Srila Prabhupada’s 6000 plus letters represent an undervalued, untapped and formidable source of spiritual and philosophical knowledge, practical know-how and information.
Let us consider for example 751202Let.TustaKrishnaSwami hereunder reproduced:
2 December, 1975
My Dear Tusta Krishna Swami,
Please accept my blessings. I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 21 November, 1975. Every student is expected to become Acarya. Acarya means one who knows the scriptural injunctions and follows them practically in life, and teaches them to his disciples. I have given you sannyasa with the great hope that in my absence you will preach the cult throughout the world and thus become recognized by Krishna as the most sincere servant of the Lord. So I’m very pleased that you have not deviated from the principles I have taught, and thus with power of attorney go on preaching Krishna Consciousness, that will make me very happy as it is confirmed in the Guru vastakam yasya prasadat bhagavata prasadah just by satisfying your Spiritual Master who is accepted as the bona fide representative of the Lord you satisfy Krishna immediately, without any doubt. I am very glad to inform you that Sudama Vipra Maharaja is also now following my principles. So I am very, very happy to receive all this news. Thank you very, very much. Keep trained up very rigidly and then you are bona fide Guru, and you can accept disciples on the same principle. But as a matter of etiquette it is the custom that during the lifetime of your Spiritual Master you bring the prospective disciples to him, and in his absence or disappearance you can accept disciples without any limitation. This is the law of disciplic succession. I want to see my disciples become bona fide Spiritual Master and spread Krishna consciousness very widely, that will make me and Krishna very happy.
I hope this letter finds you well,
Your ever well wisher,
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
The main cause of the Guruship controversy stems from quoting Srila Prabhupada out of context.
The above letter on its own however, clears ALL doubts and ALL ignorance. It simultaneously gives the law of disciplic succession in FULL. Just see the perfection and completeness of Srila Prabhupada’s letters and consequently of their author, Srila Prabhupada Himself!
Srila Prabhupada clearly says here that:
“…as a matter of etiquette it is the custom that during the lifetime of your Spiritual Master you bring the prospective disciples to him, and in his absence or disappearance you can accept disciples without any limitation.” and that is where the ritvik procedure ends and full fledged Guruship begins. The same logical conclusion can be drawn from the 730822VP.Lon quote below.
Furthermore, Srila Prabhupada clearly explains how the law of disciplic succession operates.
Besides giving a 3 pronged definition of the term “Acarya”:
That an Acarya
One: knows the scriptural injunctions.
Two: follows himself / herself the scriptural injunctions
Three: teaches the same to his disciples,
Srila Prabhupada makes two major relevant statements in this particular letter:
One that “Every student is expected to become Acarya. “
And two, that “I want to see my disciples become bona fide Spiritual Master “
That means that every bonafide disciple of Srila Prabhupada must work very hard and must endeavor his very best to live up to Srila Prabhupada’s expectation and become qualified as a bona fide Spiritual Master. The responsibility to guide and save the world is very great and heavy and it represents the function of Srila Prabhupada’s true followers. Neither is Guruship an impossible or forbidden task, nor is it a casual option. It is a great challenge for every bona fide Prabhupada disciple. To be a Prabhupada disciple is not a cheap or mediocre thing because the Master Himself is topmost superlative.
We should also note very carefully indeed that, in this particular letter, Srila Prabhupada does not make any gender distinction at all. He does not specify that every male student only should become Acarya or that He wants to see every male disciple only to become bona fide spiritual master. Not at all! On the contrary, in the following 730822VP.Lon quote below Srila Prabhupada positively designates “men, women, boys and girls, (to) become Spiritual Master.”
There is no alternative choice. Besides this choice, there is only failure- at least failure in the realm of Guruship. Every generation, must (“abhigaccet”) follow to the best of its ability “the law of disciplic succession”, as Srila Prabhupada puts it so nicely in this letter, just as Shastra says that one must accept a spiritual master, Tad-vijnanartham sa gurum eva abhigaccet samit-panih shrotriyam brahma-nishtham [MU 1.2.12].
And frankly speaking, every Prabhupada disciple’s power of attorney to take up the service of bona fide Spiritual Master is already intrinsically contained in this letter.
By extrapolation, it means also that every single member of Iskcon is meant to be or become a Guru in due course of time and according to the regulative principles. Time is indeed passing and history is moving on. Iskcon is a movement for spiritual teachers, brahmanas and gurus, whether we like it or not. On Janmastami 2013, I met again an ideal second generation devotee and candidate for Guruship. Let him lodge his application and go through the formal Iskcon process of Guruship approval. In letter dated December 31, 1975 addressed to Madhudvisa Maharaja, Srila Pabhubhupada writes:” Thousands of Caitanya Mahaprabhu temples may be established all over Australia……..” Please note the plural. He does not say one thousand Caitanya temples only, but means many thousands of Caitanya temples to be established all over Australia. And more broadly:” I want that in every village and town there may be temple. But how far this is possible now, that has to be discussed.” 760131Let.Nalinikanta. How many spiritual teachers do you think will be required to achieve that goal in Australia alone???
Not even to mention the practical benefits, for the sake of proper regulation of the process, it will be best however to accept and undergo the Guru qualifying process as set out by The International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Srila Prabhupada’s organization and movement, in order to obtain one’s certificate of authenticity and qualification for such a responsible, top most and culminating service. Several brains are generally better than a single one.
It is not that because some have failed that everyone else will also fail. Neither should we subscribe to the jackal’s philosophy, that if the grapes are out of our reach, we automatically condemn the grapes as inedible. On the contrary, we note already the existence of so many brilliant successes and many more such successes will follow. “There is no difficulty.”
Here is another relevant passage from 730822VP.Lon
“To become Spiritual Master is not very difficult thing. You’ll have to become Spiritual Master. You, all my disciples, everyone should become Spiritual Master. It is not difficult. It is difficult when you manufacture something. But if you simply present whatever you have heard from your spiritual master, it is very easy. If you want to become over-intelligent, to present something, to interpret something, whatever over you have heard from spiritual master you can make some further addition, alteration, then you’ll spoil whole thing. Then you’ll spoil whole thing. Don’t make addition or alteration. Simply present as it is. Therefore, we have begun Bhagavad-Gita As It Is. Don’t try to become over spiritual master. Then you’ll spoil. Remain always a servant of your spiritual master and present the thing as you have heard. You’ll be spiritual master. This is secret. You should know it. Don’t try to become over-intelligent. That will spoil.…….
You’ll find in Caitanya-caritamrita, now it is published. Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, He is the Supreme Lord, Krishna. He says, amara ajnaya. “Whatever I say, amara ajnaya, by My order, you become a spiritual master.” Caitanya Mahaprabhu. So one may be very illiterate, no education, or no scholarship, may not be born in brahmana family, or may not be a sannyasi. There are so many qualification. But one may not have all these qualifications. He may be rascal number one, but still, he can become spiritual master. How? Amara ajnäya. As Krishna says, as Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, if you follow, then you become spiritual master. One may be rascal number one from material estimation, but if he simply strictly follows whatever is said by Caitanya Mahaprabhu or His representative spiritual master, then he becomes a guru.
So it is not very difficult. One may not think that “I am not qualified to become guru.” No, you are qualified if you follow strictly the parampara system. Then you are qualified. That’s all. Amara ajnaya guru hana… And what is the difficulty? Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, “Don’t feel any difficulty.” Because as spiritual master, what you have to do? Yare dekha, tare kaha, ‘krishna’-upadesha [Cc. Madhya 7.128]. Whomever you meet, you simply speak to him the instruction which Krishna gives. What Krishna instruction gives? That is also very easy. What is that? Krishna says man-mana bhava mad-bhakto mad-yaji mam namaskuru [Bg. 18.65]. Krishna says “Just become My devotee, always think of Me, offer Me obeisances, and worship Me.” So here is Krishna. If you simply think “Here is Krishna, Radha-Krishna Deity,” you may be fool number, rascal number one. That doesn’t matter. But you are getting impression of this Radha-Krishna, think of Him: “Oh, how nicely Krishna is decorated.” This much. No erudite scholarship. Simply… Krishna says, man-mana bhava mad-bhakto. Here is Deity. Worship Him nicely as it is regulated principle. Even you are not worshiping, simply think of Krishna, “Here is Radha-Krishna.” Impression. What is the difficulty? As soon as you see Radha-Krishna, you get some impression. Think of that impression. Where is the difficulty? Man-mana bhava mad-bhakto. “Worship me.” If you have got opportunity, worship. If you are initiated, worship here. Or you install Deity at home, as our Kshirodakashayi Prabhu is doing. Everyone can do it. Where is the difficulty? Now ask him how he is happy. The whole family is happy. Not only he. But his wife, his children, everyone is happy. Practical. Man-mana bhava mad-bhakto mad-yaji mam namaskuru [Bg. 18.65]. And if you cannot do anything, simply come and offer your obeisances: “My dear Lord Krishna, I am so poor, so unfortunate, I cannot do all these things, but I offer my humble obeisances unto Your lotus feet.” That much also. If you do this, you become spiritual master.
So, simply by accepting this principle, and even if you are not learned, illiterate, you are hearing so much from Bhagavad-gitä, you simply repeat that. Simply repeat that. There is no question of becoming very learned scholar. God has given you this ear. Even if you are blind, you cannot read, you can hear. So krishna-upadesha, what is Krishna…? This is ‘krishna’-upadesha. And at last, Krishna says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam sharanam vraja [Bg. 18.66]. So if you simply preach this cult, “My dear friend, my dear brother, you surrender to Krishna,” you become spiritual master. You become spiritual master. You go door to door. No other talks. Simply say, “My dear friend, you are very nice, you are very learned.”….. “Now kindly forget all nonsense, whatever you have learned. That’s all. I am flattering you because I want that you forget everything, all these yogis and this and that and that and meditation. Please kick out all these.” “Then what I have to do?” “Caitanya-candra-carane kurutanuragam. “Just adhere yourself to the lotus feet of Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu.” Then you become spiritual master. That’s all.
So I hope that all of you, men, women, boys and girls, become Spiritual Master, and follow this principle. Spiritual Master, simply, sincerely, follow the principles and speak to the general public.”
All glories to the transcendental, most merciful and most knowledgeable, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, Srila Prabhupada, the Founder-Acarya of The International Society for Krishna Consciousness and Institutor of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust!
“He Built a House in Which the Whole World Can Live!”
In service to Sri Guru, Lord Gauranga and the Vaishnavas.
Yadavendra Das, travelling book distribution preacher.
31 August 2013, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.