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Some Thoughts on Disciples in ISKCON


Some years in the past, the GBC commissioned their Sastric Advisory Council (SAC) to provide a paper on ISKCON’s duty to guard its members from selecting unqualified gurus, versus the disciples’ duty to endure due diligence in testing their potential guides. This is from the GBC’s request to the SAC:

“Srila Prabhupada states that it’s the duty of the potential disciples to look at and check their potential guru previous to initiation. Given that the GBC offers tacit approval to gurus by way of their no-objection process, it may very well be that the potential disciple’s want to look at their potential guru previous to initiation is compromised. Although there are numerous wonderful descriptions of the qualities of guru in sastra, it’s the obligation of potential disciples to not routinely assume these qualities are possessed by all ISKCON gurus. Rather, they need to objectively look at their potential guru. There is prima facie proof that means that potential disciples don’t take this duty critically. Therefore we request the Sastric Advisory Council to analysis the steadiness between the duty of ISKCON to guard its members from unqualified gurus and the obligation of the potential disciples to present correct consideration to the examine of their potential gurus previous to initiation.”

Following this request, the SAC produced a paper entitled, ‘Balancing the roles of the GBC and the disciple in Guru choice,’ through which they acknowledged:

“We conclude that sastra, custom, and Srila Prabhupada place the final word duty to check whether or not a guru is bona fide on the potential disciple. Therefore, if we want that new aspirants perceive their want to look at a guru, we must always transfer our guru–authorizing system as shut as doable to the normal kind and terminology.

“Bureaucratic processes concerning the suitability of an individual to operate as guru earlier than the individual has really functioned as a guru haven’t proved profitable as an efficient assure. The precise conduct of the individual as guru has, in apply, turned out to be the one efficient foundation for figuring out advantage.

“It appears to us that if a devotee is seemingly in good-standing and desires to simply accept disciples, it’s best to let the devotee settle for disciples after a interval of mutual testing between guru and disciple for a minimum of a yr. The institutional verify in opposition to unfit gurus ought to be utilized not a priori however a posteriori, when it comes to consideration to the precise conduct of the guru. If it seems that the guru is unfit, this truth might be uncovered.”

You can learn the entire paper right here: https://gbc.iskcon.org/balancing-the-roles-of-the-gbc-and-the-disciple-in-guru-selection/

Despite the SAC providing help for these conclusions from scripture and the examples of custom, the GBC elected to maintain the system of a priori checks in place. One who needs to provoke disciples inside ISKCON should endure institutional procedures earlier than they’ll begin that service. The underlying rationale for such procedures is that with out them, we run the chance of unqualified people inveigling new devotees into turning into their disciples. What this successfully means is that they don’t see new devotees as having adequate discernment to pick out a professional guru with out their oversight. This is one thing of a paradox because the GBC admits there is a matter with disciples not correctly testing their gurus, however by approving gurus, separating them from different preachers right into a class of ‘ISKCON guru’, we exacerbate the issue. Hence, they commissioned the SAC to analysis the matter and see if we can’t make enhancements.

To me, it appears the true query is how can we correctly educate devotees to make clever selections, obviating the necessity for a lot of the forms occasioned by our guru approval course of? In their paper, the SAC requires higher coaching of potential initiates, and certainly we’ve the ISKCON Disciples Course, which one should endure earlier than taking diksha. Still, the GBC oversight stays so plainly this course is just not adequate. So, what sort of coaching can we provide that can equip devotees with the discrimination required to keep away from unqualified gurus?

Firstly, when is somebody even thought of prepared for initiation? According to scripture, it ought to happen on the bhajana kriya stage of devotional service when one is ready to present his life to the practices of bhakti.

“In the start, there have to be religion. Then one turns into inquisitive about associating with pure devotees. Thereafter one is initiated by the non secular grasp and executes the regulative rules below his orders.” -Chaitanya Charitamrita (CC), Madhya Lila 23.14

As acknowledged within the above verse, there are two phases previous initiation, sraddha and sadhu sanga, or preliminary religion and affiliation with sadhus, “pure devotees” of Krishna. By the method of sadhu sanga we must always attain a excessive degree of apply even earlier than initiation.

“One who is just not self-controlled, particularly in intercourse life, can develop into neither a disciple nor a non secular grasp. One will need to have disciplinary coaching in controlling talking, anger, the tongue, the thoughts, the stomach, and the genitals. One who has managed the actual senses talked about above is known as a gosvāmī. Without turning into a gosvāmī one can develop into neither a disciple nor a non secular grasp.” -Srimad Bhagavatam (SB) 2.9.43 purport

One have to be a goswami, sense managed, *earlier than* turning into a disciple. As these of us who’ve been training for a while know, that is no small factor. We have seen through the years how those that accepted vows at a younger age usually discover them tough to observe in course of time. In the Madhurya Kadambini (chapter 3), Vishvanath Chakravarti Thakur describes this because the unsteady stage of devotional service, originally of bhajana kriya. It goes by means of varied phases earlier than lastly maturing to regular apply, when initiation ought to ideally happen. It is just then that one may be assured of holding his vows, with out which the initiation is meaningless.

“Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī warns, nevertheless, that if an individual is correctly initiated by a bona fide non secular grasp, he shouldn’t assume that just by the acceptance of such initiation his enterprise is then completed. One nonetheless has to observe the foundations and rules very rigorously. If after accepting the non secular grasp and being initiated one doesn’t observe the foundations and rules of devotional service, then he’s once more fallen. …In different phrases, merely turning into initiated doesn’t elevate one to the place of a high-class brāhmaṇa. One additionally has to discharge the duties and observe the regulative rules very rigidly.” Nectar of Devotion 5

As properly because the above requirement, there may be additionally the usual check of a disciple that the guru should make; is she or he intent upon reaching life’s final aim?

“As far because the mutual testing of the non secular grasp and disciple is anxious, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura explains {that a} bona fide disciple have to be very inquisitive to grasp the transcendental material. As acknowledged in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.3.21): tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam. “One who’s inquisitive to grasp the very best aim and advantage of life should strategy a bona fide non secular grasp and give up unto him.” A critical disciple have to be alert when choosing a bona fide non secular grasp. He should make sure that the non secular grasp can ship all of the transcendental requirements. The non secular grasp should observe how inquisitive the disciple is and the way keen he’s to grasp the transcendental material. The non secular grasp ought to examine the disciple’s inquisitiveness for a minimum of six months or a yr.” (CC, Madhya Lila 24.330 purport.)

As the above quote states, there have to be “mutual testing”, so whereas the guru should make sure the disciple is certified, the disciple should equally assess the non secular grasp. Which brings us again to the place I started this text, that the GBC don’t belief devotees to make an unbiased evaluation or choice with out their oversight. They additionally don’t permit gurus to independently assess potential disciples. The gurus should settle for a third-party advice from an ISKCON authority, akin to a Temple President.

So again to my first query; how can we higher equip devotees with good discrimination to make knowledgeable and clever selections, whereas additionally bringing them to the excessive normal required of a disciple? While we are able to educate devotees in these components of scripture which describe the traits of a bona fide guru, we can’t simply educate them the knowledge to use such information. Nor can any tutorial course—whether or not or not it’s the IDC, Bhakti sastri, or no matter—flip them into self-controlled goswamis. This is the place sadhu sanga is available in, the stage of bhakti previous bhajana kriya, when initiation happens. This ought to develop all of the qualities required of a disciple, and certainly the percipience wanted to decide on one’s guru.

Sadhu sanga is totally key to creating our Krishna consciousness. One verse in scripture says how even a second’s affiliation with a sadhu may give one “all perfection”. (CC Madhya 22.54) Then there may be Lord Chaitanya’s assertion that the “root reason for bhakti is sadhu-sanga” (CC Madhya 22.83) which Srila Prabhupada interprets because the affiliation of superior devotees. There are a whole lot of such statements in our scriptures emphasizing the significance of associating with devotees. What then constitutes sadhu-sanga, and who’s the sadhu?

In one place Srila Prabhupada instantly equates it with listening to.

“Lord Chaitanya, due to this fact, really helpful 5 primary rules for attaining perfection within the devotional service of the Lord. The first is affiliation with devotees (listening to).”(SB 2.9.31)

For essentially the most half, although, he defines it as discussing about Krishna.

“Those who’re devotees, they assemble collectively. Bodhayantah parasparam. In the Bhagavad-gita it’s mentioned, “They talk about concerning the glories of the Lord.” Bodhayantah parasparam. That is sadhu-sanga” (Lecture Bombay, December 4, 1974)

Here Srila Prabhupada quotes a seed verse of the Bhagavad-Gita , the place Krishna describes the signs of a pure devotee, how they “derive nice satisfaction and bliss from at all times enlightening each other and conversing about me.”(Bg 10.9)

We discover on this part of the Gita, the 4 seed verses, Krishna telling us that by this practise, listening to and chanting about him, he’ll give us non secular intelligence, dadami buddhi yogam tam (Bg 10.10).

Krishna aware dialogue is often known as istha-gosthi, instituted by Srila Prabhupada. Here is his definition of that:

“For a devotee, there isn’t a level in making friendships with extraordinary individuals; he ought to make friendship with different devotees in order that by discussing amongst themselves, they could elevate each other on the trail of non secular understanding. This is known as ista-gosthi. In Bhagavad-gita there may be reference to bodhayantah parasparam, “discussing amongst themselves.” Generally pure devotees make the most of their worthwhile time in chanting and discussing varied actions of Lord Krishna or Lord Caitanya amongst themselves.” (SB.3.29.3)

Prabhupada would usually cite a key Bhagavatam verse that describes how by sadhu or sat-sanga, by discussing Krishna consciousness within the affiliation of devotees, your entire strategy of bhakti unfolds.

“In the affiliation of pure devotees, dialogue of the pastimes and actions of the Supreme Personality of Godhead could be very pleasing and satisfying to the ear and the center. By cultivating such information one step by step turns into superior on the trail of liberation, and thereafter he’s freed, and his attraction turns into fastened. Then actual devotion and devotional service start.”(SB 3.25.25)

By this course of, we are going to obtain success in all our endeavours.

“This strategy of listening to about and glorifying the Lord is relevant for everybody, whoever he could also be, and it’ll lead one to the final word success in the whole lot through which one could also be engaged by windfall.”(SB 2.1.5)

Discussion about Krishna is how we develop detachment and are available to the Lord.

“Therefore one should be taught detachment by dialogue of non secular science primarily based on authoritative scriptures, and one should hear from individuals who’re really in information. As a results of such dialogue within the affiliation of devotees, one involves the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”(Bg 15.3-4)

In 1972 Prabhupada issued an instruction to a outstanding GBC member that his “first job” ought to be to make sure that the devotees in his care had been frequently studying and discussing his books.

“Your first job ought to be to ensure that each one of many devotees in your zone of administration is studying frequently our literatures and discussing the subject material critically from totally different angles of seeing, and that they’re one way or the other or different absorbing the information of Krishna Consciousness philosophy. If they’re absolutely educated in our philosophy and if they’ll get all the information and examine it from each viewpoint, then very simply they are going to carry out tapasya or renunciation and that might be their development in Krishna Consciousness.” (Letter 16 June 1972)

Srila Prabhupada needed us to totally analyze his writings from varied views, to clear all doubts.

“Try to at all times examine our books and see our philosophy from totally different lights of instructions, develop into satisfied your self of this data and no doubt all your difficulties of thoughts will disappear without end and you will notice Krishna face-to-face.”(Letter 8 July 1972)

He didn’t anticipate us to simply blindly settle for what he had written, and he defined how, by the method of debate, we’d step by step develop into hooked up to the subject material.

“Suppose you hear one thing of the Bhagavad-Gita, and it appeals to you, and even doesn’t attraction to you. Just attempt to assume over: ‘What Bhagavad-Gita says? How Swamiji has mentioned this matter?’ Apply your arguments. Apply your logic. Don’t take it as a sentiment or as blind religion. You have gotten cause; you’ve got arguments; you’ve got sense. Apply it and attempt to perceive it… You will step by step develop your attachment for listening to it, and devotional service might be invoked in your coronary heart, after which step by step, you’ll make progress.”(Lecture 28 July 1966)

The above instruction is especially pertinent to these nonetheless testing their guru previous to initiation in that one ought to query and lift doubts.

The advantages of sadhu sanga are nice certainly.

“Such pure devotees, at all times merged within the information of Krishna and absorbed in Krishna consciousness, trade ideas and realizations as nice scientists trade their views and talk about the outcomes of their analysis in scientific academies. Such exchanges of ideas in regard to Krishna give pleasure to the Lord, who due to this fact favours such devotees with all enlightenment.” (CC Adi 1.49)

“My pricey King, within the place the place pure devotees reside, following the foundations and rules and thus purely aware and engaged with nice eagerness in listening to and chanting the glories of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in that place if one will get an opportunity to listen to their fixed circulate of nectar, which is strictly just like the waves of a river, one will overlook the requirements of life — particularly starvation and thirst — and develop into proof against all types of concern, lamentation and phantasm.”(SB 4.29.39-40)

Srila Prabhupada additionally outlined sadhu sanga as “associating with the bona-fide non secular grasp and abiding by his order.”(Lecture 19 August 1968) In the Bhagavatam verse cited above (3.25.25), Prabhupada interprets the phrase ‘satam’ as “pure devotees”, and that is often how he interprets the phrase ‘sadhu’. It is a continuously repeated level. Lord Chaitanya says,

“Unless one is favoured by a pure devotee, one can’t attain the platform of devotional service. To say nothing of Krishna-bhakti, one can’t even be relieved from the bondage of fabric existence.” (CC Madhya 22.51)

Commenting on this verse, Prabhupada says,

“If one is critical about escaping maya’s affect and returning house, again to Godhead, one should affiliate with a sadhu (devotee). That is the decision of all scriptures. By the slight affiliation of a devotee, one may be free of the clutches of maya. Without the mercy of the pure devotee, one can’t get freedom by any means. Certainly a pure devotee’s affiliation is critical with a purpose to acquire the loving service of the Lord. One can’t be free of maya’s clutches with out sadhu-sanga.” (SB 5.3.14)

The sadhu is an ideal devotee.

“Sadhu means a devotee, excellent devotee of Krishna. That is a sadhu. Therefore it’s endorsed, sadhu-sanga. We must affiliate with sadhu, means who’ve utterly devoted life for Krishna’s service.” (Lecture 16 Feb 1973)

Everything relies upon upon their affiliation.

“The secret of success within the cultivation of Krishna consciousness is listening to from the correct individual.” (SB 4.29.39-40)

Hearing is the right approach to affiliate with sadhus.

“…one has to affiliate with liberated individuals indirectly, bodily, however by understanding, by means of philosophy and logic, the issues of life.” (SB 3.31.48)

Although there could also be different pure devotees, there can’t be any argument that Srila Prabhupada is the “proper individual” as described right here. He is our foundational siksha guru and has made his affiliation freely out there in his directions, which he needed us all to review rigorously. That will reply all questions and clear all obstacles.

A temple is a spot whereby one is given the chance to render direct devotional service to the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna. In conjunction with this it’s best to at all times learn my books day by day and all of your questions might be answered and you’ll have a agency foundation of Krsna consciousness. In this manner your life might be excellent.” (Letter to Hugo Salemon, twenty second November, 1974)

“Here is the treatment for eliminating all inauspicious issues inside the coronary heart that are thought of to be obstacles within the path of self-realization. The treatment is the affiliation of the Bhagavatas. There are two sorts of Bhagavatas, particularly the guide Bhagavata and the devotee Bhagavata. Both the Bhagavatas are competent cures, and each of them or both of them may be ok to get rid of the obstacles.” (SB 1.2.18)

I imagine that by deeply and punctiliously discussing Srila Prabhupada’s books collectively, we successfully get the affiliation of each Bhagavatas , the guide and the individual. It is direct service to Srila Prabhupada.

“To serve the topmost devotee means to listen to from him concerning the glories of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (SB 4.22.22)

Only such personalities may give excellent information that frees us from ignorance:

“Because conditioned soul can’t provide the reality. I’m conditioned soul. I can’t say one thing which is absolute… Because we can’t take any instruction from a conditioned soul. So the non secular grasp, even in the event you take that he’s conditioned soul, however he doesn’t converse something from his personal facet. He speaks from Kṛṣṇa’s facet. So until… The Vedic precept is that until one is just not liberated from the fabric circumstances, he can’t give us any excellent information. The conditioned soul, nevertheless he could also be academically superior, educated, he can’t give us any excellent information.” (Lecture 27 Nov 1968)

I might recommend then that we rigorously take into account how we are able to enhance our sadhu sanga, particularly discussing Srila Prabhupada’s books collectively, each in courses and if doable istha gosthis. He needed this to be a main focus of our sadhana.

“We ought to have common courses, identical to faculty and schools, eight hour, six hour. Be engaged at all times in studying Srimad-Bhagavatam, discussing amongst your self. Then you’ll make progress. Otherwise, in the event you take it as an official routine work… You ought to take as routine work, however with consciousness that “We must be taught one thing,” not merely attending the category, however to be taught one thing. In this manner make your life profitable.” (Lecture 16 Jan 1975).

I really feel that if we are able to work this out and introduce all new devotees to a tradition of listening to and deeply discussing Srila Prabhupada’s books, we are going to see the whole lot enhance. Devotees will develop their good discrimination primarily based on scripture, their detachment, and their attraction for Krishna. The want for administrative processes to control them might be considerably lowered, and the love and belief, and thus the cooperation, between us will enhance markedly. The Bhagavatam sums it up properly:

“One ought to discover ways to affiliate with the devotees of the Lord by gathering with them to chant the glories of the Lord. This course of is most purifying. As devotees thus develop their loving friendship, they really feel mutual happiness and satisfaction. And by thus encouraging each other they’re able to surrender materials sense gratification, which is the reason for all struggling. The devotees of the Lord continually talk about the glories of the Personality of Godhead amongst themselves. Thus, they continually bear in mind the Lord and remind each other of His qualities and pastimes. In this manner, by their devotion to the rules of bhakti-yoga, the devotees please the Personality of Godhead, who takes away from them the whole lot inauspicious. Being purified of all impediments, the devotees awaken to pure love of Godhead, and thus, even inside this world, their spiritualized our bodies exhibit signs of transcendental ecstasy, akin to standing of the bodily hairs on finish.” SB 11.3.30-31

My spouse Cintamani-dhama and I’ve compiled a set of rules drawn from Srila Prabhupada’s directions about sadhu sanga which may be discovered on our web site: www.improvingsanga.com

Your servant
Krishna dharma das

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