M O V I N G   F O R W A R D

With a Case for the Reconstitution of Srila Prabhupada’s “Mission”.

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Segment 15
Not Accepting Unqualified Persons as Guru or Disciple, & The Story of Anonymous Prabhu, (AP.

This is strictly stating, ‘NONE’; a guru should not accept unqualified people as disciples.  Moreover, a disciple should not accept unqualified people as guru.  How can a guru determine if a potential disciple is qualified, or for that matter, unqualified; and visa-versa.  Personal association and evaluation can only determine it.  This takes time.  There is no limitation of how much time.  The clear instruction is that both guru & disciple must be qualified.  Otherwise, why is not accepting unqualified people as disciples’ an anga, (arm), of bhakti.  The number of disciples a genuine guru accepts will depend on his own personal ability to be able to maintain this intimate and personal guru & disciple relationship.  Not just during the evaluation period, but also after initiation, where the guru has to give personal instruction to his disciples, and be able to gauge their progress, and keep them heading in the right direction.  These conditions will limit the guru’s total number of disciples.  We really have no idea of how many that can be.  However, it will definitely not be in the multiple hundreds, what to speak of thousands.  Ideally, a guru, (either Siksha or Diksha), should be able to give this personal association to let’s say, 1 to 50, maybe up to 100, disciple’s maximum.

This is what the general principle is.  This is best for the guru, and this is best for all his disciples. 

Srila Prabhupada was an exception, a maybe one in ten generations possibly.  To imitate Srila Prabhupada, like the gurus in ISKCON do, will result in what has happened to many of the leaders and gurus in the past 43 years.  It is not that just one or two gurus fell from grace; the fact is that too many have fallen down in to despicable, and some, into wicked and evil acts. 

Moreover, for those who are still hanging on to their impostor-ship, their disciples make almost nil advancement. It is a fact that many disciples, of ISKCON gurus, have left, or in the least, feel that they are not making any advancement.  This will be illustrated in the story of devotee disciple of one of ISKCON’S Gurus.  I will not reveal his name, and therefore I will refer to him as “Anonymous Prabhu”, (AP).

This story is a real and true event, that took place in the year 2010, and serves to illustrate the result of an improper guru & disciple relationship.  Because of Personal Ambition, that fueled the rumination of ISKCON by the adoption of an unauthorized guru system, the young men and women who took initiation from these un-authorized gurus, were not taught what is actually compulsory, in order to practice Sadhana-bhakti[1], in a manner that will guarantee advancement in spiritual life.  This ignorance, of what actually is a proper guru & disciple relationship, has caused the members of ISKCON, to remain on the neophyte platform of Kanistha-adhikari[2], and unable to make advancement to the intermediate platform of Madhyama-adhikari[3].  This results in leaving the disciple feeling forlorn, abandoned, in anxiety, depressed, and disappointed.   

These conditions that have just been mentioned, are symptoms of being under “the thumb” of Maya-devi[4], and her 3 modes of material nature.  They are not the results of practicing bhakti properly.

I, the writer of this Treatise, was involved in a story that took place between myself, and 2 other Vaisnavas.   In this particular case, there are elements of Personal Ambition[5], and specifically Sahajiyaisum[6], which is in the form of thinking that Krishna consciousness is a “cheap” or “easy” process.  AP thought that all he had to do, was to faithfully practice the standard activities of Sadhana, that are currently taught in ISKCON; with the promise that these activities, in themselves, will guarantee the result of, “spiritual advancement”.  Yes! He was taught the same standard activities of Sadhana, that Srila Prabhupada taught his disciples.  However, Srila Prabhupada wrote that in themselves, they are not enough.

The cancer of Sahajiyaisum, is the one that disturbs me the most and is another motivation for writing this Treatise.  The ill of Personal Ambition can be cured, however, the ill of Sahajiyaisum is tantamount to “spiritual life murder or suicide”. If one’s Krishna-consciousness or spiritual life is murdered, killed, extinguished, in this life time, then one must wait for a future life to continue on the path of Krishna consciousness.

Once upon a time, AP, the president of a small Vaisnava community, whose guru is Jayapataka Swami, who personally has thousands, may be tens-of-thousands, of disciples; certainly, the biggest imitator of Srila Prabhupada; explained that he was 5 years into the process of bhakti.  AP had communicated 3 questions to a friend named Ponal. 

Ponal was receiving Krishna -consciousness instruction from me. He considered me as his primary minor siksa-guru; while Srila Prabhupada was his major siksa-guru. In addition, AP was aware of this relationship that Ponal had with me; however, AP did not know my identity.

AP confided in Ponal that he did not know the answers to 3 questions that were troubling him for many years.  In addition, AP also confided the following:

“AP said that he was very much distressed, and troubled; for he felt that he was not making advancement, in Krishna consciousness, that was promised by his guru Jayapataka Swami. And that after 5 years of practicing, what his guru instructed, he had yet to experience the answers to these three questions.  Even more troubling, AP felt guilt and shame, because he was the leader, more or less, a Temple President, of a small community of Vaisnavas”.  

AP said that he was following all the instructions given by his guru;

  • Chanting 16 rounds,
  • Attending the morning and evening Arati[7].
  • Attending morning Srimad-bhagavatam class.
  • Attending evening Bhagavad-gita As It Is class.
  • In addition, his devotional service was that of the leader of his community.

Moreover, AP told Ponal that he was to embarrassed and ashamed to ask his own guru these questions.  That is very odd and disturbing, because in a true guru & disciple relationship, that kind of sentiment in a disciple would not exist.

The 3 questions were,

  1. Why we are not able to come out of material attachments and desires in spite of our, so called, spiritual advancement?
  2. How to Get rid of False Ego?
  3. How we get the mercy?

Therefore, AP asked Ponal, if it would be alright, if he would ask me these 3 questions, and get some answers.  Ponal communicated to me, if I would entertain such a request.  I replied that I would be glad to, however, I felt that AP may not be able to grasps the answers; but I hoped for the best. 

Unfortunately, ISKCON gurus, preach and instruct, their disciples not to communicate with, or listen to, disciples of Srila Prabhupada, who are independent of ISKCON. 

AP also mentioned that he previously asked, a visiting ISKCON Sannyasi & Guru, these questions, after a morning class, and the answers he got were empty and almost completely irrelevant.  The answers, this visiting Sannyasi guru, gave, were:

1: Why we are not able to come out of material attachments and desires in spite of our, so called, spiritual advancement?

Answer: It is because of lack of intense desire to progress. If we are casual in our bhakti practices, it will block our spiritual perfection. False ego is extremely clever and it makes our lives so miserable for us to overcome it. It is the most difficult material energy to overcome.

2: How to Get rid of False Ego?

Answer: We should be grateful to Krishna for the difficult experiences and try to seriously learn from them. Do not take credit for success or accomplishment, but see yourself as a humble instrument in Krishna’s service. More importantly, we require MERCY of Krishna, spiritual master and Vaisnavas to overcome our false ego.

3: How do we get the mercy?

Answer: There are 3 types of mercy;

    • Mercy from the front – The mercy as we expect it. We get what we want.
    • Mercy from the side – Mercy as we expect but mixed with unexpected twists and turns or challenges.
    • Mercy from the back – The greatest mercy, when Krishna hits us hard to make us move on and give up some petty attachments and desires that are blocking us.

Not beings satisfied, with this guru Sannyasi’s answers, AP was willing to ignore his guru’s instruction, to not communicate with anyone outside of ISKCON.   Therefore, AP gave the go-ahead, for Ponal, to pass on these questions to me.  Ponal informed me, that he was sure I could provide the answers; however, he also expected that AP would, more or less, “freak out”, if he were to read the answers. 

On the other hand, I also agree with AP, that this visiting Sannyasis & Guru’s answers, were utterly USELESS.

I wrote back to Ponal, and explained, that after he first reads my answers, he could be the judge, of whether to present what I had written to AP or not.  After all, AP was Ponal’s friend and he knew him well.  

To illustrate the condition, of this kind of Vaisnava, the following is what I wrote to Ponal, in a Word Document, sent via e-mail.  I wrote:

Dear AP, please accept my Dandavats.

What is ‘so-called spiritual advancement’’? 

You will not be able to answer that question because, “so-called spiritual advancement”, does not exist. 

Either a person performing devotional service is advancing, or one is not advancing. 

However, a devotee may be in a state of illusion, had been diluted, has a false impression, is fantasizing, is daydreaming, has a figment of their imagination, or they have been deceived.  If this were to be the case, the devotee is thinking that they are making spiritual advancement, when in fact, the devotee is not.  This could be “so called spiritual advancement”, but it is still “no advancement”.  In other words, to think or believe so, does not make it so. 

In the English language, it is a standard protocol, to precede the phrase “so- called” before a noun, when the speaker or writer, wants to convey that the “noun” being modified, by the phrase “so-called”, is not what the “noun” specifies.  For example, if you say, “John is a so-called philosopher.”  To speak or write this is conveying that John thinks he is a philosopher, even though other people think that he is NOT.  The speaker or writer is conveying that John is not a philosopher.  This phrase “so-called”, is mostly used to designate an imposter, or someone pretending.  This term is used when the speaker or writer, has sufficient evidence to use it.  If it is used, when in fact it is not true, then that would be irresponsible and offensive.  Speaking the truth is never offensive, if it is a fact.  Speaking something that is not true, is always offensive, if it is not a fact.

You Mr. AP, whoever you may be, I would like to give you a little bit of praise, which you deserve.  It takes a person of integrity, to admit that after 5 years of practicing bhakti, the spiritual advancement, which many of your godbrothers and sisters, are assuming you have, is not there.  You have recognized this, and thus you call it “so-called”. 

Somehow or another you have been sold a bill of goods, that caused you believed that you would be dressed with the garments of bhakti by now.  However, after 5 years, you are seeing that you are naked.  This dear friend, takes a real man or woman, to admit.  This means that you are truthful to yourself, and you have integrity, and this my friend, these are qualities of a brahmana, and for sure a vaisnava. 

I can also say, that it is possible that you will be thinking, that it is your entire fault; that you still have material attachments and desires, along with a false ego.  However, please believe me, it is not entirely your fault.  Knowing my godbrothers, who are the authorities in ISKCON, I can further tell you, that if you confront them with these questions, and they know that you are a 5-year-old devotee, they will more than likely, place the blame on you, in one way or another.  They may tell you that it is entirely your fault, with statements like,

  • “You do not have faith in shastra or the guru”.
  • “You are not following the instructions of your guru”.
  • “You are not sincere”, and so on.

However, I can assure you that no matter what they say, they will put the blame on you.

In addition, you may feel that, the mercy you thought you would get, has not come.  You are not entirely innocent; but the truth is that it is not all your fault, please believe me.  

If you are sincerely asking these three questions, it means that you are able to perform self-analysis, and have determined that you still have material attachments, desires, and a false ego. 

Asking question 3, means that you do not know, nor understand, the Gaudiya vaisnava Siddhanta regarding “mercy”.  This ability of self-assessment, is a good quality, for any human being, it is rare and very desirable, in the practice of sadhana bhakti.  In fact, it is essential, and many times, it has to be taught and encouraged. 

If we look at both the kanistha and Madhyama stages of Krishna consciousness, as having three levels each, i.e., beginner, intermediate, and advanced, then I would say that you are for sure a beginner kanistha.  The reason I say this, is because a neophyte devotee should know the answers to these questions, within the first 6 month to a year, after making contact with our parampara.  It is possible to know the answers, to all of these three questions, at the beginning level of kanistha, and for sure in the intermediate level.  In fact, it is essential, otherwise, if one does not know the answers to these 3 questions, spiritual advancement will be nil.  It will be virtually impossible to make proper advancement, and at best, making advancement very difficult.

In order to advance, knowing the answers to these three questions, is essential knowledge, for a neophyte vaisnava.  Just to know the answers, is not sufficient.  You must also get the instruction, of how you can apply the answers to your program of sadhana.  This implementation of this knowledge, is what will cause the advancement, and that part, is not so easy.  Understanding the answer is easy, but applying it, will require hard work and sincerity.  The more sincere a devotee is, the quicker the advancement will come.  Taking a sluggish approach to applying the answers, will result in very little advancement. 

Teaching you the answers to the questions, and giving you instruction, on how to implement the answers, is the responsibility of whom is responsible for giving you siksha.  Applying the siksha is your responsibility.  Therefore, that is why I said, “It is not entirely your fault”, that you find yourself in this predicament.  I can make this evaluation because I know, for a fact, that you have not received, this kind of instruction.  ISKCON has vested interest in not giving this kind of siksa, and that is even a sadder story.

In Gaudiya Vaisnavism, advancement means, that you are making quantifiable, and verifiable advancement, from the kanistha platform to the Madhyama platform, and from the Madhyama to the Uttama platform.  Srila Prabhupada has mentioned, a test, by which a devotee can gauge advancement.

In Srimad-bhagavatam 1.7.7 Purport, Srila Prabhupada wrote:

“Simply by hearing the Vedic literature, Srimad-bhagavatam, one can have direct connection with the Supreme Personality of Godhead Sri Krishna, and thereby one can attain the highest perfection of life, in the form of dissipation of worldly miseries, illusion and fearfulness. These are practical tests for the one who has actually given a submissive aural reception to the readings of the Srimad-bhagavatam.”

If you are experiencing the “dissipation of worldly miseries, illusion and fearfulness”, then you can say you are advancing in Krishna-consciousness.

Not many devotees will advance from the Kanistha platform to the Madhyama.  A large majority of Kanisthas, because of their natures, a poor fund of prior Nitya-sukrti[8], will only be able to become advanced Kanisthas.  Out of the few advanced Kanisthas, only a few will actually proceed and step up to the Madhyama platform. 

Try to understand that there is nothing wrong with that.  Advancement is a gradual process, for most, and it may take many lifetimes of accumulating Nitya-sukrti, before a devotee advance’s from Kanistha to Madhyama.  In addition, once on the Madhyama platform, the same applies in moving up to the Uttama platform.  On the other hand, Srila Prabhupada said that you could do all this in one moment.  That is Krishna consciousness.  There is no one path to perfection, because bhakti has nine core processes; but the manifestation of sadhana bhakti can take on unlimited forms. 

It is very possible for the guru to evaluate each disciple, and determine the asset of prior Nitya-sukrti, and thus the guru would be able to give special or particular instruction for this disciple.  This is similar to when in the public-school systems, there are tests to recognized gifted students. History has shown, that young person’s graduate from high school at ages of 10 to 13, and then they go on to universities, and some will graduate, with the highest degree of PhD at age of 16 to 18.  These are the exceptions, the extreme end of a scale, with the bottom representing those who have very low intellectual abilities.  Therefore, between the worst to the best, there is a variety of possibilities. 

Therefore, all disciples of a guru, will not all be doing the same sadhana.  Yes, there will be activity that is common, like the sadhana you mentioned that you practice on a daily basis.  However, those who have the ability to get advanced instruction, should not be held back.  These devotees may have a large asset of Nitya-sukrti.  In their past life, they may have already reached the intermediate or advance level of Madhyama.  Any advancement one obtains in Krishna consciousness, is a permanent asset, you cannot lose it, nor can anyone take it away.  So, if a devotee, with a large fund of Nitya-sukrti, is discovered by the evaluation of the guru, then the instructions by the guru, will be unique, and only for that devotee.  However, this kind of evaluation requires a proper intimate and personal guru & disciple relationship. 

What is “Nitya-sukrti”, anyways?

In Jaiva-dharma Chapter 6, Eternal Dharma, Race & Cast, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur, writes:

“It is a fact that sraddha, (faith), arises from pious deeds.  It is stated in the Brhan-Naradiya-Purana (4.33), 

‘The inclination for bhakti is awakened by association with Bhagavan’s devotees. The jiva obtains the association of Pure devotees by the accumulated effect of spiritually pious activities performed over many lifetimes.’

There are two types of sukrti, (piety, virtue; pious activity):

    1. Nitya, (eternal).
    2. Naimittika, (circumstantial and temporary).

The sukrti by which one obtains association of saintly people, the devotees of the Lord, and therefore learns the science of loving devotional service to the Supreme Lord is Nitya-sukrti, (pious deeds that are eternal). 

The sukrti by which one obtains material enjoyment and impersonal liberation is naimittika-sukrti (pious deeds that are circumstantial and temporary). 

Sukrti, which bears eternal fruit, is Nitya-sukrti.  Sukrti which bears temporary results, which are dependent upon some cause, is naimittika-sukrti.

All types of material enjoyment are non-eternal because they clearly depend on some cause.  Many people think that mukti, (liberation), is eternal, but this is only because they do not know the actual nature of liberation.  The individual soul is pure, eternal, and primeval.  The cause of the soul’s bondage is association with the material nature, and liberation is the complete dissolution of this bondage.  The act of deliverance, or release from bondage, is accomplished in a single moment, so the act of release is not in itself an eternal action.  All consideration of liberation ends as soon as emancipation is attained, so liberation is nothing more than the destruction of a material cause.  Therefore, since liberation is only the negation of a temporary material cause, it is also causal and temporary.

To gain factual knowledge and realization of that eternal supreme Person, one should find a qualified guru who is learned in the Vedas, who is firmly established in the service of Bhagavan, and who knows the Absolute Truth.  One should then approach that guru and should surrender body, mind, and words to him with faith and humility.

Karma, yoga[9], and jnana[10] all produce naimittika-sukrti.  The association of devotees, and contact with acts of devotion, produces Nitya-sukrti, (eternal pious activities).  Only one who has accumulated Nitya-sukrti over many lifetimes will develop sraddha, (faith).  Naimittika-sukrti produces many different results, but it will not lead to the development of faith in unalloyed bhakti.

Thus, all types of sukrti that nourish bhakti are Nitya-sukrti.  When this sukrti becomes strong, one gradually develops sraddha in unalloyed bhakti, and one attains sadhu-sanga, (association of sadhu’s).”

Regardless of all this, the bottom line is; improper siksha, results in no advancement, or very little advancement at best, and the complete lack of essential instructions, and knowledge, will result in no advancement at all.

I sincerely implore you to stop and contemplate, and scrutinize, why you have these questions in the first place.  Only a beginner Kanistha would not know the answers to these questions.  Where an intermediate Kanistha would, for sure, know the answers.  Therefore, if you do not know the answers to these three questions, you really need to investigate why. 

You also have a wrong understanding of what the process of bhakti is, and how it is executed. 

You do not have the proper guru & disciple relationship, which is essential and, which is our siddhanta.

The hardest words, I have to say to you, is that you need to evaluate and scrutinize, how and why you selected your guru.  You did not follow the instructions given in shastra, on what is a genuine guru, and what a genuine disciple is, and used them to determine two things,

  1. Is this person I have chosen as my guru, a genuine guru?
  2. And, am I a genuine disciple?

If you answered these two questions, with some other criteria, other than what is in shastra, and what Srila Prabhupada instructed, then there are these possibilities. 

  • Your guru is not genuine; therefore, is not qualified to be guru.
  • You are not a qualified disciple.
  • Your guru is qualified, and you are not.
  • You are qualified, and your guru is not.
  • Your guru is not what you think he is, and what others say he is.
  • Your guru is more than likely, a Kanistha adhikari, and at best, a Madhyama-adhikari. Therefore, you cannot advance beyond those platforms.  In Nectar of Instruction, Verse 5, Purport, Srila Prabhupada writes:

“One should not become a spiritual master unless he has attained the platform of uttama-adhikari.  A neophyte Vaisnava or a Vaisnava situated on the intermediate platform can also accept disciples, but such disciples must be on the same platform, and it should be understood that they cannot advance very well toward the ultimate goal of life under his insufficient guidance.  Therefore, a disciple should be careful to accept an uttama-adhikari as a spiritual master.”

You have quite a predicament to solve.  And as Englishmen say, “you are in a spot of bother”, in other words, you have a problem; a predicament.

The only other analogy, I can think of, is that you are rowing a boat to cross the ocean of material existence, but you have not pulled up the anchor, so your rowing is getting you nowhere.  The anchor represents the three modes of material nature.   

A note about “mercy”:  It has been in front of you all the time, however you have had your eyes covered, so that you could not see it.  There is more mercy than you can imagine, and in very large quantities.  These enormous amounts of “mercy”, is Srila Prabhupada’s books, lectures, conversations, and letters. 

If you do not trust my words, then maybe you can trust Srila Prabhupada’s,

Srimad-bhagavatam 3.32.27 purport,

“Devotional service mixed with the modes of material nature is a means for material existence.”

Lecture, Bhagavad-gita.1974, Hawaii

Unless one is firmly established in the mode of goodness, one spiritual life is simply a bluff”. 

Because without coming to the platform of sativa-guna, (mode of goodness), nobody can advance in spiritual life.  That is a fact.”

“Just like nobody is allowed to enter the law college unless he is a graduate.  This restriction is there.  What he will understand, law?  He must be a graduate.  So similarly, first of all, one has to come to the platform of sativa-guna.  Then spiritual knowledge begins.  Because spiritual knowledge is above sativa-guna. Above sativa-guna.  Therefore, sativa-guna is the best quality, when one brain is clear and he can see things as they are, no hazy understanding, but clear understanding.  Therefore, sativa-guna is the qualification of brahmana.”

In the Bhagavad-gita 14.1, referring to the three modes of nature, the Supreme Lord said:

“Again, I shall declare to you this supreme wisdom, the best of all knowledge, knowing which all the sages have attained the supreme perfection.”

Srila Prabhupada makes some compelling statements in the purport:

“In the Thirteenth Chapter, it was clearly explained that by humbly developing knowledge one might possibly be freed from material entanglement

It has also been explained that it is due to association with the modes of nature that the living entity is entangled in this material world.  Now, in this chapter, the Supreme Personality explains what those modes of nature are, how they act, how they bind and how they give liberation

The knowledge explained in this chapter is proclaimed by the Supreme Lord to be superior to the knowledge given so far in other chapters.  By understanding this knowledge, various great sages attained perfection and transferred to the spiritual world.  The Lord now explains the same knowledge in a better way.  This knowledge is far, far superior to all other processes of knowledge thus far explained, and knowing this many attained perfection.  Thus, it is expected that one who understands this Fourteenth Chapter will attain perfection.

Srimad-bhagavatam 4.21.32, purport.

Our false appetite for enjoyment and lordship of the material world is due to a prominence of passion and ignorance.

By bhakti-yoga, these two qualities are diminished, and one becomes situated in the mode of goodness.”

“Gradually surpassing the mode of goodness, one is situated in pure goodness, which is not contaminated by the material qualities”.

“When thus situated, a devotee no longer has any doubts; he knows that he will not come back to this material world.”

There is one preliminary question that you should ask yourself, and that is,

“After 5-year of practicing bhakti, why on Krishna’s Earth, am I having these 3 questions to begin with?”

It is essential that you answer this question first, otherwise, you will have difficulties in understanding, the answers to the 3 questions, that you have posited.

The answer to the preliminary question stated previously, is,

“You do not have the proper, guru & disciple, relationship; it is as simple as that.  Without, this proper relationship, how can you get knowledge and instruction, which would answer your 3 questions.  Otherwise, why would you be embarrassed and ashamed to inquire from your own guru.  These questions should, without any doubt, be placed at the feet of your guru, and once getting the answers to them, you may or may not be satisfied.”

You must feel that you have been abandon by your guru.  Like a father who fathers a child, and then leaves the family, and they never see him, except on occasional special days, like birthdays, Christmas, or some holiday. This child is no better off than an orphan; no direction from the father, no guidance, no proper father & son relationship; actually, no personal relationship at all.  A child in this situation, would naturally, have fear or reluctance to communicate with his father.  Moreover, this child in actuality does not have a father.

I am sensing the beginning of your departure from ISKCON, and I am afraid that you could abandon bhakti altogether, and return to the cycle of Samsara[11].

There cannot, just be, a quick and simple answers to your questions, as you are requesting.  Three simply answers are possible, however, they would be of very little benefit, resulting in only more frustration.  However, due to your status as a leader in a small Vaisnava community, and your attachment to ISKCON and their programs, and to your guru, who perhaps does not know you intimately and personally; you would not really benefit from quick answers. 

You first must accept that you do not have an appropriate relationship with your guru.  This relationship with your guru is not performing normally.  This is what is known as, “dysfunctional”, or not operating normally or properly.  More than likely, if this fact was mentioned to you;, you would deny it.  You are addicted somehow or another, to your predicament, of a dysfunctional guru & disciple relationship, and it will be very difficult for you to admit this as a fact. 

Denial is the first symptom of an addiction of any kind.  After 5-years, your relationship with your guru, has not provided these answers, what to speak of providing, guidance, advice, and instruction in applying the answers. ISKCON mass initiating gurus, cannot give this one-on-one personal relationship with all their disciples.  That is why it is said, In regards to ISKCON gurus, that it is possible that they have dug their own grave, so to speak.  In their attempt to imitate thousands of disciples, they have not followed the instruction Srila Prabhupada gave in Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya-lila 22.118 that states.,

“… (13) One should not accept an unlimited number of disciples. …”


Accepting an unlimited number of devotees or disciples is very risky for one who is not a preacher.  According to Srila Jiva Gosvami, a preacher has to accept many disciples to expand the cult of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.  This is risky, because when a spiritual master accepts a disciple, he naturally accepts the disciple’s sinful activities and their reactions.  Unless he is very powerful, he cannot assimilate all the sinful reactions of his disciples, and has to suffer the consequences.  Therefore, one is generally forbidden to accept many disciples.

The key word is ‘unlimited’.  We need to see what this actually means by studying what “unlimited” means.


  • Having no restrictions or controls.
  • Having or seeming to have no boundaries.
  • Without qualification or exception.

Therefore, “unlimited” in this verse means and implies,

  • Having no restrictions or controls.
  • Without qualification or exception.

IISKCON gurus initiate without restriction or controls, and without qualification to do so.  SKCON gurus are in no way powerful preachers, like Srila Prabhupada.  They all gain their multitude of disciples by hiding behind Srila Prabhupada.  They need to replace all the disciples that have left.  None of these ISKCON gurus has been able to write extensively like the previous Acaryas.  A small book, an essay, here and there, and of no significant importance; that is all.   Srila Prabhupada was not able to give all his disciples a personal one-on-one guru & disciple physical relationship.  However, he was able to overcome this by the fact that his disciples can associate with him through his books and lectures.  He said, “everything is in my books”, and in my experience, you can take that to the bank, if you will.  Any doubt, any question, I ever had, I could find the answer, in the spoken and written words of Srila Prabhupada; through his Veda Base.  The Srila Prabhupada Veda Base is the personification of Srila Prabhupada, and as far as I am concerned, Srila Prabhupada is always waiting for me to inquire from him through his written and spoken words.  None of these ISKCON gurus, can supply such a facility for their disciples.  The conclusion is that ISKCON gurus, initiate a disciple, and then abandon them.

Your problem is that your spiritual life is a “bluff”.  Prabhupada said so, not me. What is the reason for it being a ‘bluff’?  Srila Prabhupada simply explains that it is because you are not firmly established in the mode of goodness.  In other words, your bhakti is mixed with the modes of passion and ignorance, and therefore, you are making very little advancement at best, and maybe at worst, as Srila Prabhupada said,   

“Because without coming to the platform of Sativa-guna—the mode of material goodness, nobody can advance in spiritual life.  That is a fact”. 

You must understand that “Mixed Devotional Service”, is not good enough.

In the purport to Srimad-bhagavatam 3.29.10, Srila Prabhupada writes:

“Devotional service in the modes of ignorance, passion and goodness can be divided into eighty-one categories. There are different devotional activities, such as hearing, chanting, remembering, worshipping, offering prayer, rendering service and surrendering everything, and each of them can be divided into three qualitative categories. For example, there is hearing in the mode of passion, in the mode of ignorance and in the mode of goodness. Similarly, there is chanting in the mode of ignorance, passion and goodness, etc. Three multiplied by nine equals twenty-seven, and when again multiplied by three it becomes eighty-one. One has to transcend all such mixed materialistic devotional service in order to reach the standard of pure devotional service, as explained in the next verse.”

It is a mystery to me, why ISKCON preaches, that devotees in ISKCON are beyond the 3 modes of material nature.  Right here in this purport, Srila Prabhupada says otherwise.  The above knowledge, and instructions, given by Srila Prabhupada, are not preached, nor emphasized in ISKCON.  Most members of ISKCON, are not aware of what Srila Prabhupada says in this purport.  If you were to mention this information about devotional service, they would say, “What!!!???” 

Devotees who have read this part of the Third Canto, have difficulty comprehending what is being explained, even though it is so perfectly written. However, it is really quite simple. Pure devotional service is uncontaminated by any material qualities, but devotional service rendered with some non-devotional motives, is not pure; it is mixed. Such mixed or adulterated devotional service, does not aim at directly awakening love of God, and is the basis for further material existence. 

From Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila 4.21-22 Purport:

“In the Caitanya-caritamrta three kinds of devotional service are described, namely,

    1. Bhakti: Ordinary devotional service.
    2. Suddha-bhakti: Pure devotional service.
    3. Viddha-bhakti: Mixed devotional service.

When devotional service is executed with some material purpose, involving fruitive activities, mental speculations, or mystic yoga, it is called mixed or adulterated devotional service.”

Again, Srila Prabhupada says,

 “One has to transcend all such mixed materialistic devotional service in order to reach the standard of pure devotional service.”

Many people accept mixed devotional service, and do not go beyond that. They do not distinguish between mixed and pure devotional service. Moreover, mixed devotional service, will not save one from repeated birth and death. Only pure devotional service will do that. It is imperative, therefore, that we distinguish between the two, and commit ourselves exclusively to pure devotional service. This fact cannot be stressed too much. A lot of what presently passes as pure devotional service, in most Vaisnava camps, is in fact mixed. Why the confusion? It is largely because we habitually refer to all kinds of service as “devotional service” and leave it at that. However, Srila Prabhupada says,

“One has to transcend all such mixed devotional service in order to reach the standard of pure devotional service.” 

Therefore, we have to discriminate between the two, or else, we risk mistaking mixed for pure devotional service. This keen ability to discriminate, is the trait of the Madyama-adhikari. If you are not doing this kind of discrimination, one could conclude that you are still a Kanistha-adhikari.

The 14th Chapter of Bhagavad-gita As It Is, instructs that “action” can be made in the mode of ignorance, or in the mode of passion, or in the mode of goodness. 

With this consideration in mind, it is not rocket-science, to know that making the decision, of who to accept as one’s guru, will mold one’s destiny in Krishna conscious spiritual advancement. 

If this decision is made in the mode of ignorance, or passion, or a combination of ignorance and passion, it is not rocket-science to understand. that one is subject to being cheated, and one’s performance of sadhana-bhakti will, more or less, be a disaster.  

In order to mold one’s destiny, in sadhana-bhakti, so that one is able to achieve the best results, it is essential that the decision of choosing a spiritual master must be made in the mode of goodness.

I surmise that you did not make your choice, of spiritual master, in the mode of goodness. You made your choice of guru, in the modes of passion and ignorance, and that is why you are in the predicament you find yourself in.  It is the fault of Jayapataka for cheating you, and it is also your fault, for allowing Jayapataka to cheat you.  For both of you, it is your poor fund of knowledge, and understanding, of the 3 modes of material nature, and Guru & Disciple Tattva.

End of Letter to Ponal.

I sent the above letter to Ponal, with the agreement, that he could decide if he will give a copy of this letter to AP.  I was firm, direct, bold, and truthful for the benefit of AP.  Ponal appreciated the letter, but later communicated to me that he thought that AP would not be able to appreciate this letter, and that he would reject it, and would possibly cause AP to ban Ponal from attending his community of Vaisnava’s functions.

However, that was not the end of the episode.  A few days later, Ponal sent me the following via an E-mail:

Dear Prabhu Ji.

Guess what AP asked all of the devotees, while he was giving a class on Srimad-bhagavatam. It just came to his mind again, his 3 questions, and he wanted to take them up with all of us attending the class. APs Paramatma[12] must want him to understand that he is being cheated. Otherwise, no one cared to answer this question in front of the assembled devotees.  So, AP asked,

Hari-nama, the chanting of the holy names of the Supreme Lord, is supposed to remove all the anarthas, (unwanted desires), and make us happy.  So why is it that after many years of chanting, we still feel many material miseries, and anarthas are still there?”

It almost brought me to tears when he asked this question.  I thought,

“Now is the time when everyone in the room would give it a thought”.

So, AP gave everyone a chance to give a brief reason. He started with me, and I told them,

“It is due to mixed devotional service.”

 As I have understood from your 3 modes of material nature seminar.

Then the rest of the devotees gave an answer, and they were all similar to,

  • “Because we are not purified”.
  • “Because we are not surrendered to the lord”.
  • “Because we are not surrendered to Guru.”

AP then said,

“Yes, we are not surrendered to the Guru.  This is the reason why we still have the attachments and desires that bring miseries.”

However, no one wanted to ask me what “mixed devotional” service is.   Then the topic was changed.

After the class someone asked AP,

“Why is the association of devotees considered so important for spiritual progress?”

I almost laughed at the answer.

AP answered,

“When you are with devotees, they will take care of everything, no need to worry about anything.”

 He then gave an example of an elevator and stairs.   He said,

“Devotees put you on an elevator so that you do not need to walk up the staircase.”

Later today, A P was driving us all home from the temple, we were at around 80 kmph.  I wanted to discuss with AP what you have taught me, so I asked AP,

“Do you know that it is given in scripture that the Modes of material nature award liberation also”.

He then asked me,

“Where is it given?”

To quote the reference in Bhagavad-gita As It Is, I was searching through your mail on my phone.  Just then a truck came in front of us and braked.  AP handled the situation well, and with Krishna’s grace, I am happy to be safe. At that moment I changed the topic of discussion.

What can we take from this story?  Here is a small ISKCON temple with a leader who has at least 5 years doing sadhana-bhakti.  AP is spiritually blind because of a poor fund of knowledge of the 3 modes of material nature; and likewise, for his constituents.  The blind leading the blind, and they all fall off the “cliff”, if you will.

AP has no recollection of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is 13.24,

“One who understands this philosophy concerning material nature, the living entity and the interaction of the modes of nature is sure to attain liberation. He will not take birth here again, regardless of his present position.”

Srila Prabhupada said that he had only one regret, and that was that he did not have intimate association with all of his disciples.  Nevertheless, he did write volumes of books and gave many lectures.  That is why he could take many disciples.  Have the ISKCON gurus written many books?  The answer is NO!  So, how can they accept hundreds or even thousands of disciples.

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Foot Notes:

[1] Sadhana-bhakti— the beginning phase of devotional service, consisting of regulated practice.by following the rules and regulations of devotional service to develop natural love for Krishna.

[2] Kanisöha-adhikari—a neophyte devotee in lowest stage of Vaisnava life.

[3] Madhyama-adhikari—devotee who worships the Lord with firm faith, makes friends with His devotees, preaches to the innocent, and avoids atheists; Madhyama-bhagavata

[4] Mayaillusion; an energy of Krsna’s which deludes the living entity into forgetfulness of the Supreme Lord. That which is not, unreality, deception, forgetfulness, material illusion. Under illusion a man thinks he can be happy in this temporary material world. The nature of the material world is that the more a man tries to exploit the material situation, the more he is bound by maya’s complexities; This is a Sanskrit term of many meanings. It may mean energy; yoga-maya is the spiritual energy sustaining the transcendental manifestation of the spiritual Vaikunöha world, while the reflection, maha-maya, is the energy of the material world. The Lord’s twofold maya bewilders the jiva, hence maya also means bewilderment or illusion. Transcendental bewilderment is in love, by which the devotee sees God as his master, friend, dependent or amorous beloved. The material bewilderment of the living entity begins with his attraction to the glare of the brahmajyoti. That attraction leads to his entanglement in the modes of material nature. According to Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, maya also means that which can be measured. This is the feature of Lord Krishna’s prakrti that captures the minds of scientific materialists. The Vaisnava and Mayavada explanations of maya are not the same. See Mayavada philosophy, Modes of nature, Spiritual world.

[5] Ambition is the desire to be successful, rich, or powerful.

[6] Sahajiyas—a class of so-called devotees who, considering God cheap, ignore the scriptural injunctions and try to imitate the Lord’s pastimes; an offensive, immature devotee who does not follow proper devotional regulations.

[7] Arati—a ceremony in which one greets and worships the Lord in the Deity form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead by offering Him incense, a flame in a lamp with ghee-soaked wicks, a flame in a lamp containing camphor, water in a conchshell, a fine cloth, a fragrant flower, a peacock-feather, and yak-tail Wisk, accompanied by bell-ringing and chanting.

[8] Nitya-sukrti—Eternal auspicious activity.

[9] Yoga—a spiritual discipline meant for linking one’s consciousness with the Supreme Lord, Krishna; Literally, connection; the discipline of self-realization. One of the six systems of Vedic philosophy, taught by Patanjali. According to Bhagavad-gita, the most sublime form of yoga is bhakti-yoga (the yoga of pure devotion). Through the process of bhakti-yoga, the consciousness of the individual soul connects with its source, Krishna. This is called Krishna consciousness. By Krishna consciousness, the soul rids itself of the bondage of the three modes of material nature and returns back home, Back to Godhead.

[10] Jnana —knowledge. Material jnana does not go beyond the material body. Transcendental jnana discriminates between matter and spirit. Perfect jnana is knowledge of the body, the soul and the Supreme Lord.

[11] Samsara—the cycle of repeated birth and death in the material world; The baddha-jiva (conditioned soul), captivated by the modes of material nature (goodness, passion and ignorance), is moved as if on a wheel through 8,400,000 kinds of births (species of life), lifetime after lifetime. At the lower range of the cycle are births within aquatic, vegetative and animal forms. At the middle range are births within human forms. At the upper range are births within superhuman forms, such as the demigods. But as high as the soul may reach, even up to the position of Brahma, there is no freedom from samsara. Impelled by prakrti, kala and karma, the jiva will surely be forced into another womb, until the day that soul surrenders to the origin of the force that turns the wheel of samsarathe isvara, Krishna. The materialistic theory of evolution put forward by Anaximander and Darwin imperfectly recapitulates the Vedic description of the cycle of birth and death. It is true that we were once microbes, fish, reptiles, mammals and apes. But who are we? We are spirit souls. Materialists have no knowledge of the soul. They are unable to explain how and why dead matter assumes the forms of the gradient species. The Vedas explain that the gradient species mark the evolution and devolution of the soul’s material desires.

[12] Paramatma—the Supersoul, the localized aspect Visnu expansion of the Supreme Lord residing in the heart of each embodied living entity and pervading all of material nature.

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