabhuapda’s followers will be “We knew that 25 years ago, and your longstanding unwillingness to acknowledge Srila Prabhupada’s position is one amongst many reasons that we don’t accept your authority.”

Perhaps the year 2000 resolution, with its “possibility” designation, will form the basis for more GBC apologies. If, for the next ten years or so, or until whenever the next consistent adjustment is made, ISKCON diksa-gurus present that Vaisnavas of second and subsequent generations “can” accept Srila Prabhupada as their principle siksa-guru, then naturally they will need to ask forgiveness when it is revealed that actually it is recommended, or even essential, that Srila Prabhupada serve as their principle siksa-guru. 

I suggest that the GBC should make it a priority to determine the final destination of these consistent adjustments, and go there quickly, lest the credibility of the body continues to spiral downward. Even if the GBC does this, it may be too late to restore its credibility in the minds of many, for the GBC will still need to account for why they hadn’t arrived at and acted earlier on the proper realization of Srila Prabhupada’s position.

The basic mentality of the zonal acarya system, for the which GBC has profusely apologized, remains. This mentality is one of obstructing Srila Prabhupada’s position through overemphasis on the diksa guru. Resolution 601 above, with its reluctant and only partial acceptance of Srila Prabhupada’s position, and with the diksa-guru in the default position, perpetuates this attitude.

In 1999 the GBC resolutions contained apologetic statements such as “Whereas in their overemphasis on diksa gurus, Srila Prabhupada's disciples and followers failed in various ways to properly establish and sustain Srila Prabhupada's unique role and personal relationship with all ISKCON devotees as the Founder-Acarya and preeminent siksa guru in ISKCON.” These statements are in the past tense, as if it is not currently happening that overemphasis on diksa-gurus is clouding Srila Prabhupada’s unique role. 

I suggest that it would substantially enhance the flagging integrity of the GBC if, instead of continuing to express regret for what others did 15 and 20 years ago, they instead acknowledge how they are presently obscuring Srila Prabhupada’s natural position for ISKCON devotees. 

A statement such as “Whereas in our overemphasis on diksa gurus, we are failing in various ways to properly establish and sustain Srila Prabhupada’s unique role and personal relationship...” would do much to send the message that the GBC is an accountable body, though of course concrete action to correct those failings will be the real test of responsible leadership. Some correction has certainly been there over the past few years, but the mood of arrogating Srila Prabhupada’s position lingers, and this must be completely eradicated.

© CHAKRA 16-May-2000

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