Found in Sanga, Sanga 2001.

Q. I was intrigued to read your comment in a recent Sanga, “More advanced devotees than yourself have concluded that adherence to Prabhupada is better accomplished by serving separately from Iskcon.” Could you please elaborate?

A. This does not mean that all devotees should leave Iskcon in order to better adhere to Prabhupada. It means that for some devotees this has proven to be the case. Others are better off within a large institution which offers support for their spiritual practice. No institution is better suited to do this than Iskcon, especially with regard to devotees from the West. Some devotees are dedicated to keeping this facility available, and this is certainly noble and no doubt pleasing to Srila Prabhupada. I offer my dandavats to them.

Q. How do those who have left Iskcon justify their decision in light of Prabhupada’s instructions?

A. In order to answer this we must first go to the heart of Prabhupada’s words. In so many books, through so many instructions, what is the spirit of his words? What is it that he desired of his disciples? What did he want from us? He wanted us to develop love of Krishna. How? Somehow or other, ‘yena tena prakarena, manah krishna nivesayat.’ Still, one might question how it would be possible to accomplish this by leaving Iskcon, when Prabhupada clearly wanted his disciples to remain within Iskcon. How could his disciple attain love of Krishna and disobey him by leaving Iskcon?

During the Battle of Kuruksetra, Karna insulted Yudhisthira in front of Arjuna. Yudhisthira then left the battlefield. Arjuna and Krishna followed him, and Yudhisthira criticized Arjuna for allowing Karna to vilify him. In doing so, he insulted Arjuna’s bow, Gandiva. Previously Arjuna had taken a vow to kill anyone who insulted his bow, and if he could not do so, he vowed to take his own life. So he took out his sword to kill Yudhisthira. At that point, Krishna intervened and chastised Arjuna. “What are you doing you fool? Are you going to kill your elder brother for the sake of keeping your word? Is this the purport of the moral law? Is there nothing higher than moral law? And given the circumstances, what is the value of this promise when you vowed many times over to make Yudhisthira the king?”

Krishna continued, “Do you think that in the midst of the battle through which you have vowed to establish dharma by returning the throne to its heir, your elder brother, that it will be appropriate to behead him or kill yourself because of another vow you have taken. When these two vows conflict with one another you must determine the value of each and act accordingly.” Understanding his foolishness, Arjuna put down his sword, and Krishna then told him that there are eight kinds of death, one of which is to praise oneself. So he told Arjuna to praise himself and die in this way, thereby enabling him to fulfill his vow and also fulfill the purpose of killing of so many soldiers – establishing Yudhistira as king.

Prabhupada wanted his disciples to follow his Governing Body Commission and remain within Iskcon. He also wanted them to become Krnsa conscious. If one perceives a conflict between these two, he must seek a dynamic solution, finding the spirit of the law.

Many years ago Iskcon’s GBC took an extremely offensive posture toward Prabhupada’s beloved Godbrother, Srila B. R. Sridharadeva Goswami Maharaja, despite the fact that Prabhupada had suggested that they consult with him on matters of philosophy after his departure. Prabhupada indicated that Sridhara Maharaja was competent to act as a siksa guru for his disciples. Sridhara Maharaja had acted in this capacity previously for some of Prabhupada’s disciples at Prabhupada’s request, and Prabhupada himself said that he considered Sridhara Maharaja his own siksa guru. Thus when some devotees developed affection for Sridhara Maharaja and accepted him in their hearts as their siksa guru, the offensive posture taken by the GBC toward Sridhara Maharaja became intolerable.

At that time these devotees had to decide how to harmonize Prabhupada’s instructions to follow the GBC and remain within Iskcon with the threat of becoming implicated in Vaisnava and guru aparadha (siksa guru). Such aparadha would have been tantamount to spiritual suicide, rendering them incapable of fulfilling the ideal of Srila Prabhupada, indeed the very purpose of Iskcon – facilitating the awakening of Krishna prema.

As it turned out, the GBC at that time came up with a resolution directed against Sridhara Maharaja, stating that anyone who took siksa from an authority outside Iskcon had to leave. So those who had developed an affectionate, siksa guru relationship with Sridhara Maharaja, followed the GBC and left Iskcon. In this way they avoided spiritual suicide and honored Sridhara Maharaja in the way they were taught by Srila Prabhupada himself. They also followed Prabhupada’s instructions to follow the GBC, who had ordered them to leave Iskcon.

Q. Didn’t the GBC later resolve this dispute?

A. Several years later the GBC sent a committee to apologize to Sridhara Maharaja, acknowledging that they had offended him. However, to my knowledge they have not contacted the devotees who were forced to leave Iskcon by their policy regarding Sridhara Maharaja’s siksa and apologize to them, or to ask them to return to Iskcon. Thus these devotees remain separate from Iskcon, serving Prabhupada from their position.

Those who accepted Sridhara Maharaja as their siksa guru and are preaching successfully today must have the blessings of Srila Prabhupada, otherwise they could not be successful. In some instances we find that they have made considerable spiritual advancement evidenced by their preaching and persona. If Iskcon suffers from anything today, it is a shortage of such leaders.

Q. What can be done now?

A. Although I understand the logic of Iskcon’s policy toward Sridhara Maharaja that forced people like myself to leave Iskcon, I do not agree with it. It was a great mistake that has not, in my opinion, been sufficiently rectified. No doubt we all make mistakes. Let us all acknowledge this one, bearing no grudge on either side and move forward as Prabhupada would have expected. Let the disinherited be reinstated, and let them humbly share what they have gained during their exile.

Short of this, I have suggested several times that Iskcon acknowledge ‘sister societies’ such as the one I formed and work cooperatively with us for preaching and association. To date this suggestion has not been taken up by Iskcon. Perhaps our thousands of Sanga readers, many of whom are Iskcon members, including a number of Iskcon leaders, might like to champion this idea.

Q. In Nectar of Devotion, Prabhupada has quoted from Skanda Purana that Vaisnavas who wear tulsi beads and tilaka are not approached by the Yamadutas at the time of death. Why then did the Pandavas have to undergo hell for some time?

A. The verse you mention refers to sadhakas. For devotees like the Pandavas, heaven or hell are the same.

narayana-parah sarve
na kutascana bibhyati
api tulyartha-darsinah

The Pandavas are nitya parikaras of Krishna within his lila. They never go outside of the influence of his svarupa sakti. There is no hell for them, just an appearance of it in the lila.

Q. In a recent Sanga you mentioned that we should know the tattva, philosophy, either by our own study or by serving those who exemplify the Bhagavat. How can we can we recognize such a person? Aren’t those qualities mostly internal and difficult to detect?

A. You are correct in thinking that many of the symptoms of advanced devotees are internal and thus not perceivable by most. There are, however, nine preliminary symptoms apparent in one who is in the budding stages (bhavankura) of bhava. Mahaprabhu told Sanatana Goswami that the sastra unanimously concurs that if the seed of bhava has actually sprouted in one’s heart, the symptoms of this will manifest in him, ‘yanhara hrdaye ei bhavankura haya tanhate eteka cihna sarva-sastre kaya.’ Rupa Goswami describes these symptoms as follows in his Bhaktirasamrta-sindhu:

ksantir avyartha-kalatvam viraktir mana-sunyata
asa-bandhah samutkantha nama-gane sada rucih
asaktis tad-gunakhyane pritis tad-vasati-sthale
ity adayo ‘nubhavah syur jata-bhavankure jane

“When the seed of bhava sprouts, the following nine symptoms manifest in one’s behavior: forgiveness, concern that time should not be wasted, detachment, absence of false prestige, hope, eagerness, a taste for chanting the Holy Name, attachment to descriptions of the transcendental qualities of the Lord, and affection for the dhama. These are all called anubhava, subordinate signs of ecstatic emotion.” (Brs.1.3.25-26).

Look for these symptoms. Otherwise, sukriti in relation to bhakti (bhakti unmukhi sukriti) begets sraddha (faith) in the proper agent. This is accumulated over lifetimes. Those who have accumulated sufficient sukriti can understand who is a proper guide and who is not. Otherwise the baddha jivas are spiritually blind and it is difficult for them to know where to turn.

Our sincerity of purpose will be our best guide, and if by chance we find that we have submitted to a false agent, we must collect our sincerity and go on from there. Our sincerity is all we have, ‘na hi kalyana krt kascid, durgatim tata gacchati,’ and if we give our all in all, we will be delivered.

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