Śikṣā outside ISKCON?

<< Dobut 3 >>

PART THREE - Doubts and Answers
Doubt 3

Doubt 3: Both Śrīla Prabhupāda’s general instruction to associate with Vaiṣṇavas and his specific warning to avoid certain Vaiṣṇavas outside ISKCON can be fulfilled without cutting off ISKCON from the rest of the Vaiṣṇava world. How? By associating only with those Vaiṣṇavas outside ISKCON who perfectly represent Prabhupāda.

Answer: This argument would seem a logical conse- quence of my answers to Doubts 1 and 2; indeed, Śrīla Prabhupāda did entertain this idea in the early days of the Society.(13) But, I humbly submit, not later.(14) Furthermore, upon his departure, Prabhupāda did not say, “Unfortunately there are many Vaiṣṇavas envious of me. Avoid them. But find those who are non-envious, those who share my missionary mood, those who have read my books, those who agree with our teachings, and those who have no agenda independent of serving ISKCON — these you may accept as śīkṣā-guru.”

And had he said it, what would be the process to find, outside ISKCON, Vaiṣṇavas who are Prabhupāda’s representatives?

Vaiṣṇavas outside may claim to know Prabhupāda, but the history in dealing with them, their followers, or both, is testimony to the contrary. How will ISKCON’s members know a particular Vaiṣṇava without cultivating a relationship with him, and how, having cultivated the relationship, will they avoid compromise?

And, to Śrīla Prabhupāda, experience showed that the more his disciples involved themselves with other Vaiṣṇavas, the more his position was slighted, his disciples confused, and his ISKCON’s preaching jeopardised. That scenario has not changed to this day. The same phenomenon repeats itself, putting into doubt a chance that any outside Vaiṣṇava may be found to benefit ISKCON as śīkṣā-guru.

Though I have disparaged the likelihood of finding a suitable śīkṣā-guru outside ISKCON, I do not condemn any great soul engaged in Krsna’s service. Indeed, my understanding is that certain differences between Prabhupāda and other Vaiṣṇavas may be of a transcendental nature.(15) In any case, though, the fact remains that, in the past 35 years, neither Śrīla Prabhupāda nor his followers have managed to successfully bridge these differences.

The quest for suitable śīkṣā-gurus outside the Society has thus far created enough damage to ISKCON and inter-Vaiṣṇava relationships to warrant the self-evident solution of simply following Prabhupāda’s order.(16) This will avoid offences to Śrīla Prabhupāda as well as offences to other Vaiṣṇavas.


13Śrīla Prabhupāda repeatedly invited other Vaiṣṇavas to join ISKCON or work co-operatively with him. For instance, “With this aim in view I tried my... to join together. ... first K, then B, and then T, but I have failed to get any cooperation.” (Letter, New York, May 16, 1966)
14In time Prabhupāda became indifferent to working co-operatively: “So far as cooperating with my Godbrothers is concerned, that is not very urgent business. So far until now my Godbrothers have regularly not cooperated with me and by the grace of my Spiritual Master, things are still going ahead. So cooperation or non-cooperation ...” (Letter, Gorakhpur, February 23, 1971)
15Prabhupāda writes, “He holds a grudge against my Guru Maharaja and even if it is transcendental it will gradually appear mundane in our eyes.” (Letter, Los Angeles, December 25, 1973)
16“We shall be very careful about them and not mix with them. This is my instruction to you all.” (Letter, Tirupati, April 28, 1974)
17Prabhupāda writes, “... one should respect one’s spiritual master’s Godbrothers as one respects one’s spiritual master.” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta Ādi 5.147, purport)
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