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On Christianity, Gurus and Prabhupada (25-5-07)

Page history last edited by varshana 14 years, 4 months ago


A very comprehensive lecture about Vaishnava philosophy  (Krsna doesn’t kill philosophical atheists) , deviations from Jesus’ original teachings in Christianity and the system of initiation in ISKCON




I want to have in the background of this presentation the horrific history of various religions in this world, unfortunately some from the Middle East such as Christianity and Islam in terms of a history of astonishing violence which was perpetrated in the name of these religions. Even if we say that violence and brutality was performed by people who only falsely claimed to be representing those traditions, often those false claimants were in fact leaders. This shows the monstrous potentials of religious institutions to perpetrate evil in the world.

Narada’s desire to bring Krishna into this world cannot satisfactory be explained as desire to see Krishna. He wouldn’t provoke the murder of thousands of children just to satisfy his spiritual desires. What was he doing? It certainly doesn’t give ´pleasure to a devotee to kill innocent children. It seems to me that it must be the case that Kamsa was bound to find out that Krishna was going to come and that Narada just wanted to get this over with. Otherwise, if the children would not have been killed had Narada not spoken, it would be a puzzle. One may say that he saw it as spiritual, as the pastime. That is true, but at the same time, you wonder if the children and the parents saw it that way, if it causes great suffering to others and I say that it didn’t bother me because I see it as spiritual.

Regarding ksatriyas, it was always voluntary on both sides.  Only when they challenged each other whether the other party accepted the challenge they would fight. Prabhupada would say that ksatriyas never turn away from battle and Krishna says in BG that not fleeing from battle is a quality of a ksatriya. However, we should also understand that “yudha”, a formal word or battle, was not entered whimsically. If it was obviously that they would lose, they wouldn’t enter the battle so they wouldn’t run away. There are many examples of this, one is Krishna’s own father Vasudeva. When Kamsa was going to kill Devaki he didn’t fight, he negotiated. Or when the Pandavas sent out their challenge horse before the raja-suya sacrifice, most of the kings decided not to fight. So not fleeing in battle doesn’t mean that when anyone ever comes and says, “step outside” you step outside. There are many ksatriyas declining to fight. What is means is once you have accepted the battle and it has begun, then you shouldn’t be a coward.

Prabhupada says in BG that anyone who doesn’t care for KC is a duskritam who Krishna will destroy (purport BG 4.8). In order to make statement by Prabhupada consistent with the Bhagavad-gita,  it would have to have generous definition of KC which will go beyond adherence to Gaudiya Vaishnavism and include a general decency, because in BG although Krishna does say that people who don’t worship Him are a little clueless, there is no statement in the Gita even hinting at Krishna’s intending to destroy or vanquish people simply because they don’t accept him. In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna says very clearly, “urdhvam gacchanti sattva-stha”   (Bg 14.18), that those standing in goodness go upward.  

Regarding sattva-guna, Bg 18.37 is also important. There Krishna says that happiness in goodness is like poison at first, but then becomes 'nectar,' amrta, and that happiness in goodness comes from the purity or grace or satisfaction (prasada) of the soul and the intelligence.

Further He says in verse 14.17 “sattvat sanjayate jnanam”, knowledge comes from goodness.

So what Prabhupada translates as miscreants here is literarily duskritam, those who do evil. This is not about religious doctrine or ideology. Someone could interpret Prabhupada’s statement as one who doesn’t care, which could be understood as an emotional or intellectual disposition, “I am not interested in the Hare Krishna movement.” However, what Krishna is talking about here is doing evil.


And if we look at the people whom Krishna killed when He came to this world, I don’t think there is any evidence in all of Krishna-lila and certainly not in Caitanya-lila, of Krishna or His agents killing someone on the grounds that they weren’t Vaishnava, philosophical atheists. If you look at Krishna’s own activities, he killed people because they were bad or harassing good people. Jarasandha i.e. attacked Krishna and killed large numbers of Yadu kings and he was going to butcher them. So that’s not a question of someone not believing in Krishna but acting as an evil barbarian. Similarily, Sisupala attacked Krishna.


There are people who are the lowest and don’t worship Krishna (naradhama), but some people are simply in ignorance: mudha, which means ignorant or simply confused, they lost their true understanding. Srila Prabhupada himself said that. I was walking with him in Rancho Park in Los Angeles, all devotees were on a morning walk. One brahmacari began to severly criticize American people, saying they were demons etc. Apparently he was a frustrated sankirtan devotee. Prabhupada stopped him and said, “No, they are not bad, they are simply ignorant, they don’t understand enlightenment. “ So it is not that everyone who at the present time does not understand Krishna is doing evil in the world or the lowest among mankind.


The idea the Atheists are demons and have to be destroyed is not portrayed in the Gita.

Krishna killed Kamsa not because he was a philosophical atheist. He threatened to kill Krishna’s own family. Rama killed Ravana because he had kidnapped Sita and wanted to kill her. He was an outlaw in the universe.

If in America you go in a shop and take a bunch of merchandize without paying for it, that is a criminal act. Similarly, in a society where there is a broad understanding that our material goods are coming from the demigods, not to pay for them is considered to be a bad thing. Therefore Krishna says in Chapter 3 of the Gita “tair dattan apradayaibhyo yo bhunkte stena eva sah“ (Bg 3.12) one who receives gifts from the demigods and doesn’t offer back to them is simply a thief. However, in order to comply with the minimum requirement of cosmic law, to be considered a good citizen of the universe there is not a spiritual requirement because this universe is precisely meant for those who don’t want to be spiritual. There is a spiritual requirement to transcend the universe and go back home to Godhead.

So the mode goodness is prakasakam, enlightening, and it is anamaya, not grossly contaminated. Krishna says yajante sattvika devan ( Bg 17.4), those in the mode of goodness worship the demigods. To worship Krishna is a spiritual activity. So you can offer things to the demigods, be in the mode of goodness and be elevated in this world, be happy and have some material knowledge without being strictly speaking a theist. If by theist we mean someone who explicitly accepts and worships a Supreme God who stands above the universe. That is what is in the Bhagavad-gita as far as I can tell. So Krishna emphasizes that “if you want to get out of this prison of this material world which is extremely limited, ultimately – after all it is a world of birth and death – then of course you have to show a spiritual qualification.


Krishna  protected many people when He appeared in this world, and He also says that only few people understood that He is God. So it seems undeniable that Krishna also protected decent, moral people who were not explicitly Vaishnavas.  Krishna did, on the other hand, usually restrict His personal intimate association to those who understood Him. When He personally saved people they usually acknowledged Krishna as the Lord and offered prayers which are recorded in the Bhagavatam.


The reason why I mention all these points is that over the last years because of Krishna inspiring me or my own propensities I have been studying some of the religions of this world, especially the history of Christianity and although many good and devoted people have been Christians, within that history there are almost unbelievable atrocities, brutalities, just the most horrible kind of ignorance and raw, unmitigated evil in the name of religion. If you study the history of India, either academically or as we hear if from the Bhagavatam or the Caitanya Caritamrita, it is similar to pre-Christian, pagan Europe, the Roman Empire. There were definitely greedy people in the world who fought wars, somewhat regularly, but you don’t have that particularly poisonous phenomena of explicit religious wars. If you look at the battle of Kuruksetra, it wasn’t to establish a particular religion, it was to establish dharma which is also the word in Sanskrit for morality, justice. It wasn’t a war to impose one religion on the other religions. There is hardly a hint in the Bhagavatam of anyone going to war in order to spread their religion.


So I wanted to make sure that we understand Prabhupada’s statements correctly in the context of his other statements and the Bhagavad-gita and the Bhagavatam, because as soon as you say that Krishna comes to this world to kill people because they are not Vaishnavas, then guess what God’s work is in this world – if you want to do God’s work in this world, then maybe you should go out and kill those who are not Vaishnavas. That’s exactly how many times in history so-called Christians saw it, that if God is going to torture these people forever, we might as well get started now and do His work in that way. There were popes and kings who directly gave this justification: God Himself wants these people killed and tortured.


So it is very important for us as a movement to look at our scriptures, Bhagavad-gita and Srimad Bhagavatam, and look intelligently what was the relationship between religious teachings and the use of political and military power.

From Questions and answers:

There is a certain degree of hyperbole, exaggerated speech in our culture, positive and negative. When Prabhupada says he is the most fallen while he is very elevated it is positive. Similarly loving parents may say, “you rascal” to their children. Negative would be saying that when you break ekadasi you have to go to hell for so many lifetimes. I don’t think the punishment fits the crime here. So we have to recognize that there is a certain amount of exaggerated speech which is meant for some purpose.


There is no justification anywhere in the Bhagavad-gita, the Bhagavatam or the Caitanya-caritamrita or anywhere in our culture for violently coercing people to chant Hare Krishna.  In every society, violence is used to enforce law and order. The application of force in Vedic culture is done on the grounds of reasonable justifiable moral principles.

The term “demon” is not about philosophy. Demons are bad people and really do bad things in the world. We are not talking about killing people because they have the wrong philosophy. We need to understand Srila Prabhupada’s teachings intelligently. We may find statements like “One who doesn’t accept Krishna is a demon, but we don’t give a philosophical test to everyone and kill those who flunk the test. That is not Vedic Culture. A demon is someone in the same sense that everyone else understands it, one who rapes, kills and causes havoc in society. We are not talking about people who philosophically don’t get it.


Srila Prabhupada in his books resented a philosophical immovable object in that sense that superficially you can say that there is almost endless repetition in Srila Prabhupada’s books - superficially, because if you are deeply absorbed in Krishna Consciousness there are infinite nuances and subtleties etc. But in terms of basic philosophical principles, there is endless repetition. The reason I think Krishna inspired Srila Prabhupada to do this is because it is a philosophical immovable philosophical object. If you look at Christianity the way they enthusiastically created new doctrines.

It were very fundamental things like the identity of Jesus, where he got upgraded to God, or where they brought in a new entity. We have the authority of the old testament, which was God the father, we have the new authority which is the son, but then as the church began to create new doctrines it got to a point where most of their teachings where not found in the old or new Testament. So they needed some authority for it and had to call in a third entity, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was called into action and worked up into a part of God, because as John, the least historical of all the four Gospels points out - they have the Greek speaking Jesus and 7 years later a book written by a man from West Turkey .  saying , ‘The Holy  Spirit will come in My name and teach you all kind of things which you didn’t hear from me, but don’t freak out … So basically the Holy Spirit was brought in order to justify and authorize the Church as an institution which was creating all kinds of new doctrines.


Most of the early followers according to Jesus and the Bible were illiterate peasants, precisely the opposite of the case of Lord Chaitanya where the early followers were some of the most learned people in the country, multilingual scholars. In the case of Lord Chaitanya we have this massive documentation of His teachings , contemporary and near contemporary. In the case of Jesus there is nothing like that. People long after him were coming from a different culture, the Greek culture.


So in the case of Srila Prabhupada, he has stated the basic principles so many times that it is humanly impossible to get the basic things wrong – well, it is possible for some people, namely the Rtvik system which is actually not mentioned in any Vedic literature. It doesn’t exist in Vedic Culture. ´First of all it is based on a misunderstanding of the Sanskrit work ‘rtvik’ which doesn’t mean surrogate. The Sanskrit word ‘rtuh’ which means season, like fall or summer. Ij’ is an abbreviation of the word ‘yaj’ which means to sacrifice. So the word ‘rtu-ij’ means one who sacrifices in season, because the Vedic sacrifices were seasonal. All around the world ancient fire sacrifices were based on the agricultural year, for planting, rain, harvesting etc. People were very much tuned into nature. A person who knew all the technicalities of which sacrifice for which season because it was a very technical procedure was called ‘rtu-ij’. The word has never been used in any Vedic literature in relation to a guru or the process of spiritual initiation. It just doesn’t exist in Vedic Culture.


Srila Prabhupada literally said hundreds of times that “my authority comes from the fact that I am repeating what I have got from scriptures, what Krishna said”’ He never said – and it would be a false claim – that “my authority comes from my purity”. He said “my authority comes from paramapara”. That’s what Krishna says.


Srila Prabhupada gave us a system – guru, sadhu, sastras – and that’s how we understand things. If we stick to that and don’t introduce dramatic new concepts which are mentioned no where in Vedic literature and didn’t exist,  we are pretty safe from the type of historical drifting far away from the historical roots which we find in other religions in the world. That is really what is at stake.

Srila Prabhupada said, “if the guru asks for water, don’t bring milk”. He never asked us to glorify him by saying  “you can concoct things”. In fact, he would take that as an insult. How many times did Srila Prabhupada say, “I have not concocted anything, I am simply repeating” and yet some people who are not the best and the brightest think they can glorify him by saying that “Prabhupada, you are so great, you can concoct and invent” -  something which he never even explicitly stated.

If you take that particular example of ignoring everything Srila Prabhupada teaches, affirming things that he didn’t teach, ignoring the tradition and sastras  - if you see this example and imagine it going on all over the place many things like that, then you understand the histories of some of these world religions.

So we have to take Prabhupada’s book seriously , which means to see them in relation to sastra. If you ask a simple question, “was it Srila Prabhupada’s intention that we see everything except him through sastra?” In other words, did Srila Prabhupada consider that he stood outside and beyond the Vedic Culture, so we should understand everything through sastra but not him? That Vedic Culture and the Bhagavad-gita and Bhagavatam don’t apply to him. He said the opposite hundreds of times, “my authority comes from faithfully repeating, I haven’t invented anything, I haven’t concocted anything”.  So not inventing and not concocting is our security. And we have such massive documentation of what Prabhupada said.


There are basic principles and details. I once took the trouble of looking at every place in the Bhagavatam and Lord Caitanya says in the Chaitanya-caritamrita that all the philosophical conclusions are in the Bhagavatam / where the word diksa is used. It is used in the older Vedic Culture, where they were doing sacrifices to indicate a process by which people were sanctified and purified, prepared to enter into direct contact with God. Because in the older Vedic Culture this intimate contact with God took place in sacrifices  - the idea is when go to the temple room to see the deity, not to speak of going on the altar - you make sure that you are clean and dressed properly because we organize our culture in such a way that there are certain places and times where we can be intensely focused on God. We protect those spaced, because even though Krishna is everywhere, the temple provides the best opportunity to be Krishna Conscious. By the demands of life in other places we cannot always arrange things with the same diligence .

So in the same way in Vedic Culture people would undergo diksa. It might have lasted several days. Things that you find in every world religions. Husband and wife would abstain from sex for a certain period of time, they might fast or alter their diet so that they are in a very peaceful state of mind, perform certain preparatory ceremonies. When Vaisnavism became very prominent, your whole life was considered a sacrifice (yad karosi) and therefore you take a lifelong initiation because your whole life is a preparation for entering into the spiritual world. That’s the link to the ancient traditions. So the Brahmans performed the sacrifices and the ritviks were the technical experts for the sacrifice and there would be the ‘yaja manam’,  the patron , a rich man who would pay for it. They were generally householders. Interestingly a man could not sit down and participate in the sacrifice unless his wife was there. Both had to undergo the diksa to make them read for the sacrifice.  The idea that Srila Prabhupada concocted initiation for women or the brahmacarini ashram is itself a silly concoction. (In The Mahabharata Brhaspati’s sister is a brahmacarini). So Srila Prabhupada didn’t concoct thing and the basic principles of our movement are coming from Lord Caitanya and our scripture. Srila Prabhupada himself denied his authority to concoct.


Comment: “But he made adjustments”.

To introduce an entirely new system of parampara is more than an adjustment. Not only that. If you read Vedic literature, one of the most important elements of the guru-disciple relationship is pariksa, which means examination. The guru and the disciple must personally examine each other and approve each other. There were cases where people asked Srila Prabhupada for initiation and he said, no. There are also many example in Lord Caitanya’s times where gurus chose not to initiate someone who approached them. Also, Srila Prabhupada said that these disciples are his grand-disciples.


To use Srila Prabhupada as this diksa vending machine where he has no power to decide is totally against Vedic principles because it eliminates one of the most basic principles – mutual examination and personal guidance. When Srila Prabhupada was personally present not all, but a lot of books were there. He said he out everything in the first canto, yet even after doing most of the Bhagavatam and the CC people were misunderstanding things and he had to correct and guide them through letters and personal darshans. Prabhupada told Mahavira Prabhu in 75 or 76 in Vrindavan who requested him to stay in Vrindavan and rest, ‘if I stay here and stop travelling around the world they’ll ruin everything. ‘ In other words, with his books in print he had to personally go around and guide the disciples.

If you look up in the Veda base the probably 200 times that Srila Prabhupada quotes the verse  ‘ajnaya guru hana tara' ei desa [Cc. Madhya 7.128]’ ( become a guru and safe this land). Srila Prabhupada has certain bullet points which he made over and over again. He was a very conscious, organized teacher. One thing he says again and again is that he would be displeased if you don’t become a guru. He considered that not to be a guru was an act of selfishness. As far as what kind of guru you become, diksa or siksa, that depends on your situation. For example in Nairobi he was addressing a group of Indian business men and said, “it might not be appropriate to be diksa guru for you because you are working in the world, but do your best, teach your neighbors.” The idea that diksa guru is somehow superior to or more exalted than siksa guru  is exactly the opposite of what our scriptures teach. There is no statement anywhere. In fact the greatest teacher of all time, Krishna Himself as Lord Caitanya, did not become a diksa but a siksa guru. God Himself chose to become a siska guru.  So to say that the position of siksa guru is inferior is another concoction. There is a statement in Srila Prabhupada’s  books that anyone who thinks siksa position is less will ruin Vedic Culture. The extent of this deviation is breathtaking.


Prabhupada was constantly examining his representatives whom he chose to recommend people for initiation. From time to time some of those people were deviant and he withdraw there person’s authority to recommend. So he did perform the process of pariksa although sometimes he did it through a representative, but he constantly examined us, the people who were doing the recommending.


All vedic literature and teachings tell us than when a guru physically departs something changes.

There was a unique position that Prabhupada insisted upon and that is the position of Founder Acarya. With all due respect to the diksa gurus of the world, it is not a big position. So to insist that only Prabhupada can have such a big position is kind of silly because it is not that big a position by itself. One of the main things Prabhupada says in preaching this verse ‘yare dekhe …. ajnaya guru hana tara' ei desa’ he says what is the big deal to become a guru, it is a simple thing. Just repeat.


What is a big thing is to be the Founder Acarya. All of us are acaryas with a small ‘a’, but there are few with a capital ‘A’ and they are the people that guide Vedic civilization. Prabhupada is an Acarya. When he would write a letter to an important person he wouldn’t say, “allow me to introduce myself, I am the eternal diksa guru or sampradya acrarya of ISKCON”. He would always say ,“I am the Founder Acarya of ISKCON”. In 1970 he discovered a plot against him to remove him from his position engineered by the Gaudiya Math by willing disciple who were intimate with those people.  The way Prabhupada detected this plot was that they published “Easy Journey to Other Planets” and they removed his title as Founder Acarya. As soon as he saw this he acted and threw them out. So he did insist upon a unique position, but it was not diksa guru.

I almost feel that sometimes Krishna would get amazed at the power of His own illusory energy. It is amazing how people can be so mystically irrational.


Prabhupada did not write systematic philosophy. He didn’t write everything he had to say on a specific topic in a chapter. His sociology, his psychology, his theology, it is all interwoven.  His preaching style was very forceful. He often states thing in a categorical, unqualified sense, but he really means just one aspect. You can find a place where he says women should only do domestic duties, but what about his quote on June 22 1976 in a room conversation in LA where he says women should get PhDs and teach in universities? Therefore when you are dealing with a body of literatures which is not organized in a strict, systematic  way, so before you really legitimately  represent Prabhupada on a particular topic you have to know everything he said on that topic.

Few people really want to do that, but everyone will go on the internet and pretend they are a philosopher.  If you can just point and click you are a theologian.

There is a real controversy about whether we are in the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya sampradaya. Lord Caitanya and the Six Goswamis never said we were connected to Madhva. Baladeva Vidyabusana said it and then Prabhupada repeated it, but clearly at least the teachings that people attribute to Madhva are in some ways really different from ours.


Regarding changes, if you look at the teachings of Lord Caitanya and His direct followers, the Goswamis – what you see is a wide range of spiritual resources and teachings. At different times different acaryas have put forward different processes from that tool kit. It is a like a doctor who has all kind of information about different diseases and at different times he may prescribe different things, but he is prescribing from within an authorized range of treatments. So I don’t see a mere change. What I rather see that sometimes some things are emphasized at other times those things are deemphasized and other things are brought forward, but it is all within a body of authorized teachings. A change of emphasis is not a change of tradition.

If everything was great in Vaishnavism, why would Krishna personally come as Lord Caitanya to establish the right path? He went to South India and interacted with the Tattva-vadis, the followers of Madhvacarya and thought they were missing the point. They had lost the sense of spontaneous bhakti. It was very formal und ritualistic.

I want to make a distinction between philosophical conclusions (siddhanta) and hermeneutical strategies.  In terms of a different hermeneutical approach (which parts of the scriptures are figurative and which are literal – in relation to Bhaktivinode Thakur’s mention about the hellish planets in “The Bhagavat …”) if at the end of the day you are not changing the philosophy – who is God, what is the nature of God, what is the nature of the soul, what is the relationship between God and the soul, what is material nature, what is liberation – if those philosophical truths are not being changed, but rather there are different approaches in terms of how to classify things as figurative or literal without a philosophical change, it is not a change in the tradition in a relevant sense that concerns me. The examples given from Christianity are very much philosophical changes about the nature of God and our relationship to Him.

What no one can deny is that in this world one can suffer terribly. Whether those punishments take place here or there,  or what the rules are – to me the important principle is the justice of God, that the punishment fits the crime. The phala-srutis, the fruit-verses, sometimes say that whoever reads this story will get all kinds of money or be victorious in battle etc. The acaryas even say that it is not true for everyone. What if there is a battle and both opposing kings read the same story? Therefore it is undeniable that there is a degree of hyperbole in that certain things are stated which may not be true for everyone. If the rewards are sometimes stated in that language the punishments must be the same.


There is justice under Krishna. I think that is something we experienced in our own lives. According to our sincerity, surrender or pride our happiness and suffering corresponds to our character and the way we behave. That is not what siddhanta means. Traditionally in Vedic culture, the Vedanta tradition, people are very much concerned with ontological issues: what is the soul, what is God, what is nature, what are the relationships, what is the destination of the soul, how does the universe basically work? The acaryas agree that certain things are allegorical, certain things are literal, eg. it says when an eclipse occurs that Rahu swallows the sun or the moon. The acaryas say in their commentaries that it is just an allegory. Yet other things are taken literally. The acaryas may disagree to a certain extent on which box to put certain things in. However, they agree very strongly on the basic philosophy which is the tattva traya. There is no disagreement,  and that is siddhanta.


Question about a verse that says one must be in one of the four sampradayas


A: What is clear is that you must be in sampradaya. In the BG Krishna doesn’t mention the four sampradayas, but He does mention that He Himself initiates a chain of parampara. It starts with Krishna. When Lord Caitanya comes and speaks, that exactly matches the structure given in the Gita. So when Lord Caitanya comes, He is teaching and we are following – that satisfies the requirements of the Gita. In terms of the Gita and SB we are perfectly situated. As far as the additional requirement of being in one of the four sampradayas – that is still in question – as is the origin of that verse and our connection with Madhva that Lord Caitanya didn’t talk about or (most of) His direct followers.

If this is really a spiritual science – and a science is useless if there are no scientists around – we have to be spiritual scientists. I certainly believe we to follow a certain etiquette and protocol, just as certain good manners should be shown between teachers and students. That has to be preserved if we want to be civilized human beings. Apart from etiquette, in terms of your real spiritual life it is practical. Normally a person selects a diksa guru because he has taught them in the best way. (Sometimes people select for other reasons, like “he is cute”). If your diksa guru is willing and able to educate you in your KC it is natural that our gratitude increases as we receive real benefit and help.

When Prabhupada was here, he was the only person initiating. He was the diksa guru for everybody. When he disappeared first there were only 11 initiating gurus. Now, more and more it is settling down into a practical system where you have more gurus. A guru is somehow who teaches you. Some people thrive in a situation where the guru is not around too much, they may even become envious of the guru. Some people are very philosophical and have a very philosophical intellectual relationship with their guru. If they get that input they flourish in KC. Other people need a much more personal relationship – the guru as Daddy who takes personally care of them. People have different psychological, emotional, intellectual spiritual needs.


Sometimes people say no one should be allowed to initiate someone unless they can just sit down and teach them and be with them. We should stop this jet-setting guruship. However, often the people that lived with Prabhupada became contemptuous. Familiarity breeds contempt. SP said serving the vani is better than the vapu. Serving in separation is higher. Sometimes serving the guru in separation is more purifying. It is easy for us in our contaminated state to have a purely spiritual idea of the guru when we are not cleaning his bathroom or hearing him burb. Other people need this personal relationship and the little anecdotes about the guru (he smiled at me or he threw a chapaty at me)

My job description as I understand it is not very magical or mystical. My job is to guide people on Prabhupada’s path. I don’t have path. I just work here (and frankly, I don’t want to have one seeing what SP had to go through). The diksa guru by definition is simply the person that helps you to follow the great acaryas. All of us are following the great acaryas. In any relationship where there is a superior and a subordinate, it seems to me that the purpose of the superior should be to make the subordinate autonomous. To keep people down in an infantile state in the name of etiquette I think is a misuse of authority. Even Krishna Himself has as His purpose to bring us beyond reference to the higher rasas. Healthy parents want their children become mature, intelligent, self-reliant people. So my job and the job of any guru is to help the disciple to get solidly connected to Srila Prabhupada. If you are connected to Srila Prabhupada, your guru did his job. All I want is to see my disciples happy and successful in KC. Go serve Srila Prabhupada and give me 108 at my birthday!


It is like spiritual child raising, but the etiquette is always there. My parents are always my parents and there is always a special etiquette and consideration.

As far as the infallibility of the guru, there is no statement in the Vedic scripture which says that because you are a bonafide teacher you are infallible. So when I am commenting on political events or  the best cure for the measles I am not speaking as an absolute authority unless I happen to have expert knowledge in that area through other means. I personally think that it is a little reckless for a spiritual master to think that because I am in this position I automatically have professional competence in vocational counseling, in financial matters, in marriage relationships and so on. So gurus using their position and telling their disciples to invest in this, or major in this field in college or to marry this person, I think is very dangerous.

Prabhupada said at times that in Vedic times there was polygamy because the female population is always greater. That was his general justification of polygamy. However, if you look up in the almanac you will find that the female population is not always greater. I looked for many countries to get a cross-sections and often the male population is equal or even greater. In general there can be more women for one simple reason: It is a well-known fact that women live longer. Among people of marriageable age(roughly between 18 and 45) it is not a fact that the female population is greater – even in countries where they don’t expose female babies on the tops of cliffs.

Or when Prabhupada was talking about homosexuality, he said that it is so degraded, you don’t even find it among the animals – but it is found among them, even though it is a minority percentage.


Prabhupada never presented himself as a materially omniscient. I think Jayadvaita Swami once asked him this on Venice Beach and he almost replied as if this was a silly question: “Of course not!”. And Canakya Pandit is not sastra. He said that women are nine times lustier, but if you study social science I don’t think you will find that. It depends on what you mean by lust. Many marriages don’t work because the man is too lusty, men – at least until recently - are more inclined towards adultery. So there are certain areas which are legitimate province of science. Saying where life ultimately comes from or what the highest truth is, is not within the competence of material science. However, talking about animal behavior or about demographics of the planet in terms of gender population is not bogus science,  that is real science.

Prabhupada said even when KC becomes very successful there will be religious diversity. He often said, “follow your religion”. Basically, he also said what Jesus said to the Pharisees: “Don’t be hypocrits”. If you say “though shall not kill, don’t kill.”

There are some bogus gurus who claim to know everything, even some ISKCON-gurus claim to have extraterrestrial knowledge. As Prabhupada said, I am speaking with infallible knowledge when I am repeating the parampara and so are you.  Any one of us is speaking infallibly when simply repeat the basic truths of KC. When we comment on various material sciences, history and political events we are basically speaking as private citizens. 

By acknowledging my spiritual master and offering to him I please Krishna and I am allowed into the real of KC where I can actually commune with God and make the offering. So it is by honoring and respecting my guru that Krishna in my heart allows me to go ahead and offer to him. So if I consciously say, “I am not going to offer to my guru, I will offer to Krishna I would not be Krishna Conscious. There is a Sanskrit word “, yukta (linked). A devotee who is practicing always feels  Krishna’s  presence even if he is not thinking so much.

I know at certain times of my life, suddenly it is gone, Krishna withdraws it and you become almost desperate and you have to remember Krishna. Krishna is really present in our lives. Just in our ordinary daily lives we are in a different state of consciousness because of Krishna’s presence. The process of offering food  - if I don’t honor my spiritual master I am severing my connection with Krishna. Krishna is not going to accept my offering and it is a time-out for my spiritual life. It is something which Krishna monitors. We don’t have to attribute to a bonafide guru the omniscience and the omni-digestion of Krishna.

Prabhupada says in his purport to 4.8.54 that there is not stereotyped rules for deity-worship. The basic point is that we go through the guru and Prabhupada to Krishna. We honor them, we show our devotion. That is the essence. Technicalities are meant to support the right consciousness. There is that famous verse:  

smartavyah satatam visnur

God is always to be remembered

 vismartavyo na jatucit

Never to be disremembered

sarve vidhi-nisedhah syur

etayor eva kinkarah

All of the dos and don’ts are servants of these two. (Madhya 22.113)

So all of the deity rules are simply to get you into the right consciousness. Krishna says in the BG:

sreyan dravya-mayad yajnaj

jnana-yajnah parantapa

sarvam karmakhilam partha

jnane parisamapyate

 “O chastiser of the enemy, the sacrifice performed in knowledge is better than the mere sacrifice of material possessions. After all, O son of Prtha, all sacrifices of work culminate in transcendental knowledge.” Bg 4.33

Better than the offering of paraphernalia (dravya) is the sacrifice of knowledge, because all duties or rituals entirely culminate in knowledge, in consciousness. That is what the previous verse says, all the deity rules have one purpose: that you just get it, that you are in the right consciousness. There are obviously different technical ways to get in right consciousness. The essence of it is to approach Krishna through the guru.


Nowadays it is a very common thing to make the distinction between spirituality and religiosity. Of course you need both. If a claim to be spiritual requires no behavioral back-up then you could be a complete debauchee, you could sexually exploit people, abuse substances, be a real jerk and then say  “but I am spiritual”. So if by religiosity we mean the external behavior and by spiritual we mean a state of consciousness there has to be some logical relationship between behavior and consciousness. One thing is to have a spiritual science. Rupa Goswami referred to that with the bivalent word niyamagraha”.  If you are all religion, follow all the rules and do all the stuff, but there is no real consciousness, he says you will fall down, and if you claim to be all spiritual and you don’t follow the rules (no religiosity) then that is another sham. So the rules are necessary but not sufficient to really bring you to the point.

Srila Bhaktisiddhata Saraswati Thakur was the Founder-acarya of the Gaudiya Math which then was disintegrated by his followers. So the Gaudiya-Math as his unified movement doesn’t exist any more. Fortunately Prabhupada’s movement does exist and he is still the Founder-acarya. The reason the movement disintegrated was basically because they did not understand their founder’s instructions regarding the exercising of authority. It is like if you get a head-injury you are finished. Prabhupada made it very clear that the authority was a GBC-body. If we misunderstand or ignore his intention for the exercising of authority in ISKCON we are making the same mistake, even if we deviate in a different way.

Sociologist have a term, the “routinization of charisma” going back to Weber – when a very powerful, in their language “charismatic” person creates a new institution, a new religious reality, then that leader embodies in their person all authority, whether it is Lord Chaitanya, Jesus or Prabhupada. When Prabhupada was here it was almost like what Louis XIV , the monarch of France said when asked how the government worked: “L’etat, c’est moi  - the state that is me”. That may work for some time, but it doesn’t go on to the next generation. When that powerful leader is gone you got to routinize his authority. It has to be channeled into a rational administrative structure.

In SP’s absence no one got his authority and charisma. And yet, in order to survive, the movement has to have the same amount of authority but has to be channeled into a rational administrative structure as opposed to being embodies in just one person. That’s why SP established the GBC. So the reason why the Gaudiya Math didn’t survive and ISKCON did (and this is true for every religion is whether or not they are able to channel  or transform the authority which previously resided in one person into rational (in the sense of fair, just) efficient administrative structure. And when the Gaudiya Math failed to do that, it collapsed.


The attempt of some people to prolong the days of charismatic leadership where Prabhupada  continues to be the only real ruler of IKSOCN is just an abysmal ignorance of the sociological reality of this planet. If you go to the top off a building and jump off, you can say, “It is ok, I am a devotee. The law of gravity only affects karmis.” It is not like that. Many devotees thought they could eat Vedic junk food their whole lives as long as it is offered because it is prasadam, and as we know we see many premature passings and kinds of people with serious health problems because it turns out that the same laws of nutrition seem to govern devotees and karmis. We can’t imitate Prahlad Maharaja and digest poison. So just as the same law of gravity and nutrition, the same sociological principles apply. If we study the history of religions we find that all the same issues, problems and solutions come up. Prabhupada took the name GBC from the railway commission. The idea that there is a completely separate and distinct sociology for Vaishnavas – and by that I mean the laws of nature governing human behavior – is about as logical as thinking that you can jump off a building because you are a devotee or that you can eat any kind of unhealthy prasadam and it won’t affect you. These are just laws of nature, and by respecting those laws we are respecting Krishna, because it is Krishna who is creating those laws. Krishna says in BG “by My supervision nature is functioning.” So the sociological principles which govern human behavior are coming from God. We shouldn’t immaturely defy them but try to understand them so that we can build a reasonable just society.


Nothing is more cultish, zany and dysfunctional and this extremely immature idea that we are totally beyond all the laws of nature. So when Prabhupada said we should follow the GBC it wasn’t some mystical insight but it was very competent sociology to have a GBC and a whole administrative system.