Constitutional Issues: 'Rubber-stamp' Approvals, Part 3

BY: ROCANA DASA - 5.5 2023

In our continued discussions on the constitutional issue of diksa guru rubber-stamping, a reader offered the following comment and question:

"In essence, the [ISKCON As It Is] institution does not require any additional standards for being a guru. So it is true that the standard for becoming a guru is the same as the standard for remaining as guru. That standard is simply the standards required of all members. For example, if a member doesn't chant 16 rounds daily they wouldn't be banned. In the same way, if a guru didn't chant 16 rounds he also wouldn't be banned, and could also continue to accept disciples. His fall down would simply be made public for the sake of aspiring disciples, but anyone could still taking initiation from that fallen guru [if for some strange reason felt like it]. Is this correct?"

In ISKCON, as we know, the standard for remaining as guru is less than the standard for becoming a guru. Deviations are kept secret, and hence the interests of aspiring disciples are not respected."

We would not agree that this is a correct interpretation of the proposed ISKCON As It Is Constitution.

As noted in the previous segment of this editorial, standards for guru-ship are in place, in the form of a constitutional recognition of sastric instructions on what are the qualifications of a 'bona fide diksa guru'. The essential points, or principles of this tattva are stated in Article 8 of the Constitution.

What is not correct in the characterization above is the idea that the standard for becoming a guru is the same as the standard for remaining as guru, and that standard is simply the standards required of all members.

General members of the society are certainly not held to the same standards as a diksa-guru in the society. The general member is not assumed or expected to perform up to the standards of a "bona fide diksa guru". The two roles are entirely different, thus we have guru, and disciple.

We would also note that the example given above by our reader is not an accurate reflection of the Constitution with respect to keeping the standards of sadhana, particularly the chanting of rounds. The section on chanting japa (§ 6.5.5) states that the chanting of japa is an aspect of personal sadhana and is therefore not open to regulation or control by anyone other than one's diksa-guru (except in situations involving Deity worship).

So contrary to the scenario given above, a diksa guru thought to be not chanting rounds would not constitute a "falldown", and the situation would not be formally called to public attention. Of course, that's not to say an errant guru's disciples, godbrothers/sisters or other members of the society might not make a public statement about their concerns over the guru's sadhana habits. That would be seen as a function of free speech within the society. But the messaging in this case would not be a formal statement by the society's leaders, e.g. the GBC.

In fact, our comments yesterday on the front-end monitoring of diksa gurus or candidates for guru-ship apply here. Such front-end monitoring is a natural by-product of a free, just, Krsna conscious society. When a guru makes his intentions to initiate known, or begins initiating, there will immediately be increased scrutiny on him, and public commentary on his qualifications is likely to follow, particularly if he is falling below the standards. That said, there is always the possibility, if not the probability, that someone with a poor fund of knowledge in the science of Krsna consciousness may still wish to become this person's disciple. Therefore it is the duty of the members, the society's leaders, and in particular the GBCs to protect the vulnerable from making poor decisions, by preaching strongly to them.

As I have said repeatedly over the years, I believe that many of the problems we are now facing in ISKCON are rooted in the fact that the current managing authority simply is not doing its duty. They are not preaching strongly; they are too busy micro-managing, contrary to Srila Prabhupada's instructions on how they are to function. So many problems have come as a result, and the GBC/ISKCON response has been to just try harder and harder to cast themselves in the role of the "ultimate managing authorities". They are trying to keep their hands on all the reins of what they consider to be power.

But the gurus themselves hold a great deal of power within ISKCON. So much so that there is a significant lobby within the GBC that is trying to shift the power from the gurus over to the GBC, through various managerial means, because that power is standing in the way of the GBC fructifying in the way they feel it should, with them as "ultimate" spiritual and managerial authorities.

This is situation is overturned, and is practically prevented from happening again in the future by the ISKCON As It Is Constitution.

The GBC/ISKCON is not pushing this "ultimate managing authority" scheme because they are trying re-invent themselves in the light of sastra or daivi-varnasrama, which according to Srila Prabhupada is our true religion. For example, the sannyasa asrama is part of the varnasrama system, and so is the grihasta asrama. But nobody in the grihasta asrama has to go to the GBC to get permission to get married. Neither does anyone need the GBC's permission to be a brahmachari. Those asramas are not controlled by the GBC. But taking sannyasa and the taking of disciples in a diksa capacity are regulated by GBC/ISKCON. You must submit your name and be put on a waiting list, while some bureaucratic group or committee oversees the procedure. Basically, the GBC feels that is the kind of process they want to control. Why? Because that's where they believe the power is. They have made sannyasa and guru into political positions. They like to feel that they can hand out these appointments or permissions in a political capacity, which has caused a great deal of trouble throughout the post-samadhi period of Srila Prabhupada's spiritual movement.

Many followers of Srila Prabhupada who identify themselves as being members of ISKCON today have become accustomed to thinking that the GBC should have this kind of power. The GBC itself would like to make ISKCON into a religion, and a certain element of the membership also wants that, whether it be the eastern or western religionist model. Of course, neither of these forms of religiosity are part of Vedic culture, or varnasrama, so the GBC is inventing this whole idea of them controlling certain aspects of the culture, including approval of diksa gurus and sannyasis.

In drafting the Constitution for ISKCON As It Is, our aim was to make it as simple as possible. Simple, in the sense that Srila Prabhupada set down certain standards and processes and outlined his vision very carefully, articulately, succinctly and elaborately. It never included the rubber-stamping of diksa gurus, or many of the other elements the GBC is now introducing. The Constitution does not layer contrived or invented managerial processes on top of the simple, sublime system Srila Prabhupada established for the management of his preaching mission.