The so-called appointment of eleven mahabhagavats has led to the institutionalization of guru, setting the stage for further degeneration


PATEL: It is the church, Christian church, which has defaced Christism.

PRABHUPADA: Hare Krishna. Everywhere the followers make the whole thing bungled.

Bombay room conversation 5.1.74

There are many displays of what appear to be forms of Krishna consciousness. There is the Gaudiya-matha, the neo-Gaudiya-matha, and there are various wildcards (so-called uttama-adhikaris) etc. There are a number of international corporations, temples, cadres of "initiated" disciples, "diksa" gurus, and a tremendous amount of propaganda pushed by all of these groups. Most of the propaganda (of any specific group or sect) works at cross-purposes with the preaching of the other cults.

Despite or because of this (in the minds of an ever-growing number of devotees), Srila Prabhupada's version of Krishna consciousness now practically exists in name only. Nevertheless, we are only concerned about his variety of the Hare Krishna movement. As far as Prabhupada's legacy is concerned, the predominant groups engaged in campus politics are two: corporate ISKCON and the rittviks. They are the chief competitors when it comes to control of the remaining assets, public relations charisma, and manpower of his movement. Despite inevitable subdivisions within each of these two factions (and, naturally, the minor philosophical disagreements such subdivisions are prone to engender), there are constructs or proposed siddhantas which are accepted by all within each group. These are the fulcrum points upon which each polarity hinges its justification and seeks momentum for spreading its influence. This treatise will carefully look at these chief fulcrum points, but it will not be written for the purpose of satisfying intellectuals who require painstaking adherence to Western literary conventions before they will accept anything. Similarly, this paper will seek the blessings of parampara and paramatma not by offering some flowery preface or wordy invocation. Those are nice, of course, but this article will only help devotees who are eligible for such help, who are receptive to its clarity. Most of those prabhus would be turned off by having to wade through lengthy invocations and the like. Digging through this complex topic is cumbersome enough. As such, let's proceed straight to the preaching.

Confirmation of one thesis results in the logical exclusion of all others that oppose and contradict it. This exclusion creates spiritual ramifications and repercussions, and these force dynamic changes in intelligence. When the logic and authority is bona fide, those changes are evolutionary. When something is both sastric and confirmed logically, it automatically shatters and constrains anything previously covered it.

Based in no small measure upon deductions rooted in Prabhupada's teachings, this document will work to concentrate the mind. The big lies will be broken down. Once you are awakened from their intoxicating influence, the dismantling of the bogus philosophies underpinning them will inexorably proceed via the domino effect. The psychic shackles will fall off, and you will experience a natural freedom of mind and intelligence conducive to the development of genuine Krishna consciousness.


". . . it is not at all desirable that there be any factions amongst yourselves. Try to settle up amicably and correct yourself."

Letter (74-9-77/Sept. 29, 1974)

In the early spring of 1978, eleven influential men, all leading secretaries in the ISKCON movement for many years, declared that they were taking up the duties of initiating newcomers to the Hare Krishna movement. They divided the world into eleven zones, with each zone becoming de facto a personal fiefdom for each of these diksa gurus. They adopted various "pada" names, in clear imitation of Srila Prabhupada. They arranged to have opulent worship of themselves performed in each temple within their zones.

This worship was supposed to be done not only by newcomers, but it was also mandated for godbrothers. A huge "vyasasan" for each of these "zonal acharyas" was erected--sometimes the size of a gadi was practically at the same level as Prabhupada's vyasasan. These "new gurus" claimed that they had been appointed to the post of spiritual master by Prabhupada himself, and, therefore, required worship just as opulent as His Divine Grace--in order to "keep the faith" of the newly-initiated people.

Some of Prabhupada's disciples bought it, but many did not. By artificially elevating themselves to a level practically equal (or just a little bit below) Prabhupada, the eleven "new gurus" immediately generated malefic repercussions. The devotees who saw this felt deeply pained: Prabhupada's glories were, in effect, being brought down and stolen away. These devotees felt disgusted about the makeshow, and, in their legitimate distaste, a polarization was created.

Such binaries are an inevitable result, especially when the unauthorized implementation of Krishna consciousness is incorporated on an international scale. The showbottle imitation of an uttama-adhikari (who was also a saktyvesh-avatar and the sampradaya-acharya) will always produce radical imbalance. The real basis of Prabhupada's movement--his books, his teachings, his unadulterated authority--became quickly and totally clouded and compromised when newcomers began to falsely glorify eleven pretenders as their personal saviors.

Prabhupada's disciples, despite their disgust, were unable to forge any kind of unity. Their side of the binary was easily deprecated--they were labeled as nothing more than envious malcontents. However, the zonal acharyas also intuited the need to crush that opposition in its very inception. In order to accomplish that, "results" were seen as the ticket: big numbers of followers ("initiated disciples"), big seats, big worship, big book distribution (in the first few months), big propaganda. It was apparently a fantastic arrangement:

"Bamba-rambhe laghu-kriya, in the sanskrit word, that you can make a very high-grade arrangement, but the result is zero. So, that hierarchical arrangement is not exactly in Krishna consciousness."

Interview in Seattle 9-4-76

"Results" gained some short-term respite but could only hold sway for just so long. The foundation of the corporate ISKCON showbottle was rooted in deception and cheating (to be sure, with no small amount of vaishnavaparadha and gurvaparadha thrown in for spice). With the absolute philosophy and its warped implementation perforated by cheating right from the gate, a devastating syndrome locked in: more cheating to fix the previous level of (eventually exposed) cheating. The corporate ISKCON thesis did battle with various factions representing an ever-reacting antithesis. Each succeeding synthesis was still surcharged with compromise, producing an underlying new seed for further justified opposition. The binary was perpetuated.

Pukka saffron outfits, powerful profiles, profit, adoration, and distinction do not necessarily make for a pure demonstration of the potency of Krishna consciousness:

"When the nirapeksa-sadhaka, or renunciate, becomes deceitful, he considers himself to be a very advanced devotee. He exploits his dress and order, looking down at the status of other devotees. He thus collects wealth and objects of wealth far in excess of the basic requirements."

MANAH SIKSA (Raghunath das Gosvami), verse six

It should always be remembered, however, that the polarization was based upon two things: 1) the so-called appointment, and 2) the institutional and personal charisma created for these men due to their connection with Srila Prabhupada. In so many ways, they had toyed with various deviations previous to Prabhupada's disappearance. As a result, many of Prabhupada's disciples had already been cracked into party men. They would become henchmen for the upcoming factionalism.

Virtually all of the first eleven "spiritual masters" (as well as those devotees who comprised the subsequent waves of appointments, elections, no-three-blackballs, and no objection certifications) were there near the beginning of his movement. Prabhupada showered his gratitude by, in part, bestowing upon them positions of prominence. Accordingly, other disciples who had not previously knuckled under to some influential president, sannyasi, or commissioner, privately asked themselves this question after Prabhupada's departure: "What are they going to do now?" That question was justly raised.

 "This is the difficulty, that, as soon as one gets power, he becomes whimsical and spoils everything. What can I do?"

Letter (74-9-38/Sept. 12, 1974)

The world is full of clashing dualities, and the Bhagavad-gita instructs us to, somehow or other, tolerate them. The backlash against the initial corporate ISKCON pretense has now taken the form of the rittvik movement. These binaries currently struggle within the milieu of a very weakened--and almost emaciated--Krishna conscious environment. As such, the rittvik movement is on the ascendant and may eventually dictate the terms of the next synthesis.

That will neither be in the interest of corporate ISKCON nor in the interest of Prabhupada's remaining devotees who, in their wisdom, hesitate to join either camp. There was no need for factions, but factions became inevitable once the eleven staked their claim to mahabhagavat and flexed their considerable muscle in order to make it so. Tolerating this most recent polarization is undoubtedly difficulty. Understandably, devotees are responding to the situation in different ways. We can empathize with all of them. Some take various authorized actions, with the result that a few lucky newcomers are saved from the blazing fire of a house divided against itself. All disciples of His Divine Grace should maintain at least some semblance of a philosophical perspective as this transcendental melodrama plays out:

"One should see that, because of the meeting of material nature and the living entity, the universe is acting uniformly."

Cc. Antya 8.78, purport

False ego is trying to gain control over Krishna consciousness. This is not possible. It is possible to cover Krishna consciousness in the name of spreading it, however. If we simply "leave it up to Krishna," He will simply leave it up to his maya. She will go on to arrange endlessly mutable warpings which will be even more devolutionary (although that today seems practically impossible, as bad as things have gotten).

We have to try to correctly understand the causes of these polarized effects. At the same time, we cannot forget that we are vibhinnamsa, not svamsa. The Supreme Lord remains in control, and so many false egos still require rectification.

Eleven such egos put the "I" in polar-I-zation two decades ago, and many others have joined them in their efforts. As such, the karmic and devotional ramifications are most complex. The latest binary cannot be terminated easily, but it will never be terminated in any of our lifetimes if we lose faith in the All-Good Absolute:

"The subtle and gross cosmic manifestation is material, but nevertheless it is non-different from the Supreme Personality of Godhead, because He is ultimately the cause of all causes. Cause and effect are factually one, because the cause is present in the effect."

Srimad Bhagavatam 6.8.31, verse


"Do not try to innovate or create anything or manufacture anything. That will ruin everything."

Letter (9-27-72/Sept. 18, 1972)

Chanting the Holy Name, absorbing yourself in Srila Prabhupada's books, glorifying His Divine Grace . . . all of these activities make perfect sense. They are all fully authorized. Being absorbed in and chanting about the so-called glories of the Governing Body Commission does not. The question is not whether this GBC always acts as the agent of the disciplic succession; the real question is whether or not this GBC is even connected anymore with the parampara. Here's what this entity known as the GBC gave us on March 19, 1978:

 "16. The GBC will consider each year at Gour Poornima the appointment of new spiritual masters to be approved by a . . . vote. However, for 1978, no new spiritual masters shall be appointed other than the eleven selected by Srila Prabhupada." (emphases added)

This appointment doctrine has been further explained and rationalized in a recent paper entitled ON MY ORDER. The rider for that treatise shows it to be authorized as "An Official ISKCON GBC Paper." Here, along with another affiliated commentary, is how it explains the so-called appointment:

"When Srila Prabhupada was asked who would be initiating after his physical departure, he stated he would 'recommend' and give his 'order' to some of his disciples who would initiate on his behalf during his lifetime and afterwards as 'regular gurus' whose disciples would be Srila Prabhupada's grand-disciples. . . Subsequently, Srila Prabhupada named some disciples to initiate on his behalf, as he had previously stated. Although Srila Prabhupada did not repeat his earlier statements, it was understood that he expected these disciples to initiate in the future. . . Srila Prabhupada's repeated use of the phrase 'on my order' makes it abundantly clear that those who would be 'selected' were simply to strictly carry out His Divine Grace's 'order,' and, as long as they did so, they would be bona fide spiritual masters. . . Srila Prabhupada's use of the words like 'appoint', 'recommend' or 'select' was . . . a conditional mandate dependent on the follower's 'strictly following' the 'order' of the spiritual master."

On My Order (emphases added)

 ". . . on May 28th, 1977, Srila Prabhupada ordered his disciples to become initiating spiritual masters."

Disciple of My Disciple (emphasis added) 

This whole topic is taken up in greater detail in our document entitled The Proof of One Tooth. We will not repeat every point and argument presented there. Intelligence in the service of the Lord (buddhi-yoga) provokes legitimate doubt concerning the validity of the above-mentioned quotations. Especially, in the first citation, notice the fudge-clause "it was understood." Was it?

Recently, one of the original eleven mahabhagavats posted an article on the INTERNET wherein he interprets the appointment he received in 1977 to be a rittvik-for-posterity appointment. According to this way of thought, Prabhupada appointed eleven men to initiate the rittvik dispensation--so this devotee says now. He didn't actually believe that when he received a letter authorized by Prabhupada in the second half of 1977 appointing him as a rittvik. Instead, this former GBC fully backed both the above-mentioned 1978 GBC doctrine (point 16), as well as the explanation for it quoted above. 

The appointment is herein termed "a conditional mandate". A conditional mandate would only be appropriate for conditioned souls.

Any way you cut it, this "appointment" could not have been an appointment to the post of God-realized soul. But that's what the eleven in effect said that it was. They assumed the dress and position of a God-realized acharya, and their own lectures on the scriptures encouraged all followers and temple inmates to accept them as such. By the sheer audacity of their carrying out this "mandate", they stamped their actual devotional status for all to see: KANISTHA.

 "The GBC does not look after spiritual life. That is the defect. All of our students will have to become guru, but they are not qualified. That is the difficulty."

Letter (75-11-28/Nov. 10, 1975)

"One who assumes the dress and position of an acharya (and) who speaks against the conclusion of the Srimad Bhagavatam and other scriptures . . . certainly goes to hell for countless lifetimes along with his disciples and whoever else hears such non-devotional talks."

Hari-bhakti-vilasa 1.101

 Where does it say in the Srimad Bhagavatam that a kanistha can be an initiating spiritual master and worshiped as an uttama-adhikari? Anyone who is still entangled in anartha is, by definition, a kanistha. Whether or not such neophytes are entangled in institutional anarthas, associational anarthas, personal anarthas, philosophical anarthas, or vaishnava-aparadha, or gurvaparadha--or all these various divisions of anartha--it doesn't matter. If there is anartha, there can only be a neophyte (or, of course, a sahajiya . . . or even a covert atheist or mayavadi . . . but there's no need in this article to get into any of that). Kanistha cannot be guru. Kanistha must go to the guru, not be the guru.

A bona fide guru can never appoint a kanistha to the post of spiritual master. That is not possible.

The Appointment That Never Was has spawned many adverse repercussions. Recently, it has led to the soft theory that anyone can become guru on the basis of such an appointment being "a general standing order". Prabhupada has certainly ordered all of his disciples to become self-realized, to become fixed in devotional service, to attain complete freedom from anartha. Still, even if that status is attained, one must wait for his specific personal approval, his direct order. Such permission is still required: " . . . but on my order". This idea of the general standing order easily allows neophytes--with no realization of brahman, what to speak of paramatma or bhagavan--to become self-appointed gurus on the basis of their length of time in the movement, speaking ability, influence, connections, etc.

That is not the chief malefic repercussion of the so-called appointment, however. Resurrecting the bogus appointment doctrine has given the rittviks no small degree of further justification. As they punch all kinds of holes into the theory, their alternative gains credibility. They are also able to point out the linkage of that so-called appointment with later concoctions. When devotees read this, it becomes practically impossible not to see the contradictions:

"The notion that Srila Prabhupada actually appointed eleven diksa gurus for after his departure was the identical assumption on which the discredited zonal acarya system was founded. This assumption was challenged in the mid-eighties and replaced . . ."

Hari Sauri's Minutes Turn Back the Clock, page one

Even this, however, is not the chief damage done by The Appointment That Never Was.

That so-called appointment has led to tremendous dis-appointment for thousands of devotees worldwide. The appointment doctrine was one of the taproots leading to the growth of this contemporary weed of perverted devotional service with all of its poisonous fruits. The GBC is responsible for this so-called "conditional mandate". The GBC's actual mandate, however, is different: 

"The GBC has no other function or purpose other than to execute the instructions so kindly given by His Divine Grace and preserve and spread his teachings to the world in their pure form."

Definition of GBC, Resolution 1, 1975 (emphasis added)

GBC is not the authority unless it preserves the teachings of Prabhupada unadulterated. By its own resolution, the franchise is limited in this way. The de facto legitimacy of the franchise is automatically abdicated if it is unable to do so. However, even if the commission (and all of its contributing members) in this way loses its authority, responsibility for its unauthorized doctrines may not be lost:

". . . we have created these GBC, so they should be very responsible men. Otherwise, they will be punished. They will be punished to become a shudra. Although Yamaraj is a GBC, but he made a little mistake. He was punished to become a shudra. So, those who are GBCs, they should be very, very careful to administer the business of ISKCON. Otherwise, they will be punished. As the post is very great, similarly, the punishment is also very great. That is the difficulty."

Lecture 6-4-74

But even the potential for such punishment is not the chief repercussion of the bogus appointment doctrine. The worst repercussion of The Appointment That Never Was is the institutionalization of guru in the Hare Krishna movement.


"Sri Jiva Gosvami advises that one not accept a spiritual master in terms of hereditary or customary social and ecclesiastical conventions."

Cc. Adi 1.35, purport

If a prospective guru is already an "approved guru", how can a prospective disciple examine him to see if surrender can really be made there? This is an unavoidable question for any sincere and serious aspirant of spiritual life who comes into contact with corporate ISKCON. A careful examination of an "approved ISKCON guru" is tantamount to doubting the legitimacy of certified ISKCON laws. We don't necessarily want to stifle such doubt. Nevertheless, since a newcomer is generally coming straight out of demoniac, modern life, it's certainly a bit much to have him have to take on seventy approved gurus and the authority of an international institution simultaneously. The term "approved ISKCON guru" is found in many places in corporate ISKCON law. And the newcomers are told early on that ISKCON is non-different from Srila Prabhupada, who is absolute.

Corporate ISKCON creates this anachronistic situation when it concocts the post of "ISKCON guru". All of these gurus are institutionalized gurus. Interestingly enough, this post is a combination of all four of the kinds of spiritual masters Sri Jiva Gosvami advises us not to accept. Among approved ISKCON gurus, there are:

  • social gurus catering to the social needs of the newcomers;
  • customary gurus passing on the new customs now integral to this culture;
  • hereditary gurus, who have "successfully" followed in the footsteps of previously appointed gurus, and,
  • ecclesiastical gurus, who have climbed the latticework of the bureaucracy. 

The massive legislation enacted to control all of the organization's gurus is virtual proof that they hold little more than institutional power. Even corporate ISKCON's leaders sometimes question this system:

"How do gurus, who are (supposed to be) God's direct representatives. . . fit within an organization functioning through modern rational and legal modes under the direction of committee?" (emphases added)

Cleaning House and Cleaning Hearts, page two

Their answers to such questions are generally not as beneficial as the questions themselves. Despite the anomalies present in this system, the no objection certificate is required today in order to be an approved ISKCON guru:

"Receiving official ISKCON guru approval signifies that the devotee has successfully completed the authorization process set forth in ISKCON law, and that, in the judgement of certain senior devotees, the candidate measures up to the standards and guidelines given in ISKCON law."

ISKCON Law, 2.2

The no objection certificate is more or less a covert appointment by another name. First, there were eleven zonal acharyas, supposedly appointed by Prabhupada. That was later modified to their having been appointed by the GBC, which was authorized to do so by Prabhupada. Then the gurus of the next wave were directly elected to the post (one of the GBCs making it by one vote--and he did vote in that election). Gradually, the post was modified from mahabhagavat to the status of madhyama-adhikari. When the foibles of election were pointed out, anyone could become guru as long as he didn't receive a certain number of vetoes from the GBC (the no-three-blackballs policy). Now that has been traded up (or down, depending upon your perspective) to the intricate formalities of the no objection certificate. In this fix-it-as-you-go mode, each and every one of these arrangements is an institutional scheme.

And all of it was spawned by the original appointment.

While a bewildered newcomer is trying to decide whether or not he is making an offense against Prabhupada (ISKCON) when he examines a prospective guru, there is something else he must also consider: the intermediary to the approved ISKCON guru:

"Before a candidate can receive first initiation, his prospective guru must receive a formal written recommendation from the appropriate ISKCON spiritual authority . . . (t)he recommendation of the recommending ISKCON authority must certify that the candidate has fulfilled the qualifications for initiation to the best of his understanding."


To make this arrangement clear:

  • the diksa guru--the institutionalized guru;
  • the recommending authority--the institutionalized intermediary;
  • the bewildered newcomer--the initiated chela.

ISKCON law asserts that its recognition of a member with the no objection certificate is not meant to "replace the intelligent discrimination" of the candidate. How is that possible? That's another good question. This whole arrangement by corporate ISKCON is a demonstration of the Western way of thinking. It is neither Eastern nor Vedic. Faith is not supposed to be institutionalized in this way. There is guru. There is not "ISKCON guru". The institution is, more and more every passing day, being run like a multi-national corporation. This saps the very vitality from the process, but it really doesn't--because that vitality would have to be there in the first place in order to be sapped.

It gets heavier than this:

"(The approved ISKCON guru) must recognize the GBC as the ultimate managing authority in ISKCON, (and) support the GBC system and follow the GBC."


This, of course, entails that the initiating guru would also have to be implicated in recognizing, supporting, and following the anarthas and falsities legislated by the GBC in order to obtain the opportunity to be guru. That's like saying one has to fast for forty days straight in order to have the opportunity on the forty-first day to engage in power lifting at the Olympics.

None of these institutional guru and initiation concoctions are scriptural; they are man-made. By implementing these kinds of arrangements, corporate ISKCON lays the groundwork for a rittvik takeover, because that insurgency represents the epitome of the institutionalization of initiation. Can any institution spiritually succeed when it improperly represents the Vedic and Vaishnava teachings and processes of sastra? This is another question that should be raised in light of the circumstances surrounding Prabhupada's Krishna conscious movement at the turn of the century.

In conclusion, institutional anarthas smear everyone entangled in or dependent upon the institution. In so doing, the stage of anartha-nivritti cannot be attained. That stage is preliminary to nistha, the bare minimum from which Prabhupada could order one of his initiated disciples to become guru--and actually give initiation.


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Quotes from the books of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada are copyright by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust