Re-construction of ISKCON history
Read Intro later, go to topics
of ISKCON history
the trail of information transmission, by methods of historically
assessment of Iskcon issues.
is an attempt to use a few of the principles of critical historians,
which is to trace the trail of transmission of knowledge, [like in the
case of historical correctness in the Bible], and verify the sources,
and determine if it was a bona-fide source, or if it was imagination
that manufactured the information in question.
have two basic situations with the transference of information in Srila
Prabhupada’s vani, as in regards to accuracy in the accurate recording
of what he taught. One is direct recording of his words onto tape, and
the other is a disciple hearing his words, and later reporting these
is Srila Prabhupada speaking into a microphone > his words on tape
> being transcribed > some editing, final copy approved by Srila
Prabhupada > printed
into a book > preserved on disc, so on. Hand written letters is also
an accurate account of direct transmission of his words.
is Srila Prabhupada said > heard by a devotee, [a human tape
recorder] > often passed on by word of mouth > finally recorded on
manuscript, or book, magazine, or on tape > ending in uncertain vani,
though not necessarily incorrect.
first method is the most accurate form of historical correct recording
of Srila Prabhupada’s vani, while the #2 method of the “human tape
recorder” is inferior, but not necessarily untrue, because of:
The witness may have heard the words of Srila Prabhupada wrong,
The witness may have imagined hearing something, but not exactly what
Srila Prabhupada had said.
The witness may have partially remembered what Srila Prabhupada said.
The witness may have manufactured his account from imagination, and
attributed it to a “Prabhupada said.”
The story of “Prabhupada said” may have passed from person to
person, in a chain of “legend” which losses its accuracy in each
methods, gleaned from critical historians, will be used to track he
trail of transmission of how the words left Srila Prabhupada’s lips,
and finally ended in printed information. Some information came directly
from Srila Prabhupada, and some came from “human tape recorders” or
witnesses. In the later case, there is a chance of altered information,
but it also can be verified as true. Some may be accurate remembrances,
and some may be a result of imagination, some may be manufactured in the
brain to bolster some political side of an issue.
that we think, everything that we speak, comes from either of two
starting places. Either we get our information from some external
source, such as a book, or hearing from a person, [such source may be
bona fide, or may be bogus] or – we gather this information from the
fertile imagination of our brain. Therefore, in accessing the historical
accuracy of flow of information, critical historians try to verify the
source of the information, determine if it is a valid source, or
consider the option that it came from the imagination of the so-called
witness or reporter. They cross-reference all other similar statements
to verify their authenticity, noting the frequency of analogous
statements. Our only access to the past is through sources that tell us
about what happened, and often such sources contradict each other, and
they often represent the author’s bias. Therefore we try to
reconstruct the past by critical evaluation of the sources.
in the following exchanges, we will apply these methods on the guru
controversy. We do not claim to be expert critical historians, we are
simply using some of their techniques. We encourage others to correct
our conclusions or methods if necessary. Critical historians decipher
the authentic assertions as opposed to flights-of-fancy by the following
Cross referencing all other assertions, seeing which correlate,
determining the frequency of similar assertions, which gives a
Determining the fructification of assertions, in other words, did it
really happen in history? And is this information certain by the nature
of it’s evidence?
Consider the possibility of ulterior motivation of the asserter, that he
may have manufactured data to support his bias or a party agenda, and
consider the nature and probability of this motivation.
Often authenticity can be determined from the nature of the evidence, it
is often very self-evident whether the evidence fits into the whole
picture, or not.
1. The assertion by HH BV Puri Maharaja, directly below
2. Insult to Srila Prabhupada? here
3. Ironclad evidence from the will and testament
4. Vaisnava discussion is a round table
5. Srila Prabhupada expected both to happen
6. Regular gurus after 1977?
7. First honesty, then pure devotion
8. Paradigm for redemption
Re-construction of Iskcon history #1
We will examine several documents and witness reports on the guru issue,
and we will use some basic critical historian methods to illuminate our
understanding. For example, we apply these methods to various documents
and assertions, such as the assertion by HH BV Puri Maharaja and others,
and see how many affirm each other, which gives us a probability curve.
the Maharaja’s assertion-
BV Puri Maharaja said,"You should have appointed only one.....when
You are gone, they will not be satisfied as Ritviks, and will declare
themselves as "regular" Gurus, and they will
fight.".....Srila Prabhupada replied..."What can I do....IT IS
UP TO KRISHNA!"
this case, we have a high certainty of understanding that HH BV Puri
Maharaja got his information from an authoritative source, Srila
Prabhupada, as he was in conversation with Srila Prabhupada at that
moment. HH BV Puri Maharaja did not imagine this information, by dint of
the absurdity of considering this option. In other words, it’s absurd
to think that a senior Vaisnava would manufacture such information,
especially in the presence of Srila Prabhupada. Later, as we enter more
assertions, we can cross-reference HH BV Puri Maharaja’s assertion
with them, as to determine probability.
HH BV Puri Maharaja asserts a definite understanding of the future
time-frame, the time after Srila Prabhupada departs, by the words,
“when you are gone.” HH BV Puri Maharaja further asserts the idea of
a ritvik representation for the future, by his words, “when
You are gone, they will not be satisfied as Ritviks.” Here HH BV Puri
Maharaja is saying with no uncertainty, that Srila Prabhupada appointed
them to be ritviks, and to function as such, after he is no longer with
us. Certainty of this is highly probable because Srila Prabhupada was
right there with HH BV Puri Maharaja in conversation, and Srila
Prabhupada would have certainly corrected HH BV Puri Maharaja on this
point, saying something like, “no, I did not appoint them as ritviks,
after I depart.” Srila Prabhupada would not have allowed HH BV Puri
Maharaja to make such an erroneous statement in the course of their
conversation, if it was false. So, here it seems that Srila Prabhupada
agrees with HH BV Puri Maharaja, about the ritvik system intending to be
after departure, or “when you are gone.”
Yes, this logic is good, but still we have the “human tape-recorder”
situation, and therefore we have the degrees of probability in question.
Sure, there’s always a chance of uncertainty, therefore, we shall
cross-reference all these assertions, after we have compiled a certain
number of them, to assess probability.
has to be two mis-readings of conversation, astronomically improbable.
assertion topic- There is a point that Srila Prabhupada seems to not
have a vedic source for a ritvik system, which is a main argument of the
By using this two source method, either an external source, or
imagination, we can also bring up the question of the source for having
a ritvik system. This is a common argument, they say that there is no
incident in vedic sources for the justification of having a ritvik
system. They say that we cannot find the precedent for such a ritvik
Listen to what you are saying. Not you personally, but listen to what
they are saying. This is like saying that Srila Prabhupada concocted
this ritvik system, this is an insult to Srila Prabhupada.
I’m just trying to follow this protocol, which is either we have an
external source, or it’s coming from imagination.
Right, but we will have to add a modification here, in this case. The 2
source protocol is for conditioned souls. We have an exception for the
case of a pure devotee of Lord Krishna. A pure devotee of Krishna has a
third source, which conditioned souls do not have, that is direct
contact with Lord Krishna. Srila Prabhupada has said [researching this
evidence] that he always consults with Lord Krishna before making a
major decision, such as the future of initiations in Iskcon, thus the
pure devotee is always authorized by the supreme authority, Lord Krishna
. Lord Krishna is always dictating to Srila Prabhupada, in his heart.
This is not true for conditioned souls. Since Srila Prabhupada did
introduce the terms “officiating acharya” and “ritvik,” we are
confident that Lord Krishna is dictating in his heart, and Srila
Prabhupada is consulting with Lord Krishna on this matter, therefore
this is the 3rd source of information.
do not know what happened in the previous last Kali-yuga, but we can
assume it was the same as the present Kali-yuga, in that there will be
many unqualified neophytes who want to jump to the position of guru, and
cheat innocent people. Srila Prabhupada writes in Srimad Bhagavatam that
each Kali-yuga repeats the same events over and over. Therefore it can
be a reasonable assumption that similar ritvik systems were used in
previous Kali-yugas, as a remedy for this problem. Lord Krishna knows
this, as does Srila Prabhupada, and therefore Krishna and Srila
Prabhupada are the decision makers, not the gbc conditioned souls. We
already have similar systems of representation and complete shelter of
the founder acharya in the Sri Sampradaya, and Madhva line.
What they are protesting is the idea of a future, permanent ritvik
system, not the temporary system that Srila Prabhupada set up.
Well, that’s the main issue, what was Srila Prabhupada’s order, was
it a temporary or future ritvik system? This is one of the principle
aims of this exposition. But in principle, both are the same, because we
don’t see the precedent for even a temporary ritvik system. So, for
neophyte disciples to demand a precedent from Srila Prabhupada for his
ritvik system, either temporary or future, is an offense to Srila
always has a first authority, the authority who sets the precedence, it
doesn’t just appear out of thin air. Therefore Srila Prabhupada may be
the first authority who sets a precedence for a future ritvik system, or
a temporary ritvik system for that matter. Whether he is the first or
not, is immaterial, because he is our supreme authority in any case. The
disciple cannot object to his decision, he simply must obey, or else he
isn’t a disciple. If he argues, then he is a rascal, not a disciple.
They say that Srila Prabhupada only set up that system, because he was
sick, and it was only temporary. So the question isn’t that we are
arguing with Srila Prabhupada, it is the time-frame nature of his ritvik
Devotee_1: That’s the main point of this whole exposition. We will cover the assertion of him being sick, therefore the ritvik system, sometime soon.
Out of all the evidence, which evidence is the most accurate,
There is no doubt about it, Srila Prabhupada’s last will and testament
is the most accurate recording of his final desires. A will is the most
airtight, ironclad documented recording of a person’s last desires for
his estate, and what will happen to it. The time of execution,
obviously, is after he leaves this mortal world, or in Srila
Prabhupada’s case, after he leaves our physical sight, even though he
is always with us. A will is supervised and drawn up by lawyers, and the
person is certified, by lawyers, to be of sound mind and coming to his
own conclusions of what he wants done with his estate. So, from reading
Srila Prabhupada’s will and testament, we find that he requires that
all executive directors for each Iskcon property to be his initiated
disciple. He says this twice in the will:
system of management will continue as it is now and there is no need of
any change. Each new executive director for the ISKCON properties must
be my initiated disciple."
"In the event of death or failure to act for any reason of any of the said directors, a successor director or directors may be appointed by the remaining directors, provided the new director is my initiated disciple following strictly all the rules and regulations of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness as detailed in my books, and provided that there are never less than three (3) or more than five (5) executive directors acting at one time."
prabhu, how do you explain the significance of these statements, in
reference to our exposition on the guru issue?
There can only be one explanation, it appears that Srila Prabhupada was
confident that his system of ritvik representatives was well understood
by his men, and the system was well in place, and meant to function in
the future. Otherwise, how will the directors be his “initiated
disciple” in the coming generations?
It’s a no-brainer. There is no other way to explain these statements
of the will and testament, which legally must be carried out. If there
is a breach in the execution of these stipulations, then legal action
can be had.
So tell me, why do some devotees of Iskcon, still deny the validity of a
future ritvik system? Nothing could be more lucid and legally ironclad
than this information in the will.
Allow me to venture some suggestions, as to why some devotees still
refuse to accept this plain evidence, even when Iskcon is inviting legal
action if they fail to comply.
historians say that there are a variety of ways that people reconstruct
the past. Some people creatively try to imagine what history really was,
without basing their views on any actual sources of information. Others
take a superficial view of sources and try to bend them into their own
opinion of what reality should be. The leaders lean towards this second
way, and they try to apply the past of parampara, thinking a guru must
always emerge after his guru leaves the planet, whether qualified or
not, but they fail to consider the pernicious effect of Kali-yuga and
the potential of cheating gurus, of which we already have experience in
Iskcon. Thus they cannot understand the possibility that Srila
Prabhupada would introduce an officiating acharya system, as a means to
counteract this problem in Kali-yuga. They seem to ignore the actual
sources of information pertaining to the terms of ritvik and officiating
acharya, what Srila Prabhupada actually said on tape, and in documents.
They think their opinion outweighs the actual evidence.
The ritvik conclusion devotees can also do that.
Yes, that is why we are having this exposition, which allows all sides
to air their points, and we are trying to be objective.
of all, Iskcon uses lawyer tactics, when unable to defeat a point of
evidence. They cast some degree of doubt on every point, enough doubt to
create qualms in the minds of devotees. As the adage goes, “proof
beyond a reasonable doubt.” The Bhagavad-gita says that every action
is covered by some fault. So they find some fault, even if weak, even if
untrue, or they make some assumption that casts doubt, and try to
detract the evidence away from the minds of the devotees. Then they
dismiss it as quickly as possible, to make it appear that they have
defeated this evidence, and devotees should move on and not think of it
any more. There is no allowance of rebuttal from the other side. The
lower rung devotees are well trained to follow and accept their
authorities and accept their line of thinking, and not think too much on
the authorities work their congregation into a pitch of emotional frenzy
and indignation over the issues, by emotionally hammering them with
shallow assumptions. Becoming emotionally distraught, the thinking
process of innocent devotees becomes hopelessly confused, and they are
unable to think clearly in any logical way.
word “ritvik” became a buzzword, a hate word. Whenever you hear the
word spoken, immediate emotions of hostility and distain well up in the
devotees’ minds. The leaders make assumptions that a ritvik system is
so totally bizarre, so unheard of, so crazy and heretical, and thus
Srila Prabhupada would never think of doing a future ritvik system, he
only meant it for when he was sick. They attribute this future ritvik
plan only to disenfranchised, disgruntled devotees who are envious of
the leaders. They make it appear that anyone who doesn’t see it their
way, is a crazy person, a heretic who has no regard for the vedic
process of guru, sastra and sadhu. With all these loose assumptions,
they work up the devotees into an emotional frenzy with feelings of
revulsion to the so-called ritviks, and thus bigotry against the older
disciples of Srila Prabhupada is socially accepted in Iskcon.
What are some of these shallow assumptions?
Devotee_1: Well, let’s start with this assumption that a future ritvik system is unheard of, never done before, a crazy person’s idea, thus Srila Prabhupada would never think of it. These Iskcon leaders went to some vedic authorities, such as Sri Bannanje Govindacharya, with a hope that they would validate their stance. They gave only partial evidence, and got some support. However, after some other devotees showed the 7/9 letter to Sri Bannanje Govindacharya, then he saw the letter as being Srila Prabhupada’s choice to do the ritvik system, for the future, and he wholeheartedly supported Srila Prabhupada in his decision. It’s been done in the Sri Sampradaya and Madhva line, with difference in detail, but the principle is the same. They know that in Kali-yuga there will be weak and unauthorized gurus, that real appointment is by the previous acharya, not by votes, and that people need to take shelter of the founder acharya, and this does not violate any vedic injunctions. This was the opinion of all 3 vedic authorities of whom Iskcon contacted.
A prabhu makes this comment on recent topics-
Srila Prabhupada also said, “All my disciples must real all my books.” Do you think this refers only to his disciples, or also to his grand-disciple and great grand-disciple?”
“In the same way Srila Prabhupada has many categories of initiated disciples. He has initiated disciples, initiated grand-disciples, and there will be initiated great grand-disciples. The Srila Prabhupada sampradaya, like every other sampradaya in Vaisnava history, will contain many generations of gurus and disciples.
"If you want to understand Srila Prabhupada's teachings correctly you must take them in toto. Not that you pick what you like and leave aside what you don't like. In other words, you must take one instruction in the context of his other instructions. Since he stated that after his departure the new devotees would be disciples of his disciples, it's obvious that
"If you want to understand Srila Prabhupada's
teachings correctly you
Devotee_1: Re: "All of my disciples must
read all of my books." Do
Notice - We encourage more lamps, dipikas, to illuminate the house that Srila Prabhupada built. His house is perfect in itself, but we have darkened it with our over-intelligence and speculations. Therefore we have these issues, and by continuous discussions, we can try to illuminate the darkness. The Dipika website has had about 13 participants so far. We invite more devotees to enter their lamp-of-illumination comments. The Dipika idea is a devotee site modeled after the Wikipedia site, where there is free content, and all submissions are ego free, confrontation free. There is no name disclosure; therefore no devotee should feel uncomfortable in giving his or her submissions. It’s not about who said it, it’s about what is said.
topic #5-8, go to history page #2
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The companion Dipikapedia site for Srila Prabhupada quotes