Saturday, March 16, 2013

Parallel lines of authority?

By His Grace Vishnujana Dasa

Originally posted on June 21, 2012

(Editor’s note: The following is a comment submitted to in response to their recent posting of the Parallel Lines committee’s paper entitled “Understanding ISKCON’s Lines Of Authority.” Unfortunately, has thus far declined to post this important comment along with the article.)

Dear Devotees,

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

All glories to the sankirtana movement and to all the fortunate devotees deputed to execute such a glorious task, GBCs, temple presidents, spiritual masters, etc. included.

Srila Prabhupada wanted the GBC to be representative of himself, but we must keep in mind that the checks and balances of guru, sadhu, and sastra must always be honored, in accord with Srila Prabhupada’s personal teaching and example. We must certainly surrender to the authority of the GBC, but if by happenstance their views are not parallel to guru, sadhu, and sastra (and thus in disharmony with Srila Prabhupada), then we are obligated not to follow them. Srila Prabhupada wanted independently thoughtful leaders guiding his society.

There are many examples in the Vedas of a disciple disobeying his guru, such as Bhisma’s disregarding the authority of Parasurama in the Mahabharata (Bhisma parva). This incident is in regards to Bhisma’s refusal to break his vow of celibacy when ordered to do so by his guru Parasurama, who ordered him to marry the princesses of Kasi (Parasurama later rewarded Bhisma for his adherence to truth and dharma). Another example within ISKCON’s own history is when it was found that chicken was being offered to the deities in the temple by the temple president’s wife. Srila Prabhupada became upset at not only the TP and his wife, but with the more senior devotees in the temple who did not say anything about it, in the name of following authority.

Anyone serving Srila Prabhupada under the guidance of ISKCON is certainly a glorious person, but we should always remember that Srila Prabhupada never went against Parampara tradition by overriding guru, sadhu, or sastra. That is why he is called the Founder-Acharya. While I am certain the authors of this paper would agree, I wish it were addressed in this paper, which consequently comes out sounding one-sided and authoritarian.

Please excuse me for any offenses or mistakes.

Dasa dasanudasa,

Vishnujana Dasa

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