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Dhira Govinda
Prabhu's Letter

from Jayapataka Swami

Camp: Mathura-desa Nama Hattas,
Arabian Gulf Area,
Middle East,
Arabian Sea.

In regard to
Dhira Govinda Prabhu's nice letter on Guru Reform in which it was pointed out that ISKCON Law prohibits the public use of Guru Names as well as the keeping of Guru's photo's on the altar after worship is completed. It was compared that while the GBC is heavy on Ritvik Vada it is being lenient with these infractions. This was expressed as follows:

My concern is why some laws, apparently, are rigidly enforced, while others are openly flouted. This gives the appearance of hypocrisy, especially when disregarding the particular rules that are neglected might be perceived as an attempt at self-aggrandizement on the part of the guru. Whether this perception of attempted self-aggrandizement is valid or not, it tends to incite polarization in our communities, particularly because many devotees experience that there is no rational means of discourse on such issues. For instance, a devotee might be hesitant to point out an infraction as described above, due to apprehension at being labeled an envious blasphemer.

As a spiritual master it is certainly my desire that my disciples and all ISKCON devotees strictly adhere to the codes provided for in ISKCON Law. The training of disciples on a day to day basis is, however, being done by local leaders who are the "representatives" of the Guru. Actually in ISKCON this network of vartma-pradarshaka gurus, siksa gurus and representatives of the Gurus are quite often the active trainers on such details of devotional service. However since you have pointed it out I will post it on my disciples conference to be very careful about what seem as minor infractions, but disturb many devotees.

I don't see how one could compare spreading a deviant philosophy like Ritvik vada, or child abuse with forgetting to remove the Guru's photo after arotik. Both are infractions, but the gravity is quite a bit different. In fact it seems the GBC is being also very tolerant in regard to Ritvik vada since even some Temple Presidents are openly propagating this dangerous deviation from Srila Prabhupada's teachings, but as yet no affirmative action is being taken. So some clear idea about how much of a police state ISKCON should be, what degree the GBC is supposed to exercise over ISKCON members, who is responsible for enforcing ISKCON Law and many other aspects need to be worked out. Isn't it more realistic for local Temple Presidents to enforce the Law? They are the hand's on Managers of ISKCON. GBC's and Zonal Secretaries are brahminical advisors and quality control advisors who make guidelines and ecclesiastical Laws for ISKCON. Who should actually enforce these Laws? Regional Governing Bodies (Continental Committees) seem more appropriate since they are closer to home, for instance. In good management systems clear understanding of what is expecting of everyone is one important fundamental principle. In ISKCON this clear definition of responsibility is still lacking and as a result the GBC or ISKCON Guru's get the blame for many things local management should be looking into. I am glad that New Raman Reti local management enforces ISKCON Law. Local Management should do that. Why should Guru's be blamed unless they have told disciples to flout the Law?
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If anyone were to remind the pujari about the Law and how their Gurus are routinely having their name dragged in the dirt due to just this kind of minor forgetfulness then they might be very appreciative of the reminder. I personally and publicly request any devotee who sees any of my disciples making such a mistake to kindly bring it to their attention on my behalf. You can show them this text so they don't think you are "an envious blasphemer" or anything. Gurus are there for inspiration, and resolving deeper doubts the disciple might have.

This short presentation touches on only a very few points. I believe that many if not most loyal ISKCON members regularly perceive rampant hypocrisy and violations of integrity amongst many persons in positions of leadership in ISKCON. As devotees mature and grow older, they may be less inclined to always have to walk on egg shells when trying to address issues in a common sense way. If our spiritual society can address the core issues of hypocrisy and integrity, which, based on my experience and analysis, are draining the movement of credibility, then ISKCON will become a very attractive movement, and most of our problems, including those involving sincere devotees being attracted to other movements, will naturally dissipate. Otherwise, I fear that we will continue to lose intelligent, advanced and capable devotees. I think those in the position of guru should be responsible that their disciples follow ISKCON laws, including those related to photos on altars and honorific titles. If a guru is not willing and able to do this, then perhaps this is an indication that the individual is not qualified to be a guru in the institution of ISKCON. Of course, some who take initiation will naturally fall away from the principles of devotional service. Still, I think that gurus should be held accountable for training their disciples, and to the extent that they do a good job, they should be encouraged to accept more disciples. If disciples regularly violate rules such as 6.4.8.2 and 6.4.8.3, it may be regarded as a sign of whimsical neglect of the laws of the society, and such violations may damage the unity of ISKCON. If a disciple is not trained to follow such rules, the society, with due regard to etiquette and civility, should require the guru to provide an accountable explanation for the improper training of the disciple.

Your servant,

Dhira Govinda dasa

CHAKRA 11-Sep-98


I fully endorse the idea that devotees should adhere to ISKCON Laws. The way that the whole blame is put on Spiritual Masters for not training their disciples is something I find hard to digest. I have always understood that the training of disciples is a team effort. Srila Prabhupada said that ISKCON is a spiritual hospital and the Guru's are the Doctors. We know that in a Hospital there are interns (trainee doctors), specialists, nurses, assistants, para-medicals and many others who all work together to facilitate the patients healing process. When I was in the Hospital in Spain after a murder attempt by a crazed person who was incited by anti-guru propaganda I had plenty of opportunity to see how a Hospital worked. My Doctor only saw me every day or two for a minute or two. He/she would check my clip-board see the health and tell what medication should be stopped or started. Say some encouraging words and be off to the next patient. In ISKCON taking care of disciples has followed this routine. The Guru is the final person who has a say on the disciple when all else fails he is the last link. Daily training in details of ISKCON Law and basic vaisnava practices was always something the Bhakta Program and local authorities were expected to do. Now if all the responsibility for training goes to the Guru then local managers have to allow for disciples to stop everything they are doing when the Guru visits and get a full dose of training. That usually doesn't happen and only brief moments of respite from their devotional service are allowed to meet their Spiritual Masters. Therefore it seems inapropriate to place all the credit for adhering the ISKCON Laws in Raman Reti to the Local management and all infractions anywhere else on ISKCON Gurus. Infractions are everyone's responsibility, but I would humbly submit they are primarily the local management's responsibility to enforce. If they have trouble because a disciple says his Guru wants him to disobey or something then the Guru should be informed and certainly if he does nothing he could be questioned about his veracity.

In ISKCON today there is a loud call for a balanced role for initiating Gurus with other siksa gurus, vartma pradarsaka gurus, local authorities and others who care and help in the development of new devotees. In keeping with that mood in all fairness shouldn't the responsibility for disciples following or not following also be shared? To cite this as an example of Guru excess and a cause for intelligent people to leave ISKCON seems more self-serving for someone who is looking for a reason to leave which Maya will always give.

I would take this opportunity to publicly announce that I am welcoming any personal letter to me informing me of any infraction from any of my disciples and I will keep it confidential if that is the desire and take steps to insure that they are informed about correcting these lapses. Also I would like to hear from any devotee if they feel there is something I am doing which isn't according to ISKCON Law so that I could also correct myself or provide an explanation if appropriate. Rather than have an incriminating mood amongst each other if we give our leaders the "benefit of the doubt" that they are actually sincerely wanting to follow the ISKCON Norms, and work as a family to bring things to the ideal standard of cooperation. If that mood is adopted then it would soon be clear who is cooperative and who isn't. If some disciple in a distant place gets called to the telephone after arotik and forgets the photo and then the Guru removal is appealed for isn't that extreme? In modern law there are misdemeanors and felonies. Is photo forgetting a felony or a misdemeanor? In any case let's implement a ZERO TOLERANCE policy for all infractions, but work together for it as a loving family! Otherwise devotees will also be discouraged if it isn't done in a loving way. If a devotee is reminded in a loving way I am sure that they won't be offended. I never am offended by a loving reminder.

Thanks for writing. It is said for every one complainant there are ten who don't take the trouble. So your contribution is very useful and I will send it to my disciples so they can consider these matters and be more careful! I hope other Guru's will do the same. Thanks again.

Yours in service,

Jayapataka Swami

© CHAKRA 17-Nov-98

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