Śikṣā outside ISKCON?

<< Dobut 14 >>

PART THREE - Doubts and Answers
Doubt 14

Doubt 14: But surely, for so many mundane topics, members of ISKCON take instruction from non-devotees. How can that be better than taking spiritual instruction from advanced Vaiṣṇavas?

Answer: It is true that most members of ISKCON accept some kind of information from outside the Society. This includes: news of the mundane world; specialised, practical instruction;(66) Vedic history and culture;(67) as well as spiritual teachings(68) — in the absence of which, ISKCON would be insular to the extreme, ineffective in even maintaining its current status, and incapable of facing its remit to spread Kṛṣṇa consciousness in this age of communication.

Śrīla Prabhupāda did approve such information in moderation.(69) He also sent his disciples on specific errands(70) — which included gathering limited counsel from senior Vaiṣṇavas.(71)

But, should Prabhupāda’s disciples receive continual śīkṣā from such senior Vaiṣṇavas, the disciples would develop allegiance to someone other than His Divine Grace. Thus, other Vaiṣṇavas would influence ISKCON, its policies and its members. To this scenario, Śrīla Prabhupāda decreed an unequivocal no! This order was one he did not rescind in his last days. Though Prabhupāda exhibited Vaiṣṇava humility, apologising even to many who had repeatedly minimised him,(72) still he remained firm on this point

In these fourteen doubts, as well as in other arguments in favour of outside śīkṣā, there is a common methodology, known in Vedic logic as jalpa. It begins with the end in mind, and selects both evidence and arguments in support of its predetermined goal. In so doing, it rejects conflicting evidence and arguments. This is cheating.

And it is the methodology of the proponents of these doubts. They begin with the end in mind: “Take śīkṣā from Vaiṣṇavas outside ISKCON”; and concoct arguments which circumvent or reinterpret the clear evidence — in this case, Prabhupāda’s very explicit instructions: “Do not take śīkṣā from Vaiṣṇavas outside ISKCON!” Such logic lacks integrity and is not approved by the ācāryas. Valid logical argumentation examines all evidence at hand and reaches an unbiased conclusion.(73)


66Such as that about bookkeeping or legal matters.
67Information on varṇāśrama from Manu-saṃitā, for example.
68Books not written by Śrīla Prabhupāda, but authorised by him, such as those of the Gosvāmī’s.
69Examples are: (1) “So why should ... Of course, we are in touch in the newspaper, but as much as it is required. We are in touch with the material world as much as it is required.” (Conversation, Melbourne, April 23, 1976) (2) “So far the accounts are concerned, it is a very important item. I am so glad to learn that you are taking assistance from a chartered accountant.” (Letter, Nairobi, October 13, 1971) (3) When a devotee asked, “I thought you said that we should not read the previous ācāryas’ books,” Prabhupāda replied, “No you should read.” (Walk, Perth, May 13, 1975)
70When Śrīla Prabhupāda wanted to develop the birthplace of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, he sent a disciple to negotiate on his behalf. Devotee: “What is the use of talking with L?” Prabhupāda: “... I wanted that ‘You have to consider that whatever portion you can spare, give us on lease. We develop.’ That’s all.” (Walk, Māyāpura, March 21, 1976)
71Such as information about his samādhi ceremony. Devotee: “N? Yes. We went to see him just to inquire about the necessary ceremony, and he gave us instruction. I sent B and B, and they wrote down everything.” (Conversation, Vṛndāvana, October 8, 1977)
72Prabhupāda: “That was the policy of M and S that ‘Although Bhaktivedanta Swami is propagating throughout, he is subordinate to us, under our instruction.’ So all these three ...” (Conversation, Māyāpura, January 19, 1976)
73Vāda is that process of argumentation whereby both parties are interested only in the truth, tattva, and have no self-interest. See Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa’s commentary on Bhagavad-gītā 10.32, vāda¤ pravadatām aham.
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