Challenging the Zonal Acarya System, Part 2

BY: SUN EDITORS - 5.3 2023

Before we continue in presenting part two of this paper, we would like to offer a few comments. First, this manuscript is formatted in many sections with very long passages, which can be quite difficult to read on a computer screen. We have taken the liberty of breaking the text down into more readable paragraphs, but we have added a notation – [..>] – to mark the places where para breaks were added.

Many readers have no doubt wondered, as we did, why this very important historical paper is not readily available online. For more than twenty years now, the devotees have been publishing anything and everything found in the archives about ISKCON and Srila Prabhupada. Yet strangely enough, this document does not seem to be among them.

ISKCON GBCs and Gurus would never publish the paper, for obvious reasons. They have tried for many years to purge the memory of the Zonal Acarya era from ISKCON's history books. But why have the Ritviks/Prabhupadanugas not published and broadcast this paper? Nearly every piece of evidence documenting the GBC's failings has been posted and quoted threadbare by the Ritviks. But not this one… And in a few segments to come, the likely reason for this will be seen.

This very important 1979 paper, which a few now prominent Ritvik-vadis undoubtedly helped to write, serves to seriously undermine the entire Ritvik position. It describes in clear detail just what the understanding was, immediately before and after Srila Prabhupada accepted maha-samadhi, about his intentions for diksa initiations in ISKCON. And most importantly, it establishes the fact that the July 9th Letter was never understood to be referring to post-samadhi diksa initiations. Just the opposite.

Finally, we should offer a little more historical context for this paper. When it was presented to the GBC in 1979, the repercussions were tumultuous. All of the senior devotees in Vrindavan who had signed their name to this document were instantly and summarily driven out of ISKCON. The Zonal Acaryas wasted no time in eradicating the presence of those who dared to challenge their authority.

The sudden forced departure of so many senior devotees from the Holy Dham – many of whom were considered very important preachers, etc. -- sent shockwaves throughout the movement.

Among the most aggressive of the Zonals who verbally insulted and dismissed these senior prabhus were Hridayananda and Tamal Krishna, with Jayapataka also undoubtedly at the forefront of the Zonal Acarya defense league. [Ed.]



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Recent propaganda within our movement has been emphasizing everyone's complete satisfaction, amongst Prabhupada's disciples, with the process of new guru worship, and all of its practical and philosophical applications.

They are received enthusiastically by all the devotees – it is hard to differentiate in the mood of excitement. As a group, the older devotees in this movement have embraced with great enthusiasm the arrival of these elven acaryas. All signs of pettiness and in-fighting are dissipating, and there is a general sense of harmony and cooperation amongst them all.

Adi Kesava Swami to Pradyumna Prabhu


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The introduction of initiating gurus…is causing great enlivenment in the devotees in general. At least that is my experience. In the West, the Godbrothers are not insulted or envious, but are accepting…it is creating positive feelings that this movement is dynamic and will go forward by Prabhupada's expert arrangements. We are following the spirit of the guru, even if someone accuses us of being arrogant. There is not an atmosphere of offense or illegal take-over, as you have implied. The new system, rather, seems to be working very nicely. All our Godbrothers, as well as ourselves, can feel that this is best for the new devotees. Perhaps the Godbrothers in the Gaudiya Math have never experienced the unifying element (of this method of recruiting).

Satsvarupa Maharaja to Pradyumna Prabhu

Things are going on nicely (in ISKCON) without your cloud of ignorance.

Hansadutta Swami to Giriraj Swami

This is being propounded – but how much is it actually a fact? That many of Prabhupada's disciples say that they are satisfied with the situation must be accepted. But what is the nature of the "overwhelming" support. How many of these devotees actually have questioned the situation and the rather stand-pat answers which have been put forward? There was much formal discussion in all the temples. But deep scriptural analysis was certainly not indulged in or heard of by the vast majority. In one temple, when a Godbrother with ten years initiation status asked for sufficient definition of the terms diksa and siksa guru, he was verbally dealt with in a harsh manner, as if his questioning was a disturbance. It was as if, he said, analysis was considered good only up to a point when, by the bonafide use of sastra and logic, some misconceptions and flaws in the conclusions being analyzed were touched. It was then another story; a deviation from the spirit of acceptable analysis.

The concept is best expressed by Satsvarupa Maharaja in his letter to Giriraj Swami, "Why do you go to the books to disprove it, rather we have to prove it." What is the value of such ishtaghostis? Was all this formal temple analysis meant to consider and understand, or to simply to blindly accept? It is true that, in the case of a guru speaking something to his disciple, analysis must be always an attempt to accept. But this should not have been the case in this analysis of Prabhupada's disciples. In a large group of devotees, there can be no question of objective and impartial brahminical analysis unless everyone is encouraged in such a consciousness. So, how many really deep, important questions on this subject were put forward (and then even tolerated, let alone considered) when this system was delivered to the mass of devotees?

The mood established, (and still being forwarded) was to simply accept, and the vast majority of Prabhupada's disciples may indeed


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have felt discouraged to probe deeply in this matter, which certainly concerned their spiritual well being. How many of them really had and/or now have their heart in it? Some, that is granted. But how many accepted so that they didn't have to face pressure from their leaders and their peers who fell in line? In some temples devotees even expressed an unwillingness to offer flowers, incense, and dandavats to someone sitting a vyasasana who was not their personal diksa guru. Almost all temple devotees have no independent source of existence due to their surrendered position. That may have put them in a rather awkward position. Many devotees, who are sincere, are, nevertheless, not fixed-up enough to maintain the proper spiritual sadhana outside of temple association. Certainly most of them were in no mood to organize an alternative. Many such Prabhupada initiates may have viewed this compulsory worship of someone other than their diksa guru as a distraction (putting it mildly), but how many of them yielded for the sake of accepting the apparent lesser of two undesirable alternatives? [..>]

Two gurus were overheard in the following exchange: Q: "What do you do when someone is not accepting the party line?" A: "You just rub them out. Anyone who does not fall in line should be dismissed." With such pressure (usually left unexpressed) in the atmosphere, we believe some of Prabhupada's disciples may have accepted this process outwardly, for pragmatic reasons, but not inwardly, and still consider many questions unanswered. Aside from this group, another group of disciples, almost all of them with many years of continued service and experience behind them, left the formal temple structure this year when this new process was installed. Who can deny this fact? To just consider all of them rascals, who left for sense gratification only, would certainly be a shallow way to brush aside the attrition. How many disciples of Prabhupada, who see the inebrieties, are also accepting this process, due only to the fact that they hope it is in a growing stage towards a completely acceptable system and should, as such, be tolerated. But is it really currently considered to be meant to evolve or is it currently considered to have answered all the questions? [..>]

One of the new initiating gurus said to one elder sannyasi, "This new guru process will purge all of the envious people out of ISKCON." Later in this paper, we will give examples of how the Mayapur Paper on New Guru Worship is, more or less, accepted as the final word in the matter. Quoting one initiating guru, "There is nothing to discuss. Everything is already decided. We are simply here to tell them." As for those who have accepted "wholeheartedly," we can have no respect for the fools who feel that these new gurus provide them even more facility to advance than Srila Prabhupada did when he was present. One guru is fond of quoting the example of a particular Godbrother, a former leader in ISKCON, who has stated "When Prabhupada was here, I couldn't follow the regulations, but now that (a specific new guru) is here, I am following." This man has displayed his utter foolishness in understanding the basic principle of spiritual life by this statement.


Page sixyasya prasadad bhagavat-prasadao
yayaprasadan na gatih kuto 'pi

"By the grace of the spiritual master one is benedicted by the mercy of Krsna. Without the grace of the spiritual master one cannot make any advancement."

Yet it's interesting to see that some of the new gurus quote this as reference to their support amongst Prabhupada's disciples. As for the issue of those who accept "wholeheartedly" with the motivation to "move up in the ranks," or get some other concessions or favors, that will always be there. And, last but not least, some of Prabhupada's disciples have concluded that Srila Prabhupada will be very displeased with them if they do not accept this process as it's been given to them. They have certainly heard "Prabhupada expects you to accept" verbalized repeatedly by almost all of their authorities. So they may be "falling in line" for that reason, although they've questioned deeply and remain dissatisfied, at least to some extent. So our point stands, and, although proving this is not a very simple thing, the subtlety of understanding how a devotee may be acting one way but feeling another should be considered. [..>]

There are a number of Srila Prabhupada's disciples who are outwardly not at all happy with the aftermath of his disappearance in regard to the specific trends of this new guru worship and its emphasis. Some of these things we have seen – but most of them we have heard. Direct experience of truths is not emphasized in the process of advancement in knowledge. We can, with full confidence, put forth this point, on the basis of our logic and what we have been told. Unless this new guru process is presented in a way in which everyone clearly understands it in all respects, without any sentimentalism or fanaticism, without any motivation or guilt complex, it may be just a matter of time before allegiance to this system by Prabhupada's disciples begins to crumble. In the long run, it is to our advantage to be sure that this process is bonafide in every way. Currently it is not, as we shall point out.