Following up on yesterday’s thoughts I checked out how things are going on for people who decided to stick with their gurus no matter what. With limited time I looked up one prominent guru who left ISKCON about ten years ago. There’s no way I can learn all about their lives in one day but there are few things that are impossible to ignore.
I am in no position to judge any of them so I’ll try to avoid any accusations.
Main thing that separates them from me or from their godbrothers is that they have decided that their love and devotion for their guru is bigger than what they thought they knew about Krishna. Meaning bigger than what they think they owe to Prabhupada and the rest of the ISKCON.
I guess they can cite two reasons – all they knew about Krishna and Prabhupada they had learned from their guru. Thus they couldn’t put themselves above their spiritual master when he changed his mind about certain things.
Second reason is that they saw their guru as a person, not a position. Yesterday I argued that, basically, guru is a position – anyone can fill it as long as they carry with them the power of Lord Nityananda who is the adi-guru in our Chaitanya’s movement. I find it hard to argue against it when we have shiksha, diksha, mantra, sannyasa and probably a few more legitimate gurus and each of them is perfectly capable of granting us love and devotion.
On the other hand this guru as a position principle has its own danger of falling into impersonalism – “I don’t care who you are as long as you read from Prabhupada’s books.” As soon as we start to care about other devotees as persons and realize that they are dear to Krishna at all times regardless whether they’ve been put on vyasasana today or not, things start getting murky.
It’s easy to check whether one strictly follows Prabhupada’s books and interpretations and it’s easy to accept or reject any idea on that basis only, but, the whole concept of living gurus, possibly developing into living acharyas, is that they also have the right and capacity, granted to them by Krishna, to change and add to the teachings coming down the parampara according to time and circumstances.
Now it becomes the question of following the spirit and it’s not easy to judge anyone’s purity here. It’s far easier to imagine a couple of situations where there are clashes between different people judgments. By the very nature of the process some innovations will be found unacceptable. Unacceptable to who or what? Who can honestly say that these innovations are absolutely harmful?
As ISKCON devotees we follow directions of GBC, that’s our choice and our path. If it’s unacceptable to GBC we reject it, too.
But then there’s life outside of ISKCON.
I won’t go as far as to boldly declare than anyone trying to reach Krishna outside of our society is doomed to fail. I am doomed to fail outside the shelter of Srila Prabhupada and his movement but I can’t speak for other people. If they continue worshiping Krishna it’s between them and the Lord. They wouldn’t have left without His sanction and I don’t even want to think that they are so low and fallen that Krishna doesn’t care about their spiritual health anymore.
At least some of these devotees must be extremely dear to Krishna. One of them, I learned, was unloading some truck when he saw his first book – Sri Isopanishad. When he saw picture of Srila Prabhupada on the back cover he fell to the ground and cried. I don’t know anyone else who had such reaction.
Some others went through jails and psychiatric clinics in Soviet Russia and I don’t know which was worse. I also learned that some of them firmly chanted their rounds even under heavy medication when they could barely walk. Others actually preached in prisons and had the entire ward sing Hare Krishna.
What honest devotee can say that they never had real devotion and Krishna is leading them down the false path now?
There is something else at work here, and I believe it’s called life.
In the end our devotion to Krishna and Srila Prabhupada will be judged by how we manage to live together. In this particular case, judging from online discussions, there’s still plenty of resentment on one side and very little desire to reconcile on the other.
Time heals all wounds, though. It drives us apart and it brings us together. I just wish we never say or do things we might regret later on.
Just to be clear – I firmly believe that following the path laid down by Srila Prabhupada, within ISKCON, is the fastest way back to Krishna, but it is also the most difficult, I just don’t want to judge people who move at their own speed. We’ll all get there eventually and then we will all be asking forgiveness from each other.