Let us follow the Acharya’s direction

March 31, 2010

In 1965, at the age of seventy, Sri Srimad A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada set out on a 35-day long trans-Atlantic voyage to the IUS, carrying with him Rs.40 and a trunk load of his English translations of the Srimad Bhagavatam. He had carried in his heart for over four decades the order of his spiritual master to spread the message of Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic literatures all over the world. Although his endeavors in India so far had met with obstacles and challenges, he was resolute in his determination to serve the order of his spiritual master.
In 1965, at the age of seventy, Sri Srimad A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada set out on a 35-day long trans-Atlantic voyage to the IUS, carrying with him Rs.40 and a trunk load of his English translations of the Srimad Bhagavatam. He had carried in his heart for over four decades the order of his spiritual master to spread the message of Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic literatures all over the world. Although his endeavors in India so far had met with obstacles and challenges, he was resolute in his determination to serve the order of his spiritual master.

In November 1977, Srila Prabhupada reached the eternal abode of Lord Sri Krishna.

Before his departure from this world, Srila Prabhupada laid out his succession plans. Srila Prabhupada had already formed a Governing Body Commission to manage the affairs of the society. Next he had to settle the issue of how initiations (diksha) will be conducted. In other words, he had to decide who will be his spiritual successor to occupy the seat of the Acharya (acharya-peeta) – an ultimate
position of spiritual and material authority.

Srila Prabhupada had taught from the Vedic literatures that an Acharya plays a prime role in the development of Krishna bhakti in the heart of a disciple. In order to play that role of an Acharya, one must have extraordinary spiritual qualifications and purity. He was now faced with the solemn task to select and authorize his successor Acharya. As per the timeless Vedic principle, that he too had taught, the Acharya must be authorized by his predecessor Acharya.

Srila Prabhupada was aware of the reality that his leading disciples, most of whom were Westerners, were young and inexperienced in age and spirituality. He was also aware that even his senior most disciples were extremely materially ambitious. And they were pressing Srila Prabhupada for the appointment of a successor acharya from among them, the ultimate fulfillment of their ambitions. They were avaricious to grab control of the worldwide Krishna “empire” that Srila Prabhupada had built with dedication and devotion to his guru and Krishna. At that point of time, the legacy that Srila Prabhupada was leaving behind was, materially speaking, worth millions of dollars. And they were pressing Srila Prabhupada for the appointment of a successor acharya from among them, for the ultimate fulfillment of their ambitions.

Under the circumstances, Srila Prabhupada did not appoint any successor Acharya. Instead he appointed eleven Officiating Acharyas or ritviks, who would initiate on his behalf and the new initiates would be Srila Prabhupada’s disciples. He issued a written directive to the whole institution explaining this system of initiation four months prior to his departure from this world.

However, soon after his departure from this world, these eleven disciples, who were all Westerners, who were chosen to play the role of Officiating Acharyas (ritviks) conspired and declared themselves, without authorization from Srila Prabhupada, to be the next Acharyas. They raised themselves to the level of Acharyas and instituted elaborate levels of worship, honor and praise that only a true Acharya can receive. Innocent newcomers were regimented to follow this, lest it would lead to guru-aparadha, an offense to the spiritual master the consequence of which is that one will not get Krishna bhakti for millions of lives!!

In the next few years after 1977, ISKCON went through several crises and had to face some major embarrassments as one by one these self-proclaimed Acharyas had disgraceful fall-downs from their
spiritual position. One of them, a sannyasi, was found to be having an affair with one of his young female disciples and eventually ran away with her! Another self-proclaimed Acharya became an authoritarian cult leader demanding unquestioning submission and punished and even murdered disloyal devotees. Yet another declared that he was “conversing with Krishna” while he was found to be indulging in drugs. And the list is long, shameful and painful. Initially ISKCON made a desperate attempt to cover up these occurrences, but in due course of time the cat was let out of the bag. The great international movement that Srila Prabhupada established to spread the pure teachings of Bhagavad-gita and Vedic literatures had been derailed.

In the mid-1980s, the Governing Body Commission, which was dominated and controlled by similarly ambitious disciples, most of whom were Westerners, made a major modification in the Acharya system. They amended the ISKCON laws and declared that any of the disciples of Srila Prabhupada if selected through a process, could become an Acharya. The number of self proclaimed Acharyas which was eleven (in 1977 soon after Srila Prabhupada’s departure from this world) diminished to four after a series of disgraceful fall downs. However the number of Acharyas has now increased to about seventy by more unauthorized appointments! Every year a few of these selfproclaimed Acharyas fall from grace, and every year new Achar yas are appointed through an unauthorized process, disregarding Srila Prabhupada’s instruction that the Acharya has to “authorized by his predecessor spiritual master.”

Any one who has raised the question of how they have become Acharyas without authorization by Srila Prabhupada have been dealt unceremoniously by the ISKCON Governing Body Commission. Those ISKCON devotees who questioned the Acharya system have been marginalized and some times expelled from the ISKCON society. The most severe response for this questioning of the self-appointed Acharya system was in mid-1980s. Sulochana Das, one of the disciples of Srila Prabhupada, criticized the self-appointed Acharya system and started gathering evidence on what Srila Prabhupada had intended for his ISKCON society from his letters and recorded conversations. He was compiling his findings into a book titled, The Guru Business. When he was working on the last chapter of his book, one day, not very far from the ISKCON temple in Los Angeles, Sulochana Das was shot at point-blank range on the direction of one of the self-proclaimed Acharyas!!

The devotees of ISKCON-Bangalore under the direction of Sri Madhu Pandit Dasa, have taken up the struggle to fight this disobedience of Srila Prabhupada’s directions. In 1998 the devotees of ISKCON-Bangalore challenged the wrong Acharya system and formally declared to the Governing Body Commission that they shall only follow Srila Prabhupada’s directions on the Acharya system and implement what he intended for the ISKCON society. Since then the Governing Body Commission has been using the devotees of ISKCON-Mumbai to unleash a series of vicious attacks on Sri Madhu Pandit Dasa and the various projects of ISKCON-Bangalore. The devotees of ISKCON-Bangalore have also been enduring different kinds of maligning propaganda among their supporters. This is the genesis and basis of the on going law suit between ISKCON-Bangalore and ISKCON-Mumbai. The devotees of ISKCONBangalore have been protected by various court orders in order to continue their services to Srila Prabhupada and the society

And we earnestly pray that Srila Prabhupada, our beloved spiritual master, shall always guide us and protect us in our struggle to follow his will.

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