Guru seeing God seeing Guru
BY: RAGHUNATHA PURI DAS
Jan 23, SOUTH KOREA (SUN) I think that Mahesh Raja's equating guru with directly seeing (and speaking with) Krishna is not applicable to post-Srila Prabhupada ISKCON, and it does not accurately reflect Srila Prabhupada's own stated ideas as to who can initiate disciples within his movement.
I'm basing this assertion on this excerpt from a letter written to Hamsaduta on December 3, 1968:
"Next January there will be an examination on this Bhagavad-gita. Papers will be sent by me to all centers, and those securing the minimum passing grade will be given the title as Bhakti-sastri. Similarly, another examination will be held on Lord Caitanya's Appearance Day in February, 1970 and it will be upon Srimad-Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita. Those passing will get the title of Bhakti-vaibhava.
Another examination will be held sometimes in 1971 on the four books, Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Teachings of Lord Caitanya, and Nectar of Devotion. One who will pass this examination will be awarded with the title of Bhaktivedanta. I want that all of my spiritual sons and daughters will inherit this title of Bhaktivedanta, so that the family transcendental diploma will continue through the generations. Those possessing the title of Bhaktivedanta will be allowed to initiate disciples. Maybe by 1975, all of my disciples will be allowed to initiate and increase the numbers of the generations. That is my program. So we should not simply publish these books for reading by outsiders, but our students must be well versed in all of our books so that we can be prepared to defeat all opposing parties in the matter of self-realization".
Presumably, Srila Prabhupada didn't expect that all of his disciples would become maha-bhagavats in such a short period of time.
But - according to his vision expressed therein - devotees who faithfully followed the regulative principles and became well versed in Krishna conscious philosophy could initiate their own disciples within ISKCON.
The way I see it, the biggest offense of the Zonal Acaryas was usurping too high a position for themselves as exalted gurus in relation to their godbrothers and apparently exerting too much managerial influence to maintain that status quo. Because most of them clearly were not first-class devotees they were not spiritually strong enough to initiate as many disciples as they recklessly did without eventually falling down.
To cover-up the fact that some of them - most notably Kirtanananda - had seriously deviated as younger devotees, pressure was put on Satsvarupa to edit out episodes of Prabhupada Lilamrta that made the "new gurus" look bad.
Repercussions from Zonal Acarya offenses have largely subsided, but there are still lingering grudges and specious philosophical disputes.
It makes sense to me that even a devotee who is not perfectly self-realized, but who steadily follows regulative principles and has demonstrated that he (or she) knows the basic science of bhakti yoga - as given by Srila Prabhupada - is qualified to initiate some disciples.
Srila Prabhupada - as Founder-Acarya - will always be seen as the Supreme Spiritual Master of ISKCON, but he adamantly did not want himself portrayed as omniscient God.
Regarding falldowns, even exalted mahajanas like Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma have experienced them due to excessive pride.
The Upadeshamrta verse of Srila Rupa Gosvami given to us by Srila Prabhupada renders this as the qualification to initiate disciples:
"A sober person who can tolerate the urge to speak, the mind's demands, the actions of anger and the urges of the tongue, belly and genitals, is qualified to make disciples all over the world."
Note that it doesn't state that a devotee must be completely free of any sexual thoughts - just able to tolerate the urge to act on them.
This January 22, 1968 letter to Satsvarupa highlights this issue:
"...I understand that sometimes you feel sex urges and frustration. In the material world sex urge is the binding force for material existence. A determined person tolerates such sex urges as one tolerates the itching sensation of eczema. If not one can satisfy the sex urge by legitimate marriage. Immoral sex life and spiritual advancement are incompatible proposition. Your full engagement in K.C. & constant chanting will save you from all inconveniences.
You have accepted me as father, so I have also accepted you as my dear and real son. Relationship of father & son on spiritual platform is real and eternal, on the material platform such relationship is ephemeral and temporary. Although I cannot give you anything as father, still I can pray to Krishna for your more & more advancement in K.C.
Your sincerity & service mood will always help you in advancing your genuine cause.
Hope you are well,"
Your ever well wisher
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
Having had some association with Satsvarupa in the mid to late 70's, I, and many other devotees, considered him to be a very humble, intelligent and staunch devotee, dedicated to serving Srila Prabhupada. As noted, there was political pressure on him to edit Prabhupada Lilamrta and he probably accepted more disciples than he was capable of accepting without suffering reactions.
I personally heard him state (after a Lilamrta reading at Potomac temple) that it was a great offense for anyone in ISKCON to consider any of Prabhupada's godbrothers to be greater than or equal to Srila Prabhupada.
So, I don't accept that he intentionally wrote it in a way to diminish Srila Prabhupada's position. It was composed as a major literary work to glorify Srila Prabhupada's exemplary character and the amazing impact he had on individuals he contacted in a unique socio-historical context
Although gross falldowns by anyone acting as a guru should be reported, I don't think it's fair to trumpet admitted "subtle attachment" over a long period of time as a disqualification. Anyway, I think that there probably were a number of factors - including health problems/strong medication, ISKCON politics, accepting too many disciples, and his becoming "overly proud" - under-engaged in service - that led to Satsvarupa's temporary falldown.
To attribute it mainly to his intentionally not depicting Srila Prabhupada as a Sampradaya Acarya doesn't ring true with me. I think that Srila Prabhupada's transcendental qualities shine through on every page so that he can be seen as a devotee on the highest level of God consciousness - even by non-devotee readers.
I don't think that his initiated disciples should be discouraged from continuing to accept him as a guru. My basic understanding is that if a person sincerely follows someone as a spiritual master, then they will go where that person is in the next life.
I think it's reasonable to expect that Satsvarupa will (relatively soon) fully come to his spiritual senses and go to wherever Srila Prabhupada is, and his own sincere disciples will follow him there.
Unfortunately, I need to get a lot more sincere myself - if I'm ever gonna make it to Srila Prabhupada's lotus feet.