Śikṣā outside ISKCON?

<< Dobut 6 >>

PART THREE - Doubts and Answers
Doubt 6

Doubt 6: In his last days, Śrīla Prabhupāda apologised to other Vaiṣṇavas for having offended them in the course of his preaching. He declared the war with his Godbrothers over. These statements lead one to believe that Prabhupāda had finally ended ISKCON’s isolationist policy and anticipated his disciples’ harmonious interaction with senior Vaiṣṇavas outside ISKCON.

Answer: Who could really believe that Śrīla Prabhupāda actually committed offences? Even some of those to whom he apologised(25) rejected the idea.(26) Prabhupāda’s apologies, rather, symptomised the humble spirit of a true Vaiṣṇava, doing what all devotees do before leaving this world; his apologies did not contradict his earlier statements.(27)

The doubt at hand cites a statement — “The war is over” — interpreting it to mean that Śrīla Prabhupāda wanted his disciples to take śīkṣā from other Vaiṣṇavas. However, there are no instructions to support this argument. “The war is over,” rather, was a ceasefire on the verbal exchange between Prabhupāda and his Godbrothers. That is my understanding. That war was over.

An informal comment is a far cry from a direct instruction, such as: “I have said many things about Vaiṣṇavas outside ISKCON, often exaggerating for the sake of focusing you on my instructions. Now that I am leaving, you will need others to guide you. Forget the past. Forget what I said. The war is over. You may take śīkṣā from others.”

And, had Śrīla Prabhupāda given the comprehensive instruction above — a directive to contradict years of training — he would not have left it to the memory of a few devotees. That was not the way Prabhupāda did things.

How did Prabhupāda communicate on issues of paramount importance? He would

  1. write instructions in his books;(28)
  2. repeat himself many times;(29)
  3. write a general letter to the Society;(30)
  4. call a meeting of the GBC, sannyāsīs, and senior devotees.(31)

This was Śrīla Prabhupāda! He was not someone to leave major issues hanging for lack of information or communication. Had he intended members of ISKCON, after his departure, to take śīkṣā from Vaiṣṇavas outside the movement, he would have made it abundantly clear. There would now be no argument.


25Prabhupāda said, “My life is coming to an end. It is my desire that you all forgive me for my mistakes. ... when you are preaching at times there are some disputes, some misunderstandings. Maybe I also committed some offences like that. Please ask them to forgive me.” (Śrīla Prabhupāda-līlāmṛta, 54)
26One such Vaiṣṇava told Prabhupāda at his bedside, “Mahārāja, you didn’t commit any offence.” (Śrīla Prabhupāda-līlāmṛta, 54)
27For Prabhupāda says, “You can criticize, if you are right. You cannot criticize wrongly.” (Conversation, Vṛndāvana, March 16, 1974)
28Prabhupāda considered the history of the Gauḍīya Maṭha sufficiently important to record it in Caitanya-caritāmṛta. (See Caitanya-caritāmṛta Adi 12.8)
29In letters, lectures, conversations, especially on important things, Prabhupāda repeated himself, e.g., “I repeat my symptoms so that you can take necessary care.” (Letter, New York, June 1, 1967)
30When Prabhupāda wanted prasādam available to all guests visiting temples, he wrote a letter to all temple presidents. See letter, Calcutta, January 18, 1977.
31When, in the summer of 1977, Prabhupāda wanted direction whether to stay or leave (die) he instructed the senior devotees and GBC men to discuss. (Śrīla Prabhupāda-līlāmṛta, 54)
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