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|The No Change in ISKCON
by Adridharan dasa
During the period of his physical presence, Srila Prabhupada gave the blue-print for how ISKCON was to operate. He personally established and gave all the necessary standards, systems, processes, and teachings that were to govern how ISKCON would run for the rest of its existence. ISKCON was set up to run solely under the authority of Srila Prabhupada. There was no authorisation for any change to be made to the way he had instructed and set up ISKCON to run. Thus there was to be a continuity between the way ISKCON ran whilst he was physically present, and for the rest of ISKCON's duration. Any deviation from this principle would have needed express authority from Srila Prabhupada.
This principle is well understood and accepted as axiomatic by members of ISKCON. Examples of systems and standards set up for ISKCON by Srila Prabhupada are: management by the GBC; book publishing by the BBT; 16 rounds and regulative principles; the morning program; Srila Prabhupada's books as the 'law books' etc. etc. Since these things were set up by Srila Prabhupada specifically for ISKCON, it is accepted by everyone that these things are meant to endure throughout the life-time of ISKCON. No ISKCON devotee would ever dare propose changes to these standards given by Srila Prabhupada. Since every aspect of how ISKCON should run was set out by Srila Prabhupada, managing the society should be quite straightforward. There should be no need to speculate over how to run things, but rather simply a preservation, continuation and expansion of that which was already given and established. Thus the standards and processes that were personally set up and sanctioned by Srila Prabhupada, are supposed to continue for the rest of the duration of ISKCON. Let this be known as the 'NO CHANGE IN ISKCON PARADIGM, henceforward to be known as N.C.I.P.
(Henceforward we will refer to that time period up until Srila Prabhupadas physical departure as 'pre- samadhi'; and conversely the time period after Srila Prabhupada's physical departure for the rest of ISKCON's duration as 'post-samadhi).
N.C.I.P. Enshrined By GBC Resolution
Thus, in theory at least, ISKCON is governed by the N.C.I.P., with ISKCON's governing body and members expected to maintain and apply only those standards and practices directly given by Srila Prabhupada. The very idea of change and speculation being entirely antithetical to the purposes of ISKCON. From the very beginning this principle, N.C.I.P., was enshrined within ISKCON law:
"The GBC has been established by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada to represent Him in carrying out the responsibility of managing the International Society for Krsna Consciousness of which He is the Founder-Acarya and supreme authority. The GBC accepts as its life & soul His divine instructions and recognises that it is completely dependent on His mercy in all respects. The GBC has no other function or purpose other than to execute the instructions so kindly given by His Divine Grace and preserve and spread His Teachings to the world in their pure form." (Definition of GBC, Resolution 1, GBC minutes 1975, emphasis added)
This resolution was passed specifically to set out and define exactly how ISKCON would be managed, and was directly approved by Srila Prabhupada. It specifies very clearly what the responsibilities and boundaries would be for the GBC, who would be responsible for running the society.
In running ISKCON, the GBC:
1. Can only implement instructions directly issued by Srila Prabhupada:
'The GBC has no other function or purpose than to execute the instructions so kindly given by His Divine Grace'
2. The GBC must keep intact and apply only that which Srila Prabhupada has taught:
'and preserve and spread His Teachings to the world in their pure form.'
These being the two key aspects of GBC governance, we can see the GBC were intended as the natural guardian angels of the N.C.I.P.
Thus the GBC: A) Cannot change anything already given by Srila Prabhupada; B) Or introduce anything other than that already given by Srila Prabhupada.
Items A) and B) form the N.C.I.P., since the basis for what the GBC can 'manage' is only that which was given by Srila Prabhupada pre-samadhi, and so we are dealing with the maintenance and continuity of everything pre-samadhi into the post-samadhi period - namely the N.C.I.P.
Evidence From the Will
The N.C.I.P. is reinforced by Srila Prabhupada's will:
2. Each temple will be an ISKCON property and will be managed by three executive directors. The system of management will continue as it is now and there is no need of any change. (Srila Prabhupada's Last Will and Testament)
So however ISKCON was managed pre-samadhi, that was meant to continue for the duration of ISKCON. This could hardly have been made clearer: 'The system of management will continue as it is now and there is no need of any change.'
Above we see Srila Prabhupada directly spelling out the N.C.I.P.
It has been argued that since the above sentence from the will appears next to a sentence to do with a specific system for managing temples, the above sentence can only be referring back to this first sentence, and is thus not all encompassing. In effect it is being argued Srila Prabhupada specially included a clause for the exclusive protection of the following practise: 'Each temple will be an ISKCON property and will be managed by three executive directors.'
This does not make sense for a number of reasons:
1) The will says 'The system of management' i.e. it is generic; and is without any restrictions or referents. It does not say 'This system of management' or The aforementioned system of management. Thus the clause must refer to all systems of management, not just the one about the three executive directors.
2) If the no change clause only referred to the executive directors system, then this would imply any other system could be changed or scrapped altogether. Indeed this would leave the GBC themselves open to redundancy as the 'ultimate managing authority' - as given in the first item of the will. Surely then the GBC themselves would wholeheartedly support the idea that the call for no change must refer to all systems of management., not just the principle of having three executive directors for each temple.
3) Allowing the 'no change' clause to be generally applicable makes it consistent with what has already been demonstrated. That the management of ISKCON must continue as it is and not be changed - the N.C.I.P.
Thus the Will merely reinforces the N.C.I.P., which had already been established years before in the definition of the GBC personally approved by Srila Prabhupada. In this way everything slots into place without anomaly or inconsistency.
N.C.I.P. Supported By the Books
Though the above is sufficient in itself to establish N.C.I.P., further supporting evidence is given by Srila Prabhupada's books. It is accepted without dispute by all in ISKCON that Srila Prabhupada's books are the 'lawbooks' for ISKCON, meant to guide ISKCON for the whole of its duration, which could be up to 10,000 years:
"If death takes place, let it take here. So there is nothing to be said new. Whatever I have to speak, I have spoken in my books. Now you try to understand it and continue your endeavour. Whether I am present or not present, it doesn't matter." (Arrival Address, Vrindavan, May 17th, 1977)
This means that:
1) The books are definitely applicable for the post-samadhi period just as much as the pre-samadhi period, since separate books were not written for each period.
2) The teachings and standards that were personally established by Srila Prabhupada, and which are mentioned in his books, are equally applicable during the pre-samadhi period.
It follows therefore that the books were written to support an ISKCON that was meant to continue unchanged from pre to post-samadhi. Thus the books are meant for an ISKCON where there is a complete continuity in the application of Srila Prabhupada's instructions and teachings - whatever was in place pre-samadhi must also be in place post-samadhi. This is what we term the N.C.I.P.
Is Initiation an Exception to the N.C.I.P?
As indicated, the N.C.I.P. is not in any sense alien to modern day ISKCON. In most areas of ISKCON's theology, practice and management the N.C.I.P. is vigorously enforced, with devotees proclaiming proudly that they will never deviate from what Srila Prabhupada has taught. When there has been any perceived deviation from the N.C.I.P., strenuous attempts are made to return us to Srila Prabhupada's standards as practised and taught pre-samadhi. Indeed the GBC has acted very strongly in recent controversies over the 'origin of the soul', 'gopi-bhava', and the 'Gaudiya Matha', to bring things back in line with the N.C.I.P. The very idea of change or speculation within ISKCON is severely frowned upon. Thus the N.C.I.P. is already, in theory at least, the guiding principle for ISKCON management.
So it is with some surprise that we find in one specific area, and one area only, the GBC assert quite forcefully that the N.C.I.P. must be discarded; even though it is generally applicable everywhere else. This is in the area of initiation. We do not need to examine why there is this anomaly. Our only concern here is to see if there are any supporting instructions from Srila Prabhupada making a special case for N.C.I.P. to be set aside with regards to the system of initiation within ISKCON.
Initiation Specifically Covered Within Proofs
It has been noted that we have already established N.C.I.P. as an ongoing principle applicable to every area and aspect of ISKCON. Unless otherwise demonstrated therefore, initiation must automatically be covered by the no change paradigm, since the proofs above did not make any reference to a special 'get-out' clause on the subject of initiation. To further strengthen the above assertion, we will now show how Srila Prabhupada's books specifically set forth the method of initiation for ISKCON, and so there is no reason to exempt initiation from the N.C.I.P. that is otherwise staunchly and rightly defended by the GBC.
In his books, Srila Prabhupada specifically set out how the initiations would be carried out in the institution of ISKCON:
"Due to the necessity of these activities, we do not immediately initiate disciples in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. For six months, a candidate for initiation must first attend arati and classes in the sastras, practice the regulative principles and associate with other devotees. When one is actually advanced in the purascarya-vidhi, he is recommended by the local temple president for initiation. It is not that anyone can be suddenly initiated without meeting the requirements. When one is further advanced by chanting the Hare Krsna mantra sixteen rounds daily, following the regulative principles and attending classes, he receives the sacred thread (brahminical recognition) after the second six months." (C.c. Madhya 15:108)
So we can see that the books, which naturally support the N.C.I.P., make specific reference to the initiation system to be applied in ISKCON. This can only refer to being initiated by Srila Prabhupada, since this is exactly what happened pre-samadhi in precisely the manner described above. And by the N.C.I.P., the above is exactly what must happen post-samadhi as well. Neither is there any mention above of the adjustments that would be required to operate a multi-guru system as is currently in operation in ISKCON. The multi-guru system currently in operation in ISKCON does not follow the above stated model since it requires many different procedures to accommodate the many new diksa gurus along with the terms and means of choice and verification of acceptance.
And if ISKCON were to adopt exactly the same procedures as described by Srila Prabhupada above, not only would it mean completely abandoning the current 'M.A.S.S.' guru system in ISKCON, but also since the process for diksa would be identical to that which was operating pre-samadhi, why would the identity of the diksa guru suddenly need to change, since nothing would have changed? Thus the books mention initiation explicitly, and since they are to be applied in line with the N.C.I.P., again no exemption for initiation is justified.
So it is irrefutable from every angle that the N.C.I.P. holds, and that there is definitely no exemption permitted in the case of initiation.
Further evidence initiation comes within the N.C.I.P.
We have seen that the N.C.I.P. is a factual reality, taught by Srila Prabhupada and theoretically accepted and practised by the GBC; and also that initiation is not exempt since the proofs for N.C.I.P. specifically encompass this issue. However, there is a third level of proof put in place that indicates Srila Prabhupadas tri-kala-jana sensibilities. Aware that initiation was the one issue on which exemption might be claimed, Srila Prabhupada went even further and issued a specific stand alone directive exclusively on the initiation issue just before he departed, even though he had already established the N.C.I.P. on two distinct levels. In this way initiation would be the one issue over which there could be no doubt.
July 9th Directive
Srila Prabhupada specifically issued an institutional directive where the application of N.C.I.P. to initiation was spelt out very clearly. This directive was issued on July 9th and sent out to all the leaders and managers of ISKCON as the policy to be implemented in ISKCON from that point onwards. In effect, to avoid the very claims for exemption being made now, it simply formalised, with some amendments, the practice that had been common in ISKCON for many years. Only now the amendment meant that the practice could continue in ISKCON without the need for any physical involvement from Srila Prabhupada, and it became enshrined as the official policy for the whole movement to follow under the management of the GBC.
This directive was very important since sometimes in religious institutions the acarya or head issues a document shortly before his departure detailing how the Guru succession of the institution would be handed over, perhaps to a certain named individual. However, with this directive Srila Prabhupada made it clear to the whole movement that the arrangements which were already in place, with him as the sole initiating (diksa) guru for the whole movement, would continue. The directive states that all new recruits to the movement would be 'initiated disciples' of Srila Prabhupada only, with the named representatives, acting only as that, representatives. This point is made 3 times, in a directive which is itself very short (2 paragraphs) and to the point.
This directive was the final communication on this issue, and was issued only 120 days before Srila Prabhupada's departure, and after the 'Last Will and Testament' had already been registered:
We have already demonstrated above how the management of such a directive by the GBC according to the N.C.I.P. would entail this directive being operational in ISKCON even post-samadhi. In line with N.C.I.P., the directive naturally sets out a system that is applicable for the institution of ISKCON generally, and is not an instruction that was sent out to be specifically terminated on Srila Prabhupada's departure. The following characteristics of the directive merely reinforce this point, establishing it as a permanent management directive for the institution, applicable both pre- and post-departure equally to the institution.
1) This directive was issued with two signatures, one the secretary of the institution (who sent it out) and one from the head of the institution, Srila Prabhupada, who approved it. Though the directive was issued on July 9th, 1977, it was sent out to all GBC members physically on July 21st in a letter written by another GBC, Ramesvara Swami. In this letter the directive is referred specifically to as a 'document' along with the Last Will and Testament, which was also sent out at the same time. (This letter is enclosed). Thus the validity and importance of this directive is beyond question.
2) The recipient of the directive is an institution (via the trustees/managing officers of the institution), that was set up specifically to exist after the departure of the Founder.
3) The nature of the directive relates to activities to be conducted only by the institutions managing officers in the future.
4) The purpose of the directive as given at the outset of the document, is given in generic not specific terms - ìthe purpose of performing initiations, both first initiation and second initiation.î Though the rest of the document makes it clear that those initiated will definitely belong to the Founder only, and specific officers are named to assist in the process, the fact that the purpose is stated generically establishes that the instruction was to remain in force within the institution for as long as that purpose needed servicing. In this case that purpose would be the need for performing initiations, both first initiation and second initiation. This purpose of course will need to fulfilled as long as the institution exists.
Thus the nature, the recipient, the executors and purpose of the directive all tie its applicability to the institution. In such a circumstance only the demise of the institution would have any legal or logical effect in determining the longevity of the system set out in the directive, not the demise of the Founder who assented to the instruction. Thus the system set out in the directive must remain in force as the system for the institution, as long as the institution remains.
The directive opens by confessing itself to be the outcome of a previous conversation that took place with Srila Prabhupadas senior disciples in Vrindavana. The GBC have insisted that this previous conversation is the May 28th 'appt tape'. However this conversation makes it clear that the representatives to be appointed, as set out in the directive, were for 'particularly at that time' when Srila Prabhupada 'is no longer with us'. Thus this conversation tends to confirm the directive, not contradict it.
In addition to this directive further instructions were issued re-conforming this directive, and also specifically emphasising the permanence of this instruction, with words such as 'continue' and 'future'. (See letters from the secretary to Kirtanananda and Hamsaduta Swamis).
Also in the last will and testament, having seen the evidence from statements 1 and 2 above, we can turn to statement 3, whereby the following instruction regarding the appointment of future executive directors for certain ISKCON properties in India is given:
"The executive directors who have herein designated are appointed for life. In the event of the death or failure to act for any reason of any of the said directors, a successor director or directors may be appointed by the remaining directors, provided the new director is MY INITIATED DISCIPLE following strictly all the rules and regulations of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness as detailed in my books, and provided that there are never less than three (3) and five (5) executive directors acting at one time." (Statement 3, The Last Will and Document, Emphasis Added)
Here we see a post-departure arrangement for the institution, that is consistent with the directive in question, using the same language as the directive, and which could only be implemented if the directive was implemented. This is because in the absence of the directive there would be no arrangement for the production of future 'INITIATED DISCIPLES' of Srila Prabhupada, and thus the pool of potential executive directors would soon be exhausted. Thus the last will and testament also enshrines the N.C.I.P. in another place specifically in relation to initiation.
In summary, so there could be no room for doubt on this issue, Srila Prabhupada went to the trouble of:
1) Enshrining the N.C.I.P as the parameter for how his institution was to be managed; 2) Giving specific applications of this in the matter of initiation; 3) Explicitly setting out separate instructions for initiation in the last days before his departure.
Really this should be the last subject on which anyone could claim exemption from the N.C.I.P.
Current GBC Paper Enshrines N.C.I.P.
In fact so strong is the case for the .N.C.I.P., that even the current GBC themselves have acknowledged the validity of the N.C.I.P., by explicitly stating it in their authorised 'final siddhanta' paper - 'On My Order Understood' (From 'Gurus and Initiation in ISKCON', GBC, 1995). This paper has further also been added as an appendix to the 'ISKCON LAW BOOK, (ISKCON GBC Press, 1997). There the GBC state:
"If an advanced devotee's spiritual qualities are self-effulgent, devotees may naturally accept him as an acarya or advanced or realized spiritual master and his association and guidance will be sought, but the GBC cannot rubber stamp him nor change ISKCON's system of management consequently. ISKCON will continue to be managed as Srila Prabhupada provided without change by the GBC. That is Srila Prabhupada's instruction." (Emphasis added)
Please note here that the GBC have not only agreed with the thesis put forward in this paper, but also have stated the N.C.I.P. specifically in the context of the issue we are discussing - the emergence of a highly realized spiritual master. Even in such an extreme situation, the GBC insist that we adhere rigidly.
Srila Prabhupada Seals the Case
In a specific question and answer exchange, to do with the parampara, and the manner of its continuation for both before and after Srila Prabhupada's physical departure, Srila Prabhupada answered as follows:
GANESHA: Srila Prabhupada, if the knowledge was handed down by the saintly kings, evam parampara-praptam, how is it that the knowledge was lost?
SRILA PRABHUPADA: When it was not handed down. Simply understood by speculation. Or if it is not handed down as it is. They might have made some changes. Or they did not hand it down. Suppose I handed it down to you, but if you do not do that, then it is lost. Now the Krsna consciousness movement is going on in my presence. Now after my departure, if you do not do this, then it is lost. If you go on as you are doing now, then it will go on. But if you stop... (end).
(Room Conversation, May 9th, 1975, Perth, Australia)
Here Srila Prabhupada tells us exactly how the parampara must be continued after he departs - 'go on, as you are doing now'. This is exactly what the N.C.I.P. is stating:
'Whatever we ('you') were doing pre-77 ('now') we ('you') must 'go on' with 'after departure".
The 'doing now' then definitely did not involve the system that is currently in place in ISKCON, nor was there any whiff of the disciples acting as diksa gurus. Indeed the very fact that Srila Prabhupada states the above in the context of continuing the parampara means that Srila Prabhupada is speaking on a topic where this change - that they should also become future diksa gurus in order to ensure that the parampara continued without disruption - would need to be explicitly stated, if it was applicable, as it is directly relevant to the issue at hand.. This is made all the more ironic by the fact that the need to continue the parampara is a main reason offered by GBC to justify the current Diksa Guru system in ISKCON. The argument that Srila Prabhupada is only speaking about the principle of 'handing down knowledge' is not applicable, because Srila Prabhupada also mentions how that knowledge was to be handed down - 'as you are doing now' - thus the mode and manner must also be the same. That means not acting as diksa gurus, but acting as we were acting in 1975 - the N.C.I.P..
Evidence Needed for Exemption of Initiation
Now what has gone so far should actually serve as over-kill in the matter of demonstrating that not only is the N.C.I.P. applicable for ISKCON now, but also that initiation is the one area where there cannot be any case for deviation from the N.C.I.P. Consequently the onus is firmly and squarely on anyone who dares to propose some deviation from this official, standard ISKCON tradition. Obviously the quality of evidence required would need to be staggeringly unambiguous and overwhelming clear to justify such a major change. In summary the evidence would need to satisfy the following 3 criteria:
1) It must be completely clear-cut, and overwhelming, with no room for doubt whatsoever, due to the magnitude of the change proposed. 2) It must be directed at and applicable for implementation by the GBC, since this was the only channel established by Srila Prabhupada authorised to make such a change. 3) It must also specify the specific time-limited nature of the exemption i.e. The exact claim that is made is NOT that initiation is exempt from the N.C.I.P. per se, but rather that initiation is exempt only after a certain time period - i.e the moment after Srila Prabhupada departed. If there is not specific reference made to the conditional nature of the exemption in terms of its time for applicability, then the evidence is not actually supporting that which is actually claimed.
This establishes the background. Lets us now examine if evidence satisfying these 3 criteria does indeed exist.
The Evidence Put Forward
The evidence put forward for claiming exemption from N.C.I.P. for initiation falls into 2 categories:
A) Evidence from the May 28th tape. B) Evidence from the repeated orders to 'become guru '.
Let us examine each of these evidences in turn:
May 28th Tape This evidence consists of a short taped segment of conversation held between Srila Prabhupada and his disciples. Ignoring interruptions, the conversation consists effectively of 6 questions posed by disciples with Srila Prabhupada answering them. The first question is the key question, with all the subsequent questions merely being attempts to try and clarify this initial question and its answer. Below we reproduce this conversation with these 6 exchanges given the same numbering for both the question asked and the corresponding response given by Srila Prabhupada to that question:
Satsvarupa: Then our next question concerns initiations in the future, particularly at
that time when you're no longer with us. We want to know how first and second initiation
would be conducted. (1)
The following points are to be noted:
1) In an investigation into the authenticity of the taped conversation, sponsored by the GBC, their own expert concluded that until and unless a full forensic examination is conducted on the tape, it cannot be relied on as authentic evidence. To date no such examination has been conducted by the GBC.
2) Though the conversation is very short, already the GBC have officially given 5 different transcripts for the above conversation. Above we have simply selected one of them. Thus there is no clarity even over WHAT exactly the evidence consists of.
3) A key word 'He's' used twice, in exchanges 3 and 6, and on which the whole GBC case rests, cannot be clearly identified by the naked ear as being the word 'He's' rather then the word 'His', since the sounds are very similar. Even the GBC have themselves used the latter rendition in one of their transcripts. The one thing which can be said with certainty though is that only one word is spoken. Thus the rendition 'He is' can definitely be rejected. To appreciate the importance of this, please note that if the word in exchange 6 was 'His', rather than 'He's', then it can be established without doubt that Srila Prabhupada does speak in the 3rd person in that part of the conversation. This is because the term in exchange 6 would be 'HIS Grand-disciple', and the 'HIS' here could ONLY refer to Srila Prabhupada, since as even the GBC admit, it is only he who could possibly have grand-disciples.
4) Out of the 6 exchanges, the clearest and unambiguous exchanges on the tape - Nos 1, 2 & 5 - half of them, including the key opening exchange, actually all verbatim support the N.C.I.P., with them all being directly congruent with the July 9th directive, which was actually the written output from this discussion, as indicated in the opening statement of the directive itself. Even the same language is used - 'ritviks', and 'disciples' of Srila Prabhupada. And the rest of the exchanges, depending, on the transcript adopted ( see point above) can also in any case be given an explanation in line with the N.C.I.P. (Indeed so damning is the opening exchange, that the GBC where forced recently to overturn all their teaching on the 'ritvik' heresy for the last 20 years because of their inability to explain this opening exchange, and state that Srila Prabhupada DID indeed order ritviks to act for after his departure; the very notion that they had been opposing all along. But only now, the GBC claims, the word 'ritvik' is just another term for 'diksa guru'! However such somersaults have yet to be accepted by many other members on the GBC, who are still operating under the old paradigm that ritviks can only act in the presence of the spiritual master, and are entities that are completely different to diksa gurus, acting only on behalf of the said diksa gurus. Please see item 5 for more detail)
5) Each attempt by the GBC to explain what the words on the tape meant has led to many varying and contradictory interpretations. Thus even in the matter of deciding what the tape means the GBC are divided. (We have already seen they cannot even decide on what the tape says). The exchanges above are given many different interpretations by the GBC. These differences are not just minor but fundamental; differing in not just what is being spoken about, but also the time period being referred to, and precisely how Srila Prabhupada is instructing things to be carried out - all pretty damning when the subject under consideration is what, how and when things should be done. We give these different explanations below:
It is claimed that exchanges in the tape relate to both what should be done whilst
Srila Prabhupada is present, and also what should be done after he departs.
What is being spoken about?
One view is that the word 'ritvik' used by Srila Prabhupada refers to proxies. (GII & Under My Order)
Another completely opposite view is that 'ritvik' means Diksa guru (DOMD, Drutakarama prabhu)
Thus from the outset, the GBC have completely opposing views, being unable to decide amongst themselves conclusive positions on even the most basic fundamental points.
Here again there are at least two different opinions:
i) One view states that the expression 'so on my behalf' means that one should act as a proxy or ritvik for Srila Prabhupada while he is physically present. (GII, 'Under My Order')
ii) The other view states that the phrase 'on my behalf' means acting as diksa guru after Srila Prabhupada departs, not as a proxy before he departs. ('Disciple Of My Disciple')
Thus again we have not just different, but completely contradictory explanations.
Exchange (6) give us the key evidence for the GBC which revolves around 3 phrases spoken at the end of the tape: 'He's/(His) Grand-disciple', 'disciple of my disciple' and 'regular guru'.
But these phrases are qualified by the phrase 'When I Order', and the GBC have come up with at least 4 different interpretations to try and explain away this phrase in a way that they hope will not compromise their position. Unfortunately they really have no position since they simultaneously claim:
a) That the order was subsequently given in July. ('Continuing the Parampara',
Siva-Rama Swami, 1994; GII, 1995)
In conclusion we have a short conversation where:
a) It is not clear to the GBC what is being said (different transcripts)
The above is enough to discredit any argument that the transcribed conversation constitutes sufficient evidence to overturn both an institutional directive, and violate the N.C.I.P. which Srila Prabhupada had consistently stressed and practised. It is clear the above evidence hardly constitutes an overwhelming case for abandoning the no change in ISKCON paradigm. Indeed we can see that the above evidence unequivocally only satisfies 1 of the 3 criteria required (2 depending which one of the above interpretations is accepted), in that the conversation was held with a group of GBC members.
B) Evidence from the Order to 'Become Guru'
It is claimed that Srila Prabhupada has many times instructed his disciples to 'become guru'. In fact this evidence itself falls into two categories:
a) References to 'becoming guru' in connection with the 'amara ajnaya' verse.
Evaluating the above evidence in line with 3 criteria established earlier, we note immediately that actually none of the above evidence is given in any institutional form, and thus it immediately does not satisfy criteria 2 given earlier. Rather evidence here is either given in private letters to individuals, or in lectures to a small fraction of the movement. Indeed it is highly significant that the key evidence that is put forward in this category is:
A private letter to a deviant disciple (Tusta Krishna, 1975) who was a supporter of someone desirous of initiating even whilst Srila Prabhupada was physically present, and which basically tells him that such activity must wait until Srila Prabhupada has at departed - a letter that was only even made public 10 years AFTER the time for which the exemption is claimed. And even then the letter may never have ever come to light had it not been discovered due to the unauthorised activities of someone who, ironically, was waging a battle against the activities of the unauthorised gurus.
A general comment made to a one-time visitor to the temple in 1971 (Room Conversation with Mohsin Hassan), in which Srila Prabhupada made statements that he himself clarified more precisely and rather differently to his disciples and in his books later on (see letter to Alanatha 1975, and many comments about the Gaudiya Matha), and which was only discovered a year ago.
In sum, the GBC are supposed to manage on the basis of the instructions they have received. They can only implement the July 9th directive in accordance with whatever other instructions they may have received in this regard. We have seen that there are no instructions in the books or in other institutional directives that impact on the implementation of the July 9th directive. The GBC have no mandate to manage based on trying to avoid the implementation of institutional directives that they have specifically been told to institute by searching 20 years later for other instructions that Srila Prabhupada may have spoken privately on a one-off basis.
Thus having already failed in one criteria, for completeness let us see how the evidence scores on the other two criteria. In terms of criteria 1, the need for the evidence to be clear-cut and overwhelming, we find:
For category a) evidence, the 'amara ajnaya' references, in the explanatory purports to the 'amara ajanya' verse it states that: 'it is best not accept any disciples' (C:C,Madhya, 7:130).
Also the instructions for 'becoming guru' here state that virtually no qualification is required except being able to repeat what one has learned. Thus whatever is being spoken of here, it is not a Diksa Guru, the issue at hand.
The instructions given in category b) regarding following the 'law of disciplic succession' simply set out the etiquette that diksa guru activity must not take place whilst the guru is physically present. The existence of such a 'law' is not in dispute. But the 'law' does not automatically go on to authorise everyone and everyone to initiate after that time period has passed. It simply states that such an activity is possible after this time-period, not that everyone is now free to indulge in it without authorisation from the Guru do to so. Otherwise if the 'law' itself was the authorisation, it would mean that the only pre-requisite required to act as a diksa guru would be to wait for the guru to depart, i.e. it would be automatic.
Thus there is nothing here that even remotely comes close to providing clear-cut and overwhelming evidence for exempting initiation from the N.C.I.P.
Thus criteria 1) is also not satisfied.
Finally we come to criteria 3, the need for the evidence to specify the time-limited restriction for the exemption:
In category a), the 'amara-ajnaya' evidence, the instructions to 'become guru' are not restricted in their application to only after the Guru departs, but rather order everyone to act immediately. Thus these instructions cannot be specifying activity that is different in nature to when Srila Prabhupada was physically present. Thus the application of these instructions post-samadhi simply support the N.C.I.P.
In category b), the 'law of disciplic succession', evidence, there IS reference made to initiation activity being limited to after the Guru departs.
Thus in conclusion we see that at best, some of the evidence, satisfies 1 of the 3 categories only. Thus again we do not see the class of evidence that would justify this great deviation from the N.C.I.P.
Going even further we may note the following additional points:
This evidence to 'become guru' is also put forward as a 'standing order', which has always been there, and thus there is no need of any institutional directive for this. But to become Diksa guru does requires specific authorisation from the predecessor acarya (S:B, 4.8.54). This of course would be unnecessary, if indeed the order had always been there eternally.
The evidences from the 'amara ajanya' and the 'law' categories both directly contradict each other. The 'amara ajnaya' instructions make no restriction on qualification, time-period for applicability, and DO make a restriction on the taking of disciples, in complete contradiction to what is stated by the 'law', which specifically makes reference to taking disciples without limit, being strictly qualified, and only acting after the guru has departed. Thus at the very least, the evidence for the 'amara ajnaya' category is completely invalidated by the evidence put forward in the other category, and thus in reality there is only one category of evidence that can even be put forward - that to do with the 'law'. (For completeness we have also examined every single quote in this category ever produced in any GBC paper as evidence for Srila Prabhupada's disciple's becoming diksa guru, in a separate appendix)
In conclusion there is no instruction issued to the institution authorising an individual to take up the role of diksa guru in ISKCON once Srila Prabhupada departs. This would be the very minimum required if we were to overturn the July 9th directive and radically change the N.C.I.P. that Srila Prabhupada had set up for ISKCON. Neither can such an instruction be assumed as a standing order for the institution.
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