10/28/1998 - 2424 (See Related VNN Stories)
The ISKCON Guru Crisis
USA (VNN) - By Mayesvara Dasa
October 14, 1998
Please accept my fallen obeisances. All glories to His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
On October 2 & 3 there was a meeting of senior devotees in Alachua Florida. The purpose of the gathering was to strategize on how the current system for initiation in ISKCON can be replaced by the Ritvik system based on the ubiquitous Final Order (FO). I was invited to attend this meeting by Godbrothers who I served with in the past and I chose to go so I could better understand what is really at issue here.
It seems evident that the proponents of the FO have infiltrated the majority of the temples in our society. However, it also appears that many of the devotees who rally behind the FO do not necessarily concur 100% with it's philosophical reasoning or it's radical revolutionary objectives. It is accurate to say that there are a lot of devotees who are very concerned about how ISKCON is currently being managed and the FO has become a powerful vehicle for a lot of them to voice their concerns. I understand that the GBC has become increasingly alarmed about all the unrest and rightly so. ISKCON is rushing head on towards a razor sharp blade at an unstoppable speed.
I have heard from the key figures on both sides of the issue. As a disciple of Srila Prabhupada I too am worried about the state of affairs. If everyone continues to be obstinate and refuses to consider the legitimate issues of the opposing camp, then it seems inevitable that ISKCON will be recklessly bifurcated with all the consequences of an expensive, ugly and painful divorce.
At the meeting I distributed over 50 copies of the paper I am enclosing for you to review. I wrote it very quickly and apologize for slight grammatical errors but believe that the content is still valuable in regards to current issues before us. I request that you at least please browse the table of contents and review those points that catch you attention. This paper has opened up channels of communication between people on both sides of the issue and myself. Many have come forward to say that they find the analysis accurate and the suggestions pragmatic and sane. Almost everyone I have talked with seems to be relieved by the possibility that a middle ground could bring us back together if the people who are in the position to adopt it do so before it is too late.
The important point I want to make in this cover letter is that the threat of Ritvik anarchy could be put to rest if the GBC would set up some recognized system where people could join ISKCON as a declared follower of Srila Prabhupada. Call it whatever you like but just do it! After speaking intensely with the forces behind the Ritvik/FO camp and they are willing to stop their current campaign if the GBC just gave them a methodology for enlisting new Vaishnavas into the ISKCON family as students of Srila Prabhupada. I realize that many of the ISKCON decision-makers will doubt the word of the Ritvik agitators, but the simple fact is they will not have the support they do now if an authorized dual system were put in place.
It is my observation that the proponents of the FO are very determined and consider it their life mission to do whatever they must to change the current initiation process. If ISKCON insists on trying to snuff them out they would simply go even more underground and continue to infiltrate, escalate and gather greater influence and allegiance with any devotee who is even slightly doubtful about the current system. Then when they have collected enough support to achieve their objectives they will declare an all out gorilla-like revolution that could include the media, legal maneuvers, and any other method at their disposal to totally dismantle ISKCON as we know it today. At that time the existing relationships between the Gurus and their disciples will not only be seriously jeopardized, but the authority of the currently sitting GBC could also become completely undermined.
We all agree that ISKCON is the most wonderful gift Srila Prabhupada gave to the entire world. Regardless of our political differences, everyone wants to preserve the institution so it can prosper and continue to take the message of Krishna Consciousness to all corners of the world. While initiation is an important aspect of our philosophy, there are many devotees who do not believe the details of how it is carried out are as crucial as preserving the organization we all worked so hard to help Srila Prabhupada establish. Debate is healthy but not when it leads to division.
I have elaborated on many of the practical reasons why it is in everyone's best interest to prevent this very thing from happening in the enclosed paper. After attending the Alachua meetings I am now more convinced then ever that the only clear path through this mess is right down the middle.
The Ritvik/FO camp can be summed up with the word "REPLACE" and the existing ISKCON position is summarized with the word "EXTERMINATE". My purpose in getting involved is to see if there are enough wise members on both sides of the issue to agree to move forward under the common banner called "INSERT". That is the only hope for a contiguous future and that is what the enclosed paper is all about. I request you to consider it's contents carefully and then search within yourself to see if you really believe "EXTERMINATE" is in the best interests of preserving ISKCON.
I want to make it very clear that I do not personally believe Srila Prabhupad is pleased with the current Guru system, nor do I believe he would endorse the Ritvik system cart-blanch. It is obvious that Krishna is revealing to us the value in both systems. My request is that you use the collective intelligence of the GBC, and all the assembled pundits at your disposal, to realize the full scope of what is at stake and make the appropriate adjustments to prevent a total un-civil war. Everyone wants to avoid error, especially when evaluating a difficult situation like this one. But if one has any doubt at all regarding how to settle this feud, it seems a wise Vaishava would choose to error on the side of humility. That would mean adopting the mood of "INSERT" over that of "EXTERMINATE".
In the interest of trying to prevent this conflict I offer my services freely to both sides. I will continue to stand along side all those who want to see some common sense brought back into the Hare Krishna Movement. (As long as there is a movement left that is respectable enough to support.) Anyone who agrees with the sane alternative of "INSERT" is welcome to contact me and collectively we might just make enough of a difference to prevent the oncoming catastrophe.
"Arjuna said: My dear Krsna, seeing my friends and relatives present before me in such a fighting spirit, I feel the limbs of my body quivering and my mouth drying up .My whole body is trembling, my hair is standing on end, my bow Gandiva is slipping from my hand, and my skin is burning. I am now unable to stand here any longer. I am forgetting myself, and my mind is reeling. I see only causes of misfortune, O Krsna, killer of the Kesi demon." Bg. 1-28-30I remain yours in the service of Srila Prabhupada,
Ojai, California The Process of Vaishnava Initiation & ISKCON
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