Part Two of a Four-Part Series

A Critical Analysis of SPFAI

By Kailäsa Candra däsa

“Çré Jéva Gosvämé advises that one not accept a spiritual master in terms of hereditary or customary social and ecclesiastical conventions. One should simply try to find a genuinely qualified spiritual master for actual advancement in spiritual understanding.”
Caitanya-caritämåta, Ädi, 1.35, purport

“. . . the normative guru-disciple relationship would be perpetuated within the unified institution under the direction of the G.B.C. In such an organization, many gurus would be able to act with concerted force, operating together with other leaders and managers in collegial accord.”
SPFAI, Our Central Challenge (third sub-header)

“When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead,
And the White Knight is talking backwards,
And the Red Queen’s on her head . . .“
Jefferson Airplane, “White Rabbit”

This continuing review is of the latest G.B.C.-sanctioned literary composition by one of its prominent (now former) members. The title of the book being analyzed here is Çréla Prabhupäda Founder-Äcärya of ISKCON (hereinafter referred to as SPFAI). As the saying goes, you can’t always judge a book by its cover–-or, for that matter, by the title on that cover. The gist of this analysis is that the honorific “Founder-Äcärya” (in general) and the phrase “Founder-Äcärya of ISKCON” (in particular) connotes something far more extensive than the reality of the self-evident meaning of that phrase, viz., Çréla Prabhupäda as a Founder-Äcärya.

All emphases added for your edification and realization

The author of SPFAI is Ravindra Svarüpa däsa, hereinafter referred to as RSA. In order to assimilate the message of Part Two, general knowledge of Part One is preferable. We shall now proceed, in some detail, to four more controversial and contentious quotations from the book, all of which were briefly cited in Part One.

A Higher Loyalty?

“ . . . if we are so unfortunate that we do not take the perfect knowledge–if we concoct, speculate, create our own idea–then it is to be understood that we are duräçayaù, hoping for the impossible.”
-Platform lecture, 7-12-75, in Philadelphia

“One central challenge is to integrate the guru-disciple relationship—which carries its own proper demand for deep loyalty and commitment to the person of the guru—within a larger society that demands, in a certain sense, a higher, all-encompassing, loyalty.
SPFAI, Our Central Challenge (third sub-header)

“The mistake you make, don’t you see, is in thinking one can live in a corrupt society without being corrupt oneself. . . One’s got to change the system, or one changes nothing.”
-George Orwell, Keep the Aspidistra Flying

The central challenge of the “ISKCON” G.B.C. may be one thing, but the actual challenge for advancing the cause of pure Kåñëa consciousness is quite another. “Integrating the guru-disciple relationship” amounts to little more than inside baseball terminology peculiar to “ISKCON”. It indirectly references a tempest in a teapot. That controversy serves as a diversion that occludes the real issues, the root issues, the actual challenges related to spreading Kåñëa consciousness.

Deep loyalty, in the Vedic and Vaiñëava traditions of spiritual advancement, is reserved to and for the spiritual master, along with his teachings and/or commentaries on sacred texts. If he chooses to form a movement with some kind of managing arrangement, even if it is run well and according to his directives, it does not receive any kind of deep loyalty from any of his disciples. Instead, it serves him, and it serves them. That it, instead, receives allegiance to itself is a Western, Kali-yuga concoction. We see that corporatist mentality applied to mundane conglomerates almost everywhere, so it should not surprise us that institutional deification has surfaced in the “ISKCON” entity.

We need to better understand this misconception, viz., that the institution is to be the recipient of deep loyalty from initiated disciples of a bona fide spiritual master. We need to understand that, at its root, it is a form of corruption of the devotional process. Today’s vitiated G.B.C. has devolved into a kind of monster, a potential Leviathan, and it has been able to do so via the process of corrupting its own dharma. It was originally meant to be an advisory board to the movement’s temple presidents and little more than that. It was meant to encourage those administrative leaders and make sure that none of them misused their power for personal aggrandizement in their day-to-day operations.

Despite the fact that the title of the Commission has the word “Governing” in it,[1] the Body or Board was not meant to function as a group of administrative overlords. Instead, it was originally supposed to be mostly householder brähmins who His Divine Grace trusted. Over the years and decades, it has been turned into something different. It also had voting mandates in its original charter, i.e., it was designed for constant turnover, which would have discouraged any kind of overlordship of the temple presidents by such time-serving members of the Commission.

As this critical review progresses, we shall see that loyalty to ISKCON (“ISKCON”) is ultimately considered nothing more or less than loyalty to its Governing Body Commission. As his book indicates, RSA is cent-per-cent on the side of the institutionalists, i.e., he believes that the institution is always superior to the guru. In the context of “ISKCON,” that would not be wrong, because all the “spiritual masters” in that cult are institutional gurus; all of them have been rubber-stamped, in one way or another, by the Governing Body Commission.

Institutional guru means bogus guru, but “ISKCON” leaders reject this truth outright. As such, there has been an ongoing battle of sorts within the organization between its designated initiating spiritual masters and the governing body. Both want to be the recipients of full loyalty from the new initiated disciples,[2] but the mentalities of these two groups—despite the fact that there is favorable overlap between them—do not always match and are often at odds. There have been a number of conflicts created by that fact, and, in today’s milieu, although such incidents are comparatively tempered, the two-track tension persists.

The real essence, however, of the above-cited excerpt from SPFAI centers around the term “integrated.” It means that, as the central message of the book contends, the mission of ISKCON (“ISKCON”) is to produce mass liberation for all of the members who are completely loyal to the system, not necessarily to the gurus who perform the initiations. The corruption of its process is thus systemic, and once that is understood in context, its intrinsic corruption becomes clear.

Concerning Prabhupäda’s Mood

“So, to understand the spiritual master is not a new invention. It is simply following the orders of the spiritual master.”
-Platform lecture, 9-5-69, in Hamburg

“. . . his particular spirit or ‘moodtakes on a societal shape and form in the organization he created. . . His spirit pervades the institution as the essence of its own culture, and the members become its visible embodiment . . . “
SPFAI, Prabhupäda as Founder-Äcärya (first sub-header)

“Every day people are straying away from the Church and going back to God.”
Lenny Bruce

The mood cited in the above-mentioned SPFAI excerpt is according to RSA’s own projection.This mood angle of vision is variously employed. It is used by those who like to project their own imaginative interpretations of Kåñëa consciousness on the pure devotee; they then call that subjective belief his “mood.” It is used often by his former leading secretaries, because they believe that they—and they alone—knew (and still know) what his mood was, is, and should be, i.e., only they really recognized it while he was manifest.

Nevertheless, mood referencing is nothing but a self-serving projection on each of their parts, assisting them in personal rationalizations as to why their particular angle of vision of how (what is wrongly considered to be) his movement should now proceed–in terms of his “mood.”

It is thus not at all surprising to read that RSA uses this ploy, and he does so by referencing “organization” and “institution” in the same excerpt–not guru and disciple. Prabhupäda’s spirit allegedly “pervades the institution,” but RSA does not say that it pervades any particular disciple. This is just the opposite of Vedic and Vaiñëava teaching.

Of course, since there are no genuine gurus in “ISKCON,” a conclusion utilizing references to such a self-serving “mood” of the Äcärya is rather easy to push. In doing so, RSA is subordinating all the institutional gurus of “ISKCON” to the power node of the cult itself (and they are all subordinate to it, because each of them has accepted his guru certification from it). It is a kind of gamesmanship, a power play in disguise. In his own way, RSA fabricates a self-serving mood of Prabhupäda pervading “ISKCON.”

His Divine Grace is doing no such thing. His mood was always centered upon and around guru (himself), his disciple, and his order–not the new invention of institution and organizational monad. His mood always corresponded to what the Vedic and Vaiñëava siddhänta represents, not what a post-modern institutional concoction proposes.

A genuine guru is not a “visible embodiment” of any institution; he is the manifest representative of the paramparä, which is transcendental to the organized religious forms of this world, including their superstructures (which may, or may not, be linked to the sampradäya). The culture that RSA alludes to is the culture of the fabricated, so-called “ISKCON” ecclesiocracy, not the culture of genuine Gauòéya Vaisnavism. The essence of his deviated culture is institutionalism, controlled by a vitiated governing body—and RSA himself has been integral to its formulation and formation. That “ISKCON” gurus are visible embodiments of it is certainly the case; that such was or is the mood of Çréla Prabhupäda serves the power play of vested interests.

Game of Thrones

“Aiye. When one gets little power, he misuses it and thereby falls down.”
-Platform lecture, 9-13-75, Moundsville, W. Va.

“The institution that would be able to act . . . over large spans of space and time needs a unique form. . . an organization in which the ultimate authority would reside in a board of directors . . .”
SPFAI, Reasons for Prabhupäda’s Founding of ISKCON (second sub-header)

“Almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so.”
-Robert A. Heinlein

There is quite a bit of code to be found in this above-mentioned excerpt from the second sub-header of SPFAI. Leaving the issue of the “ISKCON” egregor aside for the moment, institutions don’t act, people do. However, some of those people (“devotees”) are institutionalists, and, in that sense also, you could say that institutions act. Just like, in common terminology, the mainstream press often writes something like, “Washington has determined that it must address this issue.” The city of Washington, D.C. can do no such a thing, of course, but when words such as “Washington” and “Pyongyang” are used in these contexts, it is readily understood what is communicated. Nevertheless, it is code.

The code (“the institution”) from the excerpt, however, is a bit ominous. It contains the import of institutionalism, and it further connotes the desire (or prediction) that this institution should be, or will be, on the march in the near future—particularly if the phrase Çréla Prabhupäda Founder-Äcärya of ISKCON is understood in the way that RSA wants you to understand it—and that is not merely academic.

The camouflaged motto is that “ISKCON” is predestined by God Himself to emerge as an unstoppable, international force–as long as the basic premise of SPFAI is accepted. We then notice the phrase “large spans of space and time.”

This is code for “ISKCON” triumphalism during the remainder of the Golden Age. In other words, the current “ISKCON” movement—enriched by the fervor that centers around the above-mentioned motto—is, and always will be, far, far more influential than any spiritual master. It’s the same corporate mentality as Up the Organization, which has been prominent in the West for decades.

And this great juggernaut requires a unique structure; again, that is code. Something can be unique and still be spiritually bona fide. On the other hand, something can be “unique” as in non-traditional . . . as in deviated. “ISKCON” is now connected with Hinduism at most of its centers. Hinduism purports to be Vedic, but we all know that it isn’t. It is a third-order simulacrum of the Çaìkarite misinterpretation of Vedic texts that culminated in Mäyäväda. Yet, “ISKCON” makes many compromises in order to remain affiliated—in its own unique way—with Hinduism. This is but one example of how “ISKCON” is unique.

The really “unique” form being propagated by “ISKCON,” however, is its functioning as an institution that is superior to any and all gurus connected to it–superior as in far superior. And also superior to the Vaiñëava texts that are integral to it, i.e., it has allowed them to be changed (by its book publishing wing, the BBT(i)), emasculating Çréla Prabhupäda’s spiritual authority in the process.

“ISKCON” thus overcomes the authority of guru, and it overcomes the authority of the guru’s commentaries—despite the fact that these are the real ultimate authorities in spiritual life. Instead of these, “ISKCON” offers us—as per this excerpt from SPFAI—the “ultimate authority” allegedly invested in a board of directors. That is, of course, code for the Governing Body Commission of “ISKCON,” the vitiated G.B.C.

In effect, RSA is taking the “ISKCON” power game to the next octave. In doing so, he wants everyone to accept the motto of SPFAI; he wants us to accept the authority of the G.B.C. over the cult’s institutional gurus. Much more importantly, the excerpt also pushes us to accept the board over the authority of Çréla Prabhupäda’s translations and purports; both of these having been watered down in their own “unique” way. RSA does not come right out and say any of this, of course, and that’s why it is communicated in code in this excerpt.

He and his cohorts are playing long-ball, rooted in faithlessness. They don’t believe in the guru being the ultimate authority, they don’t believe in the books being the ultimate authority, but they do believe in their organization as the ultimate authority. This is the essence of the ecclesiastical mentality, especially since the excerpt specifically mentions that the organizational authority resides in the board of directors; this, in effect, is the power node of “ISKCON.”

Once you decode these terms, the message is not difficult to decipher. As a vision for the souped-up fulfillment of Lord Caitanya’s Golden Age, do we want another version of the Roman Catholic Church? At root, such a Neo-Gothic world would not be all that unique. However, it would be far more powerful than what the West had to endure during the splendid gargoyle times of the Black Death and the Hundred Years War.[3]

If you hope against hope that there are “good intentions” underlying this excerpt from SPFAI, you ignore just such a return to the future at your own peril.

Enlightened Disciples vs. Institutional Elitism

“You’ll have to become spiritual master. You, all my disciples, everyone should become spiritual master.”
-Platform lecture, 8-22-73, London

“. . . the normative guru-disciple relationship would be perpetuated within the unified institution under the direction of the G.B.C. In such an organization, many gurus would be able to act with concerted force, operating together with other leaders and managers in collegial accord.”
SPFAI, Our Central Challenge (third sub-header)

“I believe in God, but . . . it’s just that the translations have gone wrong.”
John Lennon

In the context of the intent of SPFAI and its author, what does it mean when the normal (“normative”) guru-disciple relationship is subordinated to the unity of the institution? Obviously, it changes the standard guru-disciple relationship. In “ISKCON,” it means that you have—perhaps, in due course, hundreds or thousands of them—the creation of institutional gurus. Numbers mean nothing; quality means everything. The Vedic standard of spiritual master and disciple is more important than these institutional arrangements that now aspire to replace it.

As it stands, prospective “ISKCON” gurus have to apply for the job. If their application is accepted by the governing body, they are then assigned a waiting period (in effect, they wait in queue) for sometimes three years or so before they can conduct initiations. Is that the normative guru-disciple relationship? According to Vedic and Vaiñëava tradition, is that how spiritual masters and disciples are meant to come into contact and transcendentally reciprocate with one another?

Yet, that’s what “ISKCON” in general, and the G.B.C. in particular, are attempting to perpetuate. RSA throws in a bone referring to “many” gurus (even “hundreds and thousands”), but the whole attitude embedded in the excerpt is one of elitism. This idea of a group of gurus acting in concerted force is another red flag, indicating that the institution intends to use its own rubber-stamped “gurus” in order to exert its will on everybody that it can exert it on. Gurus are not meant to work as a convoy; they are meant to elevate their own disciples on a person-to-person basis.

RSA is from the collegiate realm, where he taught as a professor at an American university. That has considerable value in its own sphere of influence, obviously, but that does not mean that gurus working “in collegial accord” are meant to impose concerted force on anybody; such a power concept has nothing to do with the bona fide Vaiñëava process. It is but the herd mentality, wherein a convoy of institutional gurus pool their tejas on behalf of the governing body in order to control and overlord the devotee populace that remains intimidated by them.

The excerpt disguises, to some extent, the elitism embedded in it, especially when it employs the concept of many gurus working with other institutional spiritual masters and managers in some kind of collegial accord (like a college of cardinals, perhaps?). Is this what Çréla Prabhupäda wanted or wants? Does the phrase Çréla Prabhupäda Founder-Äcärya of ISKCON convey such an idea? Or is that conclusion, instead, an institutional concoction born of false prestige and self-promotion?

Summary of Part Two

“The same thing, we are preaching. That is Kåñëa consciousness movement. It is nothing new. It is coming down from the original speaker, Kåñëa, by disciplic succession.”
-Platform lecture, 9-8-72, Pittsburgh

“It is quite evident that you are feeling anxiety in your mind. The best way to overcome this, the way to control the mind, is to become Kåñëa conscious.”
-Letter to Sharon Suzuki, 9-4-75

“ . . . Every church is the same: Control, destroy, obliterate every good feeling.”
-Philip Pullman, The Subtle Knife

Few devotees would disagree that SPFAI is a complicated read, a sophisticated treatise presented via a convoluted, scholarly format. It is meant to impress those who are susceptible to being overwhelmed by its dogmatic import. It ultimately represents a long-held “ISKCON” line of thought which grants that institution’s governing body dominion over Prabhupäda’s branch of disciplic succession (which it falsely purports to represent), i.e., dominion over every disciple in that line.

Indeed, and to no one’s surprise, both the book and its author have secured overwhelming support and acclaim from that governing body, thus further contributing to the book’s formidable, ecclesiastical, and quasi-authoritarian weight. Yet, there is a considerable lack of logical or even intellectual discipline in the document. It also talks in very general terms, i.e., it lacks the precision required for the creation of a new dispensation in the name of Vaiñëavism. Its base conclusion is faulty, and that truth becomes very evident when you carefully analyze its text. Perspicacity is almost completely absent in the treatise, although covert fanaticism is not. How could its general train of logic be so sloppy?

Shouldn’t its author, formerly an active and accredited professor at a renowned American university, for that very reason be beyond reproach? When he creates a new dispensation in the form of this copyrighted manuscript, doesn’t that automatically mean that both he and it must be beyond criticism? Who can dare challenge his authority?

Do you feel some deep-seated anxiety when confronting these questions within yourself? After all, he must be right, because he was initiated in the early Seventies by Prabhupäda, was a temple president for so many decades, a G.B.C. leader, and, most of all, has the full backing of all prominent “ISKCON” leaders. Just as importantly, his book is printed by ISKCON GBC PRESS, it is called a G.B.C. Foundational Document (on its very first page), and the nuances proffered in it are backed up with detailed explanatory footnotes. Its conclusions are attractive to every party man throughout the cult. All these credits must mean that the rank-and-file simple devotees (read, simpletons) are to simply accept—but some others will not, such as many of you now reading this review.

For you, coming to a knowledgeable and logical conclusion (counter to what RSA pushes) is unacceptable in the eyes of the great overlords of the “ISKCON” movement. As such, any resistance by any devotee—even if he or she is full of angst concerning what the book augurs–must, at bare minimum, be accompanied by deep doubt. They want you to doubt your own power of discrimination and ability to make a firm judgment about SPFAI, i.e., but what’s troubling you is just the nature of their game.


The formal title of the Board does not connote some mystical backdoor designation empowering de-facto kñatriyas. The Commission was designed for brahminical management as predominantly an oversight committee. The movement’s administrators were the temple presidents. Çréla Prabhupäda’s G.B.C. was supposed to be composed of somewhat advanced students who were fixed in brahminical behavior and who could set the example for the administrators at the temple level.

The title of the Commission, having the term “Governing” in it, constitutes a coincidence that has no occult or spiritual significance. The guru of Çréla Prabhupäda (Çréla Bhaktisiddhänta Prabhupäda) had created his own such board, and he named it according to a governing body that oversaw the massive Indian railway system: That entity was called the Governing Body Commission. Since the spiritual master of Çréla Prabhupäda selected that particular title for his own oversight committee, His Divine Grace simply accepted the same title for his in 1970.

We must not lose sight of the real perspective. This tension (termed in SPFAI as integral to the central challenge) is between two camps—you can call them “the dékñas” and “the institutionalists.” It is illusory at its basis, because none of these “ISKCON” gurus has been, or is, a genuine spiritual master. As such, all the so-called initiated disciples are just that: So-called. If the gurus of the institution were bona fide, then full loyalty to them should and would be expected from their disciples–not to the institution or its governing body. However, since all the “dékñas” are institutional gurus, a legitimate argument (legitimate only in the sense of its own context) can be made that loyalty to “ISKCON”–which is nothing but code for loyalty to the Governing Body Commission—can prevail over allegiance to its subordinate rent-äcäryas.

The Bubonic Plague killed over one-fourth of the population of Western Europe during the Gothic Era of the Fourteenth Century. Combined with thousands of deaths (of both warriors and civilians) in England and France during the Hundred Years War–which ran longer (yet concurrently) to the Black Death–this epoch was most dreadful. Could these punishments, at least in part, have been connected to bad karmic reactions? Could they be the result of theocratic and anxiety-laden oppression foisted upon the innocent but ignorant common men and women of that time? And, if so, is this something that we would actually want to revisit?

Go to part three
Return to Part One


1 Neelatimanjuli { 06.02.14 at 05:28 }

These articles written by Kailasa Candra Das should be mandatory reading for all devotees, instead of the book written by Ravindra Svarupa Das.

2 sulocanadas(ACBS)(Atl.) { 06.03.14 at 20:56 }

It takes the mercy of the Spiritual Master (Srila Prabhupada) to be able to present such a response to the “Iskcon ” party line.A great read. We need a way to get more devotees involved in the truth and depth of these articles. This is very serious business. I am thinking how to help the cause. very exciting, and liberating at the same time. Hare Krsna!!!!

3 Srihari Vijayaraghavan { 08.02.14 at 09:05 }

Through Part 2, thank you for showing that when non-sense is presented in a “scholarly way,” it still remains non-sense only. You’ve very clearly explained what is G.B.C.’s role: i.e., it meant to serve Srila Prabhupada & his disciples, thus assisting them both to progress the mission of the Lord. Leaving aside the fact that they didn’t obviously live up or do that (now in its fully blossomed asara manifestation), for lack of such clear understanding amongst the devotees of what is its actual role or purpose, the misleaders of that Commission have cunningly covered or clouded (i.e., deviated) the movement for nearly four decades. And, if we simply go by SPFAI and such propaganda (all fix-it-as-you-go cheating schemes) and many even before that, then they are showing no sign of slackening their proud misleading attitude and outlook. They keep manufacturing one stone boat after another in their fix-it-as-you-go factories. That is actually their central challenge, for them and for general devotees: i.e., accepting what their actual role is. It’s certainly not their central challenge to “solve” the Vedic and Vaishnava siddhanta of guru, disciple and their relationship etc. It’s now a dark history that in their unauthorised attempt to “solve” that “challenge”, they’ve concocted & set in motion innumerable deviations. And many devotees have been thus covered over by their nescience.

On the other hand, it’s you who is actually assisting the mission by these nice articles of your realised knowledge, confronting various deviations they’ve implemented, which are getting ever more subtler. So thank you for these enlightening articles analysing all nuts and bolts of this monstrous machine of deviations.

In conclusion, SPFAI is subtly leading its adherents (i.e., ignorant) to
yet another manifestation of darkness or ignorance, while through this series of shining moon of your analysis of explaining the means and motives lurking beneath the surface of SPFAI is quite enlightening. All intelligent devotees should indeed be benefited by reading such nice contributions, which help to ultimately eradicate the darkness that’s been covering over the movement, since the disappearance of Srila Prabhupada.

4 Lila Kirtana dasa { 09.29.17 at 19:45 }

Not too long ago I was reading the latest from the GBC in relation to initiation. It seems that now, in order to be initiated one must sign an oath of loyalty to the GBC. There were more particulars but I can’t remember the full pledge. Awfully underhanded manipulation. And what does one get in return? I guess the “Iskcon” bija. Thanks for all of your endeavors in the service of the Truth. Hare Krishna.

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