Vanity thought #1636. “It’s for preaching”

Another common argument in favor of FDG is that it’s needed for preaching. In that “She can become guru” video it’s what they started from and what they repeated at the end again to make sure we don’t forget.

From the very first speaker we learn that refusal by the GBC to let female devotees initiate disciples is the crown jewel of women abuse in our society. Move over domestic violence and rape – first world problems being discussed here. The speaker openly acknowledges that being a guru is a the most powerful spiritual position without even noticing the dissonance between the high value of this post and casual demand for it, and that it’s abusive not to give it to women.

Then we learn about some community in Florida where there are two hundred interested people who can’t take Kṛṣṇa consciousness seriously until we show that women can become gurus, too. This needs to be addressed, we are led to believe, we can’t allow these people lose interest in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, we need to keep them and we need to attract hundreds and thousands of other potential candidates, too, but we can’t do it unless we don’t have women gurus.

I’m sorry, I’m not buying it and, judging by other responses to this video, other people don’t buy it, too. They say that the fastest growing religions in the world are even more conservative than us and it means that social conservatism is not an issue. I’m more cynical than that and I think that these two hundred interested souls have been taught what to protests by FDG promoters themselves. I bet they wouldn’t even care whether we have female gurus or not unless someone explicitly raised this issue and demanded its resolution. It’s not something that comes up if you read Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books at all. In fact, the more you read them the more absurd the FDG demand appears – it’s all about males being gurus, never females.

Someone noticed in this regard that if we make FDG existence normal we would have to edit lots of pronouns in our books that refer to gurus as males, and sentences like “spiritual fathers”, too, because they’d appear gender discriminatory according to the new siddhānta that guru cannot be gender specific.

At around 8 min mark another devotee comes in and starts talking about the need to give the power of the holy name to the masses. I tried following him but it’s just emotionally surcharged words that don’t really connect to each other – “… the power of the transformation of the heart of the holy name..,” for example. What does it even mean? All words seem important when taken separately but together they don’t make sense at all.

After giving this long list of all the good things we need to bring to people he concludes with rather weak “if we artificially restrict women [then] it’s so dangerous”. The Gītā says, he continues, that we must act on our own nature and he makes it the central point of his argument – because of some artificial social constructs we tell women that they can’t act on their own nature and it’s a contradiction he can’t explain.

Why is thousands and millions of years of Vedic culture is dismissed as artificial social constructs? We did not invent them, our ācāryas did not invent them, this varṇāśrama dharma is the creation of the Lord Himself. How can anyone say that varṇāśrama duties, which include strī dharma, are artificial?

And who gets to decide what is one’s nature, one’s sva-dharma? According to Śrīla Prabhupāda sva-dharma means one’s prescribed duties, not whatever one feels like doing himself, it means one’s duties under varṇāśrama so that brāhmaṇas do not act like śūdras or sūdras act like brāhmaṇas. I mean it’s entirely possible that someone comes up and says: “I’m going to do this job now because it’s clearly needed in varṇāśrama, someone has to do it anyway and I think it should be me.” In this case people might point out that this person sva-dharma doesn’t fit his coveted occupation and so he should get lost.

In a modern society people tend to think that sva-dharma is what they want and what they think is necessary for them. Here’s the first quote that came up (Lecture on BG):

    Sva-dharmam: “one’s own occupation.” So according to Vedic civilization, everyone has his own sva-dharma. This has been misinterpreted by the rascals: “Sva-dharma means anyone can discover his own religious principle. Yato mata tato patha. Whatever you think is religious principle, that’s all right.” This is going on. But that is not the meaning.

Prabhupāda was clearly referring to Ramakrishna here but otherwise the gist of his point is relevant to anyone thinking that he’s got the permission to do his own thing.

And who says that it’s in women’s nature to be gurus? Bossing men around – yes, lecturing others how to do everything right – yes, but that’s not enough to be a guru and these are only external exressions of guru’s service.

Perhaps I should remind the reader that we are talking about dīkṣa gurus here, otherwise female devotees can give instructions in Kṛṣṇa consciousness and be accepted as gurus without any official confirmations of their status. The act of dīkṣa is over in a few minutes, the ritual is short and by a large measure not very important. Come to think of it, in its essense dīkṣa is not conferred through sacrificial fire, not by giving a name to a disciple, not by passing him his new beads, it’s the act of acceptance into the paramparā, that’s all. It could literally be lava-matra, one eleventh of the second, we can’t do anything physical in this short time as our muscle reaction is too slow for that. Then there’s brāhmaṇical initiation which requires specific rituals but let’s leave that out for the moment – I can’t think of women giving out brāhmaṇa threads right now, it’s too unusual.

I don’t know why some women are after this ability to give dīkṣa at all. Why can’t they let someone else do it? All I can think of is external fame and other perks that come with guru status. They can’t be a justification for becoming a guru, however. I hope our FDG proponents understand that and I hope they are honest about their intentions (provided they know themselves what they really want).

The first speaker from the video comes up again at the end and says that by simply lifting the moratorium on FDG the GBC can make tremendous strides towards spreading this movement amongst westerners the way it was done in the very early days of ISKCON. Wait a second – there were no female gurus in our early days at all, no demand from our female devotees to become gurus, no sign that anyone joined because women could become gurus – nothing. Maybe that’s the difference between then and now? Maybe there’d be more preaching if we didn’t worry about our own recognition or waste our energy on this non-issue. Maybe this is sort of blackmail – “we can’t preach until you pass a resolution”. I hope not.

The video ends with self-defeating quote from Prabhupāda that there could be women gurus in our tradition but we can’t expect many. There’s no moratorium for GBC to lift either – there are simply no convincing candidates around. We know our women and we know what they are capable of, and there’s a tacit agreement that, in general, no one really qualifies and so no names should be brought forward. Maybe the politics of this decision making are slightly more complicated but it’s the gist of it anyway – we don’t have self-effulgent female ācāryas yet.

Last words – the video is produced for an emotional appeal, it doesn’t make any sense and doesn’t offer any actual arguments, only personal speculations why it might be a good idea to institute a practice of FDG. As I said yesterday – speculations are not enough, when Kṛṣṇa actually wants something He says so directly through guru and śāstra. Until such direct statements can be found it would remain on the level of personal desires and they would bring nothing but disturbance – see Nectar of Devotion (NOD 7).

Vanity thought #1635. FDragon’s tail

The head on approach in that Youtube video promoting FDG issue doesn’t have any fangs. Some talk on vaguely relevant topics and how they make people feel, without a single direct argument in support of women giving out dīkṣas (save for the opening quote). I’ve covered it yesterday, of course.

The second part appeals to intelligence, suggesting that we need to allow FDG because logic, not just feelings so let’s look at the arguments themselves. Spoiler alert – they are unbelievably weak and I don’t know how any devotee familiar with ISKCON and our issues can take them seriously.

At around 6 min mark an initiated female devotee (Master of Education, University of Florida) says that not having female gurus in ISKCON is disturbing to her because what she always read in Prabhupāda’s books is that one needs a spiritual qualification to become a guru and that one’s material body shouldn’t be taken into account. What do you say to that? Connecting people to paramparā and Kṛṣṇa is a spiritual act, not material. Who could argue with that?

True, but it’s only a trick question, a kind of you know is wrong, like a proof that 2+2=5, but it’s not immediately clear where the logic went astray. Well, for one thing, in our fifty years of history we have tried acting transcendentally plenty of times, usually with regrettable results. Sooner or later but the material nature forces even the strongest of us to act according to our svabhāva. Those whose svabhāva was suitable for anything but renunciation didn’t survive, historically speaking, so if she proposes that we should stop respecting restrictions placed on us by the material nature it’s a recipe for disaster.

Secondly, what exactly is material and what is spiritual here? When we talk about devotees on the level where we consider them advanced enough to act as gurus there’s not much “material” left anymore. Their devotion is manifesting through their seemingly material bodies but it’s still devotion and they are engaged in devotional service every moment of their lives. They are not in their true spiritual forms yet but their position and their service is determined by Kṛṣṇa already. If He wants them to serve as women or as mothers and not as gurus then that’s what He wants and that’s what they should happily do. Gopīs don’t one day decide that they want to be boys, flowers in Goloka don’t one day decide that they want to serve as Kṛṣṇa’s mother, monkeys don’t serve as calves and so on. Such changes, if possible at all, should come by mutual agreement with Kṛṣṇa and with one’s superiors.

Similarly, we can’t just one day decide that we want to take up another service without orders or at least blessings from our authorities. I can’t serve as a mother of Kṛṣṇa’s devotee, for example. I can’t give birth, obviously, but being a mother is a lot more than that. I could, theoretically, adopt a baby and nurse it like a real mother would and it’s possible that when this child grows up he or she wouldn’t even know he was adopted, and I could perform all other motherly duties perfectly, but I’m not asking for it and I can’t imagine Kṛṣṇa, through His representatives, would ever offer such a service to me. I’m certainly not thinking of taking it up myself without asking anyone, or of demanding others to provide it for me.

There are lots of other services that no one expects me to do and that I’m not qualified for and I’m not usually making plans for them just because I like them.

So, the argument that advanced devotees are transcendental and therefore they can do anything they want is wrong – they still do what Kṛṣṇa wants them to do and He communicates His desires through guru and śāstra. If He says, effectively, that those who are born in female bodies are meant to serve Him as mothers of other devotees then this is what we should all accept. Kṛṣṇa consciousness is not an equal opportunity movement – we do strictly what Kṛṣṇa wants and however He wants it.

Next is a very respectable mātājī telling a story how Śrīla Prabhupāda put down some South Indian smartas who said that we can’t make mlecchas into brāhmaṇas. “Using the scriptures he vehemently defeated them”, she said, “saying that it’s by quality and work that one is designated as a brāhmaṇa, not due to birth.” By the same logic we can’t tell our female devotee that because of their birth they can’t do this or they can’t do that.

Same trick, just a bit different. My knee jerk answer to this – when did Prabhupāda ever argued that by quality and work a woman can become an initiating guru? He didn’t, so why speculate? And secondly, there’s no theoretical restriction for a female devotee to qualify herself for being a dīkṣa guru, by work or by mercy. The qualification is that she has to become a male, however. If they can do that no one is ever going to question their suitability.

It’s not like we just declare mlecchas to be brāhmaṇas, they have to display all brāhmaṇical qualities first. The work and the transformation must be there. Similarly, if one wants to go from female to dīkṣa guru the qualification is known, how they achieve it is not a particular concern right now but if they do achieve it they can go ahead and initiate as many disciples as they want.

I’m being facetious here, of course, but it’s the same old trick proposing that we don’t have to pay attention to our material qualifications and act transcendentally. There’s another good answer to this – we might not be our bodies but our bodies ARE bodies, they are not souls. What they ask is for our bodies to act as if they are souls but it’s impossible.

In case of dīkṣa gurus they want to give the title to a temporary material female form, not to the soul itself. They don’t even know what these souls’ actual identities are, they are concerned with bodies only – of a certain appearance and age, identified by passports and fingerprints, and preferably carrying licences to initiate, printed and recorded on material paper.

At this point I’m just giving absurd answers to absurd arguments. In any case, the logic here is that “because of this maybe there should be that, just think about it.” That’s not enough to start an FDG institution, there should be clear instructions, either in śāstra or from our ācāryas, preferably both, that FDG should be implemented. So far no one has found any and unless they do it’s all speculative and should be dismissed. And it’s not only speculative but reminiscent of reasons one thinks up to buy some thing he saw on Ebay but which was prohibited by his wife, like a racing motorbike or an outrageously expensive electric guitar or a set of drums. I hope FDG proponents are not acting out of such base desires betraying their human weaknesses, but sometimes it looks like the only explanation.

Vanity thought #1634. FDragon

Last time I mentioned that GBC might make a decision on Female Dīkṣa Guru issue at this year’s meetings, there’s an indication that something is afoot because last month FDG proponents published a supporting video (Youtube). I have absolutely no idea whether the topic will be actually raised but the timing is suspicious – just on the eve of GBC meetings and not only on Youtube but on Dandavats as well.

I don’t want to talk politics but Dandavats placement is curious because the video otherwise is critical of the GBC and wants the GBC to make a policy change. We don’t normally see this kind of appeals on GBC sponsored Dandavats so, perhaps, FDG proponents have some support there, too.

A couple of years ago they published a book and I wrote about it here but I don’t want to come back to it or search my archives. I only remember that they twisted quotes to support their agenda. At one point they argued that current BBT version of the purport about Dhruva Mahārāja’s mother is not faithful to Prabhupāda’s original dictation, for example, which is playing dangerously with a whole new can of worms – book changes. They don’t want to go down that road, no one does, but they made it their crucial point in refuting Prabhupāda’s clearest statement on FDG issue ever (SB 4.12.32):

    Sunīti, however, being a woman, and specifically his mother, could not become Dhruva Mahārāja’s dīkṣā-guru.

Anyway, forget the book itself, I mentioned it and the video because these are the kind of publications that get mentioned and referenced when actively canvassing for support. Video, perhaps, came out a bit too early because FDG opponents had just enough time to produce a rebuttal (Youtube), though I don’t want to speculate whether GBC members had a chance to watch it before leaving for Māyāpura meetings. Let’s talk the substance of this new call to let women initiate disciples.

It starts with showing perhaps the most convincing quote in support of FDG, from Prabhupāda’s letter written in January 1969:

    Another examination will be held sometimes in 1971 on the four books, Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Teachings of Lord Caitanya, and Nectar of Devotion. One who will pass this examination will be awarded with the title of Bhaktivedanta. I want that all of my spiritual sons and daughters will inherit this title of Bhaktivedanta, so that the family transcendental diploma will continue through the generations. Those possessing the title of Bhaktivedanta will be allowed to initiate disciples. Maybe by 1975, all of my disciples will be allowed to initiate and increase the numbers of the generations. That is my program.

There are several reasons why this quote does not convince FDG proponents. One is that it’s a letter from the early days of ISKCON and by the order of priority Prabhupāda’s later statements in the books should override that. Another is that the talk here is clearly about examinations and the connection between getting the diploma and women becoming initiating gurus is an implied one. I’m certain Prabhupāda didn’t mean it that way at all, he was talking about “academic” qualification for becoming a guru, not a “gender” one. Also he wanted all his disciples to take those courses to become knowledgeable devotees, not only because they all would have become gurus by 1975, which we can’t take literally either. Another reason follows from that – 1975 came and went, Prabhupāda learned a lot more about his disciples and their abilities and made adjustments to his plans that did not allow for FDG anymore.

If he really wanted women to become dīkṣa gurus he would have mentioned it elsewhere and made a really strong case for it because we just don’t have this practice in our tradition, or in any respectable Vedic tradition at all. We can’t create this female guru institution willy nilly on the basis of a possible interpretation of one letter. Female gurus are an exception and not the rule, and so we can’t ask GBC to write a rule about exceptions. They’ve already allowed for it and that’s what caused Indian GBC to rebel, as I mentioned yesterday.

Still, this allowance is not enough for FDG proponents and they want more. So, what does their video have to say in support of it?

Nothing really. It’s a series of quotes from various people about how they feel and what they think, not what śāstra says. The second person up, an unitiated Bhaktin, worries how outsiders might perceive her and our movement and that she doesn’t want to tell them we don’t practice gender equality in appointing gurus. Who cares? Seriously?

Then there’s Ravindra Svarūpa Prabhu who say sthat Prabhupāda in his personal relations wasn’t sexist at all. Okay, but what has it got to do with FDG? If they interviewed him for this video why didn’t he say he supports it? Or did they just took a clip from another video and made Ravindra Svarūpa their “supporter”. Is he really? Being big on supporting women and making them into dīkṣa gurus are two different things. He is also big on varṇāśrama while FDG supporters typically aren’t – obviously because there’s no guruship in strī dharma.

Then there’s some professor talking about gender roles in early ISKCON and gave example of cooking. Okay, but what has it got to do with FDG? Is there no difference between female disciples cooking for Prabhupāda and female disciples becoming initiating gurus?

Then there’s Mātājī Rukmiṇī who spoke remarkably like Rādhānatha Svāmī, down to every little inflection in her voice, and she shared her memory how Prabhupāda wanted even the girls to open temples. Okay, but did he tell that the girls could become dīkṣa gurus? We have absolutely no problems in ISKCON with female devotees managing temples so we follow that instruction already, but what has it got to do with FDG?

Then there’s a man of Indian descent who says that Prabhupāda gave women more opportunities than they had in India (where he came from), and that he prioritized more universal, spiritual aspects of bhakti than the ritual ones. Okay, but why then women want to perform dīkṣa rituals? Also – he is not implying that Indian gender disparity is only a cultural, not a Vedic thing, is he? I can’t tell. It does sound like “if Indians were as advanced as we are now…” Hopefully not, but this man works as an assistant professor at an American university where this attitude is the default.

Then there’s another academic saying that Prabhupāda allowed women to make spiritual progress independently in their own right and not under the aegis of their husbands. Umm, that is not true at all, and even if it was it’s still not an argument for FDG.

Then there’s a devotee saying that in our tradition disciples of female gurus did not feel embarrassed or handicapped in any way and that they were very proud of their spiritual masters. Okay, but in our tradition we have only THREE female gurus we ever heard of and they were all liberated souls. Who would have been embarrassed by following them? It’s not an issue at all and so if this devotee solved it – good for him, but what has it got to do with current female devotees being qualified for dīkṣa guru status? If another expansion of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī appears among us there’d be no question of her being qualified to initiate disciples.

I’ve got through about half of the video so far and there are a couple of good, thought provoking arguments left coming up but I’d rather address them tomorrow.

Vanity thought #1168. FDG update

I thought I would give it a pass but a week later it still lingers in my mind – GBC recently had a special session dedicated specifically to female dīkṣā guru, and it was a very important event even if no conclusions were reached.

It was important because it wasn’t just some committee meeting but a full blown GBC with everyone who is anyone being there, and because it was probably the last step before issuing a final statement on the matter. Well, might not be the last but they wheel has turned, they WILL have to come up with something after all these preparations.

They started slowly, by going through a thousand pages of quotes from śāstra, Śrīla Prabhupāda, and previous ācāryas. Anything of any importance that has ever been said on the matter was there. They had a separate committee to collect these quotes for two months.

It’s a big task and they approached it systemically. First, they had to put everyone in the right mood, they didn’t want a slug fest between deeply entrenched opponents, then they limited the scope of discussion to certain non-controversial matters. They split participants in groups, no doubt perfectly selected, and put simple but thought provoking questions before them that didn’t require yes/no answers, like “what effect do you think…” Very clever.

Well, the actual list of question is on Dandavats but I’m not going for accuracy here. I’m not going to discuss what I think about the questions either, I just appreciate how they elicited people’s opinions in a way that let them justify their positions and had the opponents try to supplement rather than confront them.

We all know that there will be effects on our society, for example, and discussing the exact nature of these effects makes people collaborate rather than express their opposition to the causes. It won’t work every time in every debate but if the atmosphere is right it might do wonders.

They say the session was organized by a “professionally trained facilitator” and it showed. This is also the part where I think I mention things I didn’t like about this whole idea.

What does “professionally trained facilitator” mean, for example. It sounds as if he was a professional but actually it means he was *trained* by professionals. That is, he took some conflict resolution course somewhere, paid money for it, and came back to ISKCON to apply his newfound knowledge. There’s nothing wrong with it per se but it opens a possibility for abuse.

FDG is not a small issue, essentially it’s about ascribing God’s power to a person. Who can make such a judgment? Who can speak on God’s behalf here? Obvious answer is “nobody”. We might not like it just like we don’t like absence of “self-luminous ācārya” but it’s the truth. Still, we need a solution and GBC tried their best, I believe, but that might not be good enough.

Materialistic conflict resolution is meant to overcome ego-based differences. People’s identities and aspirations are repositioned in such a way that they don’t immediately clash. They all bring huge chips on their shoulders but they are not asked to talk about that but rather on neutral topics that at the same time are close enough to the subject to keep them interested. If such facilitation succeeds it’s great, it reduces conflicts and comes up with acceptable solutions, but it doesn’t produce spiritual truth.

The idea behind it is that everyone should negotiate, everyone should get something and give something in return. Absolute Truth is non-negotiable, however. We can’t arrive to it through compromises. In fact, in spiritual matters compromises are forbidden. You put an old man to a nice young lady, let him talk and display his wisdom and maturity, and he will probably agree on something in the end just to fulfill the expectations. He can’t come away from the workshop like this without some form of success, and success here is defined by the organizers, not by Kṛṣṇa. It doesn’t have to be a lady, btw, anyone who would be impressed will do.

I mean the whole GBC committed itself to solving this once and for all, they had a meeting, now they must come to a conclusion even if a truly spiritual answer is still not there.

I’d hate to see FDG issue decided through trickery like this. I’d hate to see people coming away and thinking “God, what did I just agree to? And for what? An opportunity for a nice chat? As an obligation to come up with something no matter what?” I’d rather have both sides remain uncompromising in their positions.

We can’t have that in our society, however, and that’s why we need politics. GBS approached this issue as a political, not spiritual one, as is their duty, but that also limits the effect and recognition given to would be female gurus. “Yes, yes, they wanted it, they convinced the council, but I still don’t see them as authorized by Kṛṣṇa” – future thoughts like this won’t help anyone.

Still, ISKCON is in Kṛṣṇa’s hands, whatever GBC decides won’t ever go against Kṛṣṇa’s will, so I’m not going to freak out about this. In the end they came to a very sensible solution anyway – most members feel positive about FDG if their concerns about negative effects are met. They had a straw vote like this – non-binding but nevertheless reflecting GBC’s opinion and future course of discussion. Good job.

Ironically, this answer was obvious right from the start, just as there was nothing new in the thousand pages they went through again in preparation for this discussion. It’s the same old “can, if they are qualified” that has been with us forever – if gurus are truly qualified then our current concerns will not be a problem.

Problem is – how do we decide who is qualified or not? Without self-luminous ācārya we can’t make such decisions on our own, no matter how many meetings we hold. I do not have the answer to this question either – how do we go from rule based assessment to proclaiming that this or that person has an overriding authority from Kṛṣṇa?

With male devotees it’s easy because simply following the rules is enough but giving dīkṣā guru duties to a woman requires extra proof of her qualifications because they are not in the rule book.

This comparison between men and women exposed an interesting point I’ve never heard before – potential male gurus need to show the proof of their financial stability. What? Seriously? Financial stability? Umm.. Really?

Here’s the exact quote: “Should a potential guru have to demonstrate financial, ashrama and personal stability (required in part of male gurus)?” It doesn’t give any details and I don’t think there’s anything like that in ISKCON law book either but it sounds plausible the way things have been going in our society.

I don’t know what to say, I hope it’s just a misunderstanding.

But before it gets cleared, if ever, I see MacBook Pros in front of every GBC member in this photo in a completely different way now. Not that I saw it any flattering way before.

GBC and their MacBook Pros

Nah, just leave it, let them have their politics and their computers, it’s all for the good cause. I can’t afford to waste time on discussing this – Kṛṣṇa isn’t waiting.

Vanity thought #962. A couple of wrong assumptions

Yesterday I missed an important point when discussing proper reaction to TV show Cosmos. First of all, before we think about anything else, we should remember that there’s no TV show Cosmos, there’s no Neil DeGrasse Tyson presenting arguments for us to consider, there’s no Carl Sagan to pay tributes to – none of those things actually exist.

Let me clarify – we should not see those arguments as having separate, independent existence. While there surely is a separate living entity in the body of NDT and previously there was a soul in the body of Carl Sagan, their external appearances are illusory.

Illusion is real, of course, so both NDT and CS exist and can very well smack us on the head with a shoe, but their existence is not independent.

While in a conditioned stage we identify ourselves with a particular body and we allow the same identification to everyone else. This makes us perceive ourselves as separate, independent doers and thinkers, and then we afford the same right to others, too, but that’s just an illusion.

We see a line between forces of nature and our own lives. We know that we can control certain things but we don’t control the rest of the world. We think that we are in charge of our bodies, other people are in charge of their bodies, and God is in charge of the universe (or natural laws are in charge, according to NDT).

There are two steps to escape this illusion.

First step is when we see that other people are not as independent as they seem or as they imagine themselves to be. This means that they can be influence, this means their behavior is predictable, this means that God is in control of their lives just as He is in control of the dead matter.

Some would become manipulative once they realize that but as devotees we should see other people bringing us results of our own karma.

At this stage we should already see that there are no NDT’s arguments – there are only impressions on ourselves that we have fully deserved before. We might feel offended, we might feel validated, we might feel agitated, we might feel inspired – all those reactions are ours, they do not depend on arguments themselves nor do they depend on Cosmos presenter.

How we feel about the show has nothing to do with the show itself but only with what we deserve to feel due to our karma.

This means we should react to ourselves, not to the show and not to NDT. Whatever the show makes us feel, there’s a Kṛṣṇa conscious response to it as well. If we feel confused – there are books to read or questions to ask. If we feel like the show is misleading the general public – there are people to preach to, and so on.

This is just the first step, however. The second step is to realize that not only the show is following the directions of the karma and thus have no independent existence but that we ourselves do not have independent existence, too.

We can be perfectly content with everyone else being an agent of the illusion but that is false complacency, we should also accept that our own existence is an agent of the same illusion, too. The same force that controls the universe, that controls how other beings affect us, also controls our own existence as we imagine ourselves here.

The reactions in our mind and intelligence in response to the show are not our own, they are fully under control of the same karma and the same material nature that produces it. When we think we can choose how to respond – it’s an illusion.

We will respond according to our previous experience and knowledge and according to the situation. Our intelligence will reach into its bank of memories and our mind will express predictable desires – retaliate, defend, praise, compromise, agree, disagree.

The only difference we can make is to behave as devotees of the Lord. If we have that attitude of service then it doesn’t matter how our mind and body responds, it will all be beautiful and purifying.

So, before thinking HOW to respond to this show we should surrender ourselves to the Lord and let Lord’s agent, the material nature, take over and do whatever it thinks is necessary. Our job is to be Kṛṣṇa’s servants and do not try to control the world around us, nor try to control our own bodies.

That’s a very important point that needs further elucidation but I’m not ready for it yet.

Second misapprehension I wanted to discuss today is completely unrelated, it’s about that dreaded Female Guru issue.

One big (and some say the only) driving force behind this issue is women’s desire for equality. I will talk about it from this angle, discarding all other considerations for the moment.

Modern civilization has gone a very long way towards “liberating” women from their traditional position of being their husbands’ servants. We might not like but this is the reality we can’t change even in our own society.

Some of our female devotees might aspire for traditional Vedic roles but clearly not all of them do, to say the least. They argue, quite rightfully, that men fail at their duties, cannot offer protection, cannot even offer proper maintenance, so there’s no other way for women but to take charge of their own lives themselves.

Women need to have jobs and their own income even if they contribute it all to the family pool, these days everyone has to work. With jobs come interests and careers. We cannot deny this to women, too. Many of them are very skillful and powerful and we can’t demand that they stay at home and do the dishes, it’s just not happening.

It’s completely natural and we should not try to stop it but rather engage these propensities in the correct way. So, why do I object to women being gurus then? By gurus I mean traveling preachers who lead many disciples and control many projects, I’m not talking about initiations just yet.

The answer is surprisingly simple – women might have become powerful and capable but it doesn’t mean these capabilities are conducive to spiritual realization.

We can say – look at this woman, she can do a very big and important job, just let her.

This proposal, however, sneakily imposes a value on power and capacity that is just not there. For Kṛṣṇa it doesn’t matter – big or small. It only matters to someone in the material consciousness where bigger is better. As devotees we should be indifferent.

Will being a boss of a large corporation be of any value to the Lord? No. It will impress us, sure, but from the point of view of devotion it has no use whatsoever.

So, when women argue for getting more rights because they can do bigger things it sounds like a reasonable demand only to those caught in the material illusion. As devotees we should not allow ourselves to undermine our principles so easily. If people want to do bigger things it means they want to be in bigger illusion, they want to be bigger controllers. Why should we encourage them? Why should we support such aspirations? They are fundamentally undevotional.

Now, if women devotees have other, legitimate reasons that’s fine, today I only wanted to talk about this little incorrect assumption – that doing bigger things is unquestionably better.

Not only we should see through this ourselves but we should also help women be aware of this false assumption. We all know they want to do things, big things, important things, and I doubt we can ever stop them but it does not automatically mean that it will make them into better devotees.

There’s a lot more that can be discussed after realizing this point but let’s take it one step at a time.

Vanity thought #857. Dīkṣā-kāle

Yesterday I proposed that the entire world and specifically our bodies are the property of the Lord and if we see them this way we will see them as full of transcendental bliss. Paramahamsas never see anything in this world as separate from Krishna, they see His personal form everywhere they look, so they can derive transcendental bliss from everything, matter or spirit, without differentiation.

We are not paramahamsas, though, we can’t imitate this vision and even if we accept it theoretically it won’t make much practical difference in our lives. Well, one good thing is that we’ll stop criticizing others, knowing that everyone is Krishna’s dear servant, as far as the rest of our lives goes, it would make no difference.

Lord Chaitanya Himself didn’t demand this level of realization when He talked to Sanatana Goswami about this. He restricted transcendental bliss only to the bodies of His devotees, He didn’t say anything about non-devotees and how they smell to the Lord. This would be a good start for us, too, we should learn to treat devotees as Krishna’s dearmost associates first, the rest of the world can wait.

This is also a duty of madhyama adhikaris – to differentiate between devotees and non-devotees. We can either aspire to this level or we have to make sure we don’t lose this attitude, even if theoretically.

Important point here, mentioned by Lord Chaitanya, is exactly when a person becomes His dependent and when the Lord accepts someone else’s body as His own property – dīkṣā-kāle, at the moment of initiation (CC Antya 4.192).

    At the time of initiation, when a devotee fully surrenders unto the service of the Lord, Kṛṣṇa accepts him to be as good as Himself.

This is clearly not a stage of perfection yet, meaning that we have to treat all initiated devotees as being as good as Krishna Himself. We can’t allow ourselves to treat them as anything less just because they appear as not very advanced. From the moment of initiation, no excuses.

This dīkṣā-kāle moment is also important for our debates about female diksha gurus or any other variation of guru debate. What constitutes dīkṣā? Is it the first initiation? The second, as per Gaudiya Math? Is it acceptace of a Holy Name you’ve heard from a devotee on the street? Is it the moment you surrender yourself to Krishna after reading Prabhupada’s books? What role does a guru play in all this? Does a guru have to be physically present?

This last part might sound like an opening for ritvikism but actually it isn’t. We don’t deny that ritviks are devotees, we don’t deny that they are under Krishna’s protection, we cannot treat them as non-devotees, our differences are a lot more subtle than that, unless it denigrates to court battles and calling police on each other.

Perhaps our expectations from a guru are higher than what is required to become accepted by Krishna. Of course one has to be accepted by other devotee first, and if Krishna takes charge of your life than that devotee is your dīkṣā guru in the sense that Lord Chaitanya meant it in this verse. Perhaps our FDG proponents want more than that and for them giving dīkṣā means chanting on beads, giving a name, and getting your initials attached after disciple’s name on COM.

I’m sure they are not that shallow but from the look of their political demands this is exactly what they want. Would they be satisfied with Krishna accepting a devotee seeking their shelter as good as Himself? Why is that sometimes they look like they want official recognition that they have performed this function from the rest of ISKCON, too?

To be accepted by Krishna one simply has to surrender to His representative. That can happen in a split second decision right there on the street. Boom, you’ve got dīkṣā.

There was an episode like this with Srila Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji when a devotee went to Mayapur, got mercy from Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, and then asked Srila Gaurakishora for initiation. “You are living in the dhama, you got mercy of a vaishnava, what more do ou need?” asked Srila Gaurakishora, “there’s not need for any extra initiation, Lord Chaitaynya has clearly accepted you as His servant, your life is a success.”

In heated debates about guru qualifications, FDG, rubber stamp gurus, zonal acharya system, ritvikism and what not we often forget this simple point – surrender to the Lord, accept mercy of a devotee, and that’s it, you’ve got dīkṣā, from now on just practice chanting the Holy Name and associate with devotees.

Krishna will never ever abandon you, your body is His now, it’s full of transcendental bliss even if you personally don’t feel it yet. Krishna does, He is very happy about every little thing His devotees do for Him and He overlooks all their faults, save for aparadhas. Maybe you get a new name and beads, maybe you don’t, that is external, good when it’s there but it’s only a matter of time before you are formally inducted into ISKCON family, or maybe a matter of another lifetime, but as far as Krishna is concerned – you are already taken.

When Sanatana Goswami planned to commit a suicide Mahaprabhu jokingly condemned Him: “Look at this man, Haridas, He surrendered his body and his soul to me but now he wants to destroy my property! Where are his manners!”

Perhaps we should take these words seriously – we should always remember that our bodies are not ours anymore, we just rent them from Lord Chaitanya. He enjoys them when they are put into His service, we are there only to maintain them, change oil, wash and clean and so on.

When our bodies ARE engaged in service it gives transcendental pleasure to the Lord regardless of whether we feel it ourselves or not.

Or, perhaps, we should pause and ask ourselves – have I ever surrendered? All the ceremonies were nice, but have I surrendered my heart? Without it I might have a name and recognition in the society but not from Krishna, so it’s all useless.

This dīkṣā-kāle moment is very very important, it’s no like any other moment in our lives.

Vanity thought #846. Politics

I was doing my weekly check of news on Sampradaya Sun and was very surprised to see that one of my posts appeared there. This is totally unexpected and I need to clear my head about this if I want to take any particular steps.

I don’t mind anyone reposting my content elsewhere but a little heads up would be nice. If SS editors informed me about their interest I would have re-edited that post specifically for their site, which would have been a better solution for everybody involved.

That’s for the niceties.

Now, this is what I don’t like about it.

It’s an old FDG post, more than half a year old, and it dealt with the situation as it was then, on the eve of annual GBC meetings. The news cycle has moved on, we are on the crest of the next FDG wave, and so that old post does not adequately describes neither the present situation nor how I feel about it.

Back then I had no pro-FDG arguments to consider, I was fully behind GBC policy that was expressed in the Shastric Advisory Committee paper and I thought there was nothing more to add to the debate so I washed my hands off the entire affair.

Not much changed since then, no new arguments have been presented, yet there appears to be one unresolved issue – SAC paper concludes that Prabhupada’s statement in SB 4.12.32 that Dhruva Maharaja’s mother, being a woman, couldn’t become his guru is relevant only to a specific case in a very distant history and so should be given less weight than Prabhupada’s statements expressed in letters and conversations.

This is the first time that Prabhupada’s purports were denied superiority over all other forms of his legacy. Letters to devotees are understandably important when we seek clarification over various issues but why should we take his conversation with non-devotees, like Professor O’Connell and his wife, where he famously stated that “if the woman understands Kṛṣṇa consciousness perfectly, she can become guru”, to be more important pranama than purports to his books?

There’s also nothing in that Suniti sentence that would suggest it’s inapplicable to our age and our understanding what guru and initiation means, especially if we consider the preceding sentence:

According to śāstric injunctions, there is no difference between śikṣā-guru and dīkṣā-guru, and generally the śikṣā-guru later on becomes the dīkṣā-guru. Sunīti, however, being a woman, and specifically his mother, could not become Dhruva Mahārāja’s dīkṣā-guru. Still, he was not less obliged to Sunīti.

I don’t think it’s warrants following SAC interpretation:

Additionally, the vaidika system was operating during the Satya-yuga. Under that system, women did not generally receive initiation. Therefore, logically, they also could not give it. Under the more recent pancaratrika system, however, qualified women can accept and offer initiation.

This doesn’t mean that I no longer accept SAC conclusions, this is just a little point that I, personally, don’t find very convincing. Despite what the paper says on paper they’ve given a lot of weight to Suniti sentence and in the end came to the balanced conclusion.

Still, this is a new point that I didn’t notice back in February, I think it deserves consideration and so there IS something to discuss about FDG rather than politics.

However, it’s the politics that is the biggest turn off for me in the whole affair.

I still stand by my conclusion that our discussion of the issue is driven by politics and truth doesn’t matter as much as who talks louder and longer. The WDG book is being promoted again, even more aggressively than before and without giving any credit to the earlier criticism. If we were dealing with karmi politics I’d call it a shameless propaganda but I still don’t know what drives the team behind that book so I’ll reserve judgment for now. Still, I don’t want any part in this.

Politics is necessary for governance but I’d rather leave politicians to deal with each other.

I thought this reluctance to step into political battles was clear from my old post by SS editors either completely missed it or wanted to use it for their own political ends.

Why would they post my article as if I myself submitted it to them? As things stand now I won’t be volunteering any material to Sampradaya Sun. It’s on the list of my sites to avoid and in these past few days they published a couple of bizarre attacks on senior devotees. I don’t want my name anywhere near that offensive material.

I don’t remember if I said it here but I think HH Bhakti Vikasa Swami did us all a bit of a disservice by publishing some of his articles on SS. Even though I fully agree with his arguments and disagree with not giving him platform on legitimate ISKCON sites, this gave Sampradaya Sun an air of legitimacy that it doesn’t deserve. This is what made me to follow it, too, looking for legitimate material that couldn’t get past moderators elsewhere. Sometimes I find such material but it also leaves me exposed to an unacceptable amount of vaishnava aparadha, the reason I was avoiding SS in the first place.

In my post that they copied there I was complaining about another such site and for exactly the same reasons but SS editors either didn’t notice it or thought that if it wasn’t them than it’s okay. No, it isn’t, I wouldn’t volunteer to contribute to that site and I wouldn’t volunteer to contribute to SS, there’s no difference.

Another problem, and a major one, is that my original post isn’t dated on SS, or rather it’s dated Nov 29, which is not true. As such it appears as some kind of news, as my reaction to the present situation, but it most certainly isn’t. As I said, if they asked me to write for them I would have re-edited it to suit the current situation, simply reusing the old post and presenting it as something new is just not kosher.

It has politics written all over it, and this is precisely what I wanted to avoid when I was writing it.

What to do now? I don’t know, I might send an email to SS team explaining my position but I don’t know what to ask of them. Maybe a little disclaimer that the original article was about events of six months ago but I don’t know whether it would change anything.

Maybe one day someone would point to this SS article as an example of me collaborating with ISKCON critics but is protecting my so-called reputation that important? Do I want to maintain reputation in the political circles? Should I care about being unfairly condemned of collaboration with ISKCON detractors? I don’t know, I don’t want to be robbed of devotees mercy because of SS editors actions either.

Maybe I should ask for the disclaimer after all.

Vanity thought #560. Giving up on FDG

Recent developments in FDG debate have been very disappointing for me. To the point of giving up on the whole issue altogether – that is I don’t think there’s any merit in it and it only promotes selfish, materialistic aspirations in the guise of service.

What I mean to say is that my storage of benefit of doubt has run dry – I won’t give any to FDG proponents anymore.

There are several reasons for my decision, I can’t be bothered to rank them in order of importance or on the timeline.

So, here’s the list of things I find unacceptable in arguing pro-FDG side:

FDG opponents are openly called misogynistic male Taleban or worse. Proponents do not register that these attitudes do not come from studying Taleban literature but from reading Prabhupada’s books. Devotees who stick to our books and traditions exposed therein are being verbally abused. End of debate for me.

Devotees arguing anti-FDG side are publicly being called ignorant simply because they do not agree to the pro-FDG interpretations of shastric statements.

One well-established devotee website heavily moderates anti-FDG contributions. There could be no mention of feminism in discussing sources of pro-FDG position but comparing anti-FDG to Taleban is accepted.

Another long standing devotee site doesn’t apparently moderate its comments section but pro-FDG views there are interweaved with worst examples of vaishnava aparadha and FDG proponents treat these contributions as perfectly normal and acceptable, reply and comment on them and keep them as part of their overall presentation.

The books and papers arguing pro-FDG stance have shown alarming lack of reason and consistency, cherry picking quotes and arguments, twisting meanings, misrepresenting opinions and excessively relying on emotionally charged labels. At one point they even imply that BBT has corrupted Prabhupada’s original meaning, in another place they argue that Prabhupada’s purports give a snapshot of the ancient world and so are not applicable to our age.

The volume of pro-FDG papers is increasingly expanding while it all stems from only one or two quotes from Prabhupada’s letters and conversations. The debate has become about who speaks louder and longer. It’s not particularly difficult to answer all presented pro-FDG arguments but it would require an inordinate amount of time and effort. Some devotees have taken the challenge but this can’t continue forever.

Despite the piles of paper and bandwidth spent on pro-FDG argument, we are still in the dark about FDG motives – why do they want to give dikshas, why they are not content with being siksha gurus, or how would they conduct their new guru duties? Will they speak with male disciples through the curtain, for example? Will they act like travelling sannyasi gurus? Also, the debate is not about exceptional qualifications of proposed candidates, nor about practicality of it, but about normalcy of FDG itself.

Practically nothing is being said about effects of introducing FDG on our preaching efforts and whatever is said is downplaying possible dangers while extolling possible benefits. I think this should be the most important consideration in the whole debate but it’s being avoided.

Apparently there will be a name proposed for GBC vote this year but it’s all shrouded in secrecy and FDG proponents choose to talk about anything else. I perceive this as disingenuous, it’s like they are sneaking a different agenda from that presented to the public. It’s like all the arguments are presented only so that they can sneak a foot in the door. I’ve seen enough such trickery in local politics – once the objective is achieved there will be a whole new set of proposals and ideas to deal with while the original debate will be all but forgotten. In politics it’s about victory at all costs and I sense the same is happening with FDG issue, too.

Lastly, if FDG was indeed what Krishna wanted there wouldn’t be so much controversy about it and there would be no need to insult devotees who remain cautious about introducing these changes.

Vanity tought #522. Turn for the worse

The Femade Diksha Guru discussion is heating up and while in itself it’s nothing unusual I think it has got to the level where one should really start paying attention to what one says.

Now we got to the point where moderating posts have become very visible and people reply to each other on different sites to make sure their voices reach the Internet. Actually, it has been a norm to maintain dialogue across several vaishnava sites but to the wide internet audience it would appear strange.

It had probably been the norm a hundred years ago when Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati published refutations of various apa-siddhantas in the number of his own magazines but if people wanted to read the opposing views they had to look elsewhere. Since then print media realized that it’s more profitable to host all sides of an argument under the single roof and with the advent of the internet and a victory of “freedom of speech” people have discounted media that doesn’t provide space for the opposition as sectarian and propagandist.

Since we, ISKCON, ARE sectarian and propagandist by nature it’s perfectly normal for us to prohibit presentations of non-vaishnava views in our media but when it comes to in-house debate it has happened only in cases of severe internal splits like ritvik or jiva falldown issues.

In those cases we have an official GBC position and ISKCON direction has been made clear. In FDG case it’s as clear as mud.

Devotees speaking on the topic are drawn into opposing camps, enemies are defined, and everyone speaks of dire consequences if his views are not upheld.

If FDG side wins we will face ruination in the hands of feminists, if FDG loses we will face ruination in the hands of Taliban male chauvinists – these are the exact labels used to describe the opponents.

Pretty soon people would start distancing themselves from both camps and claim some neutral ground. The problem with this “solution” is that we should take the side of Srila Prabhupada regardless of where it’s located, not the side that draws less criticism and is safer for our egos.

So, the current situation is getting pretty bad as it is but as long as debate is restricted to people with too much time on their hands it can be dismissed as inconsequential. Since New Year, however, some heavy weights have joined the fight and they did so in attacking mode.

Recently one of the potential candidates for FDG made her voice heard and it came across as even more emotionally charged as usual: “In the society envisioned by the author of this article we would not be able to read this…”

If it was buried somewhere in the middle of a long post it could have been dismissed as being taken out of context but that was pretty much the entire message, nothing else.

If it was a political discussion it would be a clear case of scaremongering but we can’t afford to treat senior vaisnavis as typical politicians even if they apparently behave like ones.

Srila Jiva Goswami was banished from Vrindavana for daring to argue with his guru’s friend and if not for Sanatana Goswami’s last minute intervention he would have actually left. We should always remember that episode before we contemplate contradicting our superiors.

We can’t just take on Srila Prabhupada’s disciples no matter how mistaken their position appears to be. It’s not in our purview, conflicts between senior devotees should be left to the seniors.

That is the problem with online forums – it’s very easy to forgo the usual etiquette and speak your mind. I wonder if anyone takes the bait or if moderators quickly put a lid on this. Vaishnava aparadhas in this case are not in saying offensive things, they are in treating senior devotees as equal opponents.

Ironically, this whole debate centers on the principle of equality.

Having said that, we all have our opinions, even if unspoken ones. Personally I think we can’t afford to split our society no matter how righteous the reason appears to be. I don’t think anyone would actually leave ISKCON over FDG like people did with ritviks and java falldown but there would certainly be less blessings for moving FDG forward. I don’t think it would be wise to bulldoze it through and ignore all objections. There would be questions about humility and motivations.

Even in non-devotee organizations often there’s a rule that one could be indicted only if no one else objects – from golf clubs to WTO. In the worst case scenario – is it really worth getting some new gurus at the expense of losing old ones? And what would it do to disciples if their guru considers FDG as an artificial imposition on our sampradaya?

There’s another aspect of this debate that has been bothering me – so far none of the FDG aspirants has come forward with sincere declaration of why they want to confer dikshas and how they will carry on their new service if they get approved. Will they be traveling like male sannyasis? What would be their exposure to male members of our society who are supposed to avoid any female association unless absolutely necessary? Would there be free mixing of the sexes?

Afaik Jahnava Mata talked to male disciples from behind the curtain so if one wants to cite her as an example of FDG in our samrpadaya then why not follow that particular rule, too?

More importantly, I guess everyone wants to see whether FDG aspirants are really influenced by feminism or not since that is the main argument of the anti-FDG side.

I’m afraid that the issue is a much broader, though. I’m afraid that FDG is only one aspect of a much bigger agenda of reshaping our society in line with modern values of equality and so it’s only the first battle in a long long war.

Everyone should prepare a bunker and stock it with Srila Prabhupada’s books to survive this nuclear winter. I’m being overly dramatic, of course.

Vanity thought #490. The diksha issue

One aspect of FDG controversy that has escaped scrutiny so far is the difference between diksha and siksha gurus. A few years ago there was a GBC paper settling this matter once and for all but I think it needs to be revisited in the light of upcoming FDG aspirants.

ISKCON detractors who ran further than Gaudiya Math ended up with the idea that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati wasn’t properly initiated by Srila Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji. There cite various arguments in their support but in short it’s based on following – Srila Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji didn’t give Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati proper mantras, didn’t give him proper tilaka, didn’t give him the disciplic succession, didn’t perform the proper ritual, didn’t have a brahmanical thread himself so he couldn’t give brahmanical initiation to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, didn’t have sannyasa so couldn’t give sannyasa initiation and so on. Also that if Srila Bhaktisiddhanta was qualified he would have been given initiation by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur, just like his brother Lalita Prasad.

It all sounds pretty convincing and is perhaps correct, but these accusations presuppose that all those things need to be present in order for initiation to take place.

Here’s a little anecdote how initiations were handled in those times.

There was a young man by the name of Jagadisha who met Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and decided to take shelter of his lotus feet. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta recommended him to ask Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s permission to take initiation from Srila Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji. Srila Gaurakishora replied that Mayapur is a place of atma-nivedana, self-surrender, and that Jagadisha had already surrendered to Srila Bhaktivinoda, so what other shelter of a guru did he need?

A couple of days later Jagadisha, his bother and his friend received kama gayatri and kama bija mantras from Srila Bhaktivinoda. When Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji heard about it he was very pleased. Both him and Srila Bhaktivinoda advised Jagadishna to learn devotional service from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta.

Sometime later that year Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura ordered Srila Bhaktisiddhanta to give Jagadisha and his friends Brahma-gayatri, guru-mantra, guru-gayatri, Gaura-mantra, Gauranga-gayatri, and brahmaṇas’ threads, which he did.

After disappearance of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji Jagadisha also received sannyasa initiation from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, the very first sannyasi disciple in Gaudiya Math, Srila Bhakti Pradipa Maharaj. It was actually Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji who predicted Jagadishna taking sannyasa during their very first meeting, at a time when there was no sannyasis in Gaudiya Vaishnavism whatsoever.

It’s the stories like this that should form our background knowledge of initiation practices in Gaudiya vaishnavism, especially because it has undisputed acharyas and renunciates like Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji. This would be a better answer to ISKCON detractors than trying to disassemble their arguments point by point.

As far as FDGs are concerned – it’s not clear where exactly they want to insert themselves. The mantras that are given in ISKCON now are not exactly the same mantras that were given by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati a hundred years ago. Our current “diksha” and “second initiation” are not exactly equivalent to old practices either.

What do they want to do? Serve as a link to parampara? That doesn’t require an official guru status. Do they want to hand out brahmanical threads? That would be most bizarre. Do they want to give brahma gayatri? Why exactly? What’s so special about the ability to give brahma gayatri? Do they want to impart divine knowledge – they are already doing it as GBC itself calls them siksha gurus. It seems they are more concerned with the ability to perform some rituals rather than with the main duty of guruship – impart transcendental knowledge into people’s hearts.

When we look at the story of Jagadisha’s initiation it appears that acharyas of that time weren’t particularly concerned about rituals but more about the substance of surrender. The rituals of Gaydiya Matha initiations were made by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta himself, drawing on many many sources and not exactly following his father’s practices.

At one time Srila Bhaktisiddhanta even gave a lecture to his disciples that harinama initiation is more exalted than diksha, saying that diksha is given to people who don’t believe in the strength of harinama.

It’s not like we are getting some special mantra by which we can approach Krishna Himself, like Gopa Kumara of Brihad Bhavatamrita. Those mantras might be very very important and it’s the only way to eventually reach Krishna but let’s be practical – none of us will ever be given them in this lifetime, yet we all have a chance to re-unite with Krishna at the end of our lives.

Getting these mantras is not the matter of life and death, properly chanting Hare Krishna is. And conversely – if we don’t properly chant Hare Krishna no other mantras would ever help us, except Panca Tattva mantra, of course (introduced by Jagannatha Dasa Babaji, a rather late addition to our arsenal).

So, let’s not lose sight of what’s really important and search for spiritual riches elsewhere when we already have more than we will ever need.