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"The Humble Guru"

From Dhira Govinda dasa

Dear Maharajas and Prabhus,

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Regarding suggestions in the paper entitled "The Humble Guru" concerning elements of guru worship such as pranam mantras, Vyasa-puja celebrations, pictures of diksa gurus, and tapes of diksa gurus, the paper does not attempt to assess the sastric validity of such suggestions. Rather, the paper recommends that practices in the current institution of the ISKCON diksa guru be open for discussion, with a view to strengthening the relationship between Srila Prabhupada and all members of ISKCON. If current practices are determined, after philosophical and historical analysis, to be the best, or perhaps the only, options available to diksa gurus, then by all means they should be supported.

Let's apply this approach to the issue of pranam mantras. I suggest that the idea that all members of ISKCON be trained to recite both of Srila Prabhupada's pranam mantras should be assessed according to sastra and historical precedent. If it's determined that this idea is contrary to Vaisnava siddhantha, then the concept should be rejected, and ISKCON diksa gurus should be forbidden to train their disciples to recite both of Srila Prabhupada's pranam mantras when offering obeisances. If it's concluded that the idea is sastrically acceptable, then ISKCON should consider whether to encourage its diksa gurus to train their disciples in this way, as it may strengthen the relationship with Srila Prabhupada. Even if it's determined that the practice is acceptable, it may be concluded that it's not wise to implement it. Still, the idea should be considered and discussed.Back Home

Moving to the idea that all members of ISKCON recite at least one of Srila Prabhupada's pranam mantras when offering obeisances, this would seem to be sastrically acceptable, since many diksa gurus already train their disciples to do this. Given that it's philosophically acceptable, I suggest that we encourage all diksa gurus to train their disciples to chant at least one of Srila Prabhupada's pranam mantras, as this would strengthen the relationship with Srila Prabhupada. Currently, thousands of members of ISKCON don't chant any of Srila Prabhupada's pranam mantras when offering obeisances, and perhaps this situation needs to be reconsidered. There seems to be strong support for this, as the group at the recent New York meetings unanimously (21 generally agree; 0 generally disagree; 8 need more information) passed a resolution that all members of ISKCON should be trained to chant at least one of Srila Prabhupada's pranam mantras.

Applying the same reasoning to vyasa-puja celebrations, it probably would be sastrically acceptable for all members of ISKCON to celebrate Srila Prabhupada's vyasa-puja in a grander style than any other vyasa puja. If it's found to not be sastrically acceptable, then this author would of course be against the idea. At present, thousands of ISKCON members do not celebrate Srila Prabhupada's vyasa-puja as the most important vyasa-puja of the year, and I suggest that this practice should be properly assessed and reevaluated. At the New York meetings the proposal that Srila Prabhupada's Vyasa-puja be the most important vyasa-puja for all members of ISKCON passed unanimously (32 generally agree). The idea that Srila Prabhupada's books and tapes be the most prominent books and tapes for all ISKCON members also passed unanimously. Since many ISKCON members hardly ever listen to Srila Prabhupada's tapes, this would be a significant change if implemented.


More controversial issues, such as granddisciples offering arati to Srila Prabhupada, were also mentioned in "The Humble Guru". Again, the sastric validity of this idea was not discussed. If sastric analysis determines that the idea is bogus, then of course it should be rejected. If it is determined that the idea is philosophically acceptable, then it should be considered as a means to reinforce the relationship with Srila Prabhupada. At the New York meetings, the idea of all ISKCON members offering arati to a picture of Srila Prabhupada, as opposed to a picture of the diksa guru, was passed by the group of devotees (15 generally agree; 10 generally disagree). The proposal that bhoga be offered by all ISKCON members to a picture of Srila Prabhupada was also passed (15 generally agree; 10 generally disagree). This of course reflects devotee opinion, and not necessarily Vaisnava siddhanta. The proposal that honorific titles in ISKCON be reserved for Srila Prabhupada passed unanimously (20 generally agree; 0 generally disagree; 8 need more information). Also, the group of devotees in New York passed a proposal that "endorses the paper entitled 'The Humble Guru', and requests the ISKCON Governing Body Commission to endorse this paper and to implement its suggestions." (14 generally agree; 1 generally disagree; 16 need more information).

I would like to clarify that none of these suggestions are meant to minimize the great souls serving as diksa gurus. Rather, the recommendations are meant to help ISKCON unify around Srila Prabhupada. Currently, some ISKCON gurus exercise the option to train their disciples to chant one of Srila Prabhupada's pranam mantras, and some diksa gurus train their disciples not to chant Srila Prabhupada's pranams when offering obeisances. We don't consider either diksa guru as inferior or superior to the other. Each is simply exercising a valid option. To conclude, it is suggested that we explore and define the range of options available to diksa gurus, and that we encourage options that will maximize a vibrant ISKCON centered around Srila Prabhuapada.

Perhaps these principles and issues were not sufficiently clear in "The Humble Guru", and for this I apologize. Also, it is likely that, due to my nature, I've offended many Vaisnavas with the paper, and for this I also apologize. Hare Krsna.

Your servant,

Dhira Govinda dasa

© CHAKRA 24-Nov-98

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