Back in the early 1970's, there were many things that devotees tried in the hopes of catching Srila Prabhupadas attention and thereby insuring for them “advancement”.
The first thing that comes to mind was three different sankirtan parties moving about the USA, One was out of New Vrindavana, another from San Francisco and the third one from Seattle.
In each and all of them it was only women devotees in the vans, and who had one man there in charge of them. And in each of these parties the man was having sex with each woman, calling him their unmarried man, their “husband”.
So the temples where these parties originated obviously collected a lot of money-but what did it do to those women who were abused in the “name of Krishna Consciousness”?
So these temples were trying to compete to see who could collect the most laksmi and distribute the most books. But how were they doing this? Was this “advancement”? At that time, many were thinking this was “advancement” Why? Because they collected so much money.
Another one was the money change up where the devotee would give some person a book, get some small bill back, but ask him if he had a hundred or fifty dollar bill so that he could give him change for it. Of course the “change” usually never came back and piles of books were laid upon the unsuspecting persons arms, so that he or she walked away with a pile of books he did not want and was out a hundred bucks !
But the worse part was that afterwards they felt cheated. So this collection of huge amounts of money made our reputation very bad, as cheaters. Was this “advancement”? Srila Prabhupada never told us to do this on sankirtan, but instead to just tell people what was in this book about Krishna, thats all.
And we all have heard of the infamous sankirtan party in Japan. These devotees were notorious for all the illegal things they did, like stealing expensive pens right out of somebody's coat or pocket, or just flat our lying about how all the donated money was going to feed starving children somewhere.
One other example just came to my memory – in Vancouver temple BC Canada. The VP of that place at that time, once told me (I had no knowledge of this at the time) about a certain “high powered devotee” they basically bribed to come there and fire up their sankirtana devotees.
Well they bought him a new BMW car with all the bells and whistles, because that was he wanted and felt he “deserved”., So anyway, long story short, this “guy” would stay out late hours every night and play drums and drink booze in local pubs, or hangouts for the karmis, then get back late to the temple, sleep in while all the sankirtan devotees who rented this place would be up for mongol arotik.
Then when it was time for class he would get himself “up” give some fired up class, then afterwards, go right back to sleep. In a short time all this backfired on the administration for this satellite sankirtan temple because this “fired up” and “advanced” devotee ran the car into some fixed object and ruined the car and the fix up cost was way beyond the value of the money they still owed on it.
So what they did was just dump this car over some mountain edge where nobody would ever find it, make a claim to the insurance company that it was “stolen”, then pay off the debt on the car with that insurance check . And this they called – Krishna Consciousness.
Advancement in the spiritual science. Later this same TP person ended up in jail somewhere for selling dope. I met him about 20 years later after all this was done, he was out of jail, and he asked me if I was still chanting my 16 rounds to which I replied – I have never stopped one day since I got initiated,and his eyes opened wide in amazement !!
OK these are pretty gross examples, how about something more subtle? How about the entire affair of kidnapping without hardly anybody even knowing what happened, the Hare Krishna Movement by a certain group of “advanced” leaders? And claiming that Srila Prabhupada himself “empowered them” to become the new gurus !
And if you complained that they were never authorized to do such a thing, you were labeled as a fault finder by these “advanced souls” who had “done so much for the movement”, then physically kicked out or asked to leave..
True, they had done some wonderful things to spread the movement but their lust for name fame and power was way beyond the benefits they gave to Srila Prabhupada. The damage they have done is going to take lifetimes to fix, if it even can be. Prabhupada was here with us for only 12 years, and now 40 years later, look what it has become. So much corruption, fall downs, cover ups, changing the books, deities being worshiped wrongly, so many thousands of lives ruined, etc.
It was Srila Prabhupada who spread the movement with our help, it was his potency in his books, and the power of the Holy Names and Krishna Prasadam which did the work of spreading and we were only incidental or slightly instrumental in the effort.
Sure I can give credit where credit is due, for those of us who were there at that time, we had no idea where this was going to end up or even ever stop, we, (the ones who were serious and sincere) just wanted to please Srila Prabhupada, thats all. We were not at all interested in power and position or wealth.
But stop it did, when they poisoned Srila Prabhupada for months and everything they could ruin of what he had established in his mission, so that now we can see the results of these “advanced souls”. Judge by the result. Karma phalena parichyate.
The real question now is at what point did (some or most) devotees STOP making advancement???
Both collectively and individually? What turned the entire movement on its side so that now practically nobody can even do what they were doing back in the '70's, or for even new devotees in recent times?
I was told by one devotee friend who travels all over North America and goes yearly to practically all the ISKCON temples that only 2 maybe 3 temples have anybody getting up now for mongol arotik – and this is when you are supposed to make the MOST spiritual advancement !!
This same devotee also told me that another so called “senior “ direct Prabhupada disciple told him he didn't have to get up for mongol arotik because that was for neophytes !! So in this ludicrous situation where so much and so many of the spiritual masters instructions are being ignored or disobeyed, how can one say its possible to make advancement in this so called “spiritual atmosphere?
Let us now take a closer look at what constitutes real advancement in spiritual life.
Adi lila 12.10 – TRANSLATION — The order of the spiritual master is the active principle in spiritual life. Anyone who disobeys the order of the spiritual master immediately becomes useless.
PURPORT — Here is the opinion of Srila Krishnadas Kaviraja Gosvami. Persons who strictly follow the orders of the spiritual master are useful in executing the will of the Supreme, whereas persons who deviate from the strict order of the spiritual master are useless.
Now here below we have a wonderful purport which explains nicely how so many go cheated because they followed their imperfect senses instead of hearing from the one who did NOT have imperfect senses – the Spiritual master.
SB 2.9.8 P Answers –by Citing the Lord’ s Version
One has to receive the TRANSCENDENTAL sound from the RIGHT SOURCE, accept it as a reality and prosecute the direction without hesitation. The secret of success is to receive the sound from the right source of a BONA FIDE spiritual master.
MUNDANE MANUFACTURED SOUND HAS NO POTENCY, AND AS SUCH, SEEMINGLY TRANSCENDENTAL SOUND RECEIVED FROM AN UNAUTHORIZED PERSON ALSO HAS NO POTENCY.
One should be qualified enough to discern such transcendental potency,and either by discriminating or by fortunate chance if one is able to receive the transcendental sound from the bona fide spiritual master, his path of liberation is guaranteed.
The disciple, however, must be ready to execute the order of the bona fide spiritual master as Lord Brahma executed the instruction of his spiritual master, the Lord Himself.
Following the order of the bona fide spiritual master is the only duty of the disciple, and this completely faithful execution of the order of the bona fide spiritual master is the secret of success.
(Here below is one statement by a senior devotee who thinks that he was making “advancement” even while he was following some of the bogus leaders instructions of ISKCON who were disobeying Srila Prabhupadas instructions.)
…''Yes, but even in ISKCON they are chanting from Prabhupada's books and hear his kirtans, bhajans, follow his instructions to some degree, and thus they are benefitted somewhat in spite of their misleaders.
I myself served under these misleaders who had hijacked the mission for many years, yet I know that I made advanacement in that time, because I was hearing from Srila Prabhupada and following his instructions. It is not all black and white. ''
Without going any further, one simply has to look at the quote above this devotees statement where Srila Prabhupada says (in the section of SB called citing the LORDS VERSION)….”One has to receive the TRANSCENDENTAL sound from the RIGHT SOURCE, accept it as a reality and prosecute the direction without hesitation.
The secret of success is to receive the sound from the right source of a BONA FIDE spiritual master. MUNDANE MANUFACTURED SOUND HAS NO POTENCY, AND AS SUCH, SEEMINGLY TRANSCENDENTAL SOUND RECEIVED FROM AN UNAUTHORIZED PERSON ALSO HAS NO POTENCY.
One should be qualified enough to discern such transcendental potency, and either by discriminating or by fortunate chance if one is able to receive the transcendental sound from the bona fide spiritual master, his path of liberation is guaranteed.
“The secret of success” Prabhupada says is to receive all these transcendental sounds from the right source-namely him- and then accept it as “reality” (unlike our distorted view thru imperfect senses) of reality, and then follow this reality of directions without hesitation.
I like the next part especially well where he warns us that seemingly transcendental sound received from an unauthorized source seems like transcendence but in the reality of the actual spiritualist, the bona fide spiritual master, it has NO POTENCY. And he further warns us that we should be qualified to be able to discriminate what is real, or unreal and who is authorized and not authorized in spiritual matters.
So from the statement of this “senior devotee” he says ..he still made advancement even though…..“he served under these misleaders who had hijacked the mission for many years”.
And yet this totally contradicts what Srila Prabhupada above is telling us.
Adi lila 12.10-TRANSLATION–The order of the spiritual master is the active principle in spiritual life. Anyone who disobeys the order of the spiritual master immediately becomes useless.
So this seems like a hard pill to swallow to tell someone that so many years of his “service” —“immediately becomes useless”. Why useless?
Because the leaders whom everybody was following had deviated. Therefore according to the axiomatic principle and truth which Prabhupada often quoted —
Jan 25 1969 letter
Another point is that disciplic succession does not mean one has to be directly a disciple of a particular person.The conclusions which we have tried to explain in our Bhagavad-gita As It Is is the same as those conclusions of Arjuna. Arjuna accepted Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and we also accept the same truth under the disciplic succession of Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Things equal to the same thing are equal to one another. This is an axiomatic truth. So there is no difference of opinion of understanding Krishna between ourselves and Arjuna. Another example is that a tree has many branches, and you will find one leaf here and another leaf there. But if you take this leaf and the other leaf and you press them both, you will see that the taste is the same. The taste is the conclusion, and from the taste you can understand that both leaves are from the same tree.
69-10-31–My Dear Dinesh,…Regarding the disciplic succession coming from Arjuna, disciplic succession does not always mean that one has to be initiated officially. Disciplic succession means to accept the disciplic conclusion. Arjuna was a disciple of Krishna and Brahma was also a disciple of Krishna. Thus there is no disagreement between the conclusions of Brahma and Arjuna.
Vyasadeva is in the disciplic succession of Brahma. The teachings to Arjuna was recorded by Vyasadeva verbatim. So according to the axiomatic truth, things equal to one another are equal to each other. We are not exactly directly from Vyasadeva, but our Gurudeva is a representative of Vyasadeva. Because Vyasadeva and Arjuna are of equal status, being students of Krishna, therefore we are in the disciplic succession of Arjuna. Things equal to the same thing are equal to one another.
So this axiomatic principle means if some proper devotee is directly and without deviation, following Srila Prabhupada's instructions, then this new persons further instructions to others – are as good as Srila Prabhupadas original instructions.
However if this same person DOES NOT follow Srila Prabhupadas instructions verbatim, then people posing as equal to the same thing (Srila Prabhupada) are NOT equal to him because they are not equal in that they deviated from his instructions, so how can they be said to be equal to him? How can you say you are making “advancement” if you are not “equal” in hearing and following the instructions” anymore???
ISKCON is supposed to run on the principle of disciplic succession namely orders coming from God Himself coming down equally thru all the gurus, right down to the devotee washing the temple room floor or the pot washer –all equally. There should be no break in this line of authority.
So if there is some break in this line of authority (which we all know has taken place) then anybody who follows these bogus leaders also is and was deviated from the chain of command in Krishna's param para. Or as Srila Prabhupada puts it –” seemingly transcendental sound received from an unauthorized person has no potency.”
Or to put it more bluntly – don't equate apples with oranges.
So if somebody cannot see that an apple is completely different than an orange, that is not Prabhupadas fault – it is our fault for being so dull headed and actually he says we should be either very fortunate (lucky) if we did not follow these pretenders or be guided personally by our intelligent discrimination.
These two things he says should be our guides – either fortune or intelligence. If we follow the param para either by good luck or good intelligence then we wont be cheated. So if we accept a deviated leader as “gurus” and having some potency to help us make “advancement” then we are only fooling ourselves as Prabhupada tells us above in that purport. We should accept the transcendental sound from the right source because the “bogus sound” created by the bogus pretenders has NO spiritual potency.
So if you are packed up in an apple crate and you are an orange but think you are an apple, the apples will only laugh at you for being so foolish. Things equal to the same thing are equal to each other, but if you are not that same “thing” namely Srila Prabhupada , and are trying to pose as him, then you are not equal to him at all and anybody who follows this unequal person makes no advancement due to illusory perceptions, or Maya devis influence.
Some Specific examples where some gray areas come to play
Now let us say we take some typical ISKCON devotee who has taken initiation under some un-authorized “spiritual master”, which is a contradiction in terms by the way. So this bhakta decides to read Srimad Bhagavatam one day but his guru tells him, that he cannot understand Prabhupadas books unless he hears it from him, the guru, because as we all know – you have to have a “living guru” in ISKCON.
I have heard this point several times that devotees today in ISKCON are told they cannot understand the books unless they are explained by their guru. If that is the case you can see how this will make a devotee not even want to read the books at all unless he is in some class given by his guru. And how often will that happen?
So say for example, this same devotee one day decides to read the books when his guru is not around, and he finds all kinds of wonderful things being revealed to him thru this reading or hearing directly from Srila Prabhupada.
Prabhupada mentions in his letter to Dinesh above that –“Disciplic succession means to accept the disciplic conclusion”. And in a conversation one time with SP, Vaikunthanatha dasa asked SP how will all these thousands of people who get your book ever get initiated to which SP replied -” they are already initiated just by reading the books.”
So now back to our ISKCON bhakta who decides to read SP's books one day without his guru around.
At this point he may be making some advancement because he is directly linking to the param para thru SP's books and there is no unauthorized person around telling him not to do so.
The basis of this article has been to show the overall effect of when devotees do NOT follow the direct orders of the bona fide guru and therefore become deviated and anybody who follows these people AND their instructions is similarly deviated and therefore useless.
However when a bhakta decides, thru his good fortune to just read the books on his own without any interference by some bogus guru, THEN he can possibly make advancement.
So important is authority for our daily actions from guru here is three examples I want to show.
1) Honolulu july 4 1974-
Prabhupada: Authority is your spiritual master. You do not know who is authority? Why this question is there? If one is initiated, then he accepted the authority. And if he does not follow the instruction of spiritual master, he is a rascal. He is defying the authority. That’s all.
… Then so shiksha and diksha-guru… A shiksha-guru who instructs against the instruction of spiritual, he is not a shiksha guru. He is a demon. Shiksha-guru, diksha-guru means… Sometimes a diksha-guru is not present always. Therefore one can take learning, instruction, from an advanced devotee. That is called the shiksha-guru.
Shiksha-guru does not mean he is speaking something against the teachings of the diksha-guru. He is not a shiksha-guru. He is a rascal. Because that is offense. Guror avajasa. First offense is guror avajasa, defying the authority of guru. This is the first offense. So one who is offensive, how he can make advance in chanting? He cannot make. Then everything is finished in the beginning.
2) Plotinus discussions – Hayagriva — if he is actually engaged in Krishna's service, under the direction of spiritual master, he is liberated. But if he voluntarily accepts again maya's service, then he is become conditioned. This is the secret.
3) Feb 3 1975 Hawaii
Jayatirtha: Say I have some outside job, I'm living outside, but I'm not giving 50% of my income. So then that work that I'm doing, is it actually under the authority of the guru?
Prabhupada: Then you are not following the instruction of guru. That is plain fact.
Jayatirtha: So that means that whole activity during the day, working, that means I am not following the instruction of the guru. It's unauthorized activity.
Prabhupada: Yes. If you don't follow the instruction of guru, then you are fallen down immediately. That is the way. Otherwise why you sing, yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasado **. It is my duty to satisfy guru. Otherwise I am nowhere. So if you prefer to be nowhere, then you disobey as you like. But if you want to be steady in your position, then you have to follow strictly the instruction of guru.
This last one is very good to show how even for somebody who is not living inside some temple but working say as a householder but is not giving 50% of his income to Krishna, then Srila Prabhupada says his activities are unauthorized and he becomes fallen immediately.
This one is for most of us a tough pill to swallow because who among us is giving 50% of our income to Krishna? There is another quote where SP explains this 50% principle with Rupa Goswami when he retired from government service and he gave 50% to the Vaisnavas and brahmanas, 25% to his relatives and kept 25% for personal expenditures or emergencies.
But I wanted to give the conversation example to show how important is following the bona fide authority of a bona fide guru for spiritual life in order to make advancement.
This is not some whimsical thing where we can just make it up as we go along. Our entire basis for daily actions should be based upon the words of instructions of Srila Prabhupada.
If we do as he says, we are OK, if we deviate, then we are in la la land.
Some conclusions — The point of this paper is to show when, where and how we make spiritual advancement. There is much more that can be said. What I have taken from this research work is that it is not all black and white.
Each person has a unique situation. But the over riding and main principle we should follow is what Srila Prabhupada tells us in his general instructions. If someone deviates from his instructions which they have done big time in ISKCON, then anybody who follows these people is putting his own spiritual life in danger.
And someone who lives within the confines of ISKCONs authority system and still follows that authority system, he also is in danger. It is only when an individual exercises his innate freedom to act as the param para orders us to do, and then follows that dictation that we can make actual tangible advancement in the science of bhakti yoga.
For all others who blindly follow, unauthorized persons, then their fate is not good.