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Rocana dasa Invites Hare Krishna Society to Debate

October 6, 2003

Dear Yasoda nandana dasa,

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

I am writing to follow-up on our discussion of last year, in which we both agreed to work on publishing our position papers on the initiation issue. We have now accomplished that goal with the publication of my paper, "The Church of Rtvik", and your group's Mission Statement for the Hare Krishna Society.

You'll recall that we also agreed to debate these issues once we had published our papers. I would now like to invite you, as a representative of the Hare Krishna Society, to begin making preparations for that debate.

Since publishing my paper, I have received no direct comments or rebuttals to my paper from anyone in the Rtvik camp, with the exception of Puranjana dasa. For obvious reasons, I am not interested in attempting a debate with Puranjana. I am willing and enthusiastic to engage in debate with a designated representative from each of the primary Rtvik camps (HKS and IRM), and I will be extending a similar invitation to debate with a representative of the ISKCON Reform Movement.

As you have so intelligently written in your "Tradition of Debate" paper, it is important that debate be conducted, to the greatest degree possible, in a brahminical manner. Following are a few suggestions on debate 'mechanics'. I look forward to your comments and suggestions, and to finding a structure that we both find agreeable.


The debate should be a formal, written debate between two parties: myself and a representative who is designated to speak on behalf of the Hare Krishna Society. (I assume that representative is you, but I am open to debate with whoever your organization deputes).

Written exchanges should be made public, and written submissions published in a timely fashion. There are many ways this can be accomplished across the Internet, and I am open to anything that will effectively facilitate us. I suggest a neutral hosting environment, like a Yahoo forum.

Only the two parties debating are permitted to publish comments. The public may read the exchanges, but may not comment on the written submissions. They can, of course, freely comment and discuss the debate in other Internet forums.

Published submissions will be considered public domain.

If you prefer to keep the debate closed to the public until it is concluded I would also find that agreeable, as long as all submissions are published at the conclusion of the debate.

We need to identify a neutral party to serve as referee or arbitrator, and this person must be agreeable to both sides.

A set of debate rules should be agreed upon, setting the boundaries on such things as:

  • Format and length of submissions

  • Format of reference citations

  • Time permitted for response

  • Percentage of originally written material contained in submission compared to quoted material

  • What Vaisnava literatures are to be included/excluded in references

  • What qualifies as supporting evidence, and how many pieces of evidence are required in order for a fact to be considered substantiated

  • What does not qualify as evidence? Conspiracy theory arguments should be disqualified for use as evidence, along with hearsay statements, and statements between two individuals that are uncorroborated by a third party (with the exception of published conversations between Srila Prabhupada and another individual).

We should set down a complete set of rules and procedures. To begin, each side might provide a list of a certain number of critical arguments put forth in their paper that are to be advanced and defended. We should agree upon definitions for certain key terms, and the time, place, circumstance parameters within which arguments must be defensible. And, we should determine what the consequences of the debate are (i.e., what/how the losing party will surrender).

I look forward to your acceptance, in principal, to this invitation to debate. Let me know how you would like to proceed to establish the rules, identify an arbitrator, etc., so we can begin as quickly as possible. I see no reason we should be unable to begin this debate by December 1st, and consider that the term of my invitation to you. If there is some extraordinary circumstance I am not aware of that makes meeting this date impossible, please advise. Please also confirm your receipt of this invitation on behalf of the Hare Krishna Society.

Hoping this finds you well.

Your servant,

Rocana dasa