01/20/98 - 1518
The GBC Must Prove Their Case
USA (VNN) - By Krishnakant, with contribution from Mrigendra Dasa
The current polemic over the Guru debate raging in ISKCON is
characterised by a complete lack of adherence to the reason and
logic that underpins the basis of the Vaisnava tradition of debate.
Before entering into any philosphical discussion, basic principles
regarding on whom the burden of proof falls and what needs to
be proven must first be determined. Once these points are determined
it becomes easy to establish when a proposition has been proven
or not, and both sides are then able to accept the conclusion.
As Vaisnavas are gentleman, the loser can then humbly accept defeat
and surrender unto his victor. Contrast this with the mix of character
attacks, staw man arguments, dubious evidence, lack of consistency
and the claims and counter-claims that form the current debate.
No wonder many devotees are confused and feel that there is no
end in sight.
Below we will clearly determine the following:
On whom does the Burden of proof lie and what exactly needs to
Has the evidence put forward overcome the burden of proof and
established what needs to be proven?
Please note that what follows can not be dismissed as simply being
legalistic since as we have noted, the determination of the
the above points is central to the system of debate. Unless we
know the answers to the above BEFORE we commence the debate, our
arguments will not yield a conclusion.
1. The Burden of Proof
The onus of proof is always on the PETITIONER (plaintiff) - or
he who puts forward the charge or action to be determined. The
party that does not have the burden of proof is the RESPONDENT
because they are not PROPOSING anything, simply defending themselves
against the ACTION brought. Thus to determine on whom the onus
of proof lies, one must determine who is bringing forward a proposition
or charge that needs to be proven or justified, and who is DEFENDING
themselves against this ACTION.
An example will illustrate this. If someone on the street in plain
clothes claims that he is a policeman, he has the burden of showing
that he is, in fact, a policeman. That is why policemen are obligated
to show their badges. Similary, if someone claims that he or she
is a qualified medical practitioner, the burden is on them, if
questioned, to present their credentials.
Once it has been determined on whom the burden of proof lies,
the petitioner must supply evidence to support his claim. Until
this evidence is presented, the respondent has no case to answer.
If this evidence is brought forth, the respondent either needs
to dis-prove the evidence or introduce evidence for his own case.
Of course the issue of initiations is not subject to litigation
in a court of law and we are not proposing such a thing, but the
civil rules simply provide a standard system for how facts are
The Case Before Us
The point of contention is over how Diksa should have continued
after Srila Prabhupadas departure. One side claims that Srila
Prabhupada wanted ritviks to continue to perform initiations on
his behalf, as they were doing even whilst he was present [Prabhupadanugas].
The other side claims that Srila Prabhupada wanted these ritviks,
along with other disciples, to become Diksa Gurus in their own
right immediately on his physical departure [GBC].
This much is accepted by both sides.
The following are the facts of the case:
a). A ritvik system was set up to exist on July 9th, 1977 and
had continued to exist until November 14th, 1977.
b). One party [the prabhupadanugas] argues that the system continues
c). The other party [GBC] argues that the system should have been
terminated on November 14th, 1977.
The above facts are also not in dispute. However from these facts
and the natural system of determining burden of proof we can determine
I) A system's CONTINUED existence requires no proof or power other
than the very fact that it EXISTS, since by DEFINITION if a system
EXISTS it will continue to exist until it DIS-continued.
ii) The system can only be dis-continued as a result of a an action
put forward to bring about its termination.
iii) Thus the GBC is trying to propose a change to the existing
state of affairs by putting forward a proposed action. The other
party is simply trying to maintain the existing state of affairs
and thus DEFEND the system from the ACTION that the other side
Thus the GBC petitioning a course of action in this case and are
the PETITIONERS. The Prabhupadanugas are trying to DEFEND against
this course of action and are the RESPONDENTS.
Isnt a Ritvik System Being Proposed?
The situation is sometimes confused by stating that it is the
Prabhupadanugas who are proposing a ritvik system and thus the
onus of proof is on them. The establishment of the ritvik system
then becomes the proposition, and the Prabhupadanugas become
the petitioners who have to prove their case. However as we
have noted above this is false because:
a) You do not need to propose something that already existed.
b) You do not need to propose that something which exists, continues
to exist. THIS IT WILL DO BY DEFINITION . To move from EXISTENCE
-> EXISTENCE, is simply CONTINUITY, and merely requires NO ACTION
c) The DIS-CONTINUANCE of the ritvik system definitely has been
PROPOSED, since to move from EXISTENCE -> NON-EXISTENCE definitely
requires an ACTION or CHANGE to occur. This cannot be assumed
but must be demonstrated.
Thus the Prabhupadanugas are proposing NOTHING, or more accurately
that NOTHING IS DONE, which amounts to the same thing. The GBC
are proposing the termination of the ritvik system, and the other
party is trying to DEFEND the ritvik system from that enforced
Since it is undisputed that the status quo on November 14th, 1977,
was the ritvk system, the burden of proof can only be on those
who wish to alter that status quo with a new system [the GBC].
Those who seek to DEFEND the system from such changes [the Prabhupadanugas]
are naturally the respondents in this situation.
The plaintiffs and respondents in this action are clearly denoted
by the propositions that they seek to establish (or the lack of
them). Thus the onus of proof is on those who are proposing the
termination of the ritvik system.
2. Evaluating the Evidence
We have now clearly established that the burden of proof lies
on the GBC. The proposition that the GBC has to prove is that
the ritvik system, and hence Srila Prabhupadas status as the
Diksa Guru for ISKCON, was terminated upon his physical departure.
If this proposition can not proven then no change has been proven,
and Srila Prabhupadas status as the Diksa Guru for ISKCON remains.
We will now examine the evidence that his put forward by the GBC
to try and prove their claim.
a) To date NO DIRECT evidence terminating the ritvik system on Srila Prabhupadas
departure has been put forward. Thus there is NO EVIDENCE:
i) That the ritvik system was set up to terminate as soon as Srila
ii) That once the ritvik system was running, Srila Prabhupada
subsequently ordered its termination;
iii) That there exists a sastric injunction forbidding a Diksa
Guru giving initiation after his physical departure.
b) The only evidence put forward has been INDIRECT evidence. This is evidence that does not directly call for the
ritvik system to terminate, but results in its termination due
to Srila Prabhupada authorising Diksa Gurus to succeed him on
his departure. The evidence presented is a taped room conversation
held on May 28th, 1997. Unfortunately this tape can no longer
be admissible as evidence. This is the verdict of the forensic
specialist authorised by the GBC itself to determine the validity
of this evidence:
In conclusion, this recording exhibits strong signs suggestive of falsification. I do not believe that these deficiencies
might possibly be the product of some mechanical process or problem
within the recording or duplication process and I believe that
they exist at what is considered to be a higher degree than that
of a coincidence. I strongly recommend that an independent Forensic
Analysis be conducted the Master recording in order to determine
the authenticity and originality of the evidence. This analysis
requires what is represented as the original recording and the
original tape recorder upon which this recording was represented
to be made.
(N. Perle, GBC appointed forensic investigator, 22/9/97)
IF the copy contains signs suggestive of falsification, that
copy could NOT be relied upon as a faithful and accurate rendition
of the original.
If the preliminary analysis discovers ANY area that is significantly
suggestive of falsification, then the ENTIRE recording is in question
and a Forensic Analysis should be done.
(N. Perle, 13/10/97 & 14/10/97, in response to query asking if
ANY part of a tape can be taken as being intact, after a preliminary
analysis had discovered irregularities)
The conclusion in the words of the GBCs own appointed examiner
is that until a forensic analysis is done on the ORIGINAL tape
there is NO evidence on the table - we do not currently have something
that is a faithful and accurate rendition of the original.
Evidence Falsely Presented as Satisfying the Proposition
There is however other evidence presented that also purports to
INDIRECTLY prove the termination of the ritvik system through
the creation of Diksa Gurus ON Srila Prabhupadas departure. Unfortunately
this evidence, that falls into the following three categories,
does not support the GBC proposition:
i) Statements encouraging devotees to become gurus and preach,
following Lord Caitanyas instruction. Such statements have been
proven to refer only to devotees becoming vartma-pradaksa gurus,
or teachers/instructors of Krsna consciousness and are thus not
ii) Statements simply stating the PRINCIPLE that Diksa Guruship
must only be taken up AFTER the Guru departs. This however is
NOT evidence for AUTHORISING PARTICULAR individuals to become
Diksa Gurus ON Srila Prabhupadas departure.
iii) Private letters written to individuals who were desirous
of initiating even whilst Srila Prabhupada was present, are interpreted
as directing the individuals concerned to initiate IMMEDIATELY
upon Srila Prabhupadas departure, since he simply tells them
to at least wait until the Guru has departed. (It would be hard
however to demonstrate that this was a ringing endorsement rather
than simply a measure to check the ambition of those desirous
to initiate). In any case these instructions are inadmissible
since they were not specifically made available to those responsible
for terminating the ritvik system. Further they can only apply
to the individuals concerned and thus not have general applicability.
THERE IS NO EVIDENCE AUTHORISING DIKSA GURUS IMMEDIATELY UPON
SRILA PRABHUPADAS DEPARTURE THAT WOULD TERMINATE THE RITVIK SYSTEM.
We still require evidence that proves the actual proposition put
forward by the GBC:
That Srila Prabhupadas position as Diksa Guru for ISKCON became
redundant IMMEDIATELY he departed due to the termination of the
ritvik system of initiation that he set up.
This evidence if it exists will need to specifically state that
either the ritvik system will terminate, or that some individuals
(or individual) become Diksa Guru, IMMEDIATELY after Srila Prabhupada
departed, and will need to have been widely available to those
responsible for instituting these changes.
Until such evidence is put forward, the ritvik system is protected
from change, and Srila Prabhupada remains as the sole Diksa Guru
for ISKCON, as was the case at the time of his departure.
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