Bhakti-lata vs “ISKCON” bija
Real initiation in the devotional line means to receive the bhakti-lata-bija. The issue of the transference of the bhakti-lata bija is a very subtle topic. While Srila Prabhupada was manifest, all devotees who received initiation from him had the bhakti-lata bija planted in their heart of hearts. That does not, however, mean that all those devotees were completely sheltered from receiving other bijas during that time. For instance, the “ISKCON” bija was infecting the Party Men during the time of Prabhupada’s manifest lila, and, since then, that weed has turned out to be the predominant bija and an ever-growing problem.
The point has been made that getting initiated during the time of Srila Prabhupada’s manifest preaching activities was an easy accomplishment. From one perspective, this argument appears to have teeth, because approximately five-thousand devotees did receive initiation during that eleven-year period. However, recommendations to Prabhupada for initiation almost always came through the medium of various hierarchical authorities: Temple Presidents, GBCs, and sannyasis were the primary persons who made these recommendations. And here is where you need to contemplate and understand a very subtle point.
Even while Prabhupada was with us, the Party Men–in their patented niyamagraha fashion- considered that spiritual advancement was non-different from moving up the latticework of the bureaucratic rungs, i.e., distinction as a Temple President automatically connoted a spiritual advancement superior to all the “inmates” (under his orders) in that temple. Similarly, receiving sannyasa allegedly amounted to automatic recognition of higher spiritual realization. And getting posted to the governing body was more or less considered tantamount to being the most spiritually advanced, the best man amongst all the other initiated devotees.
Time, insight, and experience has shown all of this to be a misconception. Within the temples, devotees who wanted to receive initiation from Srila Prabhupada did not necessarily do so in the context of the same motivation. Since the conduit to receive initiation was the approval of the Temple President (or, in some cases, the sannyasi who headed their party), sucking up to the leader–a kind of profit, adoration, and distinction offering to him-was sometimes employed in order to receive the recommendation more quickly and more easily. Other devotees did not consider the various Temple Presidents to be all that they thought they were, but these devotees still performed their seva-sometimes in severe austerity-under the sanction of their Temple President.
These devotees, despite the fact that they often produced very tangible results, were generally not favored by the Temple President or sannyasi leader as much as the psycophants were, especially if he was already in the process of developing an upadhi (big positions are sometimes created for big egos). In his mind, these other devotees might also become competitors for his position. These devotees had to figuratively crawl on glass in order to finally get recommended for initiation by their assigned leader.
When Srila Prabhupada received a letter requesting initiation for a devotee from a Temple President, he almost always granted the request. Sometimes he did not, however. We can confidently assume that once the initiation ceremony was performed after the request had been granted by Prabhupada, the bhakti-lata-bija was received by the newly-initiated devotee. Even before the formality of initiation, the devotee had received from his guru (Srila Prabhupada) the bija of sraddha (komala-sraddha) and associated with the Sampradya Acharya (sadhu-sanga) on a very regular basis via the seva rendered and the literatures read. This sraddha, although it is soft faith, is still constituted of a firm conviction that the yoga process of bhakti will accomplish completely all the legitimate spiritual aspirations of the sadhaka (that can be attained from any other Vedic process of dharma or yoga).
Once the harer-nama initiation was formally received at the bhajana-kriya stage, the devotee had received the Holy Name in disciplic succession and the bhakti-lata-bija could be very effectively cultivated. When the devotee made further progress on the path–when he began to approach the stage of getting free from anarthas and realizing the Brahman–he received diksa (again, after a letter of recommendation was sent by his authority to Srila Prabhupada). He attained second initiation and the gayatri mantra. This means that he was now recognized as having moved closer to the guru, Srila Prabhupada.
However, the sycophants and fanatic followers allowed a weed to be planted in the garden of their hearts during this time, because of their unauthorized worship (in effect) of the local leader who appeared to control their spiritual destinies. They invariably received the “ISKCON” bija. This weed is a corporate imitator of the bhakti-lata-bija. It eventually works to strangle the real bija, sucking up all the watering process for itself. Srila Prabhupada cannot be blamed; you cannot pin it on the Sampradaya Acharya. The blame goes to the individual who attempted to shortcut the process of initiation by considering it from a material perspective. The blame also is shared by those sannyasis, GBCs, and Temple Presidents who began to look at all the devotees under their charge as persons who could make no progress in the movement without first surrendering to them.
By 1977, the majority of devotees in all the temples, on all the traveling parties, and in all the zones were arguably more absorbed in the personality cult of their local leader than in Srila Prabhupada, who was pretty much relegated to the position of figurehead by that time. It was a travesty. Those devotees who bucked the trend found ever-increasing resistance within the confines of the international confederation; they were often considered crazy.
This “ISKCON” consciousness was hardly apparent in the early and even mid-Seventies. When I preached on the college campuses back then, I never thought of the corporate acronym. I never named my campus initiatives as anything relating to the corporation; I generally called them Bhakti Yoga Clubs. When I gave a platform lecture, I never spoke of the movement in terms of its acronym. I instead preached the philosophy, or talked about a pastime of the Lord, or glorified Srila Prabhupada, or discussed the process and the importance of initiation from the bona fide Spiritual Master, etc. However, very gradually and insidiously, the Party Man consciousness began to seep into the movement, and all real advancement began to only be measured according to its paradigm. This set the stage for the First Transformation.
Side by side with this material development (perversion) was an overemphasis on the commissioners of the governing body. The real nectar was in chanting japa or sankirtan, in book distribution, in Deity worship, in reading the books, in preaching engagements, etc. However, insidiously, another kind of very contaminated consciousness began to enter.
The personalities of the governing body were considered to be like demigods who controlled the movement and deserved all attention, profit, adoration, and distinction. Some devotees never cooperated with this idea, and their path became more and more difficult. So, in order to understand how the movement was being ruined from within, it is necessary to consider what this commission was actually meant to be-and what it actually became.