Challenging the Zonal Acarya System, Part 9

BY: SUN EDITORS - 16.5 2023

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One sannyasi recently quipped in Vrindavan, "They (the devotees of the Gaudiya Math) are all envious of our movement. We don't need to listen to Sridhar Swami. We took some advice from him, and now we don't have to listen to him anymore." One guru also said that it was now time for everyone to "go beyond" Sridhar Swami. Yet it was Sridhar Swami and Narayan Maharaj whom Prabhupada requested keep watch on this movement. Srila Prabhupada especially authorized Sridhar Swami to be the formulator of the new guru process for us. He has spent much personal time with many of our devotees in giving them consultation, yet he has secured no personal advantage from it. In Mayapur, Srila Prabhupada once allowed Sridhar Swami to sit on the vyasasana with him, in front of all of us. Our spiritual master has also commented how Sridhar Swami is qualified to translate the Srimad Bhagavatam. [-->]

Anyone can see that Sridhar Swami is a very advanced devotee of Lord Caitanya. He should be a most important consideration in the matter of establishing this new guru process. His authority is the authority of "sadhu". The sastra is also there. Everything should be researched and known. But first it must be accepted. Guru, sastra, and sadhu are all the most important, topmost spiritual authority, not simply appointment. Appointment gives an opportunity to merit the authority. We cannot accept that

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this appointment is the crux; it is potentially a dangerous misconception.

"Religion without philosophy is sentiment and sometimes fanaticism, while philosophy without religion is mental speculation… The Krsna Consciousness movement is based on this principle (of sastra). We are not presenting anything that we ourselves could manufacture. Whatever we manufacture is sure to be defective or deficient. If we simply follow this system, we can become guru for the whole world."

Bhagavad-gita 3.3


"No one should be allowed to sit on the vyasasana who is not spotless in character (emphasis added) and who is not freed from the above-mentioned vices (illicit sexual connection, eating of meat products, intoxication of all sorts (this includes caffeine which is present in cola beverages, as well as onions and garlic, which are added to commercial products such as potato chips), gambling, (sports, and mental speculation). He should not only be freed from all such vices, but must also be well-versed in all (emphasis added) revealed scriptures. The Puranas are also parts of the Vedas, and histories like the Mahabharata and Ramayana are also parts of the Vedas. He must be well-acquainted with all of these literatures… One can sit on the vyasasana only after being conversant in all systems of philosophy (namely Gautama, Kanada, Kapila, Patanjali, Jaimini, and Ashtavakra) so that one can present fully the theistic views of the Bhagavatam in defiance of all other systems."

Srimad Bhagavatam 1.1.6-7

The authority of the vyasasana is not based on appointment alone. It is based on these specific qualifications. There is a clear difference between being an acarya for one's disciples and being an acarya for the sampradaya (or a branch of it). One should be conscious of this difference. In India, the traditional understanding of the major sampradayas is, in order to assume the title of acarya, one must be very solid in his knowledge.

"Therefore, one must know very well that Vaisnava philosophers are not sentimentalists or cheap devotees like the sahajiyas. All the Vaisnava acaryas were vastly learned scholars who understood Vedanta philosophy fully, for, unless one knows Vedanta philosophy, he cannot be an acarya. To be accepted as an acarya among Indian transcendentalists who follow the Vedic principles, one must become a vastly learned scholar in Vedanta philosophy, either by studying it or hearing it."

Caitanya Caritamrta Adi 7.102



Editor's Note:

This paper was written not long after the GBC went over to take advice from Sridhar Swami. However, the statement that "Srila Prabhupada especially authorized Sridhar Swami to be the formulator of the new guru process for us" is incorrect. No such instruction from Srila Prabhupada has ever been produced by anyone, nor was it the common understanding at the time, or in the years that followed.

The authors of this paper were clearly intent on countering the Zonal Acaryas' claim that their 'appointment' was absolute, and thus could not be challenged. Towards that end, the authors quoted Sridhar Swami's statement about the advice he had given, which was exactly the opposite: "We cannot reach any particular solution as all complete and perfect.".