The Parampara Institution in Gaudiya Vaishnavism (Part I)

This article was written in 1993 and was published in more or less this form in the Journal of Vaishnava Studies. It only recently came to my attention that it had not been published on this blog, which is an ovrsight that I am remedying now. No doubt there are things that should be corrected. For the time beings the links do not work. My apologies. I have not made any revisions, though I have not the slightest doubt that they are needed. I will do so as soon as I get the time to do so..

Great philosophers could not reach the end of your glories, oh Lord,
even if they should think on them with increasing joy for æonchars.
For, in the form of the intelligence within and the teacher without,
you destroy all inauspiciousness and reveal the way to attain you.

    Contents (Part I):

  • Introduction
  • ISKCON after the departure of Bhaktivedanta 
  • Schismatic tendencies in post-Prabhupada ISKCON 
  • The first ISKCON heresy: ṛtvik-vāda or the doctrine of the monitor guru 
  • Notes
One of the primary areas of concern in scholarly work surrounding new religious movements in the last decade has been that of succession. Since most new religions are centered around non-replicable charismatic figures, the death of a founder presents his or her followers with a crisis, the resolution of which is crucial for the survival of the sect he or she has created. In the context of those religions that have South Asian origin, the charismatic leader is given particular emphasis as the guru, who is often, as David Miller says,
... at the center of sacredness. Sacred texts and the worship of deities are secondary matters compared with the centrality of the guru whose interpretations of the texts are often looked upon as more sacred than the texts themselves.(2)
In the Indian tradition, great importance is placed on the personal search for a guru; it is the divine mission of a seeker to encounter a knower of the truth.(3) Each individual guru is an institution in himself, whether he establishes one temple or monastery or many, and is obliged at the time of his death to make a plan for continuity in his absence. Because of the individualistic nature of the guru/disciple interface, however, the tendency of Hinduism is to an ever-increasing splintering of sectarian groups. This process has been characterized by David Miller as "the core of living, ever-changing and ever-evolving Hinduism."(4)

Though each guru or teacher in a tradition is technically independent, they usually claim loyalty to a particular sampradāya or spiritual family, to whose founder they are linked through initiation (diksa) or "ordination." Neo-Hindu gurus like Aurobindo, Rajneesh, Sai Baba or Sri Chinmoy place less emphasis on such continuity of ordination, claiming the independence of their own realization, but such gurus -- though becoming more and more prominent -- are still far less common than those who adhere to a specific line of disciplic succession. Though they may be individualistic, they generally adhere to and indeed claim complete loyalty to the teachings of their line. Initiation is the ritual legitimization of a disciple and qualifies him to carry on the tradition.

Though there is generally no over-arching institutional authority or Church to discipline diverging religious opinions, sampradāyas formed by an individual do have a theological coherence and a clear control of orthodoxy. Thus those gurus who would diverge from the orthodox line to form their own subsect are rarely so free from the weight of tradition that they can claim their own religious experience to be entirely independent of it. Injunctions to remain completely loyal to the teaching of the guru militate against wanton innovation in matters of doctrine.

In this paper I would like to examine the evolution of one branch of one Hindu tradition, that of Caitanya Vaisnavism or Gaudiya Vaisnavism, known to the western world through the institution of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), by looking at the history of its disciplic succession. Controversies which arose in the aftermath of the death of the founder of ISKCON, Bhaktivedanta Svami Prabhupada, have their preshadowing in the problems of succession which followed the death of his guru Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati who, though claiming adherence to the doctrine of Caitanya, made a trenchant break with the contemporary institutions of that tradition to form his own organization, the Gaudiya Math. This innovation within the Caitanyaite tradition has possible ramifications for the future of ISKCON and we look at it as an interesting case study.

ISKCON after the departure of Bhaktivedanta

In a volume of papers discussing the future of new religious movements in 1987, the question of ISKCON's future centred to a great extent around the problems of succession to Bhaktivedanta Svami Prabhupada, who had died in 1977. Rodney Stark, whose introduction set the parameters for much of the discussion, questioned the future ISKCON's ability to maintain coherency or unity. On the basis
of earlier research by Larry J. Shinn, probably the foremost scholarly authority on ISKCON in North America, he concluded that 'for the Hare Krishnas, guru authority systems are inimical to effective organization and are subject to constant fission and schism, since members are committed to a particular guru, not to a larger organization.'(5)

In an article in the same volume, however, Shinn interestingly seems to have changed his opinion. Referring to the consolidation of the administrative power of ISKCON's leadership over the possibly anarchic forces of individual guruship, he concluded with the somewhat triumphal sounding sentence, 'To use Max Weber's categories, the charisma of the founder had been institutionalized.'(6)
No doubt a milestone of significance had been reached. Shinn's earlier view had been based on an interesting analysis of ISKCON in which he discerned an individualism in the spiritual life emphasizing private ritualistic practices such as chanting, etc., which in turn led to a prioritizing of a vertical relationship with the guru over the horizontal relationship with fellow practitioners. The first schism by one of the successor gurus Jayatirtha, who had left with a number of loyal disciples, seemed to give support to this opinion.

By 1987, however, Jayatirtha's defection had failed disastrously and many of his supporters, including his own wife, had returned to the parent body, and furthermore, the institutional body known as the GBC (Governing Board Commission) had asserted its authority as the highest ecclesiastical body over and above those amongst them who had specifically been entrusted by Prabhupada as initiating gurus.(7) Discontent with the dominance of the eleven original gurus, caused by their premature appropriation of the trappings of charismatic leadership 'the guru is to be worshipped as God himself' even amongst their peers, and their monopolization of the initiating function, had been defused by democratizing the institution, allowing all of Prabhupada's disciples to become initiating gurus (dīkṣā-guru) if they lived up to the criteria of the society.

In the intervening years, ISKCON's institutional strength has apparently increased as the enlarged GBC has consolidated its centralizing powers in the absence of the founder Prabhupada. To a great extent it was helped by the weakness of the original 11 gurus, at least 6 of whom fell away from ISKCON's ranks, leaving behind them numbers of confused disciples. The resolutions of the 1993 annual meeting of the GBC show the complete control that it has over matters of initiation, etc. Every stage of development, from initiation to samnyasa to guruship is subject to GBC approval. The guru-disciple relationship may develop naturally and autonomously, but is subjected to numerous controls by higher or equal authorities.

Thus, the centrifugal forces which Prabhupada had apparently set into motion by appointing 11 initiating gurus at the time of his departure, as well as by establishing an autonomous and independent temple management structure,(8) have been brought into harness by the strong central authority. The vertical relationship between guru and disciple, to which Shinn gave prominence in his first article have not proved to be stronger than the horizontal networks formed amongst god-brothers in a society dedicated to the principles of their spiritual master. In sociological parlance, ISKCON turns out to be more of an evangelical movement than an introspective association of individualistic seekers. In ISKCON's terms, it is a society of gosthyanandis (those who take pleasure in association) rather than of bhajananandis (those who take pleasure in individual spiritual practice).

Schismatic tendencies in post-Prabhupada ISKCON

One of the developments of the period following Prabhupada's death was the intellectual ferment which took place in ISKCON as devotees who were accustomed to accepting decisions made for them by their spiritual master were now forced to do some original thinking about and come to acceptable conclusions in matters of doctrine. Few if any of the society's leaders were equipped to understand the Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition in its source languages of Sanskrit and Bengali, as their preoccupations had always been with management of the society and mobilization of its members. Indeed, scholarly pursuits had for the most part been frowned upon and Srila Prabhupada'swritings given unique and absolute authority. Prabhupada himself restricted such scholarship of the original texts, insisting to his disciples that he was their unique conduit to the knowledge of the disciplic succession: 'Even if you read some books you cannot understand unless you understand it from me. This is called paramparā system. You cannot jump over to the superior guru [parama-guru], neglecting the next acarya, the immediate next acarya.'(9) Prabhupada had furthermore discouraged all external association with members of other Vaisnava groups in India: on the one hand, his own spiritual master had divorced himself from the hereditary traditional dīkṣā-gurus and vairagi practitioners of the faith, and on the other, there was friction between himself and the great majority of his god-brothers. He had once stated, 'Not one of my god-brothers is fit to be acarya.'(10) Prabhupada was evidently somewhat apprehensive of potential attrition to other groups. At the root of this potential attrition was the very fact that he claimed to be the pure representative of a tradition for which India had many pretenders, all of whom similarly claimed to belong to the paramparā.

In general, Prabhupada's exclusivist rhetoric was accepted by his disciples. When Prabhupada died, however, ISKCON devotees found themselves immediately in need of guidance in the matter of burial rituals (samadhi) for which they turned to Narayana Maharaja of the Kesava Gaudiya Math in Mathura, who had been a priest at Prabhupada's samnyasa initiation.(11) Not long afterward, leaders of the movement approached Prabhupada's godbrother Bhaktiraksaka Sridhara of Nabadwip when the first questions about the ritual treatment of the successor gurus arose. Sridhara Maharaja had enjoyed a more cordial relationship with Prabhupada than his other god-brothers and it appears that Prabhupada had allowed the possiblity of his disciples seeking consultation with him after his death.(12) Sridhara Maharaja's answers, based on his own experience in the Gaudiya Math, were sanguine about the possibilities of numerous acaryas working cooperatively. Though he accepted the legitimacy of ritual worship of the new gurus, he admitted that this could be a cause of friction. He compared the guru-disciple relationship to a marriage. When one is married one wants to live in one's own house or at least have a separate room. ISKCON authorities found that this affirmation of the primacy of the vertical relationship undermined the coherency of their institution and rejected it. The schismatic tendencies of the Gaudiya Math had been repeatedly condemned by Prabhupada and were not to be given any room to develop. Once again, going to Prabhupada's godbrothers was discouraged.

The dam was broken, however, and Sridhara became a charismatic source of attraction to many who were impressed by his scholarship and who felt the need for further guidance. Later, the aforementioned Jayatirtha went to Sridhara for guidance with a number of his own disciples. Though his own association with him was brief, numbers of his disciples sought initiation with Sridhara after Jayatirtha's apostasy and a further group of dissatisfied ISKCON devotees came to him seeking samnyasa. Some of these samnyasins and other disciples of Sridhara have continued to work in cooperation with Sridhara Maharaj's other disciples, while some have formed their own society called the Gaudiya Vaisnava Society. As the name reveals, these individuals feel themselves to be somewhat closer in spirit to the traditions of the Gaudya Math than is ISKCON itself. They still consider themselves to be disciples of Prabhupada, but in general, their relations with ISKCON are distant.
Since Sridhara Maharaja passed away in 1992, a number of ISKCON devotees and other Westerners have turned to one of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's few surviving samnyasin disciples, Bhaktipramoda Puri, who is now 100 years old. Others have turned for leadership and guidance to the aforementioned Narayana Maharaja.

Other attrition from ISKCON took place to the vairagi community. These persons were primarily those whose interest in the esoteric aspects of Krsna devotion led them to seek instruction in those aspects of Gaudiya Vaisnava scripture. Many of these have gone on to life as academics, others are continuing on as practitioners, such as Gadadhara Prana Dasa, who lives in Mayapura, and Advaita Dasa who lives and publishes books on raganuga bhakti in Holland. Gadadhara Prana is one of a number of devotees who took initiation from Bhaktivinoda Thakura's son, Lalita Prasada Thakura. But others have been attracted to some of the learned individuals amongst the babajis and hereditary gosvamis also.(13) Advaita Dasa is a disciple of Nikuñja Gopala Gosvami, a hereditary gosvami of the Advaita family.

Each of these groups can be said to represent a historical moment in the disciplic chain, and those Western devotees who engaged in a research of Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition found themselves pushing back one, two or three steps along the disciplic line Prabhupada had presented to them in order to find a different version of the Caitanyaite vision of truth. It is these distinct visions of the disciplic succession which are the subject matter of this article. But before we go on in this direction, let us examine one attempt at solving the 'guru problem' which arose within ISKCON itself.

The first ISKCON heresy: ṛtvik vada or the doctrine of the 'monitor guru'

Though they were by no means the only dissenters within ISKCON in the 1980's, Rupavilasa Dasa and Karnamrta Dasa were amongst the most original and articulate in their ideas. These were primarily elaborated between 1985 and 1990 in a number of articles which were published in the Vaisnava Journal, and later in the Vedic Village Review, both short-lived publications.(14) Their ideas developed in the fermenting period of difficulties when the new order of ISKCON gurus was trying to establish itself. As Karnananda Dasa wrote:
By 1986 it had become clear to the majority of the elder members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness that the system meant to perpetuate the disciplic succession as it was formulated in 1978 had gone seriously awry. We found ourselves with an elite group of initiating gurus, a majority of whom claimed to be the sole dispensers of initiation into the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya sampradāya, who claimed vast tracts of the earth as their exclusive domains, who thought it appropriate that they be worshipped on a par with the maha-bhagavata Srila Prabhupada, and who did all they could to prevent their disgruntled brethren from tampering with the status quo.(15)
If the aggressive domination of ISKCON's initiating spiritual masters were not enough, the inability of a number of them to maintain the high standard of orthopraxy required by the society confirmed the doubts of the dissenters. A large number of disciples of lapsed spiritual masters were thrown into confusion. Pressure was placed on these disciples to enter the camp of one of the other leaders. The situation was further complicated by a number of individuals who had taken a first initiation (Harinama) from Prabhupada and then a second (often called brahmana or gayatri)(16) initiation from one of his disciples.

The first point which these dissenters wished to emphasize was that initiation or dīkṣā was a function which could only be carried out by someone who had attained a fairly high stage of spiritual realization. Though it was commonly accepted in ISKCON that the task of guru is taken up by someone in the middle stage of realization, a madhyama adhikari,(17) Rupa Vilasa and Karnamrta followed the works of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati to give a very high status to this stage, equating it with nistha. They concluded, '...there is a type of śikṣā-guru who is not liberated, but who can aid the aspirant in his advancement. However, no mention is made anywhere of an initiating guru who is not liberated....'(18)

ISKCON leaders felt that the order to become guru was universally incumbent upon them. They had all been given the order to preach and consequently to initiate.(19) But Karnamrta and Rupa Vilasa's original proposal was to relegate the dīkṣā function of the new gurus to a more ceremonial status and to stress the śikṣā or teaching of Srila Prabhupada and the predecessor acaryas.
If we consider that Srila Prabhupada was aiming for his books to give spiritual guidance for the next 10,000 years... [he] may be seen to assume his position as instructing spiritual master for all Vaisnavas who in the next 10,000 years read his books and thus become his disciples... As the Brahma- Madhva- Gaudiya- sampradāya continues, it is not unreasonable to assume that, beginning with Srila Prabhupada, it will be known as the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya-Bhaktivedanta-sampradāya.(20)
In the course of their research, Karnamrta et al made an important discovery about the nature of ISKCON's disciplic succession which to them confirmed this priority of śikṣā over dīkṣā. Prabhupada's predecessor Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati had bequeathed to him a paramparā consisting of a number of disparate individuals, each of whom had made important historical contributions to Caitanya Vaisnavism but who had no relation of initiation (See Chart I). This was given the name of a śikṣā-sampradāya.(21) Sridhara Maharaja explains this as follows: 'In the disciplic succession, only the great stalwarts in our line are considered important.' He compares it to the historical development of science through Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Einstein: 'If their contributions are taken into account, then the whole thing is taken into account and lesser scientists may be omitted.'(22)This was no doubt a great revelation to many of the devotees in ISKCON who had been led to believe that a more direct relationship existed between the various individuals in the ISKCON paramparā. In the collection of Prabhupada's printed statements on the disciplic succession, The Spiritual Master and the Disciple, there is not a word anywhere defending the concept of a siksa-sampradaya, even though, as shall be shown later, it had been a matter of controversy in the period following Bhaktisiddhanta's disappearance. In his books, Prabhupada invariably confirmed the primacy of the initiatory relationship:
The relationship [with Krsna] is established by connecting oneself with the bonafide spiritual master who is the direct representative of Krsna in disciplic succession... The connection with the spiritual master is called initiation. From the date of initiation by the spiritual master, the connection between Krsna and a person cultivating Krsna consciousness is established. Without initiation by a bonafide spiritual master, the actual connection with Krsna is never performed.(23)
Though Prabhupada did speak of the possibility of spiritual perfection without initiation, he nonetheless frequently quoted a verse from the Gautamiya-tantra and found in Baladeva Vidyabhusana's Prameya-ratnavali, which states unequivocally that unless one is initiated by a bonafide spiritual master in the disciplic succession, the received mantra is without effect.(24)
Karnamrta et al held that since none of the ISKCON gurus could claim to be a stalwart like the others in the sampradāya, they should rather sit back and either wait for a 'self-effulgent acarya' to come forth, and act as śikṣā-gurus or "monitor gurus" in the meantime.(25) This early understanding later developed into the ṛtvik  doctrine, or what one opponent called 'the Christianization of ISKCON.'(26) Based on Prabhupada's so called "appointment tapes," it was contested that he had ever intended for his chief disciples to be independent gurus, but rather that they should be officiating priests or ṛtviks, initiating disciples on his behalf even after his death.(27) Prabhupada's English was never entirely unambiguous, and his broken sentences answering questions fired at him simultaneously by two different people while he was on his deathbed were susceptible to creative hermeneutics by these dissenters. Even so, the new interpretation of Prabhupada's deathbed instructions found an eager group of listeners.

The ṛtvik  theory seemed completely out of line with what had been taught to ISKCON all along, however, and despite the attractiveness of the doctrine-- it would superficially eliminate need for a perfected devotee, the absence of which was painfully felt by all, including ISKCON's leaders-- it could not take root in the society. It was too much of an innovation to find success in a society which claimed faithful adherence to a long tradition. The traditional process of devotional service called for a guru/disciple relationship which needed ritual sanctification in initiation. Furthermore, ISKCON's leaders felt that sufficient practical improvements in the political situation had been reached through reforms which democratized initiation and eliminated the artificial zonal guru system. The ṛtvik -vādis, for their part, felt by this time that increasing the number of gurus merely compounded the problem if no one was authorized to initiate, making more unqualified initiator gurus was just making a bad situation worse.(28)

The net result of this disturbance in ISKCON dogma was that initiation was confirmed as the legitimizing principle of the disciplic succession. However, charisma had to be routinized through a formal initiation process which allowed the organization to take precedence. Though technically Rupa Vilasa et al were correct in assessing the heterodox nature of the paramparā instituted by Bhaktisiddhanta, they were unable to convince others that the society could function around a principle of śikṣā-paramparā. On the other hand, their arguments about the importance of Prabhupada to the society confirmed a trend which has never been reversed: Prabhupada is the unique anchor of the movement. Prabhupada's consistent denial of the existence of qualified spiritual masters other than himself coupled with the necessity for political consolidation of the world-wide organization, meant that Prabhupada's books were enshrined as the only canonical authority for the society. ISKCON's publication house, the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT) and the Bhaktivedanta Archives have seen to the publication of all of Prabhupada's lectures, letters, etc. Thus, in a recent theological controversy over the original ontological status of the soul, Prabhupada's writings were considered to be the highest authority over the theological works of Jiva Gosvamin, etc., who were founding members of the sampradāya, who are named in Bhaktisiddhanta's śikṣā-sampradāya and whose works are universally accepted by Gaudiya Vaisnavas of all sects as canonical.(29)


(1) BhP xi.29.6. 

(2) Miller, David. 'The Guru As the Center of Sacredness.' Studies in Religion/ Sciences Religieuses 6, no. 5 (1977), 528.

(3) tad-viddhi pranipātena pariprasnena sevayā | upadeksyanti te jñānam jñāninas tattva-darsinah || Gita 4.11.

(4) op.cit., 530.

(5) Rodney Stark, 'How new religions succeed,' in The Future of New Religious Movements, (ed.) David G. Bromley and Phillip E. Hammond, Macon Ga: Mercer University Press, 1987; 16. Reference is to Larry D. Shinn, 'Conflicting Networks: Guru and Friend in ISKCON', Religious Movement: Genesis, Exodus and Numbers, edited by Rodney Stark (New York: Rose of Sharon Press, 1984).

(6) Larry D. Shinn, 'The future of an old man's vision: ISKCON in the 21st century'; 128. Shinn's discussion of Weber's categories, see The Dark Lord (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1987), 39-40. See also, Max Weber, The Theory of Social and Economic Organization, Translated by A. M Henderson and Talcott Parsons (Glencoe, Ill.: Freee Press, 1947), 341-369. Also The Sociology of Religion, Translated by Ephraim Fischoff (Boston: Beacon Press, 1963), 46ff. 

(7) See Larry J. Shinn, The Dark Lord. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1987. 54-60.

(8) ISKCON's temples operate as independent legal entities and have no direct legal connection to the parent organization. The parent organization has no proprietary rights over any individual ISKCON branch, though it does have control in doctrinal matters, etc. Each temple is controlled by a board which includes both local members and GBC members who have wider powers. David Miller, in his above-cited article, identifies the decentralization of associate mathas as a characteristic of the Hindu sampradāya as compared with Christian and Buddhist monasticism. Op. cit., 535.

(9) Lecture by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Svami, delivered in Los Angeles, 12/8/73. Cited by Virabahu Dasa, The Guru and What Prabhupada Said, 46. It should be noted that Prabhupada said other things which are less strict on this point. Note the citations made by Rupa Vilasa Dasa in the essay 'Jumping Over' in Living Still in Sound, 74-89. Nevertheless, the quote supplied above is one which reflects more accurately what was generally considered to be Prabhupada's ruling on the matter.

(10) Letter to Rupanuga Das, 5/28/1974.

(11) This was done with the prior approval of Bhaktivedanta himself.

(12) Cf. B. B. Visnu, Our Affectionate Guardians, Eugene, OR: Clarion Call Publishers, 1996.

(13) Charles R. Brooks states that 23 non-Iskcon Westerners were living in Vrindavan in 1985, but not all of these were Vaisnavas. He does not seem to have looked outside the town of Vrindavan to Radha Kund and other places frequented by Vaisnava foreigners. The Hare Krishnas in India (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989), 102. With the increase in the number of the groups described above, this number has also doubtlessly increased.

(14) These articles have been compiled in an anthology Living Still in Sound, Washington, MS: New Jaipur Press, 1990. The official position of ISKCON vis-a-vis the arguments of the ṛtvik -vadins is expressed in the ISKCON Journal, 1.1, specially prepared for the Gaura Purnima pilgrimage of 1990. Two important ISKCON publications which present the guru-doctrine according to Bhaktivedanta Svami are The Spiritual Master and The Disciple, a compilation of references to the issue from the published works of Bhaktivedanta, compiled and edited by Subhananda dasa Brahmacari (Steven J. Geldberg), (Bombay: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1990), and The Guru and What Prabhupada Said, a compilation of relevant quotes from lectures, informal conversations and letters of Bhaktivedanta Svami, by Virabahu dasa (Marcos A. Zafarani), (Los Angeles: Fondo Editorial Bhaktivedanta, 1988). I would like to thank Steve Rosen (Satyaraj Das) for having made these works available to me.

(15) Karnamrta Dasa, "The Diksha Guru: A Pragmatic Definition," in Living Still in Sound. ed. Karnamrta Dasa. Washington, MS: New Jaipur Press, 1990. 186.

(16) This two-tiered initiation process, though in vogue elsewhere amongst Gaudiya Vaisnavas, appears to have been formally institutionalized in the Gaudiya Matha and its sister organizations. Generally, a disciple is expected to follow the regulative principles of ISKCON for a period of at least six months prior to receiving first initiation, at which time he is given a rosary or japamala which has been chanted upon by his spiritual master and his `spiritual' name. The second initiation comes after another year of discipline. At this time he is given the seven mantras: the Vedic Gayatri-mantra, guru-mantra, guru-gayatri, Gaura-mantra, Gaura-gayatri, Krsna-mantra and Kama-gayatri. Male disciples are invested with the sacred thread (yajñopavita). All those with the second initiation become qualified to engage in deity worship, cook for the deities, etc. In one article Karnamrta argues that the receipt of Harinama constitutes real initiation in order to emphasize that those who had only taken Harinama from Prabhupada were in fact his disciples and not those of the guru who had given second initiation. ('Although others give help in showing the way to beginners, the guru who first initiates one with the mahamantra is to be known as the initiator.' CC. Adi 1.34, Prabhupada's purport.). From the early Gaudiya authority Jiva Gosvamin's comments on the issue, however, it appears that dīkṣā refers specifically to the mantra initiation. This is generally because even though Harinama is best received from a pure soul, it is said to act independent of the initiation process (Cf. Padyavali29, cited, CC Madhya 15.110).

(17) Cf. BhP xi.2.46 or Upadesamrta, 4.

(18) Karnamrta Dasa, op. cit., 192. The steps of attainment are given by Rupa Gosvami in BRS i.4.10: sraddha (faith), sadhu-sanga (association with pious persons, etc.), bhajana-kriya (engagement in devotional acts), anartha-nivrtti (cessation of unwanted involvements including sinful activity), nistha (fixity), asakti (attachment to devotional activities), ruci (a genuine taste for them), bhava (feeling), preman (love). 

(19) Prabhupada often quoted Caitanya's instruction: yare dekho tare kaho krsna-upades | amar ajñaya guru hoi' tarao ei des || 'Instruct whomever you see in [service to] Krsna. By my order become a guru and save this land.' CCA, ii.7.128.

(20) Rupa Vilasa Dasa, 'Who is Guru?,' in Living Still in Sound, 2-3. 

(21) The paramparā, though not explicitly named as such, is listed in a poem at the beginning of Sarasvati's Anubhasya on the Caitanyacaritamrta

(22) The Guru and His Grace (San Jose: Guardian of Devotion Press), 101. 

(23) Nectar of Devotion (Los Angeles: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1970). Cited, The Spiritual Master and The Disciple, ed. Subhananda Dasa (Los Angeles: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1978), 363. Literally hundreds of such references can be found through Prabhupada's works, lectures and correspondence.

(24) Gautamiya-tantra 29.5. sampradāya-vihina ye mantras te nisphala matah | Baladeva attributes this line and several which follow it to the Padma-/purana where they cannot be found. Prameya-ratnavali, 1.5. For other references from Prabhupada see The Spiritual Master and the Disciple, 242ff. 

(25) The expression 'monitor guru' comes from an isolated passage by Prabhupada: 'A candidate who has successfully reached up to the twelfth stage can also become spiritual master himself just as a student becomes the monitor in the class with a limited number of disciples.' Easy Journey to Other Planets (Los Angeles: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1969). The reference is to a statement in BRS i.2.38 where Rupa Gosvamin cites the Bhagavata-purana advising the aspiring devotee against taking too many disciples. Prabhupada takes the verse in a positive sense rather than as an absolute prohibition. 

(26) Satyaraja Dasa, in The ISKCON Journal, I.1. The reference is to the idea that the relation of each individual throughout history is with the unique and never to be equalled saviour, who like Christ is considered to be the sole source of spiritual succour.

(27) Prabhupada had, from early on in the history of ISKCON, authorized disciples to officiate at initiating ceremonies on his behalf, in his absence. Those initiated at these affairs were considered Prabhupada's own disciples. The term ṛtvik , however, was introduced during Prabhupada's dying days, when he allowed a number of his leading disciples to take full responsibily for all aspects of the initiation with the same understanding, that those initiated were his disciples. This procedure was one of Prabhupada's many innovations. The term ṛtvik  has no currency in the Gaudiya tradition.

(28) Something similar to the ṛtvik theory may be in operation in other Hindu-based movements in North America. Current leaders of the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Society based in Val-Morin, Quebec, do not initiate anyone as their own disciple, but as disciples of Swami Vishnudevananda, their guru in the line of Sankara and founder of the SYVC. They openly admit that they have not attained a level of spiritual realization to take such a responsibility as 'one must realize the mantra before giving it.' Devotees who have been so initiated seem to have no problem with being the disciple of a person who they had never met and indeed was dead before they had even heard of him. [I have subsequently come to find out that this has changed in the intervening period, but there is little or no cult surrounding the current initiating gurus.


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Prem Prakash said…
Thank you for taking the time to post this, Jagatji. It's an important piece, one that will be useful for scholars, historians, and struggling bhaktas. It's this type of honest reporting that will, hopefully, outlive both the writer and the reader, and contribute to an authentic understanding of ISCKCON and its place in history.
Unknown said…
Are Gaurakishore das babaji and Jaggannath das babaji maharajas born in pure Brahmin caste? And why are they not seen wearing the Gayatri thread across their bodies?

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