Śikṣā outside ISKCON?

<< Dobut 9 >>

PART THREE - Doubts and Answers
Doubt 9

Doubt 9: Considering the fall-down of so many ISKCON gurus and the disorganised state of the Society, can it really be said that members of ISKCON can give sufficient guidance?

Answer: This doubt argues “the logic of the remainder,”(41) which translates as follows: ISKCON is in trouble, and since there are no qualified gurus in the Society, out of necessity devotees must take śīkṣā (and dīkṣā) from Vaiṣṇavas outside.

This doubt is built on two wobbly fundamentals. The first is the misconception that disarray in certain areas of ISKCON is a sign of spiritual failure. The second extrapolates that because some ISKCON gurus have proven themselves disqualified, all ISKCON gurus are disqualified.

To argue that problems in the Society are a sign of its failure is naïve.(42) For example, Śrīla Prabhupāda writes that even the disorder that customarily accompanies the passing of the ācārya can be rectified by the efforts of his sincere followers.(43)

It is paradoxical that some Vaiṣṇavas condemn ISKCON’s struggles, their own societies having transited through similar problems in the past, nay, even experiencing such problems at present. And if these same Vaiṣṇavas, who, in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s estimation, were responsible for chaos in their own organisation(44) are now qualified to be gurus, then why not value the devotees of ISKCON by the same standard?

The second prong of the doubt is the assumption that all ISKCON gurus are fallen. Intellectual integrity begs those making such a claim to provide satisfactory evidence in its support, in the absence of which, such a statement merely burdens an already crowded ether. The argument is an overgeneralisation and not the type generally voiced among charitable Vaiṣṇavas. Śrīla Prabhupāda, as critical as he was of Vaiṣṇava groups, rarely questioned the right of others to be guru.

As institutional disorder is not the monopoly of ISKCON, nor are fallen gurus. Most Vaiṣṇava organisations have a history of deviation and fall-down; therefore it seems unfitting to single out ISKCON.(45)

In addition, evidence supporting ISKCON’s gurus cannot be ignored. That evidence is the satisfaction ISKCON’s devotees world-wide experience in their gurus’ guidance.

Then some may argue, “But these gurus also may fall down!”

To this Prabhupāda replied, “No, this argument is not very strong. Just like one foodstuff, freshly made, it is fresh. But if somebody argues that if it remains four days more, it will become bad, that is surmisation. Now it is fresh. We take it fresh. What will happen in future, that is no consideration. In future, everyone may fall and everyone may become elevated. But we have to take his present situation, what he is at present.”(46)

Is it rational to argue that Śrīla Prabhupāda was empowered to spread Kṛṣṇa consciousness all over the world, but incapable of producing even one qualified disciple to carry on his legacy?(47) Hardly! Though the indictment is directed at Prabhupāda’s disciples, it discredits Śrīla Prabhupāda as well!

I would like to voice a note of caution about Vaiṣṇavas outside who pose themselves as śīkṣā-gurus of ISKCON. Their followers contrast them to ISKCON gurus, promoting them as spiritual luminaries and panaceas for ISKCON’s ills. Yet these Vaiṣṇavas and their followers seem to do little else than canvas ISKCON’s already converted members. Why do they concentrate on ISKCON alone, neglecting the unlimited conditioned souls who have not heard of Kṛṣṇa?(48) After all, Śrīla Prabhupāda described the external sign of spiritual advancement as the ability to convert the fallen to Vaiṣṇavism.(49)


41Pariaeṣya-nyāyā, means “the logic of the remainder,” or by elimination of unsatisfactory evidence, what is left is proof.
42Śrīla Prabhupāda scoffed at the idea of perfection even in ISKCON: “So we shall not expect that anywhere there is any Utopia. Rather, that is impersonalism. People should not expect that even in the Krishna Consciousness Society there will be Utopia. Because devotees are persons, therefore there will always be some lacking. ...” (Letter, Bombay, February 4, 1972)
43Commenting in the Bhāgavatam, Prabhupāda writes, “The ācārya, the authorized representative of the Supreme Lord, establishes these principles (religion), but when he disappears, things once again become disordered. The perfect disciples of the ācārya try to relieve the situation by sincerely following the instructions of the spiritual master.” (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 4.28.48, purport)
44Speaking about the turmoil caused in another Society, Prabhupāda wrote, “So S and his two associate gentlemen unauthorizedly selected one acarya and later it proved a failure.” (Letter, Tirupati, April 28, 1974) Prabhupāda writes, “Despite the spiritual master’s order to form a governing body and execute the missionary activities ... the two unauthorized factions began litigation that is still going on after forty years with no decision.” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta Ādi 12.8, purport) Prabhupāda says, “That T, unnecessarily he was envious, whole life fighting, fighting, fighting in the court and died. Simply planning.” (Conversation, Bombay, January 8, 1977)
45In a conversation Prabhupāda says, “So this K ... There are many long histories ... So he died, his end was like this ... His wife was a regular prostitute, and she killed her child, and on this shock, he took poison and died. This was his spiritual realization. Just see. (laughs) And he was made the chief, and one of the supporter was S ...” (Conversation, Tokyo, June 18, 1976)
46Conversation, London, July 11, 1973.
47In a conversation Prabhupāda says, “Similarly, these so-called svāmīs, they are impotent. They could not produce any child of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. That is the proof.” (Conversation, Melbourne, May 20, 1975)
48Prabhupāda defines uttama-adhikārī: “Always thinking of Kṛṣṇa, devising means by which to spread the holy name of Kṛṣṇa, he understands that his only business is in spreading the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement all over the world.” (The Nectar of Instruction 5, purport) Not all over ISKCON.
49Prabhupāda writes, “Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has given some practical hints to the effect that an uttama-adhikārī Vaiṣṇava can be recognized by his ability to convert many fallen souls to Vaiṣṇavism.” (The Nectar of Instruction 5, purport)
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