Who's Changing What?


Sep 20, 2012 — OJAI, CALIFORNIA, USA (SUN) — Continuing the Ritvik challenge

The FO-Pundits adopted the slogan "No Change" and have embarked on a great campaign to broadcast it everywhere. What they contend is that Srila Prabhupada did not want to see anything related to the system of initiation changed after he left. The "No Change" jingle is very effective because everyone knows how much Srila Prabhupada preached about accepting the Vedic Siddhanta without altercation. That was the whole reason why he deliberately added the subtitle "As It Is" to his translation of the Bhagavad Gita. His Divine Grace was very concerned about the possibility of rogue interpretations creeping into Gaudia Vaishnava philosophy and morphing the message he worked so hard to carefully present to the world.

Yet at the same time the FO-Sastra alleges that Srila Prabhupada himself makes several modifications during the short period of time he had to establish ISKCON. The examples given are that he reduced Japa from 64 to 16 rounds, performed marriage ceremonies, and allowed women to live in the temple. [1]

At this point any one paying attention would ask for an explanation to what appears to be a direct contradiction. Why would Srila Prabhupada say so frequently that his only magic was that he presents things as they are…without altercation, and then turn around and make the radical type of changesthat the FO-Sastra efficaciously refers to as "Historic Precedents?"

    "But I do not know anything, miracles or magic. If there is any miracle, that miracle is that we present things as they are. That's all. Without any adulteration. So that should be the principle. Present as it is. It will be accepted.- Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.11- Vrindavana, October 22, 1972

Before we solve this contradictory riddle we must first recognize how crucial it is to the conclusion of the FO-Sastra to sell us on the concept that Srila Prabhupada had the "…prerogative to do this; albeit in accordance with the sastric principals." [2] What is so tricky about this is it mixes two different concepts into one convenient necessary conclusion.

The Paicaratriki-Vidhi Principal

Yes His Divine Grace does have the prerogative to give us unique instructions, based on time, place and circumstance as long as they are "…in accordance with sastric principals" and that is exactly what he did in relation to the examples that have been cited. The specific sastric principal that Srila Prabhupada said extended him those liberties was the Paicaratriki-Vidhi as he explains below:

    "But Pancaratriki-vidhi means although he is not born of a brahmana family, if he has got a little tendency to become a brahmana. Brahmana means brahma janati iti brahmanah. One who is inquisitive to understand Brahman—brahmeti paramatmeti bhagavan iti sabdyate [SB 1.2.11]- he should be given chance. Just like there is a little fire. Fan it. Fanning, fanning, fanning, and it becomes a big fire. So our process is that. Anyone, we pick up anyone, kirata-hunandhra-pulinda-pulkasa, what to speak of the sudra. Striyah sudras tatha vaisyaù. In the ordinary way the stri, woman, sudra, the fourth-grade man, and vaisya, they are taken together, not very intelligent. But Pancaratriki-vidhi offers facility even persons who are lower than these striya, sudra, vaisya." [3] - Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.6.7 Vrndavana, December 9, 1975

Based on this understanding, Srila Prabhupada was not really changing anything at all. He merely exercised the option given by Rupa Goswami in the Nectar of Devotion to do what ever is necessary to provide "One who is inquisitive to understand Brahmana,.." facility to develop their love for God. Srila Prabhupada made these adjustments, "…even to persons who are lower than …sudra." The payoff for doing so was that he enrolled the extremely restless, fickle minded, low born, culturally bereft, notably immature, hopelessly silly, and usually confused drop out hippies of the Viet Nam era into assisting him carry out the divine prophecy of Lord Caitanya! Wow! Our most beloved Spritual master was not only an incredible scholar and incomprehensibly compassionate, but he was also expert at the practical application of everything that he embodied! (phalena pariciyate)

All but the most stone hearted person can not help but be thunderstruck by how capable His Divine Grace was in engaging everyone in the service of Lord Caitanya. While the Smarta Brahmans back in India were criticizing him for performing marriage ceremonies and initiating sudras, Srila Prabhupada understood that the Pancaratriki-vidhi gave him full authority to do so regardless of the candidates birth, education, sex, or qualification etc.


[1] "This can not be a reason to reject the July 9th order since Srila Prabhupada set many precedents – (Reducing the n umber of required rounds of japa from sixty-four to sixteen, performing marriages, allowing women to leave in the temples, giving gayatri mantra by tape, etc)." - Page 18. Section 9. Paragraph 5.

[2] "As acaryas, it is there prerogative to do this; albeit in accordance with sastric principles." - Page 18. Section 9. Paragraph 5.

[3] I apologize to all the Vaishnava women, who have sacrificed so much to Srila Prabhupada for using this unusually harsh quote. I do not wish to perpetuate the way the ladies have been exploited in the past. Many have contributed generously towards establishing the dream of His Divine Grace and I have great appreciation for that sacrifice. I offer the reader the following reference to be given equal consideration.

    "Regarding lecturing by woman devotees: I have informed you that in the service of the Lord there is no distinction of caste or creed, color, or sex. In the Bhagavad-gita, the Lord especially mentions that even a woman who has taken seriously is also destined to reach Him. We require a person who is in the knowledge of Krishna, that is the only qualification of a person speaking. It doesn't matter what he is. Materially a woman may be less intelligent than a man, but spiritually there is no such distinction. Because spiritually everyone is pure soul. In the absolute plane there is no such gradation of higher and lower. If a woman can lecture nicely and to the point, we should hear her carefully. That is our philosophy." - Letter to: Jayagovinda -- Los Angeles 8 February, 1968

Read the complete paper here:

Who's Changing What?


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