Saturday, May 28, 2016

50 Year Full Circle for ISKCON's Acarya

ISKCON IRM: Back To Prabhupada, Issue 50, Winter 2015/16

The last 50 years have seen the position of the "Acarya" in ISKCON undergo various changes. Here we undertake a review of these changes to reveal how dramatically, on the 50th anniversary of ISKCON, these changes have actually come full circle!
1966: The Acarya

The first title Srila Prabhupada ever used, as soon as he founded ISKCON, was "Acarya". ISKCON's founding document, the "Constitution of ISKCON", displays Srila Prabhupada's position simply as "A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, Acharya". And his first personal ISKCON letterhead stationery after ISKCON's founding displays his position simply as "Acharya: Swami A.C. Bhaktivedanta". And he continued to use just the "Acarya" title for a few years more on letterheads, within letters and on banking accounts. Therefore, reflecting his position as both the Acarya and Founder of ISKCON, the title "Founder-Acarya" was adopted. Srila Prabhupada's role in ISKCON, due to his position as the "Acarya", means that he also acts as the diksa guru, as Srila Prabhupada states in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila, 1.46. And from 1966 onwards, Srila Prabhupada did indeed act as the only diksa guru for the whole of ISKCON.
Thus, Srila Prabhupada is established as ISKCON's Founder, Acarya and diksa guru.

1978: New Acaryas

Following Srila Prabhupada's physical departure, it was claimed that Srila Prabhupada had been succeeded by 11 successor "acaryas". These 11 now became the "current" or "present" acaryas of ISKCON. They had a special "acarya" committee and they would issue recommendations to the GBC:
"That the governing body commission shall delegate to the Acharya standing committee the following additional responsibilities:
1. To hold discussions and make proposed mutual policies for how the ISKCON Acharyas can further the GBC and Srila Prabhupada's desire and see to the fulfillment of Prabhupada's will. [...]
6. To keep the proceedings of the Acharya standing committee confidential, except recommendations to the GBC or the GBC officers' committee."

(ISKCON LAW 10, GBC Resolutions, 1981)

1995: "Acaryas" no more

Following the majority of these "acaryas" engaging in various sexual and other illicit, gross deviations, it was decided by the GBC that a "successor" diksa guru to Srila Prabhupada should not be called an "acarya". This rule was officially codified in a document entitled "Gurus and Initiation" in 1995:
"THAT the GBC approves the compilation of rules called "Gurus and Initiation" submitted by the ISKCON Rules Revision Committee".
(GBC Resolution No. 58, 1995)
"Zonal-Acarya" System: No guru should declare himself or allow himself to be declared an "acarya" or "present acarya" for ISKCON or for a geographical area of ISKCON. There should be no use of the word "acarya" as a title of office."
(Laws of ISKCON, 1.6.3 and, from Gurus and Initiation in ISKCON, GBC)

2016: The Acarya

In 2014, the GBC issued a "Foundational Document" which established the official and definitive position of Srila Prabhupada in ISKCON. This position is that:
a) Srila Prabhupada will always be ISKCON's Founder and Acarya (Founder-Acarya).
b) His position as the Acarya of ISKCON includes him acting as the diksa guru of ISKCON.
This is explained in detail in our book Srila Prabhupada: The Founder-Acarya of ISKCON – Presenting the Conclusions of the GBC Foundational Document.
Thus, 50 years on, we have come full circle, and Srila Prabhupada is proclaimed to have exactly the same position in ISKCON that he had in 1966 – its Founder, Acarya and diksa guru! Though, this is only on paper and in theory, and unwittingly -- but not in practice.

Diksa guru reality

The reason the GBC have been forced to go full circle is that there is a fundamental incompatibility between what they want to achieve and reality. They do not want to accept that Srila Prabhupada is the diksa guru, but also cannot escape the fact that Srila Prabhupada established himself as the Founder-Acarya of ISKCON. This means his position today as Founder-Acarya cannot be any different to his position as Founder-Acarya in 1966. Thus, having tried for many years to "explain" what this Founder-Acarya title actually means, they were forced to write, that yes, his position is the same as it was in 1966. Which means Founder, Acarya and diksa guru!
Additionally, we have documented many times in BTP that whenever ISKCON's leaders try to explain how Srila Prabhupada actually functions in ISKCON, they end up agreeing with the IRM's position!
Minimisation reduced

Accepting Srila Prabhupada's position as Founder, Acarya and diksa guru in practice would also help combat the problem of Srila Prabhupada being minimised due to the attention given to the GBC "diksa gurus". Suresvara Dasa, the person tasked by the GBC with running the official course on "Founder-Acarya", states in an email to a current ISKCON "guru":
"That some of your disciples didn't attend the series is also a telling reminder of something you once told me: that it's difficult for devotees of Indian descent to understand that their diksa-guru isn't everything".
(Email to HH Bhakti Charu Swami from Suresvara Dasa, 9/3/15)
But this is an issue for all devotees. By definition, diksa guru means everything to the disciple, and disciples worship and glorify their "Guru Maharajas" as if they are "everything", especially in Vyasa-puja offerings (just read any of them). Srila Prabhupada is everything for his disciples, and one cannot expect other devotees to treat their diksa guru any differently. Thus, as long as the GBC gurus are falsely proclaimed to be "diksa" gurus, Srila Prabhupada's position will continue to be minimised. One has to, therefore, tackle both the position of Srila Prabhupada and the GBC "diksa gurus". Hence, only by saying both that Srila Prabhupada is the diksa guru and that the GBC initiator is not, can this minimisation of Srila Prabhupada be reduced.


Attempts to philosophically explain Srila Prabhupada's position forces ISKCON's leaders into admitting, unwittingly, that Srila Prabhupada is the diksa guru.

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