Śikṣā outside ISKCON?

<< Dobut 7 >>

PART THREE - Doubts and Answers
Doubt 7

Doubt 7: Jīva Gosvāmī states that a guru, who, out of envy, forbids his disciples to take śīkṣā from a superior Vaiṣṇava, should be rejected.

Is this not evidence that ISKCON’s gurus should allow their disciples to hear from superior Vaiṣṇavas at all costs? And, if they do not, does it not mean such gurus are envious, proving their disqualification? And if they are envious, then why should ISKCON devotees not turn to Vaiṣṇavas outside?

Answer: I assume this doubt refers to the vaiṣṇava vidveṣī cet passage of Bhakti-sandarbha 238.(32) Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura quotes this same verse in the Prakṛta-jana-kaṇ ̈a of his Brāhmaṇa and Vaiṣṇava, introducing it as follows: “If a so-called guru is envious of the Vaiṣṇavas, then one should reject him, remembering the guror apy avaliptasya verse.”(33) He quotes this to support his claim that a “so-called guru” who is envious of Vaiṣṇavas is a non-devotee: “for their own spiritual welfare his disciples should reject him without hesitation.”(34)

Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura translates the vaiṣṇava vidveaī cet passage: “Such an envious guru lacks the mood and character of a Vaiṣṇava, and śāstra enjoins one not to accept initiation from a non-devotee (avaiṣṇavopadiṣ±ena).(35) Knowing these scriptural injunctions, a sincere devotee abandons such a false guru. If, after leaving one who lacks the qualities of a true guru, one is without spiritual guidance, his only hope is to seek out a mahā-bhāgavata Vaiṣṇava and serve him. By constantly rendering service to such a pure devotee, one will certainly attain the highest goal of life.”

Here Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī has emphasised the general quality of a guru: he is non-envious. Those who are envious of pure Vaiṣṇavas should be rejected without hesitation; they are neither Vaiṣṇavas nor gurus — quite a straightforward instruction.

But the interpretation upon which this doubt is based is different by far. It opines that “because gurus who are envious of pure Vaiṣṇavas forbid their disciples to take śīkṣā from those Vaiṣṇavas, therefore every guru who forbids his disciple to take śīkṣā from a pure Vaiṣṇava is necessarily envious and should be rejected.”

Such a creative rendition does not at all represent Jīva Gosvāmīpāda. It is tantamount to saying, “Dogs have four legs; anything with four legs is a dog.” Sorry, that is just bad logic.

Applied categorically to every ISKCON guru (which would include Śrīla Prabhupāda), it is worse than a dead argument. It demeans ISKCON gurus and Śrīla Prabhupāda, and, ironically, it is the very attitude, which, according to Jīva Gosvāmī, is offensive to Vaiṣṇavas. It is the role of the founder-ācārya to define codes of behaviour for his followers and the duty of his followergurus to be faithful to those codes.

When experience has repeatedly proven the dubious integrity of certain Vaiṣṇavas, the founder-ācārya cannot be called envious, when, out of wisdom and love, he restrains his followers from taking shelter of them. And when a dīkṣā-guru, out of concern for his disciples and allegiance to the order of his own guru, also forbids his disciples from taking śīkṣā from certain Vaiṣṇavas, he is simply dutiful, not envious.

In fact, Śrīla Prabhupāda — whom all those presenting these doubts profess to revere — considered not his disciples, but many Vaiṣṇavas outside ISKCON, envious of himself,(36) a Vaiṣṇava of the highest order.(37)

In keeping with the above teachings of Jīva Gosvāmī — that those envious of Vaiṣṇavas should be rejected — Śrīla Prabhupāda did exactly that: he rejected those envious of him. And he indicated that anyone of a like mentality should be similarly rejected. That, then, must be the mood of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s bona-fide followers: rather than run to such envious persons for śīkṣā — regardless of their apparently high stature — reject their association. I marvel that this self-evident point seems to escape those who have raised such doubts.


32The Sanskrit is vaiṣṇava vidveaī cet parityājya eva. “guror api aviliptasye” ti smaraṇāt, tasya-vaiṣṇava-bhāva-rāhityena avaiṣṇavatayā avaiṣṇavopadiṣ±eneti vacana-viṣaya tvācca. Yathokta lakṣaṇasya śrī-guror-avidyamānatāyastu tasyaiva mahā-bhāgavatasyaikasya nitya-sevana° parama° areya¤. (Bhakti-sandarbha 238)
33“A so-called guru addicted to sensual pleasure and polluted by vice, who is ignorant and has no power to discriminate between right and wrong, and who follows processes other than pure devotional service must be abandoned.” (Mahābhārata, Udyoga-parva 179.25)
34Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura writes, “If one fails to do so, one will incur sin and deviate from the path of devotion.”
35“One who gets his mantra from a guru who is a non-devotee or who is addicted to sensual pleasure is doomed to a life in hell. Such a person must immediately approach a genuine Vaiṣṇava guru and again accept the mantra from him.” (Hari-bhakti-vilāsa 4.366)
36Śrīla Prabhupāda said, “So these rascals ... they are envious that ... What he has written? B. Just see what kind of men they are. They are not even ordinary human being. They are envious of me, and what to speak of make a judgment by estimation? They’re envious. Enviousness is immediately disqualification of Vaiṣṇava, immediate. He is not a human being.” (Conversation, Johannesburg, October 16, 1975)
37In his books Prabhupāda writes, “Unfortunately we are surrounded by neophyte Godbrothers who do not appreciate the extraordinary activities of spreading Kṛṣṇa consciousness all over the world. They simply try to bring us to their platform, and they try to criticize us in every respect.” (The Nectar of Instruction 6, purport)
Donate to Bhaktivedanta Library