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January 28, 1999   VNN2924   See Related VNN Stories

Interview With Sri Bannanje Govindacharya


BY ISKCON BANGALORE

BANGALORE, INDIA, Jan 28 (VNN) — It may be recalled that HG Vidvan Gauranga Dasa posted a report of his meeting two eminent vaishnavas in Bangalore, namely Vidyavacaspati Sri Bannaje Govindacharya (a grhasta madhva scholar). When devotees of ISKCON Bangalore showed the report to Sri Bananje Govindacharya, he said that the reporting was partial and did not completely represent his views. The devotees continued their discussion with him and it was recorded. Later the interview was transcribed, taken back to him for review so that he is satisfied that we represent his views properly this time. We provide the same here:

Below is an interview with Sri Bannanje Govindacarya, original tape available:

Sri Bannanje Govindacarya: Meaning of diksha is to give adhikara in a mantra or any system or in a faith. Who can give initiation? In fact if I want to initiate somebody into gayatri, I must be a realised person. Gayatri sakshatkara is the first requirement for a diksha guru. Siddhi or perfection. Mantra siddhi. Otherwise one cannot give mantra diksha to others, according to shastra. So simply giving Diksha and canceling and taking again another diksha - that is all ashastric, not according to shastra... So this is the problem when we institutionalize a faith. We have to face all these problems, because when you institutionalize faith then all the institutional and organizational problems enter and all the organizational problems will come. Actually according to shastra, none of these swamis can initiate… No swami unless he has attained sakshatkar or mantra siddhi he cannot initiate. That is what….told was correct. Unless he has that power to take the sishya into that height, that elevation, initiation becomes a mere mechanical procedure. It has no meaning. If I want to initiate you I must be able to bring you to that plane and you must be able to meditate upon that mantra and that power should be given. Initiation is not mere mechanical procedure. That is a transformation of a power, mantric and spiritual power and a person who has actually no spiritual power how can he give spiritual power to a sisya. It cannot be claimed by a mere post or institutional powers. Initiation is totally different.

ISKCON devotee: The point is the 11 ritviks, only on the assumption that Prabhupada is not on the planet they stopped continuing to be ritviks. Is that correct or wrong? We are saying, " you don't have an explicit order. A clear order of the acharya is needed to become a diksha guru. Srila Prabhupada made a system-you stopped the acharya's order!" We are questioning. They are not able to justify that. So are they correct in their justification or wrong?

Sri Bannanje Govindacarya: No…do they claim that they are no more ritviks?

ISKCON devotee: They say that they are no more ritviks. They are regular gurus. Regular gurus means, as I told you the definition, according to Srila Prabhupada's teachings, it is very serious thing. It is a very big thing.

Sri Bannanje Govindacarya: Yes. See that is why I have told this is clash between the organization and the spiritual practice. When the spiritual practices become institutionalized, then the institution has certain… it is totally left to the …you are correct. There is no letter or there is no resolution, any orders. In an institution anything can be changed. The governing body is there and by majority they can vote and they can have a resolution. They can change anything. According to rules and regulations. But that is left to the organizational rules and regulations.

That is what I have told, according to shastra, the religious or spiritual part of diksha - giving diksha, a person who has siddhi - siddhapurusa can give diksha to others. Otherwise it has no meaning at all. It is not a mechanical thing.

ISKCON devotee: So their another argument is that because it is not normal, according to tradition just like son becomes father, it is natural. So naturally disciple becomes guru. This is also natural. So we have become gurus. So if we follow ritvik, because it is non traditional, not in the sampradaya, we stopped practicing it. Is it really apasampradaya? To follow acharya's ajna?

Sri Bannanje Govindacarya: Is it apasampradaya means here in other sampradayas, particularly in the vaishnava sampradaya or the madhva mutts, their mantra diksha is to be taken by a living guru. It is a tradition. Strictly speaking, diksha even here when a swami gives mantra or upadesha to a disciple, the inner concept is that the living guru is not the real guru. Madhvacharya is there in his body and through living guru the spirit, actually the original spirit of Madhvacharya, the original spirit of living guru that is what is functioning. That concept is there. But a diksha living guru is a must in tradition. It is there. That is why they say apasampradaya. See in all other sampradayas diksha swekara from a living guru is generally accepted in all… see it is in practice even in Madhva mutt.

ISKCON devotee: So Prabhupada appointed these ritviks to do the external aspects of the diksha, like gving mala, spiritual name, etc These are to be done through a living ritviks. So ritviks are living. But the roles are defined and the real aspect of the diksha, giving transcendental knowledge and taking the responsibility of delivering the disciple, Prabhupada continues to do it. In that sense is it apasampradaya?

Sri Bannanje Govindacarya: No we cannot say that. Because what is sampradaya? Sampradaya is again a constitution- a spiritual institution. And it is followed by centuries and centuries by the sisyas. So any system that is in practice for more than 100 years, it becomes sampradaya!

ISKCON devotee: Now since no acharya in the past has formed an international society…

Sri Bannanje Govindacarya: Yes, that is why I have told you, sampradaya means also, it is a spiritual constitution, which should not go against the spirit of vedic teachings. That's all.

ISKCON devotee: So is the ritvik system, taking mala, name, etc from living ritviks and considering Srila Prabhupada as the diksha guru, violating vedic spirit?

Sri Bannanje Govindacarya: No no nothing, nothing. That is not that…

ISKCON devotee: This ritvik system, where Prabhupada in his absence where they act, you know these ritviks as his representatives, and giving, conducting this ceremony while still Prabhupada as the diksha guru, if this process if we continue, is it violating any vedic sastra?

Sri Bannanje Govindacarya: You see it can be done like this. Everybody must take diksha before the vigraha of Prabhupada.

ISKCON devotee: Prabhupada murthi's are kept everywhere in ISKCON temples.

Sri Bannanje Govindacarya: You have a temple of Prabhupada, and before Prabhupada himself, no others can give diksha and these people provide name and mala. The diksha should be in the presence of Prabhupada's vigraha. That will be better. That would be better. There will be no problem. Just to avoid problems, see so many gurus, they will leave peeta (the sacred seat), they are falling down. Just to avoid this, you take initiation before Prabhupada's vigraha.

ISKCON devotee: We are actually not saying that this should be practiced because of a reaction for the fall down of gurus. Even if the gurus are not falling down we are saying you should still follow this because it is the acharya's ajna.

Sri Bannanje Govindacarya: Yes, I have simply told… This can also be avoided. No, that is not the only reason because in fact that is my concept. People ask me who is your guru. I have been taught by so many swamji's . I have not been initiated into sanyasa. That is different. People ask me, "You are being an eminent scholar, who is your guru." Then I used to say, "Madhvacharya is my guru. None else." I don't accept anybody else as my direct guru. Even now if I have got any doubt, I put the question before Madhvacharya and he must send the message, the answer to my mind and I don't ask anybody! So this is a very powerful practice. Taking initiation from mula guru. See these people are instruments, to provide this and that, what ever is required.

ISKCON devotee: For that we are saying, we will respect them and …

Sri Bannanje Govindacarya: If that vision is created, it will be a very powerful, very good system. There will be no controversy. All the problems will be avoided.

ISKCON devotee: Will this stop the parampara? They claim that this will stop the parampara.

Sri Bannanje Govindacarya: Why? Taking initiation from mula guru and following the parampara. How can it be stopped?

ISKCON devotee: This is one of their objections. You can't take from a departed acharya because it will stop the parampara. So who will continue the parampara? That is what they are asking.

Sri Bannanje Govindacarya: See Guru parampara means, now here is Madhvacharya, (pointing to the disciplic succession listed in Bhagavad Gita As It Is) and then this swami, and his swami, like that 31 swamis are there. So this parampara will be there. Everybody is disciple of guru, Prabhupada. Prabhupada and his disciple, his disciple, his disciple - this parampara will not be there. That is alright.

ISKCON devotee: That is what Pejavar Swami said, "Peeta parampara (the succession of the sacred seat of the institutional head) will not be there. But upadesha parampara will continuue…"


Sri Bannanje Govindacarya: There is no problem in that. It is there in practice in Madhva mathas because the guru initiates the disciple. When that tradition is not there, Prabhupada himself is the initiating or diksha guru, then his matha parampara will not be there.

ISKCON devotee: But will that not stop the parampara?

Sri Bannanje Govindacarya: No, no how. No question of stopping. Parampara does not stop. All this in an institution, all seniority, junior swamis, who is to become President, something, this and that. All those problems will arise. Managerial problems and institutional problems may be there but in spiritual practice there is no problem. Here there are two aspects. One is external - institutional, managerial problems. When you build an institution, there should be some constitution, some managerial….

ISKCON devotee: That Prabhupada has said GBC is the ultimate managing authority…

Sri Bannanje Govindacarya: And this should not be mixed up with the spiritual practices. It is different.

ISKCON devotee: Now they show the principle, they quote, many places where Prabhupada expressed himself, "I want each of my disciples to become gurus."

Sri Bannanje Govindacarya: Anybody can become guru. He can teach vaishnava siddhanta to the masses and he can become guru. To become guru… Giving diksha is not the only method of becoming guru. If I want to become guru, I must teach my disciples and I am guru. My students are there. They give respect to me. They say he is my guru. He taught me this omkar. That is all. Without knowing … Guruhood should come through his knowledge and his practice…..I mean tapasya. It cannot be demanded.

ISKCON devotee: In other words siksha. You can always be siksha guru.

Sri Bannanje Govindacarya: I can teach others. But diksha guru….well, unless I have that power I cannot give diksha to others. So again how can I claim that I have that power. "You don't have that power. I will give you that power…" It is all again a controversy. There is no end to this controversy.

ISKCON devotee: According to Madhva siddhanta, can a mahabhagavatha fall down? Uttam adhikari, mahabhagavatha?

Sri Bannanje Govindacarya: The question is irrelevant. Because if he is a mahabhagavatha, he cannot fall. If he falls down he is not a mahabhagavatha. What is the definition of mahabhagavatha? First we have to know that. According to the Bhagavata purana, a person who has practiced the vaishnava system according to Maha Srimad Bhagavatha and has reached certain level. Then if he is mahabhagavatha, he cannot come down. He cannot fall down. Sometimes it happens, even realised souls have prarabhdha karma. That is also told. Even the realised souls who have seen Narayana face to face, eye to eye, Vishnu sakshat kara is there, after realisation also due to prarabdha karma also some people may fall down. That is there in the scriptures.

Generally mahabhagavatha cannot fall down -

Its very rare - some earth breaking instances -

You leave it, it's only for argument sake.

Devotee: Do you agree that one can become guru only on the order of his guru? Or can he just become guru? How can he become guru? - giving diksha. Prabhupada says that it is a rule that he has to get an order to continue the parampara. What do you say?

Sri Bannanje Govindacarya: Through guru parampara giving initiation is in practice in so many systems. In Madhva system it is there, in Shankara and Ramanuja system. In all the systems now the person who is authorised to give initiation comes in the peeta (sacred seat of the institutional head). Whoever comes in the peeta is authorised to give. That tradition is there now. And in fact, this is just a managerial system, administrative system. Just to solve the administrative problem, they have adopted this method. Strictly speaking, in the spiritual field anybody can initiate who is siddha purusha and even if not entitled by guru. Traditionally this is not accepted. If I am a mantra siddha, I need not have a sanction from my guru or any tradition. I can initiate anybody. This is sastric. But there are two things - institutional systems is that only the peeta-adhipati (the person presiding over the peeta) guru can initiate. That is the system in the Madhva mutts. In fact only siddha purusa can initiate and he need not be a siddha purusa who has come in the traditional way in the peeta.

ISKCON devotee: But he has to be authorised.

Sri Bannanje Govindacarya: He is authorised.

ISKCON devotee: If he is a siddha purusa, automatically the authorisation will be there for him.

Sri Bannanje Govindacarya: Yes, yes. That's what I am saying. If he is not siddha purusa, though he is there in the peeta, lineage, according to sastra he is not authorised. But the present system accepts that he is guru! But according to the sastra, he need not come in the peeta, if he is a siddha purusa and he is realised, he can give diksha to anyone. There is no sanction of tradition that is necessary to accept him as guru. The only requirement for diksha is I must be a realised person, siddha purusa of that mantra which I am giving you. If it is Vishnu mantra, I must be siddha in that Vishnu mantra or Narayana mantra or whatever it is. This is not only giving mantra upadesa but this is accepting somebody into the fold of a certain system. Then some system must be there. Its again institutionalisation. Some system. Then whatever the tradition says that is to be accepted to accept him into this fold. So all the other sampradayas accept that there is a guru paramapara in the peetas and they are entitled to give diksha. According to sastra anybody can give mudra dharana. I can give mudra to my children. But according to the present practice in the mutts, sampradaya system, they do not accept it. They say, "Only we have the authority. Only we have the authority. We can give mudra dharana. But nobody else…" Some of our swamis say, "These people belong to Uttaradi mutt, they belong to Pejawar mutt.." and so on. Again there is division. "And you cannot take vaishnava diksha from some other swami. I am your mula vidya guru. You take diksha from me." No it has become a social right. Spirituality has nothing to do with this. This is again the present plight of the muttas. There are two things. One is the social aspect of traditional acceptance, another is spiritual practice.

ISKCON devotee:That's interesting. So we understand that the spiritual component of diksha Prabhupada retains for himself.

Sri Bannanje Govindacarya: Yes that is what I am saying. It is safe. If we accept the spiritual diksha is Prabhupada, if we accept that then so many problems will be solved.

ISKCON devotee: According to our Governing Body themselves, they agree that they cannot deliver the souls back to Krishna. It is Prabhupada only that much they agree. The only thing is they don't want to give Prabhupada the post of diksha guru. Of course now the siddhanta is diluted so much because of the lack of qualified diksha gurus that they are saying that even a kanistha adhikari or madhyama adhikari can become guru. But Prabhupada cannot become diksha guru. His only disqualification is that he is not present with us.

Sri Bannanje Govindacarya: In other sampradayas they say that only living guru can give diksha. Therefore they are also claiming the same thing. In other sampradayas the diksha guru must be a living guru. He cannot give diksha with his spiritual body, non material body. He must give with his gross material body only - that tradition is there. This is not siddhanta or apasiddhanta. Tradition is a social system. It is nothing to do with the spiritual. Society accepted this just to have a control on disciples from the peeta or matha. Swami should have certain control of the disciples. So they have accepted certain rights - they are his copyrights! So that he can have certain control over the society. This is a social system presently accepted by the spiritual priests. Philosophy and practice have nothing to do with it.

ISKCON devotee: I cannot claim to become regular guru - for that I have to provide evidence. These are the only two questions we are asking them.

Sri Bannanje Govindacarya: Spiritually you are correct. For the organizational system if there is any thing to be done, that is left to you. I don't know. If there is any social problem it has to be set right.

ISKCON devotee: In short, is the ritvik system against any vedic system?

Sri Bannanje Govindacarya: It is neither vedic nor non vedic. Just to have an international contact, Prabhupada himself created this system and he is the final authority. It is not against the preaching of the vedas.

ISKCON devotee: So Prabhupada can remain a diksha guru and these people can conduct just like the ritviks?

Sri Bannanje Govindacarya: That can be done. There is no problem in this system. Because it is an international institution it is natural that all the people may not be scholars in sastras or sanskrit. But they will be managerial heads. That is why it is inevitable to accept Prabhupada as diksha guru. It is essential thing to accept him as diksha guru and these are the instruments.


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