In defense of ISKCON gurus, a critique of Suddhadvaiti Swami’s article
Today happens to be Bhaktivinoda Thakur‘s Disappearance Day celebration, and as we know he said the famous statement:
He reasons ill who says that Vaishnavas die,
When thou art living still in sound!
In other words, the vani of the guru is as much important and real as the guru himself in vapu. In other words, the spiritual master is present in his instruction. (I’ll come back to this at the very end.)
Suddhadvaiti Swami – among other points – makes an argument, namely this: If you are a Srila Prabhupada disciple and especially if you’re a leader in ISKCON or if you’re an initiating spiritual master in ISKCON in the generation of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples, unless you went outside of ISKCON and took siksha from an “advanced”, “live” Vaishnava outside of ISKCON – then you are automatically disqualified from going anywhere beyond the kanishta adhikari platform, what to speak of being a bona-fide spiritual master. And in fact, you’re a cheater! You’re a “stone boat.” In other words, a boat that can’t carry anybody anywhere.
So, practically speaking – historically speaking – he is saying that if an initiating spiritual master in ISKCON (among Prabhupada’s disciples) did not do as he did – basically – namely, take siksha from Sridhar Swami, followed by Gour Govinda Maharaj – (Who, he, by the way, incidentally, out of the blue, proclaims to be preeminent disciple of all of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples. I mean, where was that written!? Where was the Facebook post? Did I miss something? Was there some divine revelation in the sky? To make such a claim is already quite weird and, and… anyway… ) – and Narayan Maharaj. So those three. So unless a disciple of Srila Prabhupada who is acting today in the role of an initiating spiritual master in ISCKON, unless he went that same route then he is automatically unqualified to be a spiritual master.
Now, I would like to say – to unpack this – he is basically saying that if a disciple of Srila Prabhupada: A) Took initiation from Srila Prabhupada B) Has been since the time of initiation chanting 16 rounds and following four regulative principles C) Seeking sadhu-sanga amongst his or her own godbrothers and godsisters D) Taking daily sustenance, daily inspiration from Srila Prabhupada’s own teachings, from Srila Prabhupada’s own instructions, Srila Prabhupada, their own spiritual master – (and this is where we bring back Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s statement that the guru is certainly present in his instruction). And for Srila Prabhupada disciples to take siksha from Prabhupada’s own written words is clearly associating with him, and who is more advanced than Srila Prabhupada, the senapati bhakta of Lord Chaitanya? And E) If one has one of Prabhupada’s disciples who has done these things, and on top of that has engaged in practical devotional service in the sankirtan mission of Lord Chaitanya, still is unqualified! Still, having done all these things it’s still not good enough!
I say to Srila Suddhadvaiti Swami, with all due respect but still firmly, are you joking!? Are you joking!? It’s funny because he claims as many do – and it’s a good point – that one should not impose an institutional boundary on one’s heart and one should go take siksha from wherever one’s heart leads one. Granted! So, if Suddhadvaiti Swami and other godbrothers and godsisters felt the need within their heart, inspired by Prabhupada, inspired by paramatma perhaps, to seek out the association of senior, advanced devotees outside of ISKCON then: Haribol! (as we say) Congratulations! All the best! But by the same token of heartfelt inspiration, if a disciple of Srila Prabhupada – and god do I know many of them! – has felt the heatfealt inspiration to be simply satisfied with the live association of his or her own godbrothers and godsisters, and happily chanting 16 rounds as their guru has asked them to do, and take siksha from their own initiating spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, and just be happy with that, being happy in Krishna consciousness, then what in the world is wrong with that!?
So therefore I’d like to make this point that Suddhadvaiti Maharaj is unfortunately A) Being extremely dogmatic, fanatical and using these sort of arguments against ISKCON leaders in a way that makes him look as a victim of those very same arguments and therefore B) Because I take offense, not just against Bhakti Charu Maharaj, Hridayananda Maharaj, but against all of Prabhupada disciples who are active in ISKCON and happily so, I make this little video. Hare Krishna!