It's Taboo, Prabhu
BY: ROCANA DASA
Nov 23, USA (SUN) Over the months of September and October, HH Danavir Goswami and I were engaged in a series of discussions on the subject of ISKCON's re-initiation policy and guru tattva, in general. For those interested in revisiting the entire thread, the editorials were as follows:
In his last Sun editorial, "Again Be Initiated Properly", Danavir Goswami wrote:
"Many questions and questionable statements were presented in that article. I am prepared to answer them all however I think it is best to concentrate on thoroughly addressing one of the incorrect statements first"
Unfortunately, instead of giving me the courtesy of a reply on the many points I raised, Danavir Goswami abruptly abandoned the debate and went over to the Siddhanta.com forum moderated by Krishna-kirti dasa, where he dropped a snide posting entitled "Sun or Rahu". The Goswami apparently felt this was an appropriate and brahminical way to end a debate he no longer wished to participate in:
"Several devotees have asked for my opinion about a news site named Sampradaya Sun (SS), which has recently begun to broadcast ISKCON-related topics on the internet. The website is puzzling because, on one hand, it strives to appear "ISKCON-friendly" by displaying colorful photos of Krishna, devotional announcements, preaching reports, editorials, etc., while on the other hand it propounds ritvik theory, Vaisnava aparadha and condemnation of ISKCON. I find it like using Krishna as bait for a wicked hook.
On the whole, I think SS seriously breeches Vaisnava etiquette and undermines the faith of ISKCON devotees in the process of bhakti as given by Srila Prabhupada."
In response, Krishna-kirti dasa advanced his lock-step commentaries, which expose him as a philosophical illiterate on the subject. He wrote:
"I fully agree with Maharaja. As regards to the Sampradaya Sun's promotion of ritvikism, Rocana's own angle on shiksha-gurus and diksha-gurus is yet another addition to the pantheon of proxy-guru theories: the soft-ritvik of Nityananda, Karnamrita, and Rupa-Vilas; the hard-ritvik of Krishna-kant Desai (the IRM); and the Prominent Link theory of Dhira Govinda. All these theories resemble each other in their apotheosis of the diksa-guru over the siksa-guru and the virtual (if not outright) denial of anyone but Srila Prabhupada giving diksha. I think a more comprehensive definition of ritvikism will be needed to deal with and analyze what has become a theological genre around ISKCON.
Both Danavir Goswami and Krishna-kirti dasa give us yet another opportunity to experience the classic “turn or burn” religious mentality. Public philosophical discourse that explores rather than stigmatizes a variety of individual viewpoints is sadly lacking in their self-made “whammy world”.
I suggest that HH Danavir Goswami refrain from presuming to speak for the whole of ISKCON on such controversial philosophical questions. Kings and queens used to make a mockery of religion by presuming to be its caretakers. What most of them really wanted was a kind of religion that would justify their rule while pacifying the populace. Our institutional representatives, represented here by Danavir Gowami, are prone to the same temptations. They are often found to be acting in the capacity of religious functionaries rather than true preachers of the Sankirtan movement. In this instance, the religiosity that HH Danavir Goswami practices smells of sanctimony, manipulation and self-idolatry.
Danavir Goswami and Krishna-kirti dasa employ a tired old practice of dismissively writing-off philosophical challengers as "Rtvik exponents". This is simply an ISKCON form of McCarthyism reminiscent of the early fifties, when many innocent persons were unfairly stigmatized as a Commie b*****s.
In their off-the-cuff comments, Danavir Goswami and Krishna-kirti dasa ignore the many points made in my paper “The Church of Rtvik”, wherein I specifically lay out my philosophical rejection of the Rtvik position, and explain in detail how my position differs. Even Jayadvaita Swami has favorably commented upon “The Church of Rtvik”, and has recommended that other ISKCON devotees read it. Last month alone, there were approximately 1,400 downloads of the paper. Despite this documented evidence to the contrary, Danavir Goswami and Krishna-kirti spontaneously resort to the classic ISKCON modus operandi known as “giving the dog a bad name [Rtvik] then shooting it”.
Dismissive clichés such as 'breaching Vaisnava etiquette' and 'undermining faith in those following the process of bhakti as given by Srila Prabhupada' thoughtlessly roll off Danavir Goswami's tongue. He implies that ISKCON’s leaders are 100% in line with Srila Prabhupada's program. If we look through ISKCON’s post-samadhi historical lens, however, we discover an ever-evolving diksa “siddhanta”. Each updated version, starting with “Zonal-Acarya-ism”, was presented as a crude black-and-white solution and the "absolute truth". All opponents were clumped together as "relativists". Noteworthy brahmins of that period, namely Pradyumna dasa and Yasoda nandana dasa, were unceremoniously excommunicated in the late seventies for raising objections to Zonal-Acarya-ism.
Below is an excerpt from Jayadvaita Swami’s article in the most recent addition of the ISKCON Communications Journal, in which he describes the important position held by Pradyumna during Srila Prabhupada's ISKCON lila period:
"The editors worked for clarity, euphony, and force. Srila Prabhupada wrote to Hayagriva, ‘I am glad that you are not omitting anything, but just making grammatical correction, and phrasing for force and clarity, and adding Pradyumna’s transliteration, that is very nice’. In practice, as mentioned, such editing was a multifaceted task.
A large part of this task-this is where Pradyumna came in-was the Sanskrit editing. Pradyumna began by learning, on his own, to transliterate Devanagari…into roman characters. Srila Prabhupada was pleased, and Pradyumna, going further, became expert in the Sanskrit language.
In a lecture in 1973, Srila Prabhupada, on the occasion of his Vyasa-puja expressed his gratitude for Pradyumna’s service. ®r…la Prabhupada’s edition of Sri Caitanya Caranamrita had just been published, and Srila Prabhupada humbly gave Pradyumna this credit for the book:
Our Pandit…, Pradyumna, he has presented. Actually, he has worked for it. Although I have translated, . . . I am very much indebted to him that he very carefully edits and makes the thing very perfect. . . . Because mostly there is Sanskrit portion, my beloved disciple Pradyumna-I call him Pandit Mahasraya because he is actually doing the pandits work-so he edits and he works very hard."
Jayadvaita Swami now glorifies Pradyumna dasa, which is fitting. Unfortunately, at the time Pradyumna was being ejected, Jayadvaita was unable to defend him for fear of losing his own position, even though Pradyumna was a near and dear associate of his.
Nearly ten years after its conception, the Zonal Acarya concept was finally acknowledged by ISKCON leadership as being a-siddhantic, being replaced in the eighties by popular demand with the Zonal Acarya-lite system. Today we find yet another modified version of that program. Many a-siddhantic aspects of the original version are still included, such as having GBC committees pre-approving diksa gurus and institutionalized re-initiation. Meanwhile, the GBC turn a blind eye to substandard (fallen) diksas.
We all know that ISKCON operates in a world of maha-diksas and mini-diksas. This is partially due to ISKCON having allowed the original establishers and enforcers of the bogus Zonal Acarya system to retain all their disciples. This nonsense policy implies that the Zonal Acarya diksas and their deceived disciples were actually members of our Sampradaya all along. The public admission that they were perpetrating a program not approved by the bonafide Sampradaya Acaryas completely disqualifies them.
How can this “relative” practice be considered any more bonafide than my Sampradaya Acarya proposition, or Dhira Govinda's Prominent Link position -- or for that matter, even post-samadhi Rtvik-ism? ISKCON's own version, by definition and admission, was conjured up by conditioned souls, many of whom were intoxicated by adoration, power and prestige and fell down as a result. This is the "absolute diksa guru program" being defended by HH Danavir Goswami and his supporter, Krishna-kirti dasa.
Historical memory reveals that ISKCON’s diksa guru propaganda changes with the political climate, and the increasing number of fallen GBC diksa gurus show by example that their theory is not absolute. We know for a fact that behind the saffron curtain there is much debate on this issue today. According to the Swami, however, “independents” like myself are not even permitted an opinion on the matter.
In the current ISKCON Communications Journal, we also find an article by Ravi M. Gupta (Radhika Ramana dasa) entitled “Walking a Theological Tightrope: Controversies of Sampradaya in Eighteenth-Century Caitanya Vaisnavism". ISKCON saw fit to publish this devotee’s theories and comments, which begin with his preface:
"The author’s purpose here is not to decide the debate either way or even present all the evidence; rather to show how controversies of this sort can become opportunities for clarifying a community’s sense of identity and purpose. It is ironic that the nature of a community’s religious identity is often most clearly revealed when that identity is called into question. The delicate network of relationships that lends stability to a notion of religious identity is clarified precisely when that network becomes unstable. A challenge from outside the community, a controversy from within, or changing socio-political circumstances can bring issues of identity into sharp focus.
His article closes with the statement:
"A study of this sort of identity transformation as it has occurred in different traditions would be quite rewarding, bringing out many fruitful points of comparison. If it is true that the constituents of a community’s religious identity are brought into sharper focus when that identity is challenged, then we should have no shortage of opportunities to gain insight into the theological and institutional dynamics of communal religious identity."
Here we see that the intellectuals within ISKCON are publishing articles such as this in the ICJ, yet HH Danavir Goswami and associate are stating exactly the opposite. By their definition, controversial commentary from Srila Prabhupada’s own disciples from outside the institution is condemnable. The lone ranger from Kansas and his trusty sidekick are really gunning for “enemies of the state”, not protecting or even looking for the truth. Rather than aiming for truth, Krishna-kirti dasa blasted off his politically surcharged “lump-them-all-in” commentary:
"As regards to the Sampradaya Sun's promotion of ritvikism, Rocana's own angle on shiksha-gurus and diksha-gurus is yet another addition to the pantheon of proxy-guru theories: the soft-ritvik of Nityananda, Karnamrita, and Rupa-Vilas; the hard-ritvik of Krishna-kant Desai (the IRM); and the Prominent Link theory of Dhira Govinda."
Anyone, who has taken the time to read my Sampradaya Acarya thesis or Dhira Govinda’s Prominent Link knows full well that the above diatribe is rubbish. I am surprised that more Rtvik advocates haven’t taken advantage of the Sun’s open policy to defend their own positions, and explain how their position differs from mine. If they chose to submit, we’ll publish their philosophical papers and will challenge them in the same way we did with HH Danavir Goswami.
Krishna-kirti dasa's display of intellectual laziness and broad-brush dismissive arrogance is surprising, coming from what, on the surface, appears to be an enlightened source. The reader can go to his site and find well written articles on a variety of his pet peeves, such as the ISKCON suffragette issue and the influence of mundane psychology. When it comes to the “guru issue”, however, he obviously knows better than to dare buck the party line. It is only “independent” thinkers who are free to broach this subject. Outside the institutional walled city, we find that Rtvik vada is a waning topic, and as a movement or threat it appears to be on the decline. A few years ago the Rtviks had high hopes for a future take-over of ISKCON, but due to many factors - not the least of which is their sastrically untenable position -- their influence is negligible. ISKCON would like to take credit for this, but in fact persons like Krsna Kant were there own worst enemies.
A phenomenon that is becoming increasingly significant is that individual thinkers/brahmins are introducing their own unique thoughts and realizations on Guru-tattva. At the present time, we live in an era where no living exalted maha-bhagavata Acarya is eclipsing everyone, as was the case when Srila Prabhupada was present. As I stated earlier, ISKCON pandits themselves have proven that they cannot settle on one version of Guru tattva.
All of us are less than perfect, including the danda carriers, diksa gurus, institutional intellectuals and GBC. Many have lost their luster by their own foolish actions. It is almost humorous to witness ISKCON "intellectuals" who show just how out of touch they are with the real world. In the midst of a dynamic and pervasive society-wide dialogue, all they know how to do is flog the old Rtvik nag.
Guru tattva is now a taboo topic for them, although it remains the most important issue in ISKCON today and lies at the very root of all the movement's pressing problems. Instead, ISKCON thinkers like Krishna-kirti dasa have to content themselves by focusing on women and psychology. Sadly, we find Krsna-kirti dasa feeling obliged to parrot the tired old ISKCON party line in order to give support to the old, red-state conservative, HH Danavir Goswami. After all, if really established brahmins like Pradyumna dasa can be booted out, we can only imagine Krsna-kirti's fate should he stray into the forbidden territory of Guru-tattva.
The other pandits mentioned by Krsna-kirti dasa can speak-up for themselves. I have read and have made extensive commentary on Rtvik theory. Where are Krsna-kirti or Danavir Goswami's commentaries on Rtvik-ism, and how it compares to my position? They apparently feel that the above-mentioned pantheon of personalities don’t deserve even a good read, let alone a thorough Brahminical rebuttal. Such lofty topics are left to the GBC’s SAC, while the rest have to be satisfied with the level of village talk we see above.