Challenging the Zonal Acarya System

BY: SUN EDITORS - 4.5 2023

Today we begin what will be a lengthy serial presentation of a paper written by a collective of Srila Prabhupada disciples, released on February 17, 1979 in Vrindavan. The paper was presented to the new 'Zonal Acaryas' in an effort to share concerns about the level of worship they had assumed, and to question the philosophical basis of their assumed positions.

This document had never been published in the HareKrsna.com website, or in the Sampradaya Sun, and we had been unable to find a copy online anywhere else at the time of first publication.

The thirty-five page manuscript, recently found in our hardcopy archives, is a photocopy. It is without cover or title page. The names of the authors do not appear in the document. However, in the Introduction, the authors state that they are comprised of a majority of the older devotees, obviously at Krsna Balaram Mandir in Vrindavan. Presumably a missing page thirty-six from our copy of the document contains all their names and/or signatures.

This document is also referenced in a timeline that was prepared by Sriman Nrsimhananda dasa entitled, "History of Diksa Guru in ISKCON 1978-2014":

"1979
SADHU-SASTRA-GURU RESEARCH

Twenty-one devotees worldwide joined to write a thirty six page paper similar to Pradyumna's, which they gave to the GBC.

EVENTS

There was a confrontation in Vrindavana between the GBC and BG Nrsingha, Yasodanandana, and others on the issue of guru."

Yasodanandana dasa mentioned this event in Vrindavan in one of his papers:

"26 February 1977. Vrindavana, India

In late February of 1979, the entire GBC body and its various "appointed gurus" assembled in Vrindavana to allegedly calm the various concerns of numerous local devotees. The various devotees had expressed their concerns and disagreements over the issue of the installation of large Vyasa-asanas in the direct presence of Srila Prabhupada in His temple rooms and the perceived displacement of Srila Prabhupada as the center and focus of His movement. The issue of whether the "appointed gurus" had factually been appointed or selected in the capacity of Diksa-Guru was a non-issue, since the GBC refused to even discuss or open up this particular point. When various scriptural evidences were presented to the entire GBC body to the effect that it is an offense and it is forbidden in the sastras to accept separate worship in front of one's own spiritual master, the GBC categorically rejected the evidence. They stated: 'This is not in Prabhupada's books, therefore we cannot accept this.' When it was further argued that 'The statements of Srila Jiva Goswami Prabhupada and Srila Sanatana Goswami are as good as Srila Prabhupada's statements because they are the original Acaryas of our Sampradaya," the reply was 'We are not going to accept this evidence, because Prabhupada did not quote this directly in His books.'(31) GBC representative, Late February, 1979, Vrindavana, India."

We begin our presentation of the manuscript with page one, Introduction:

 

Page one

"This presentation was completed on February 17, 1979 in Vrindavana, India Celebration of the Appearance of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Maharaj.

INTRODUCTION

"On this day, O my master, I am made to cry in grief, not able to tolerate the absence of you, my guru. On this auspicious day, I have come with this offering just to worship you, remembering your lotus feet. If one is bewildered by ignorance, what kind of renunciate can he be? He will only be a phalgu-vairagi, renouncing emotion. Without such feeling, it is simply known as "show bottle." Lord Caitanya's philosophy is beyond varnasrama. It is bhagavat-dharma, meant for putting an end to all cheating processes of religion. To resolve all these apparently contradictory statements is not the play of some incompetent fool. If everyone simply sat down together and considered these things, then what nice preaching there could be. But if everyone simply imitates, then there will only be a contradictory result. As long as it goes on, there will only be failure. Even now, my Godbrothers, you return here on the order of our master. But simply a festival of flowers and fruits does not constitute worship. The one who serves the message of the guru really worships him. Don't be proud, brothers. Come back to this. Oh, shame, my dear brothers, aren't you embarrassed? In the manner of businessmen you increase your disciples. All these things are not our spiritual master's preaching methods. These are all the things done by the caste gosvamis. But just take a good look at the terrible situation that has arisen. Everyone has become a sense enjoyer. Give up all your politics and diplomacy. Everyone come together on this very day and give your valued opinion. All of you get together and decide what should be done. If there is only one Supreme Lord, then a true sadhu, even if his wealth increases, gives up his desire for profit, adoration, and prestige in this material world. Your gold, brother, is the father of sense gratification. This meaningful statement was spoken by Prabhupada himself. Give up your wealth for preaching. Sit down together and make a special effort to come to a decision. Srila Prabhupada gave this final message himself. Take great care to do that completely and in all respects. Otherwise your sannyasa will be wasted and useless. O saintly ones, be careful; otherwise afterwards you will regret. So what is the difficulty for all of us to come together in this way? And why do all these things even have to be said to you? Give up your stubborness; there is no time. So much work has fallen into your hands."

VAISISTYASTAKAM (24 verses
quoted from original 80)
Written by His Divine Grace A.C.
Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
in Vrindavan at Radha-Damodara
Delivered to his Godbrothers
on Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Vyaspuja,
1961.

 

Page two

The proposals and perspectives presented in this paper are not put forward in a mood of rejection, rebellion, or revolution. They are presented in a mood of hope, in a spirit of sincere service to our eternal spiritual master, following in his footsteps. We are presenting this paper with the hope that certain inauspicious trends which are becoming manifest within this, the International Society for Krsna Consciousness (most of them directly related to the current application of the new guru process) will be seen for what they actually are and rectified. The perspectives presented herein will not be pleasing to everyone who reads this paper. Yet, for the furtherance of the real mission of Lord Caitanya's movement, we feel obligated to speak up. When we speak of an analysis, we can only establish it in terms of specific incidences, statements, and references which verify the conclusions presented. However, many of these evidences may be extremely unpalatable; not at all good or nice to hear about, although, sadly enough, true. We therefore have purposely avoided those in this paper. Please note, however, that they have not as yet passed unrecorded into oblivion. We have purposely limited all incidences, statements, and references in this paper in order to keep the paper from expanding to cumbersome dimensions, in order to keep it from becoming sidetracked in tangental fracases, and, most importantly, in order to keep it palatable.

There are so many reference sources we could quote in an effort to verify our points. Considering that this paper centers around the new guru process, we felt it only fitting to put emphasis on what the new gurus themselves have been saying and writing about the "controversy" which has developed. Therefore Hansadutta Swami's 33-page reply to Giriraj's letter as well as Satsvarupa Goswami's replies to both Giriraj's and Pradyumna's letters last fall have been quoted liberally. We feel these references can be used as a barometer of the current feelings of the new gurus on these sensitive issues, although we concede that each of them is certainly a powerful individual in his own right, with his unique way of thought and action. Considering the nature of this presentation, we fully realize that it is impossible to completely avoid criticism in it. Therefore, we must prostrate ourselves before you in this regard, and beg your forgiveness. Hopefully you will not mistakenly judge our motive to be in any way misdirected. We take absolutely no pleasure in having to expend so much energy in order to compile this presentation. But we have definitely and strongly concluded that it must now be done; we only lament that we cannot do it perfectly. Suffice it to say that everything put forward in this paper is the philosophical viewpoint of all who have signed it. The reason that the signees represent only one center of our international society (and, incidentally, a majority of all the older devotees comprising the working membership of that center) is because we felt it unethical, in the present time and circumstances, to canvas other centers for support. Disregarding this report on the basis of limited support would be also unethical, in the opposite vein.

 

Page three

This paper does not limit itself in scope to the external manifestations of inauspicious trend. It goes deeper than that. For this reason it may be scoffed at and criticized by the less intelligent, whom it is not meant for. Our hearts are seriously disturbed by the maladies we are seeing develop within the movement, and we are requesting that these inebrieties be admitted to exist and all effort be directed toward rectifying them. These points, as you will see, are in direct opposition to a certain unbecoming mentality that only the naïve will claim has not put its foot into the door of our movement's headquarters. We do not present this in a quarreling spirit. In fact, we have gone out of our way to avoid unpleasant clashes in terms of avoiding lower levels of consideration. We humbly request that you accept our sincerity in this, although that is very difficult in this horrible age. This report is in no way compiled to gain any superfluous, personal, or temporary advantage. But this paper is also not presented in an attempt to achieve any deluding compromises. If you view us inimically, it is a great mistake. We are not on opposite sides, and we are all initiates of a bonafide paramahamsa, Srila Prabhupada, our beloved spiritual master. Let us always remember, even in circumstances of opposition in viewpoint, how so small we all are compared to the All Great Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krsna. Although this paper details many disturbing things that are happening, we have not lost sight of all the positive things which have also took place. Many other ISKCON papers have lauded those adequately, and we will not go into them here. We are not presenting this paper to threaten unity. So-called harmony, with numerous inebrieties imbedded within it, can only ultimately end in a temporary material arrangement. This movement is meant to go for the next 10,000 years and spread to every town and village of the world. Unless these inebrieties are eradicated now, what is the value of all of our emphasis on unity? We humbly request that you please take into mature consideration our points and proposals and evolve to sober and proper decisions concerning them. We fervently pray to His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada, in his maha-samadhi here, to Their Lordships Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai, to Their Lordships Sri Sri Radha-Krsna, and to Their Lordships Sri Sri Krsna-Balaram, Who are dancing here together in the pleasure groves of Raman Reti, for Their unlimited and causeless mercy in this our sincere presentation.

 

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EDITORS NOTE:

The above text of Srila Prabhupada's Vaisistyastakam which opens this paper is considerably, and very interestingly different from the versions appearing at Vanisource.org.