Lately I’ve been trying to get back into devotional service again, but I’m finding many obstacles that I will need to overcome. A major portion of this is figuring out how to get along with devotees, because I still feel that it was problems with devotees that pushed me out.
Another big issue I struggle with relates to gurus. Mostly it was problems with gurus that made life in ISKCON impossible for me. I saw gurus breaking ISKCON Law in a variety of ways, and my confronting this made me someone whom devotees did not want around. That gave me such pain that I am still trying to get over it more than seven years later.
I remember it being announced (in 2007?) by our local GBC, a guru himself, that the temple bylaws were being changed (in a way that I thought Srila Prabhupada said they should not be) to protect the temples from takeover by the “rtviks,” who he said (twice) were “enemies of ISKCON.” I remember then thinking that if someone is said to be my enemy, then I have a responsibility to understand their point of view before accepting that. So I did, and I found their view had merit. However I had problems with them too. They were hurt a lot too, and it’s difficult to get along with hurt people.
Since I’m not a Krishna conscious person, I can’t definitively say what’s right or wrong in the process. I can say what makes sense based on what I know from Srila Prabhupada’s writing and speaking, and I can say what seems honest to me and what doesn’t.
This morning I saw a short blog series called “Diksa or Rtvik,” by Danavir Gosvami, and unfortunately it seems very biased to me to the point where I it’s hard not to call it dishonest. I wanted to comment there, but to do so requires creating an account, and I’m so fallen from devotional service that I’m not even sure what name to use, so for now I’ll write here.
Danavir’s post begins as follows:
“What has been the standard system of initiation (diksa) conducted throughout the ages in all bonafide Vaisnava sampradayas, today we neophyte American devotees desire to change.
““That is your American disease. This is very serious that you always want to change everything.” — Srila Prabhupada”
I never saw the “rtvik” view as a change proposed by neophyte American devotees. My review of the history indicated that Srila Prabhupada instituted a system of initiations that incorporated rtviks, and that he never said to end it. The GBC changed it despite a general order to change nothing. Changing something back to what it was before an illegitimate change isn’t an ordinary change, and portraying it as such seems dishonest to me. If one somehow finds oneself driving on the wrong side of the road, that is not the proper time to emphasize the rule against crossing the double yellow lines. One must cross to get back to the correct side.
To me this doesn’t mean “no gurus.” We all know Srila Prabhupada wanted regular diksa gurus, and I see this “Diksa or Rtvik” concept as a false dilemma. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dilemma If a guru has ten disciples and says “I want my disciples to preach East, and I want my disciples to preach West,” and then passes away, should his disciples argue over whether he wants East or West? The order is for both. It doesn’t mean two disciples go East, three go West, and the other five fight each other and go nowhere, which is a tragedy that seems to be what’s happening now.
“In effect, eliminating the diksa guru is tantamount to spiritual abortion.”
I have no idea how Danavir considers continuing the initiation system Srila Prabhupada instituted to be eliminating the diksa guru. Obviously Srila Prabhupada would be the diksa guru. Later Danavir says it prevents the year-long examination of the disciple and guru, but I always thought the July 9 letter gave full authority to rtviks to do that. It’s easy enough for an aspiring disciple to examine Srila Prabhupada by studying his books and the other products of his work.
Danavir makes the point in Part 2 of his essay that the initiation method facilitated by rtviks denies Srila Prabhupada the choice to reject aspiring disciples. The absurdity of this argument is astonishing to me. As I said in the previous paragraph, I always thought the July 9 letter authorized the rtviks to accept disciples on his behalf, and when I read it again, it says the same thing:
In the past Temple Presidents have written to Srila Prabhupada recommending a particular devotee’s initiation. Now that Srila Prabhupada has named these representatives, Temple Presidents may henceforward send recommendation for first and second initiation to whichever of these eleven representatives are nearest their temple. After considering the recommendation, these representatives may accept the devotee as an initiated disciple of Srila Prabhupada by giving a spiritual name, or in the case of second initiation, by chanting on the Gayatri thread, just as Srila Prabhupada has done.
That’s what it says. The bold and italics are my emphasis.
Danavir’s argument is hypocritical and seems disingenuous, because his position denies Srila Prabhupada his choice to accept disciples through the institutional mechanism he created, as if Srila Prabhupada’s mood was to reject aspiring disciples. Maybe Danavir is mixing up Srila Prabhupada with Gaur Kishore Das Babaji.
Danavir ends his Part 2 with a familiar argument that I always found easy to refute:
If it were so easy to jump up the ladder and become the direct disciple of Srila Prabhupada, then why couldn’t one just as easily double jump up to become Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati’s direct disciple. Going a bit further one might eventually imagine proceeding directly to the Lord Himself without the need of intermediate gurus.
We would not be talking about this if Srila Prabhpada had not created a system for accepting disciples in his absence, without asking his permission each time, by employing rtviks. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati did not do that, nor did anyone else as far as I know. However it’s a clear historical fact that Srila Prabhupada did. After his disappearance, the GBC scrapped that so the rtvik-acaryas could become zonal acaryas, and they concealed the real facts. Later the facts emerged, and many disciples wanted to reinstate Srila Prabhupada’s system. The GBC’s refusal to accept it is a problem that has caused ISKCON to splinter and become quite insignificant to the world. How can devotees present a solution to the world’s problems if they can’t even stop fighting among themselves?
Srila Prabhupada wanted his disciples to become qualified initiating gurus, but he also created an initiation mechanism to allow him to accept disciples through the institution. How can a disciple dare to destroy what the Founder-Acarya has created, when there is no order to do so? If an aspiring devotee primarily has faith in Srila Prabhupada, then why force the devotee to put his complete faith in someone else? It’s unnatural. On the other hand, if another qualified devotee is the primary inspiration for an aspiring devotee, and that qualified devotee wants to accept the disciple, then it also is natural. These two systems do not have to interfere with each other, but can unite everyone under the ISKCON banner. All that is required is for the GBC to accept it, and I really wish they would, so we can end this stupid enmity between devotees and work together instead of criticizing each other so much. Please. Hare Krsna.
I also want to offer my humble obeisances to HH Danavir Gosvami. I wish I could have kirtan with him again. It’s been a long time since I have had the opportunity for such a joyful occasion because of conflicts like this which just seem unnecessary to me for the reasons described in this blog.