Law Book 1
TRUTH IS THE ISSUE, AN ANALYSIS OF THE GBC LAWBOOK
by Niscala Devi dasi
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glory to Srila Prabhupada.
The motivation for this book is a series of experiences, during my years as a member of ISKCON, which led to serious doubts about our leadership. These experiences were so traumatic that they often led to loss of faith and the departure of sincere souls from the preaching movement.
My initial tendency was to ignore and deny the situation. It seemed more pleasant to do so, as everyone likes to think that the society they have joined is perfect, or that it just has a few minor flaws that will go away in time. However, does such denial help us to progress out of illusion? In the Bhagavatam, it is described that “The highest truth is reality distinguished from illusion for the welfare of all.” Is it likely that this highest truth can be realized by the denial of reality?
“This is Maya”
Srila Prabhupada: “The rabbits when they face danger, it understands, ‘Now my life is in danger.’ He closes his eyes. He thinks that the problem is now solved. And peacefully he is killed. Similarly the problems are there, but we are closing our eyes. ‘Oh there is no problem. We are very happy.’ So this is called maya. The problem is not solved, but they are thinking their problem is solved by closing the eyes.” Lecture, Hamburg, 1969.
The problem we have is that by our dynamics, as exemplified and enforced by our laws, old devotees are being pushed out the back door even as new ones enter through the front. Denying this reality and concentrating on good news will never help us to learn from the past, which is a vital necessity and a symptom of the mode of goodness. Neither will denying reality help us fight the war against maya. Indeed, according to Srila Prabhupada “This is called maya.”
The Problem is Not Solved
In the spirit of taking the responsibility to “not close the eyes”, we should all look deeper into the tenets under which our society is currently operating. We are each individually responsible for the condition of the society we live in. How do our laws affect the dynamics of our leadership, and the achievement of the goal for which our society was founded – enlightenment? How do they work against this goal? And how do they reflect upon our lives and conform to the Vedic model of Vaisnava society and philosophy, as described in sastra and by Srila Prabhupada?
Upon examination we find that such laws actually work against the achievement of our ideals, by encouraging blind following, callous dealings, and might-is-right leadership. An example of a law which encourages the first is the following:
GBC Law 6.2 – Qualifications of Gurus in ISKCON
6.2.1 – Mandatory qualifications.
10. Must have no loyalties that compete with or compromise his loyalty to Srila Prabhupada, to his teachings and to ISKCON.
It is the last point, “loyalty…to ISKCON,” which is quite amazing in light of our history. This certainly puts anyone who is aware of our history in an impossible situation: What if we disagree with ISKCON’s actions or policies on the basis of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings, and of sastra? What if loyalty to Srila Prabhupada’s teachings is incompatible with loyalty to ISKCON in some instance? Further investigation will in fact reveal that many of the GBC laws actually work against the tenets of our philosophy and our goal of enlightenment, as taught by Srila Prabhupada.
We are not supposed to blindly ignore our problems like the rabbit, and deny our perception by closing our eyes – “This is called maya.” What if we disagree on the basis of truth?
CHAPTER 1 LAWS THAT ENCOURAGE BLIND FOLLOWING
Indoctrinating blind following in the disciple…
Srila Prabhupada said that “the Krsna consciousness movement is for training people to be independently thoughtful…There must always be individual striving and work and responsibility, not that one should dominate and distribute benefits to the others and they do nothing but beg from you and you provide. No.”
Is our society doing this? Or is it creating a situation in which the freedom of independent thoughtfulness is replaced by obedience to laws and blind belief in authority? It is one thing to cooperate for Srila Prabhupada, but we have to be careful that we cooperate with that which furthers the purpose of his mission, not something which goes against it.
Let us examine the first step of the initiation procedure, which is the examination of the disciple. Later we will examine some interesting additions to the number of vows he has to take at initiation.
The Examination of the Disciple
It would be expected that this examination would test the disciple’s understanding of the philosophy. However, the examination to be passed is more like an exploration of the degree of the disciple’s blindness, and how much he is prepared to pursue his beliefs blindly, irrationally, rather than with knowledge:
4. Do you believe the spiritual master speaks the absolute truth?
The use of the word “believe” here, indicates that it is not a matter of solid faith based on observation, but of fantasy. Meanwhile we hear and preach, “Krsna consciousness is not belief, but science, with readily observable results”. If the spiritual master actually speaks the absolute truth, the disciple will experience for himself the disappearance of doubt, fear, and lethargy, as did Arjuna. It was not then a question of “belief”. Why has it become so now?
13. What is ISKCON…and why should one remain in ISKCON?
Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, the founder of the Gaudiya Matha, did not consider religious institutions necessary for spiritual growth. On the contrary:
“The original purpose of the established churches of the world may not always be objectionable. But no stable religious arrangement for instructing the masses has yet been successful….”
Does this warning refer to religious institutions in our parampara as well? Srila Bhaktisiddhanta makes clear that it does, but that the original spirit was different:
“The Supreme Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, in pursuance of the teachings of the scriptures enjoins all absence of conventionalism for the teachers of the eternal religion. It does not follow that the mechanical adoption of the unconventional life by any person will make him a fit teacher of religion.”
So joining the Krsna consciousness movement does not mean that one automatically becomes Krsna conscious. It depends on whether one follows the rules and regulations mechanically, blindly, or with realization. Mechanical, blind following of rules, for the sake of being “acceptable”, is an unfortunate consequence of being part of an institution:
“Regulation is necessary for controlling the inherent worldliness of conditioned souls. But no mechanical regulation has any value, even for such a purpose. The bonafide Teacher of religion is neither any product of nor the favorer of any mechanical system. In his hands no system has likewise the chance of degenerating into a lifeless arrangement. The mere pursuit of fixed doctrines and fixed liturgies cannot hold a person to the true spirit of doctrine or liturgy.”
What to speak if those “fixed doctrines” themselves don’t hold true to the spirit behind our philosophy. In all cases, it is necessary to understand the true spirit of Vaisnavism, and of the instructions of the spiritual master. I wonder how much our candidates of initiation are aware of this; or are we keeping them in ignorance of such facts, so as to possess them and count them as a preaching victory?
Dear reader, keeping this warning of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta in mind, recall question 13:
13. What is ISKCON……and why should one remain in ISKCON?
Was this what Srila Prabhupada had in mind when he set sail for America? Another movement of narrow-minded sectarianism? He never made “remaining in ISKCON” a requirement for being his disciple; but now, and indeed after so much corruption in the movement has come to light, it has become a requirement in order to be his grand-disciple, as indicated by question 13!
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta continues:
“The idea of an organized church in an intelligible form, indeed, marks the close of the living spiritual movement. The great ecclesiastical establishments are the dykes and the dams to retain the current that cannot be held by any such contrivance. They, indeed, indicate a desire on the part of the asses to exploit a spiritual movement for their own purpose. They also unmistakably indicate the end of the absolute and unconventional guidance of the bona fide spiritual teacher. The people of this world understand preventive systems, they have no idea at all of the unprevented positive eternal life.”
The GBC laws are certainly preventative systems, and the examination of the disciple is obviously geared to prevent him from leaving ISKCON. However, such a style of interrogation ignores the fact that freedom and enlightenment will lead to voluntary surrender, the “unprevented positive eternal life.” Surrender should be based on knowledge, not on ignorance. Rather than the disciple being taught that one should “remain in ISKCON,” he should be educated about the potential dangers of organized religion, as described by our spiritual great-grandfather, so that if he sees ISKCON fall into such dangers he can assess the situation clearly and take positive steps to correct the problem, rather than become confused and disheartened and go away.
The assessment of the situation should include consideration of the cause described by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta: a desire on the part of the asses to exploit a spiritual movement for their own purpose. This possibility must at least be considered. Instead, in ISKCON, we teach that such an attitude of questioning the motives of socially superior members is “aparadha”. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, however, considers it a function of a chanter of kirtan, to uphold the truth regardless of the person it involves:
“As a chanter of the kirtan of Hari, it is his constant function to dispel all misconceptions by the preaching of the truth in a most unambiguous form without the influence of person, place or time.”
The issue is truth, not social position. Similarly, we understand that the basis of dealings between devotees is straightforwardness, nonduplicity, and truth; regardless of “person, place or time.” We will see later some of the reactions and punishments that our GBC metes out to those who criticize them, regardless of the truth of the criticism. Such criticism is labeled “undermining the authority of the GBC,” and this label is used to justify any amount of Avaisnava behavior, culminating in excommunication of the critic.
But this should not happen too often, as the GBC have carefully designed everything in ISKCON to operate smoothly, with everyone blindly conforming to the rules, by twisting every nook and cranny of our philosophy so that it serves their purpose, rather than the purpose of the parampara. And thus, what is supposed to be voluntary surrender based on understanding and faith, is now enforced by law, by vow, and by giving “correct” answers in a test.
GBC Law 22.214.171.124.6
2. Why are you convinced to follow the orders of the spiritual master in this life and in life after life?
This is interesting. Apart from the fact that such an answer should come from the heart, from realization, and not from “getting it right,” a consideration of our history makes the premature acceptance of such obedience even more absurd. Sastra lists as one of the symptoms of the mode of goodness, the willingness to learn from a study of past, present and future. If one were at all willing to learn from our past, such a conviction as mentioned above would not be rationally possible, and certainly not in the beginning. How many prospective disciples are aware of this dynamic, and that cultivation of sattva-guna is necessary for elevation (sattva brahma-darsanam)? Or that “…even if there is some duty one has to see the effect of duty…Devotee means he is not blind.”
If there is to be a test at all, it should focus on whether the disciple’s eyes are being opened by the process of diksa, which is its purpose: To learn to distinguish between reality and illusion, light and darkness, spiritual energy and material energy, and the real form of the bhakti lata and the various gross and subtle anarthas which mimic and may ultimately choke it.
Instead, the test really measures the degree to which the disciple is able to live with corruption and hypocrisy and still see it as sublime Krsna consciousness, the “Absolute Truth”, and something that one should follow “life after life”. In other words, the test measures the degree to which the disciple is a blind believer, prepared to follow a blind leader into a ditch. And new initiates are supposed to ignore our history and believe that such a disaster could never happen!
Vows at Initiation
Although Srila Prabhupada required only two vows at initiation; that is, to chant sixteen rounds and follow the four regulative principles, now the GBC have made a law wherein five vows are required. We will now examine the additional three, and see if they serve the spirit of Srila Prabhupada’s mission, or some different purpose.
GBC LAW 126.96.36.199 Vows at Initiation
VOW 3. To accept the order of the spiritual master as their life and soul….
Faith in the guru and the guru’s words is attained after much careful study of both. Gradually it can develop to the point where the disciple, if he is sincere, may actually feel inspired to take up the order of his guru as his life and soul. To legislate that this must happen by vow, rather than voluntarily from the heart, is to replace genuine faith with coercion. It may well be that a particular diksa guru does not merit such a level of faith from a sincere disciple.
Considering the number of guru fall downs and scandals, spanning our history since 1977, it would clearly be ludicrous to take such a vow. Would Kirtanananda’s or Harikesha’s disciples have benefited from this vow? Or Bhavananda’s, Jayatirtha’s or Bhagavan’s? There are other examples as well.
VOW 4. To accept discipleship into the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya sampradaya through the Founder-Acarya of ISKCON and remain faithful to their order and teachings.
More legislation for remaining faithful. Sastra says that faith develops naturally, as a result of association. Faith is a condition of the heart which is cultivated as one associates with saintly persons and is enlivened by their example, and enlightened by their presentation of the philosophy. Then gradually one becomes convinced at heart, and pleased to the core to follow them in all respects; willing faithfulness is a natural result of all this.
Did Srila Prabhupada have to legislate that we remain faithful to him? Or any other guru in our line? And how can following rules and making vows inspire faith?
VOW 5. To remain faithful to Prabhupada’s order by maintaining loyalty to ISKCON and its ultimate managing authority the GBC.
Again the attempt to force the development of faith by legislation and vow. Regarding loyalty, why can’t we support ISKCON by being loyal opponents to whatever does not seem in line with Prabhupada’s mission? Why is it considered offensive to be truthful?
In contrast, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta describes our “bounden duty”:
“It is his bounden duty to oppose any person who tries to deceive and harm himself or other people by misrepresenting the truth, either due to malice or genuine misunderstanding.”
We should not assume that because a person is in authority, he will never misrepresent the truth, either due to malice or genuine misunderstanding.
Srila Prabhupada: “Nothing is to be blindly accepted, nothing is to be blindly rejected.” “Doubt is one of the important functions of intelligence: blind acceptance of something does not give evidence of intelligence.” (SB 3.26.30 purport)
Srila Prabhupada wanted ISKCON to be a society of brahmanas, first-class intelligent people, broad-minded souls, who are able to consider things from different angles of vision. When appropriate; i.e., when they perceive discrepancies, they should give advice to administrators, particularly with a view toward ultimate, rather than immediate considerations.
Focusing on immediate results, a symptom of the mode of passion, is symptomized by the impatience shown in this particular application of ISKCON law – the examination for the disciple. Rather than waiting until faith and loyalty to the guru develop naturally in the heart of the prospective disciple as the result of the guru’s consistent good character and teaching of realized knowledge (the ability to discern reality from illusion), the GBC makes the disciple take a vow to be faithful and loyal. Rather than inspiring the disciple to take the guru’s orders as his life and soul, by convincing him through his intelligence, as Srila Prabhupada did, the disciple has to vow that he will.
Why is it that what was once voluntary is now enforced? It’s because in the mode of passion, one acts to get immediate results, rather than put in the time and effort to achieve lasting benefit; in this case, real sraddha in the disciple. One wants the result without paying the price for it. According to sastra, however, action in the mode of passion results only in misery. We have seen many times in our history the disastrous effects of blind following. Therefore Srila Prabhupada never demanded such vows, and condemned blind following of any sort, even blind following of the guru: “In this verse, both blind following and absurd inquiries are condemned.” (Bg 4.34)
Regarding being “faithful to Prabhupada’s order,” Srila Prabhupada did not have to demand faithfulness; he convinced us through our intelligence that it was in our best interest to follow him, and we willingly took it up. It is the basis of our path to reject what is not Krsna conscious, and to accept and conform to what is. To do so presupposes that one is allowed to doubt at all times: “Doubt is an important function of intelligence.”
Arjuna, in the beginning of the Gita, accepted Lord Krsna as his guru, and Lord Krsna advised him to fight. However, Arjuna refused to do so until all his doubts were eradicated, until he was convinced that it was the best course of action to take. Even at the end, Lord Krsna placed the discretion for following his order in Arjuna’s hands: “Deliberate on this fully and then do what you wish to do.” Thus the decision to follow or not was in Arjuna’s hands at all times while he was Lord Krsna’s disciple.
Srila Prabhupada, in the purport to the above verse, writes: “The best advice imparted to Arjuna is to surrender unto the Supersoul seated within his heart.” How this happens is also described: “By right discrimination, one should agree to act according to the order of the Supersoul.” On the other hand, to ignore one’s doubts is to fail to use one’s intelligence, which elsewhere Prabhupada described as the form direction of the Supersoul. (SB 2.2.35 Purport)
The effect of laws is to replace such inner direction with external authority, to take away the very thing which is our most valuable possession, the ability to discriminate, which must be used every step of the way in the guru/disciple relationship, and is the basis of surrendering to the Supersoul within, as described above.
Thus the GBC laws, as exemplified by the examination and vows for the disciple, blatantly defy the process of surrender through use of one’s intelligence, and the natural development of faith, as portrayed in the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad Bhagavatam. They only encourage blind following which is specifically condemned in the verse pertaining to surrender to the guru, Bg. 4.31.
CHAPTER TWO: ADDITIONAL LAWS TO ENSURE BLIND FAITH
Engendering blind following in ISKCON members
In addition to examinations and vows which encourage the delusion in the prospective disciple that bhakti is about blind following, there are other laws which one must follow if one is to remain a member of ISKCON in good standing:
GBC Law 8.1.1 Faith in ISKCON’s GBC Body
Faith in the GBC as the ultimate managing authority in ISKCON, shall be preserved protected and enhanced by all ISKCON members.
According to this law, it is the responsibility of ISKCON’s members to develop and safeguard faith in the GBC, not the responsibility of the GBC to earn and command such faith by their behavior. A truly fascinating concept of faith!
I have faith that the sky won’t fall on my head because it has never done so in my experience, nor have I ever heard of it doing so. But if the sky was always falling on people’s heads, here, there, and everywhere, should the people still have faith that it won’t? And if instead they display “faithless tendencies” based on experience, should we then make a law to force them to “preserve, protect and enhance the faith in the infallibility of the sky”? Isn’t this completely absurd? The justification for maintaining faith that the sky won’t fall is the continued experience of the infallibility of the sky itself. The same if true for faith in anything, unless one is a blind follower, prepared to follow every blind leader into a ditch.
Engendering Blind following in the Leaders
Srila Prabhupada declared “He who follows, he can lead”, and he qualified what sort of following he meant when he condemned blind following. So, following the instructions of the spiritual master with intelligence and discretion as to the time, place, and circumstances surrounding the instruction, is the right qualification to be a leader in our movement. Our movement is exactly that – a movement – with freedom of thought within the parameters of our philosophy; not neglecting our God-given intelligence, but applying it fully to discriminate, on the basis of sastra, between truth and all the various shades of illusion.
Thus, blind conformity to laws as the basis for enforcing obedience would never be favored by any bonafide teacher of religion, for with such a mechanism, growth of understanding is replaced with rigidity of law, which is a lifeless arrangement:
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta: “The bonafide teacher of religion is neither any product of nor the favorer of any mechanical system. In his hands no system has likewise the chance of degenerating into a lifeless arrangement….”
An example of a lifeless arrangement is to replace natural loyalty with a contrived form of obedience, exacted by oaths of allegiance which are obligatory, if one is to have any position at all in ISKCON:
GBC LAW 188.8.131.52 The Procedure for Taking Oaths
2. Every GBC shall make the oath orally in a group, before the Deities in Sridhama Mayapur during the course of their annual meetings.
3. Every Temple President, Regional Secretary, Temple Officer etc. shall take the oath orally before the Deities of the temple every year. The oath shall be administered by the local GBC Secretary.
Wouldn’t once be enough? Why should the annual renewal of oaths in front of the Deities be necessary? A truthful man’s word said once should be enough, so this is very curious. A look at the oath itself will give us a clue as to the reason for all the official proceedings:
GBC Law 184.108.40.206 Statement of Oath
2. To accept the GBC as the ultimate managing authority of ISKCON.
5. To be guided by the spiritual directions of ISKCON’s management.
To vow to do this year after a year and before the Deity, certainly instills fear of consequences of not following the oath, but what if one chooses not to follow the GBC on the basis of sastra, or one’s own conscience and volition? It seems that these laws are meant to replace our conscience and sastric vision, instead of which, fear of punishment becomes the guiding principle. Thus, as Srila Bhaktisiddhanta so accurately assessed:
The idea of an organized church in a intelligible form, indeed marks the close of the living spiritual movement…. The people of this world understand preventive systems, they have no idea at all of the unprevented positive eternal life.
Such an unprevented positive life was described by Srila Prabhupada when he declared that “This Krsna consciousness movement is for training men to become independently thoughtful…not for making bureaucracy.”
Certainly it was not the inspiration of an “unprevented positive life” and “independent thoughtfulness” that led our GBC members to formulate the following:
The archive and record of all oaths submitted to the GBC shall be maintained by the GBC secretary who shall annually provide a list to the Executive Committee of ISKCON Leaders, for whom oaths of loyalty have been received and [take note!] the list of delinquent leaders for enforcement.
Just a thought, I wonder what Bhaktivinoda Thakura meant when he said “Here we have full liberty to reject the wrong idea which is not sanctioned by peace of conscience.” I think he must have had a late night and actually meant “… not sanctioned by institutional law.” What on earth has conscience got to do with anything in ISKCON? There is no mention of it in our law, only conformity to what the GBC tells us is right.
Engendering Blind Following in the Gurus(!)
GBC Law 220.127.116.11 Standard of Conduct for Gurus in ISKCON
2. …he must accept the GBC Body as his authority and follow the directives of the GBC.
3. …must submit to any disciplinary sanctions imposed by the GBC body.
Not only must brahmana gurus follow the ultimate managerial authority in all respects, which is against varnasrama, but must even obey lower managerial authorities:
GBC Law 18.104.22.168
1. Must be accountable to the local ISKCON authorities for all his actions…
5. Must not undermine ISKCON authorities in any way.
“In any way”, of course, precludes undermining the authorities not only via error, but via truth as well. But as one GBC man put it so eloquently when questioned on this:
“Truth is not the Issue!”
Srila Prabhupada: “Facts should not be misrepresented. According to social conventions, it is said that one can only speak the truth when it is palatable to others, but that is not truthfulness. The truth should be spoken in a straightforward way, so that others will understand what the facts are. If a man is a thief and people are warned he is a thief, that is truth. Although sometimes the truth is unpalatable, one should not refrain from speaking it.” (Bg 10.4-5 Purport)
Of course, speaking “unpalatable truth”, as advised by Srila Prabhupada, and speaking the unambiguous truth “without consideration of the person”, as advised by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta (Appendix 1), may well mean “undermining ISKCON authority” as forbidden in Law 22.214.171.124.5, especially when you consider that such undermining is interpreted as broadly as possible, as indicated by the words “in any way”. This effectively rules out all possibility of independent judgment.
The law goes further:
2. Must cooperate with local ISKCON authorities.
4. Must instruct disciples and other devotees to cooperate with ISKCON authorities.
What if such authorities’ actions or instructions are wrong, according to sastric guidelines, then what? Why must cooperation be enforced by law, rather than proceed naturally from an independent assessment of a situation, and finding it worthy of one’s cooperation?
What is so wrong with using one’s own discretion, being an independently thoughtful person within the tenets of the philosophy – in our “religion of liberty”? Can’t we follow our authorities when they’re making sense and conforming to sastra, and object if they do not? Or is only blind following recommended – indeed, enforced – instead of “always condemned”, as per Prabhupada’s statement, along with his warning that “everything should be accepted with care and caution”, and “nothing should be accepted blindly”?
We have seen the outcome of a guru following the law just stated. He instructed me to ignore the neglect and abuse of cows, and just “cooperate with ISKCON authorities.” In fact, that was probably the same instruction given to the members of an ISKCON community whose leader, in 1999, murdered more than a dozen of the farm’s cows, as it was a fact that the devotees did not speak up when they suspected something was amiss. They were instilled with “fear of Vaisnava aparadha”, and so the horrendous act was done when it could have been prevented.
Similarly, in Srila Prabhupada’s time when a temple authority was deviating, those who spoke up were told “You are envious and offensive.” But when that authority’s actions came to Srila Prabhupada’s notice, he said: “The senior men should have spoken up, they should have said something.” He didn’t seem to think this would have been envious; rather, he said it is what should have been done!
Lord Krsna: “That understanding by which one knows what ought to be done and what ought not to be done, what is to be feared and what is not to be feared, what is binding and what is liberating, is in the mode of goodness”.
Bhaktivinoda Thakura: “We have full liberty to reject the wrong idea which is not sanctioned by peace of conscience.”
How easily this understanding could have prevented the abuse of cows and children. Instead we have laws, tests, and vows which enforce unconditional following. In other words, our laws enforce blind following, rather than conscientious following guided by the peace of conscience and understanding in the mode of goodness, which leads to enlightenment.
Avoiding “crisis management”
Srila Prabhupada desired that we introduce varnasrama within our society to come to the mode of goodness, and the head of the varnasrama system is the brahmana, who is a thinker independent of management. He holds no position in administration, and therefore can make unbiased judgments. Even the ultimate managing authority, the king, must take direction from him. But in the above-mentioned laws, we see that everyone must follow the GBC without exception. This is like saying that the brahmanas must follow the king, or administrative heads of state, under all circumstances. This is a formula for failure, for decision-making in the mode of passion.
In fact, by artificially fusing the roles of brahmana and ksatriya, we see the mode of passion at work, in the shape of laws that are not in the spirit of voluntary service, which is what devotional service is all about, but of coercion. Such repression of the natural unfolding of spiritual life cannot be maintained:
Srila Prabhupada: “There is no question of force. Force cannot act.”
Lord Krsna: “What can repression accomplish?”
The use of force is the prerogative of the ksatriyas, the lawmakers. But in an enlightened society, varnasrama, the ksatriyas are always open to the advice of the brahmanas, who are capable of seeing the long-term good, being enlightened by sense control and other symptoms of the mode of goodness as described in sastra. They are not bound by laws, but by conscience.
Brahmanas, the spiritual masters of society, are by nature devoted to sastra, and being truthful, always follow the sastric injunctions. It was on this basis that Srila Prabhupada said: “One can be guru, who follows his spiritual master without deviation…, who knows and presents the science of Krsna expertly”, and “is exemplary….” But these criteria are not mentioned as qualifications for authorities in the Lawbook. In the following chapters we will discuss further material which is most certainly not based on Srila Prabhupada’s teachings.
CHAPTER 3 : BRAND NEW CRITERIA FOR GURUS!
It seems that in addition to forgetting the three additional vows, while initiating his thousands of disciples, Srila Prabhupada stressed criteria for gurus which are not to be found in the ISKCON Lawbook; and he didn’t mention any of the criteria in the Lawbook at all! For example:
126.96.36.199 A candidate for guru in ISKCON must first receive a majority vote of approval in a council composed of all the GBC secretaries of his current preaching area and at least ten (10) other senior devotees.
188.8.131.52.2 …obtainment of “no objection” letters…from the GBC temple presidents and other authorities (managerial).
Once he’s endorsed by the council, then the GBC secretaries must endorse him by considering a letter from the council which must include:
184.108.40.206.1 A thorough description of the qualifications of the candidate, showing point by point how he CONFORMS to the GBC standards…
Again there is no mention of independent thoughtfulness and broad-mindedness, but rather conformity to the ultimate managing authority, with its laws and so on. Nor is this a relative consideration, but a mandatory qualification for being guru. We have the kind of society Srila Prabhupada described as headless. No bona-fide brahmana or guru would agree to conform to a managing authority, unless he saw that the managing authority was consistently in line with sastra. This has hardly been the case in our history. Yet, even if the authorities were as perfect as the saintly kings of Vedic times, they would never make decisions without consulting their board of independent, brahminical advisors. The brahmanas are never advised to conform to the ksatriyas – it is the other way around!
As if all of this weren’t wondrous enough, we see that our managing authority also makes laws about who can be guru. And if even this fails to completely amaze us, we find that these laws do not correspond with any of the guidelines in sastra, or with anything that Srila Prabhupada mentioned in any of his teachings, regarding the qualification to be guru:
220.127.116.11.3 Then the chairman of the council sends a “nomination” to the GBC describing how the candidate conforms to the GBC standards, his description and the description of all who voted for him and how “senior” they are and explanations why they voted for him.
Here the notions of approval and conformity are stressed, rather than devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and ability to instill faith in Him into the hearts of others, making Him the goal of life. Nothing of that sort is found; rather, the guru must simply conform to our laws. And get approval from our ksatriyas!
18.104.22.168.2 [Then he is] “properly endorsed.”
Hold on, prospective disciples. He’s nearly there, on his way to being a transparent via medium to the Lord. Then, if doesn’t get more than three GBC’s disapproving him within six months (Law 22.214.171.124), he’s “approved”! Jaya Gurudeva!!!
Provided, of course, that takes some vows, which described next:
GBC Law 6.4.2 Vows of Guru
2. I accept the GBC as the ultimate managerial authority in ISKCON. I support the GBC system and will follow them….
3. I remain surrendered to the orders of his authorized representatives….
5. As a spiritual master I must always conform to ISKCON policies [note the word “conform” – again!]
and, last but not least:
7. I shall teach all my disciples they are part of ISKCON[!?!]
Guru is supposed to teach sambandha, abhideya and prayojana; one’s relationship to Krsna, the process to reach Him, and the perfection of reaching Him. Maybe this is a new version – nirbandha-ISKCON-sambandhe?
Don’t be distressed if it doesn’t make sense to you; it’s the new, institutionalized version of Krsna consciousness, called ISKCON-think. Rather than expanding one’s realization of the process, instilling faith in the heart, and bestowing courage to go beyond convention for Krsna, following in the footsteps of the residents of Vrindavana, it brings the whole process down to the mundane level of conforming to laws. Rather than teaching that one is part and parcel of Krsna, with unique propensities which reach their perfection in His service, the law states only that one is part of the institution of ISKCON! Meanwhile, Srila Prabhupada said that Krsna consciousness is about giving up all designations other than being the servant of Krsna, and that knowledge of Krsna means knowledge of everything else. (SB 1.5.22 purport) But then, he didn’t read the lawbook, did he?
Back to the “gurufacturing”. Now, from then on (after he has the rubberstamp of approval, and is now considered non-different from Krsna), he is still not enjoined to work to increase his disciples’ faith in Krsna, which is the whole purpose of being or having a guru, as described: “By the grace of Krsna one gets guru, and by the grace of guru, one gets Krsna.” No, in ISKCON that is not the main point.
GBC Law 6.4.3 Standards of Conduct for Gurus in ISKCON
4. Must encourage newcomers’ faith in ISKCON and protect the faith of existing members.
Now, “faith” means faith in ISKCON, you see. Mind you, this was challenging before we learned that ISKCON authorities, indeed the GBC themselves, were implicated in child abuse of horrific proportions. But, wonder of wonders, even after all has come to light, we are still obliged to have faith in them. And, more wondrous yet, the gurus themselves have the duty to instill such faith as part of their obligation. Truly, they’d need to be empowered to do so. But for defeating illusion or propagating it?
126.96.36.199.1 He must respect the GBC as Srila Prabhupada’s chosen successor, the ultimate authority, and respect, serve and follow them….
188.8.131.52.2 He must act under their supervision….
184.108.40.206 [He must] not change residence without their approval….
220.127.116.11.5 [He must] avoid confrontation….
18.104.22.168.6 [He must] not undermine ISKCON authorities in any way….
22.214.171.124.2 He must always cooperate with them….
126.96.36.199.4 [He] must instruct his disciples to cooperate with them.
If he refuses to conform to any of these laws, there will be warnings, to be followed by probation, suspension and removal, in various stages, if the warnings are “blatantly ignored”, or if the guru becomes inimical to ISKCON and its sublime laws. This condition is equated with being “envious” and “demoniac” (Law 188.8.131.52), just to ensure that we have properly executed the necessary ritual of character assassination before ejecting the guru from our society of high-thinking, simple-living souls.
But the further description of such loving dealings between devotees, of a level which Rupa Goswami could hardly conceive, we will leave until the next chapter.