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A Suggestion for Balancing the Responsibilities


The mandate given to SAC by the EC puts the question of guru choice in terms of the relative responsibilities of the individuals and the institution. This reflects the underlying fact that Çréla Prabhupäda wanted us all to carry out our practice of Kåñëa consciousness within the framework of an institution, the International Society for Kåñëa Consciousness, in which the ultimate managerial authority is the Governing Body Commission. This means that the GBC has an interest in the qualifications of the gurus chosen by individual members of the Society. And therefore the GBC has, through decisions taken over the past thirty years, come up with the present system for a devotee accepting the role of a guru. But, if SAC reads the mandate for this paper correctly, the GBC also wishes to emphasize the traditional responsibility of the prospective disciple in evaluating the qualifications of a guru.

The GBC desires to exercise some control over who represents ISKCON as initiating gurus. The SAC proposes, however, that the present system does not provide effective safeguards, and at the same time it stifles initiative. In other words, applying for the guru post and approaching devotees for recommendations does not sit well with truly humble Vaiñëavas. And itТs the truly humble who are most worthy to become our SocietyТs gurus.


We should also be aware from the history of other sampradäyas and religions of the real danger of gradual corruption. Even if apparent purity were maintained for some time by a bureaucratic regulating system of authorization, the eternal temptations of misusing the status of guru for self-aggrandizement could ruin the system and the institution. In future generations we, like other sampradäyas, could become burdened with gurus who collect disciples mainly for money and power. Such corruption could occur even while maintaining the external appearance of bureaucratic purity. Therefore SAC suggests that the GBC s hift their oversight to mainly after-the-fact. Exactly how this is to be implemented should be decided by the GBC.


SAC members also feel that the procedure of determining no-objection to giving initiation should be simple. The main questions to ask are, УIs this devotee chanting a daily minimum of sixteen rounds and following the four regulative principles?Ф and УIs he loyal to Prabhupäda and ISKCON?Ф These questions can be answered easily, even without the separate procedure of no-objection that leaves the GBC to blame when permission has been granted to someone who later deviates.


Çréla Prabhupäda gave instructions about how to recognize and expose false or incompetent gurus:


УThe whole situation has been spoiled by these so-called rascal gurus who gives his own opinion. This is our plain declaration: Let any rascal guru come. We can convince him that he is not guru, because he is speaking differently. We can challenge any rascal.Ф (Prabhupäda Lecture: What is a Guru? -- London, August 22, 1973)


Journalist: I think an awful lot of our readers, and an awful lot of people in the United States, are terribly confused with the many people who claim to be gurus and gods and who pop up in this country, one after the other after the other, and they say that -

Srila Prabhupada: I can declare that they are all nonsense.

Journalist: I wonder if you could elaborate on that a little bit.

Srila Prabhupada: I can say, furthermore, they're all rascals.

Journalist: For example, the famous one who sells meditation mantras?

Srila Prabhupada: He is rascal number one. I say it publicly.

Journalist: Could you explain, give me a little background on that, and why, because our readers --

Srila Prabhupada: From his behavior I can understand he is rascal number one. I do not want to know about him, but what he has done makes it obvious. But the wonderful thing is that people in the Western countries are supposed to be so advanced -- how are they befooled by these rascals?

(Journey of Self Discovery 4.1 Show-bottle Spiritualists Exposed)


It appears that the Vaiñëava system relies principally on the УexposureФ system for maintaining the quality of gurus. In fact, this is how ISKCON has also practically operated in the past. Bureaucratic processes about the suitability of a person to function as guru before the person has actually functioned as a guru have not proved successful as an effective guarantee. The actual behavior of the person as guru has, in practice, turned out to be the only effective basis for determining merit. One might argue that such a system does not guarantee that a guru will remain fixed on the spiritual platform, but that is true of any system.


It seems to us that if a devotee is apparently in good-standing and wishes to accept disciples it is best to let the devotee accept disciples after a period of mutual testing between guru and disciple for at least a year. The institutional check against unfit gurus should be applied not a priori but a posteriori, in terms of attention to the actual behavior of the guru. If it turns out that the guru is unfit, this fact will be exposed.


This a posteriori system is mentioned in Çré Harinäma-cintämaëi:


УThe guru -disciple relationship is eternal. If both maintain their pure positions and are bona fide, their eternal relationship is never jeopardized. However, if the spiritual master is later exposed as perfidious, the disciple must immediately repudiate him. The same is to be done by the spiritual master if the disciple is similarly exposed. If such repudiation is not carried out by both parties when necessary, they stand to be doomed.Ф (Çré Harinäma-cintämaëi, Çréla Bhaktivinoda Öhäkura, Ch. 6)




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