Why 16108 ?
Because Lord Sri Krishna married 16,108 wives!
BECOME REGULAR GURU
The GBC often cite that it was Srila Prabhupad's and Mahaprabhu's often stated desire that we all become guru and spread the Krsna Consciousness movement.
And, the GBC are quick to defend that this means that the diksha gurus in ISKCON are to be seen as "regular gurus" as opposed to rtvik representatives.
We encourage those devotees who have confidence in their own qualifications to take up this duty and become regular gurus. We support that, we encourage it.
However, in this article we will examine what it means to be regular guru, and how the definition does not hold up when applied to the current guru system in ISKCON. And, what needs to be changed to accomodate and facilitate those who do want to become 'regular guru'.
What is a 'regular guru'? Guru has many meanings. Generally guru means 'teacher', but it also means 'heavy'. It is translated as 'spiritual master'. Master means one's authority. Teachers are one's authority. One learns from a higher authority. In the traditional setting the guru is the top authority for his students, his disciples, and he is the top authority of his ashram.
This brings up another word that the GBC and those who support their current view use, that is 'tradition' or 'traditional'. They say that it is the tradition that when one's own spiritual master departs that some of his disciples will then become initiating gurus. They say this is the tradition.
Lets examine then how, 'traditionally, a 'regular guru' is situated and how they function as a regular guru. Traditionally a guru has his ashram. As Vyas dev has his ashram, Narad muni has his ashram, Srla Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupad has his ashram and our own Srila Prabhupad has his ashram. There is no question in any of these 'traditional' situations that these gurus are the topmost authority of their ashram.
When we apply this understanding of how a regular guru is traditionally situated, the ISKCON gurus are in a class totally by themselves. The traditional definitions do not apply.
How is this?
For starters the current ISKCON diksha gurus do not have their own ashrams. Rather, they function within someone else's ashram. They must share the ashram with so many other 'gurus'. Traditionally an acharya who sets up a large ashram and number of ashrams normally will appoint a single successor who will become the single new acharya of his ashram. In this situation there is not question of sharing authority, the ashram remains under a single authority. Previously the founding acharya, then the successor acharya. But, Srila Prabhupad did not do this. Rather, he set up a whole other system, that of the GBC system of managment.
The GBC. Governing Body Commission. The GBC was set up by Srila Prabhupad to manage his ISKCON ashram both while he was present and to manage it after he physically departs. The system introduces into the environment another entity of authority. This also adds major conflict in the sharing or over-lapping of authority.
Not only do the current ISKCON gurus not have their own ashrams where they function as the single and topmost authority of that ashram, instead they function within an ashram that is not theirs. An ashram which has many gurus. Not only must they share authority with other gurus, but they must share authority with the topmost authorities of the ashram, the GBC. Not only must the current diksha gurus share authority with the GBC, but they are also subordinate to the GBC authority. The ISKCON gurus are subordinate to and completely under the authority of the GBC, the topmost authority over the ashram in which they try to function as guru. The GBC has the authority to 'sanction', by vote, whether a person has met the qualifications or crtieria of becoming initiating guru. The GBC also has the authority to curtail or fully revoke the status of authorized ISKCON diksha guru if a person has fallen in some way. Thus, the ISKCON gurus only function subserviently under the higher authority of the GBC.
This is a very non-traditional situation. It is not at all that of a 'regular guru'. Not at all. A regular guru is the topmost most authority of his own ashram. This is not at all the situation currently in ISKCON. Thus, to try and present the current guru system of ISKCON as that of a 'traditional' system, and to present that these are 'regular gurus' is not true. It is not the fact at all.
Even though a new devotee may take initiation from one of the diksha gurus, he must, at the same time, always accept that the GBC system of authority is higher then that of his own diksha guru's authority. This is not the 'traditional' situation of a 'regular guru'.
The situation is at best awkward in that the guru and his disciples are equally under the same higher ashram authority. If the GBC has ruled on one thing, say worship of gurus in the temple is not allowed, and the diksha guru were to tell his disciples conflicting direction, then the new devotee must follow the higher ashram authority of the GBC over that of his wayward guru. The disciple and the guru are equally under the same ashram authority. This is not at all the 'traditional' setting of a 'regular guru'.
In the tradional setting the new initiate surrenders to the topmost authority of the ashram, the guru of the ashram. But, in ISKCON the highest authority is that of the GBC. Thus, conflict of authority, conflict of duty arise. Over the years, to deal with these issues, the GBC has cut, dwindeled and curtailed the authority of the ISKCON gurus. Srila Prabhupad was the topmost authority of his ashram. He was able to set his own rules, his own standards, his own system. He was, after all, the authority. That is the traditional setting. The current ISKCON setting is not at all traditional. The gurus have very highly restricted subordinate subclass of limited authority. They cannot make rules that are contradictory or conflicting with those of the ashram authorities. They cannot set up their own system. They are restricted and limited to function 100% under the rules of the ashram authority. Again, nothing is 'traditional' or 'regular' about this.
The Zonal Acharya system was originally meant to address this inherent conflict. It was understood that a guru must be the topmost authority of his ashram. The Zonal Acharya system was a total concoction, it had no basis as there was not one single instructon given by Srila Prabhupad to support the creation of such a concocted system. It was pure concoction on the part of the GBC. However, they set it up because from the beginning they saw the conflict of authority that arose from having a GBC ashram authority that was a higher authority then that of the diksha guru. You can't have a guru who isnt' the authority of his own ashram. A guru who is subservient under an ashram GBC authority. Their solution was to combine the guru and GBC as one for each zone. This way, the GBC-guru would be the topmost authority over the ashrams in which he was GBC, and as guru he also would be the highest authority.
However, that was not the system Srila Prabhupad set up. There was not one single instruction to support this concoction that Prabhupad wanted ISKCON divided up in to separate zones where the guru and GBC would be one - as the single authority for a zone. This system proved disasterous. It split ISKCON into destructively competitive and waring factions. It totally disrupted the system of management that Srila Prabhupad had established. It proved a total fiasco.
That is not the solution. In 86-87 the GBC threw out the Zonal Acharya system and drastically curtailed the authority of the diksha gurus. Then they opened up the door to allow for many more so-called gurus. But all these gurus now had even more restricted and limited authority. Basically the new system was a much more weakened and lessened guru. However, the GBC still referred to the newer more limited and weakened gurus as 'traditional - regular gurus'. Still, the issue was never fully addressed as to the inate conflict of authority, having gurus who have no ashram of their own, trying to functon as guru, as authority of their disciples, while there was a higher ashram authority. Another failure was that when the Zonal Acharya system collapsed the respect and authority of the GBC itself suffered greatly. Their previous level of authority and respect was never fully re-established, and still there were over-lapping duties and areas of authority between diksha gurus and GBC. An area that fully lacks not one single instruction by Srila Prabhupad how such authority and duties were to be shared. Not one instruction that said any such duties or authority invested in the GBC should have ever been given over to the new gurus. For years there were challenges as to how to "share" authority over disciples by the GBC and gurus. Those issues have never been fully resolved, and because there are no instructions by Srila Prabhupad to guide the GBC, any amount of authority or duty taken away from the GBC and given over to the diksha gurus is merely speculation. The GBC argue that certain duties must be given to the diksha gurus because those are the 'traditional' duties of a 'regular guru'. But, lacking any direct instructions to do so is also a very precarious path to tread.
Lets take a look at something else here. Once the Zonal Acharya system collapsed and the GBC instituted many new restrictions limiting the authority of the ISKCON gurus, the position of the current gurus became more weakened. Lets compare the current ISKCON system with that of an on-going Rtvik system.
Please note: The comparrison is not given here to argue for a rtvik system, but rather is made to show not how vast the difference between the current diksha gurus are from that of Rtviks, but rather, how very close they are to each other. The purpose is to show that the current ISKCON gurus are much more close to that of a Rtvik guru then they are a Regular Guru in the traditional sense. The aim is to encourage the acceptance of my proposal to institute the small changes needed so that those who want to actually perform the function of a traditional guru can actually do so, while remaining an active part of Prabhupad's ISKCON society - so, lets examine the comparrison as it stands today in ISKCON:
I could not think of additional items to list, email me if you think you have something. But, as we can see, today the only real difference between the current guru system and that of a rtvik system would be the giving of on-going personal guidance. (I am not herein presenting the philosophic basis of the differences, just what the external differences in function will be - for the philosophic basis see my other article on Rtvik Explaned). Srila Prabhupad had asigned the duties to give personal guidance to the GBC. He never said that assignment was to be changed and given to anyone else, for any reason at anytime in the future. Some argue that the duty to give personal guidance must be given by the diksha guru, yet Srila Prabhupad did not give me or the majority of his own disciples that guidance, he assigned those duties to the GBC. Still there are those who argue that automatically those duties must be taken away from the GBC and given over to the diksha gurus simple to faciliate their becoming 'regular gurus'. But, this is a dangerous thing to make such changes to the system of management that Srila Prabhupad set up on the basis of 'assumption' only when there lacks any direct or even indirect instruction by him to do so.
Currently the GBC allow these changes to the system of management that Srila Prabhupad set up simply to facilitate their idea that the Officiating Acharyas were to automatically become Regular Gurus. The problem is, without taking at least the duty of giving of personal guidance away from the GBC (at least to some extent) and giving it over to the current gurus, then what other function of being guru would the new gurus perform? After all, their position of authority is highly regulated, they have no ashram of their own, they are subordinate to the GBC authority. If this duty is not allowed to be transfered from the GBC to the new Diksha gurus, then what other duty would they have - other then to officiate the initiation, which is what an Officiating Acharya (rtvik) does? But, still, their actions to take this duty from the GBC and give to the new gurus is based entirely upon 'assumption' alone, and not upon any explicit or clear instructions by Srila Prabhupad to do so.
The real problem is that the current gurus have such weakened and watered-down positions of authority. The real problem is they are not functioning any where near that of a Regular Guru, the topmost authority of their own ashram and over their disciples.
Even though the GBC have made a tremendously big issue over the idea that the current gurus are to be seen as Regular Gurus, and that the on-going Rtivk idea is a total and complete deviationm, that they would have us believe there is a whole world of difference between what is now set up and what would be set up under a rtvik system - the fact is that their is actually very little difference between the current system and that of the on-going Rtvik system. The only real difference centers on who is to give personal guidance. And, on fame and false prestige of those who acheive the title of ISKCON diksha guru. There is a lot to be said about the social recognition, respect and position of being worshipped as diksha guru, compared with that of being 'just' a Rtvik priest.
Yet, over this very fine gray line of difference they have vowed stern and hard handed tactics to demonize the rtviks, bring them down, encourage new devotees to disrepect them, look down upon them, they also have acted to restrict them and chase them away. Over what really amounts to just a few small details of difference (we are herein speaking only in terms of social function. I deal with the philosophical aspects in my other Rtvik article).
Become Regular Guru
The GBC has tried numerous fixes to solve these dilemmas over the past 29 years.
Here is the simple solution. Those who support the current GBC views say that we must allow for those of us to become 'regular guru'. I also support and encourage this. But, the question is how and to what extent.
I argue that those who want to become regular guru, they must become actual 'Regular Gurus' in the 'Traditional' sense of the word. That is, take leave of Srila Prabhupad's ashram and start their own ashram. In that ashram they will be the topmost authority. They will be free to set their own ashram rules, standards, etc. That is what a REAL Regular and Traditional Guru is and does.
Leave ISKCON? Am I saying that anyone who wants to be guru must leave Prabhupad's misson? The answer is both yes and no. The answer requires understanding, which requires explanation.
I am saying they must leave their guru's ashram in the same way that a brahmacari who wishes to marry must ask permission from his spiritual master to take leave of the guru's ashram so that he can 'enter into the grhasta ashram'. Socially he will be entering the grhasta ashram phase of life, yet physically he will actually be leaving his guru's physical ashram and opening his own separate physical ashram.
It is to be done in exactly the same manor as with the grhasta. The brahmacari makes his humble request and the guru, or the GBC in Prabhupad's ashrams, must make the decision is this young man trained suffiicently, is he ready to become the head of his own grhasta ashram? Is he trained sufficiently to take his dependents out of this material world. If the authorities are satisfied he is qualified and trained they will then give their permission and blessings. A devotee who aspires to become regular guru, he should also approach the ashram authorities, the GBC, and if the GBC feel such candidate is sufficiently trained, they can grant that one may take leave - with the permission and full blessings of the GBC. This is different then the GBC sanctioning them to become gurus. The devotee requests to take leave to open his own ashram, the same as any grhasta should do, and the GBC can agree and give their blessings with the same criteria they must decide for a brahmacari who wants to start his own ashram, his grhasta ashram. The GBCare not rubber stamping that person or in any other way authorizing them to be guru, simply they bless, yes, you are trained to head your own ashram, if you wish. Do so with our blessings and full cooperation.
Just like with marriage, sometimes the temple authorities do not grant permission because they don't feel the person is sufficiently trained. That devotee may then decide to take leave on his own, without the blessings of his authority. Under such circumstance that devotee may still come to the temple and participate in the temple functions, may even live in the temple community. They are not banned or kicked out. But, they will not be allowed to take part in the management of the temple or ashram services. Similarily, anyone can leave and start their own ashram without any blessings of the GBC, but to do so would place one outside of our society. Such a guru would not be allowed to participate in the management of ISKCON. But, neither should they be banned unless they promote some unacceptable bogus philosophy.
As with a grhasta, once one has his own ashram he has some independence, but he has not left ISKCON or the shelter of his guru. So, those who set up their own ashram with the blessings of ISKCON's authorities can also partake in managerial duties for ISKCON while at the same time managing their own separate ashram, no different then a grhasta who manages his own grha ashram while occupying the manageral post of temple president or GBC, etc.
This is my proposal on how to solve this issue. Let there be Regular Gurus, not in name only, but in true traditional form and function. Let them have their own ashrams. In those ashrams let them be the topmost authority.
For the management of ISKCON, however, there is the GBC and rtvik system. Yes, the Rtvik system. But, isn't an on-going Rtvik system un-BonaFide? Isn't it a serious deviation? Bogus? For answers to that, see the Rtivk Explanation article. (One hint however, of where I go on those questions: Prove it is bogus? Give shastric evidence and proof that it is bogus. There are none... Secondly, explain what empowered the complete Rtvik system that Srila Prabhupad set up and outlined in the July 9th, 1977 letter, system that no longer required his prior notification or involvement. A system that no longer needed his physical involvement at all to function? What empowered that system on Nov 13th, 1977, and what was then missing that made that same authorized system become a total and complete bogus deviation on Nov 15th, 1977?
The GBC have ruled for 29 years that the on-going Rtvik system is bogus, but what is the basis of this? Other then their own assumptions and presumptions? What shastric evidence do they base their view on. And, most pointedly - answer the above question.
So far all those who support the GBC position have never even attempted to answer that question. Not one. They all have side stepped it or avoided it. What empowered the complete Rtvik system Srila Prabhupad had set up? And, what changed that turned it from 100% bonafide to 100% demoniac deviation? Did his material and temporary Vapu then empower the process? Because that is all that changed? His body stopped breathing, so his breath is what empowered it?
We say that his Eternally Living Instructions are what empowered it, and those instructions are not dependent upon the breathing of his temporary vapu form. We stand on solid shastric principle that this process remains bonafide.
Oh-but this has never been done before by past acharyas! Okay, can anyone tell me which past acharya had set up such a complete Rtvik initiation process where ashram authorities and appointed rtviks could execute the entire initiation process - fully from start to completion - without the physical prior involvment or granting of prior permission on an individual basis as Srila Prabhupad had set up and authorized in the July 9th, 1977 letter? Has there ever been a past acharya who has set up such a full, complete and elaborate system before? If not, and it is my understanding there has not, then how can we accept that the process SP set up was bonafide only while his body was breathing, and yet becomes totally invalid when his body stops breathing. On what basis is this presumption and distinction made?
For more on that see my Rtvik Explanation page.
What I am proposing is that both processes can exist sidebyside. An on-going Rtvik system and a true traditional system of Regular Gurus who set up and maintain their own ashrams - all within the greater ISKCON community. Both systems are bona-fide. Yet, the one system that seems to lack any 'traditonal' precedence and any instructions from Srila Prabhupad is the current system where there are people possing themselves as 'regular guru' but who do not as regular guru. The current system lacks any traditional precedence or explicity instructions by Srila Prabhupad.
Om Hring Shring Kling Radha-Shyamasundaram namah
Om Baladevaya Namah - Om Baladevaya Namah - Om Baladevaya Namah
----written by ameyatma das - anu-das
Last modified August 19, 2006