Śikṣā outside ISKCON?

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PART THREE - Doubts and Answers
Doubt 1

Doubt 1: Like all śāstra, Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books recommend association with devotees, especially advanced devotees.(1) Why then should we restrict devotees from taking śīkṣā outside ISKCON?

Answer: It is a fact: the primary element of spiritual life is sādhu-sa ̄ga,(2) without which the members of ISKCON will perish.(3)

But the issue is not whether to associate with sādhus; rather, with which sādhus to associate.

As Śrīla Prabhupāda taught us to associate with Vaiṣṇavas (some of whom he specified), he also taught us not to associate with certain Vaiṣṇavas.(4) On sādhu-saga, then, Prabhupāda gave instructions both general and specific.

Therefore, a disciple should not select which instructions to follow and which not to follow.(5) His duty is to meticulously reconcile all the instructions of Śrīla Prabhupāda, knowing them as his life and soul

Thus, the resolution to the two instructions — seek advanced association, but not outside ISKCON — is to seek advanced association within ISKCON.(6) Of course, this obliges ISKCON’s leaders to provide a quality of association which meets the needs of sincere devotees. (For those who doubt such leaders exist in ISKCON, see the answer to Doubt 9.)


1“If one desires his real welfare, he must associate with devotees and saintly persons and in this way rectify the material condition of his life.” (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.4.44, purport)
2See Caitanya-caritāmṛta Madhya 22.128.
3In a conversation, Prabhupāda says, “Then chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. Very simple method — but one cannot practice these things without association of devotees. Nobody can do it outside.” (Conversation, Melbourne, April 23, 1976)
4Letter, Los Angeles, January 31, 1969.
5Such selectivity leads to endless argumentation; for other, contradictory information is the basis of other eclectics’ equally relevant stand. Therefore conclusive judgement can be based only upon a process that resolves all information in a comprehensive way.
6Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, “Without the association of devotees, one cannot advance in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Therefore, we have established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Factually, whoever lives in this society automatically develops Kṛṣṇa consciousness.” (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 4.12.37, purport)
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