Struggle by the devotees of ISKCON-Bangalore

April 3, 2010

Since 1999, the devotees of ISKCON-Bangalore, under the guidance of Madhu Pandit Dasa, took upon themselves to seriously question this faulty guru system and made an appeal that ISKCON embrace the system planned by Srila Prabhupada.

The devotees of ISKCON-Bangalore are not the first to make this attempt. Nor are they alone in this struggle. They are joined by thousands of sincere devotees all over the world. Unfortunately these sincere devotees, having been driven out of ISKCON temples due to their questioning of the guru system in the past, are no more within the walls of ISKCON temples. Having raised their voice of dissent against the guru system, they became victims of persecution by the gurus and have been driven away from the ISKCON temples4. They warned the devotees of ISKCON-Bangalore,“Do not raise this issue, lest you be driven out of ISKCON by the guru mafia!”


Legal History of ISKCON-Bangalore Society

April 3, 2010

ISKCON-Bangalore was registered under Karnataka Societies Registration Act at Bangalore in May 1978 as a legally independent society with objectives similar to the objectives of the first society, International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Inc. that Srila Prabhupada founded personally in 1966 at New York. Since then, ISKCON-Bangalore society is functioning in Bangalore as a member of the worldwide confederation of ISKCON temples.

ISKCON-Bangalore was registered by Shankabrit Dasa under the direction of Hamsadutta Swami, the then member of the original Governing Body Commission appointed by Srila Prabhupada, who was in charge of Bangalore.

In the year 2001, several hundreds of fanatic disciples of the self-proclaimed ‘gurus’ made a vain attempt to physically storm Bangalore temple and throw out the devotees of ISKCON Bangalore and take illegal possession of the temple property. In defense of this ISKCON-Bangalore was obliged to file a suit being OS No.7934/01 seeking an order of injunction restraining ISKCON Bombay Society and others from interfering with our possession of the temple property. The Trial Court did not grant the injunction, but an appeal filed before the Hon’ble High Court granted the injunction sought for. The said order was confirmed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court. The matter is pending adjudication.

When the matter stands thus, absurd propaganda is being made by the agents of the self-proclaimed ‘gurus’ that Madhu Pandit Dasa ‘created’ the ISKCON-Bangalore society to grab the property of the temple on Hare Krishna Hill. This misinformation is indeed entirely false, baseless and ridiculous since Madhu Pandit Dasa joined ISKCON movement only in 1981, whereas the ISKCON-Bangalore society was registered as early as 1978.

It was the direction of Srila Prabhupada to register legally independent societies in the name and style of nternational Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) all over the world. In Dec. 1972, Srila Prabhupada wrote to one of his senior disciples, “Never mind there may be botheration to register each centre, take tax certificate each, become separate corporations in each state.” (Srila Prabhupada’s letter to Karandhara Das, Bombay, 22nd Dec 1972). Accordingly, today, there are hundreds of ISKCON societies incorporated all over the world. It was on the basis of this worldwide practice, that the then GBC member in charge of Karnataka, Hamsaduta Swami, directed Shankabrit Dasa to register the ISKCON-Bangalore society in Bangalore.

What happened after Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance from this world?

April 3, 2010

Unfortunately, soon after Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance, his instructions on the guru system were totally disregarded. The Governing Body Commission (GBC) consisting of majority of ritviks, met in March 1978. They conspired to declare the eleven ritviks appointed by Srila Prabhupada as absolute successor gurus or acharyas. These ritviks stepped in to the elevated position of successor guru or acharya. They then declared themselves `present acharyas’ and occupied the `acharya peeta’ (the sacred seat of acharya) as successors of Srila Prabhupada. They regimented the newcomers to worship, honor and revere them as guru or acharya.

Large and ornate vyasasanas, or the special seat of the acharya, were created in each temple for these `new self-appointed acharyas’. The new entrants they initiated started offering elaborate daily puja to them with incense, lamps and flowers. Special Sanskrit verses were composed glorifying them and sung in public. They received special titles like Vishnupada, etc., to indicate that they now represent the lotus feet of Vishnu or they have taken the position of Vishnu to ‘deliver their disciples from the material world’.

The newcomers were taught that they should see their self-proclaimed ‘gurus’ “as good as God”. They were asked to consider their ‘spiritual master’s’ words as equal to God’s words. The self-appointed ‘gurus’ conveniently applied all that Srila Prabhupada had taught about a bona fide acharya to themselves. And instructed their disciples’ to treat them as such.

Srila Prabhupada’s plan for succession in ISKCON

April 3, 2010

Just before Srila Prabhupada left this world in 1977, the worldwide movement he had established was only a little over 11 years old. His senior-most disciples were all Westerners and were exposed to Vedic culture only for the last 6 to 10 years. In 1977, his senior disciples were in their early- or mid-thirties and assisting Srila Prabhupada in managing the worldwide institution.

Srila Prabhupada was fully aware that his disciples did not possess the spiritual qualifications to be raised to the position of guru or acharya.

He was also aware that his disciples were very ambitious to become the guru. In fact two of his senior disciples were already acting as guru in his presence. Srila Prabhupada was furious and reacted strongly against it 1. Srila Prabhupada emphasized that it is the Vedic tradition that one becomes a guru or acharya when authorised by his own guru.

* Prabhupada: “A guru can become guru when he’s ordered by his guru. That’s all. Otherwise nobody can become guru.” (Srila Prabhupada in Bhagavad-gita class, Oct 28th, 1975, Nairobi)

* “Self-made guru cannot be guru, he must be authorized by the bona fide guru. Then he’s guru. This is the fact. Nobody can be self-made anything. A medical practitioner, he cannot become self-made, that “I have studied all the medical books in my home.” No. “Have you ever gone to the medical college and taken instruction from the bona fide teachers? Then, if you have got the certificate, then you are medical practitioner. Similarly, bona fide guru means he must be authorized by the superior guru.” (Nectar Of Devotion, Lectures by Srila Prabhupada, Oct 31st, 1972, Vrindavana).

* Guru cannot be self-made. No. There is no such single instance throughout the whole Vedic literature. …You must be authorized. (Srimad Bhagavatam class, Feb 27th, 1977, Mayapur).

Under these circumstances, for performing initiation and giving diksha, Srila Prabhupada appointed some of his senior disciples to act as ritviks or ‘representatives of the acharya.’ The task of the ritvik was to perform the initiation on Srila Prabhupada’s behalf as a priest. The new candidates that the ritviks initiated would be direct disciples of Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada is thus the guru or acharya of each and every initiated devotee of ISKCON.

On July 9th, 1977, Srila Prabhupada signed his approval on an institutional directive to be sent to all the temple presidents and senior leaders of the movement. This clearly outlined the system of initiation Srila Prabhupada instituted through the ritviks, and also listed eleven senior disciples to act as ritviks. Click here for the directive.

Institutional directive on initiation approved by Srila Prabhupada dated July 9th, 1977

April 3, 2010

Founder-Acharya: His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

To All G.B.C., and Temple Presidents

Dear Maharajas and Prabhus,

Please accept my humble obeisances at your feet. Recently when all of the GBC members were with His Divine Grace in Vrndavana, Srila Prabhupada indicated that soon He would appoint some of His senior disciples to act as “ritvik”— representative of the acarya, for the purpose of performing initiations, both first initiation and second initiation. His Divine Grace has so far given a list of eleven disciples who will act in that capacity:

His Holiness Kirtanananda Swami
His Holiness Satsvarupa dasa Gosvami
His Holiness Jayapataka Swami
His Holiness Tamala Krsna Gosvami
His Holiness Hrdayananda Gosvami
His Holiness Bhavananda Gosvami
His Holiness Hamsaduta Swami
His Holiness Ramesvara Swami
His Holiness Harikesa Swami
His Grace Bhagavan dasa Adhikari
His Grace Jayatirtha dasa Adhikari

In the past Temple Presidents have written to Srila Prabhupada recommending a particular devotee’s initiation. Now that Srila Prabhupada has named these representatives, Temple Presidents may henceforward send recommendation for first and second initiation to whichever of these eleven representatives are nearest their temple.
After considering the recommendation, these representatives may accept the devotee as an initiated disciple of Srila Prabhupada by giving a spiritual name, or in the case of second initiation, by chanting on the Gayatri thread, just as Srila Prabhupada has done. The newly initiated devotees are disciples of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad, the above eleven senior devotees acting as His representative.

After the Temple President receives a letter from these representatives giving the spiritual name or the thread, he can perform the fire yajna in the temple as was being done before. The name of a newly initiated disciple should be sent by the representative who has accepted him or her to Srila Prabhupada, to be included in His Divine Grace’s “Initiated Disciples” book.

Hoping this finds you all well.
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
(highlight added)

Your servant,
Tamala Krsna Gosvami
Secretary to Srila Prabhupada

ISKCON that Srila Prabhupada built

April 3, 2010

In 1965, at the age of seventy, a simple Indian sannyasi, a pure devotee of Lord Sri Krishna, boarded the cargo ship, Jaladuta, to sail to America. Neither did he have the money to set out on such a journey, nor did he know what to expect at his destination. However one thing he was sure of. His mission. As instructed by his guru, His Divine Grace Bhaktisiddantha Saraswathi Thakura, an acharya in the line of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1534), this stalwart disciple was taking a gigantic step to present to the world the message of Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic scriptures. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (reverentially called Srila Prabhupada) thus embarked on his monumental and historic service to God and mankind.

In July 1966, Srila Prabhupada stablished the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in New York city. During the next 10 years, he relentlessly worked towards his mission. He traveled around the globe 14 times and established 108 Krishna temples, authored over 70 books and guided a worldwide movement of over 10,000 Krishna devotees from all continents of the world.

When Srila Prabhupada departed from this material world on November 14, 1977, the world lost a glorious soul, a genuine spiritual leader of modern days.

ISKCON after the disappearance of Srila Prabhupada

Just before his passing away, Srila Prabhupada was confronted with several issues of the institution he had founded. One of them was: who would be the acharya or guru of ISKCON after his time. Who will initiate (give diksha) to the new entrants to ISKCON?

Srila Prabhupada’s teachings about guru or acharya

One of the most significant lessons taught by Srila Prabhupada is about the position of guru or acharya. According to the Vedic tradition this subject is of vital concern to anyone who desires to pursue the spiritual path. To emphasize the importance of the guru or acharya, he repeatedly instructed this in his books, lectures, letters and recorded room conversations.

He has quoted a verse from the Padma Purana in one of his books:

* “The guru must be situated on the topmost platform of devotional service. There are three classes of devotees, and the guru must be accepted from the topmost class. The first-class devotee is the spiritual master for all kinds of people.”(CC Madhya 24.330)

He has also taught how the guru or acharya has to be regarded by the disciples:

* “The conclusion is that an empowered spiritual master is authorized by Krishna and his own guru and should therefore be considered as good as the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself.” (CC Madhya 10.136)

* “It is recommended herewith that all the acharyas be given the highest respect.”
(Srimad Bhagavatam 3.29.17 purport)

* “You are correct when you say that when the Spiritual Master speaks it should be taken that Krishna is speaking. That is a fact. A Spiritual Master must be liberated.”
(Srila Prabhupada’s letter to Mukunda dtd June 10th, 1969).

* .“Therefore one is strictly forbidden to think that the acharya is an ordinary human being (gurusu nara-matih) (Srimad Bhagavatam 7.7.14 purport)

* “If I can satisfy my spiritual master, then I understand that Krishna is satisfied. And if I cannot satisfy my spiritual master, then I have no other way to approach Krishna.” (Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavatam lecture on Feb.10th, 1971 at Gorakhpur).

In short, the position of acharya or guru, as taught by Srila Prabhupada, is a position of extraordinary spiritual advancement, respect and authority: the guru should be honored as good as God; his word is word of God; pleasing him, pleases God; and displeasing him, displeases God.

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.