Can I Be Srila Prabhupada's Disciple?

Question: Can I Be Srila Prabhupada's Disciple?

Dear Gurudeva,

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

When I chant am I directly contacting Krishna? Or is it so that I have to chant via a spiritual master in order to connect with Krishna? In other words, does chanting become more effective when one is initiated?

Is it not enough to consider Prabhupada as one's spiritual master? I guess this is the whole point. I am confused with this issue of spiritual master. I feel as though Prabhupada is my guru, and I want to serve him. And I don't quite see how a "live" guru such as your respected self (and all the other ISKCON gurus) relate to this.

Do disciples always consider Prabhupada as "the highest" or is it so that once someone accepts a living guru then they somehow "take over" Prabhupada's position? I hope these questions are ok. They have been bothering me for quite some time and, now I have finally decided to open my heart. There are many more issues too, but I think this is enough for now.



Answer: You Must. This is Called Grand Disciple.

Our connection with Krishna is simultaneously direct and indirect. Here is a crude example to clarify how this can be. At the present moment I am directly communicating with you by writing you this email. And at the same time our communication is indirect because it is being conducted via the internet. Even if we are speaking face to face, the same principle applies, because even though in a face to face meeting we are directly communicating with each other, it is still indirect because the sound vibrations of our voices are being conducted through the medium of the ether. So in a similar way, when we chant Hare Krishna we are directly connected with Krishna through the medium of the bona fide spiritual master. In this way, it is simultaneously direct and indirect. The spiritual master engages us in directly approaching Krishna. It is by his mercy that we are able to directly approach Krishna. If one decries the spiritual and tries to approach Krishna leaving aside the spiritual master, Krishna will not accept him.

In a similar way that the relationship between a man and woman becomes strengthened when they make a commitment to remain permanently together by taking marriage vows, the relationship between a student and the spiritual master also becomes strengthened when the initiation vows are taken. So, initiation means commitment. It is a two way process, because the disciple vows to always follow the spiritual master's instructions and the spiritual master vows to do whatever it takes to deliver the disciple back to home, back to Godhead, even if he has to take birth again to do so.

You ask it if is enough simply to take Srila Prabhupada as one's spiritual master. The answer is yes. The only thing that is required for going back to home, back to Godhead is to fully surrender to Srila Prabhupada's instructions. So we must carefully study to see what are Srila Prabhupada's instructions regarding accepting a spiritual master and not simply speculate.

The first thing is that he states in the Nectar of Devotion that initiation is mandatory, if we want Krishna to be connected with Krishna consciousness:

"The connection with the spiritual master is called initiation. From the date of initiation by the spiritual master, the connection between Krishna and a person cultivating Krishna consciousness is established. Without initiation by a bona fide spiritual master, the actual connection with Krishna consciousness is never performed."--from Nectar of Devotion Introduction

The next point is that Srila Prabhupada told us on 28 May of 1997 in Vrindavan that those persons who get initiated after his disappearance would become his grand disciples, i.e. the disciples of his disciples.

Prabhupada: They're his disciple.
Tamala Krishna: They're his disciple.
Prabhupada: Who is initiating. He is grand disciple.
Satsvarupa: Yes.
Tamala Krishna: That's clear.
Satsvarupa: Then we have a question concern...
Prabhupada: When I order, "You become guru," he becomes regular guru. That's all. He becomes disciple of my disciple. That's it.

And to make this point even more clear Srila Prabhupada stated on 18 October 1977, just days before his departure from this world, that because of his diseased condition he would stop initiating disciples and only resume doing so if he recovered his health, which he did not. He specifically ordered one of his disciples to initiate a Bengali gentleman as his own disciple. He directly states that he has deputed his disciples to accept disciples.

Prabhupada: Hare Krishna. One Bengali gentleman has come from New York?
Tamala Krishna: Yes. Mr. Sukamal Roy Chowdury.
Prabhupada: So I have deputed some of you to initiate. Hm?
Tamala Krishna: Yes. Actually... Yes, Srila Prabhupada.
Prabhupada: So I think Jayapataka can do that if he likes. I have already deputed. Tell him.
Tamala Krishna: Yes.
Prabhupada: So, deputies, Jayapataka's name was there?
Bhagavan: It is already on there, Srila Prabhupada. His name was on that list.
Prabhupada: So I depute him to do this at Mayapura, and you may go with him. I stop for the time being. Is that all right?
Tamala Krishna: Stopped doing what, Srila Prabhupada?
Prabhupada: This initiation. I have deputed the, my disciples. Is it clear or not?
Giriraja: It's clear.
Prabhupada: You have got the list of the names?
Tamala Krishna: Yes, Srila Prabhupada.
Prabhupada: And if by Krishna's grace I recover from this condition, then I shall begin again, or I may not be pressed in this condition to initiate. It is not good.
Giriraja: We will explain to him so that he will understand properly.

So it is very clear from Srila Prabhupada's instructions that anybody who wants to accept Srila Prabhupada as his spiritual authority must seek out a disciple of Srila Prabhupada from whom he will accept initiation.

People who argue that they will only accept Srila Prabhupada as their spiritual master are not in fact accepting Srila Prabhupada as their spiritual master because they are not following his instructions. They argue that it is okay to take initiation from a spiritual master who is not physically present. But if this were the case, we could all take initiation from Krishna and become the Godbrothers of Lord Brahma. Throughout the entirety of Vaisnava history devotees have accepted initiation from a spiritual master who is physically present. This is the exact same system that is taught to us by Srila Prabhupada. Devotees who advocate this philosophy that one can now become the initiated disciple of Srila Prabhupada were not personally trained by Srila Prabhupada and are immature and imperfect in their philosophical understanding. The point is that the spiritual master has to be present to say, "Yes, I will accept this person as my disciple." We cannot force ourselves on a spiritual master. He must openly agree to a specific person as his disciple.

Regarding who we accept as the highest, our system is that we accept Krishna as the highest because He is the source of everything. The line of disciplic succession begins with Krishna. The previous acharyas are always accepted by everyone in the line of disciplic succession as being higher because we are nothing but the humble servants of the previous acharyas. And certainly no one compete with Srila Prabhupada's position as the most empowered Vaisnava acharya in the history of the universe.

No one can ever take over Srila Prabhupada's position because he is ISKCON's Founder-Acharya and thus the ultimate authority in our ISKCON movement. To be a bona fide devotee one must strictly follow the instructions of Srila Prabhupada.

I am very happy that you opened your heart to me regarding these issues. And I am prepared to discuss with you in all detail until every issue which is troubling you becomes fully clarified. Please let me know what your other concerns are. I will be happy to shed light on them with Srila Prabhupada simply wonderful teachings.

Sankarshan Das Adhikari

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  • Hare Krishna Prabhu, Thank you very much for posting such a nice article. Many devotees have these kind of questions in their mind but they don't know whom to ask, but this article was enlightening.

    Thank you very much once again.


    Damodara Krsna Das

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