How Schisms Begin
By Narasimha das
Recently a regular public harinama sankritana program of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples was joined by the followers of a departed self-appointed “guru” who has “re-initiated” some of Srila Prabhupada’s fallen disciples and often tried to insult or minimize Srila Prabhupada in various other ways. These followers came to distribute transcripts of this poser’s lectures and sing his so-called pranam mantras. These folks often say there are many living diksa-gurus and “jagat-gurus” who are equal to (or almost equal to) Srila Prabhupada, although none of these fellows can doing anything tangible to increase the Krishna consciousness movement around the world. Indeed, they and their followers distract from Srila Prabhupada’s real mission, as do the fallen leaders of the vitiated iskcon cults.
These leaders and their followers try to minimize and insult Srila Prabhupada and his disciples as soon they hear that Srila Prabhupada is the real acharya for this age. They are infuriated when devotees try to politely explain that he ordered ritvik initiations for the future of the Krishna consciousness movement. They foolishly say, “Ritvik philosophy is offensive!” And they accuse faithful devotees of being narrow-minded and sectarian. [Note: the term ritvik was instructed by Srila Prabhupada. It is a bona fide Vedic term mentioned many times in Bhagavatam and throughout the Vedas. It is not a “vada”, or philosophical interpretation, but rather refers to a practical system of sadhana by which priests conduct Vedic sacrifices under the auspices of the self-realized acharya.]
The parallels between modern-day deviants and the deviated disciples of Srila Advaitacharya are clear when one carefully studies the purports of Srila Prabhupada and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. The real acharyas for this age have explained how schisms begin among the followers of the bona fide spiritual master. And they have explained why such concocters are ruined in due course.
“Some of the disciples strictly accepted the orders of the acharya and others deviated, independently concocting their own opinions under the spell of daivi-maya.” (Cc. Adi 12.9)
“This verse describes the beginning of a schism. When disciples do not stick to the principle of accepting the order of their spiritual master, immediately there are two opinions. Any opinion different from the opinion of the spiritual master is useless. One cannot infiltrate materially concocted ideas into spiritual advancement. That is deviation. There is no scope for adjusting spiritual advancement to material ideas.” (Cc. Adi 12.9, Purport)
The reference above specifically refers to the schism among the disciples of Sri Advaita. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura elaborates on this point in his purports of Sri Chaitanya Bhagavat by explaining that some of the followers of Sri Advaitacharya wanted to worship Him as Krishna Himself rather than as the topmost Vaishnava worshipper of the Supreme Personalities of Godhead, Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai. In this way they tried to minimize Lord Nityananda as being inferior to Sri Advaita and thus distracted from the understanding that only Lord Chaitanya is Krishna Himself and that He is approached only through the mercy of His direct counterpart, Sri Nityananda Prabhu.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta explains, “By the mercy of Sri Nityananda one can recognize Vaishnavas headed by Sri Advaita, and only by the mercy of Sri Nityananda can one understand that Sri Gaurasundara is Krishna.” (Chaitanya Bhagavat 22.135, Purport)
“The order of the spiritual master is the active principle in spiritual life. Anyone who disobeys the order of the spiritual master immediately becomes useless.” (Cc. Adi 12.10)
“Here is the opinion of Srila Krishnadas Gosvami. Persons who strictly follow the orders of the spiritual master are useful in executing the will of the Supreme, whereas persons who deviate from the strict order of the spiritual master are useless.” (Cc. Adi 12.10, Purport)
Neophyte devotees often wonder how it is that there are many pitfalls on the path of devotional service, particularly due to so many pseudo-bhaktas and pseudo-gurus misleading newcomers. The great acharya Krishnadas Kaviraja Gosvami explains, “Paddy is mixed with straw at first, and one must fan it to separate the paddy from the straw.” (Cc. Adi 12.12)
Srila Prabhupada elaborates: “This example given by Kṛishnadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī is very appropriate. In the case of the Gauḍīya Maṭha members, one can apply a similar process. There are many disciples of Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, but to judge who is actually his disciple, to divide the useful from the useless, one must measure the activities of such disciples in executing the will of the spiritual master. Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura tried his best to spread the cult of Śrī Chaitanya Mahāprabhu to countries outside India. When he was present he patronized the disciples to go outside India to preach the cult of Śrī Chaitanya Mahāprabhu, but they were unsuccessful because within their minds they were not actually serious about preaching His cult in foreign countries; they simply wanted to take credit for having gone to foreign lands and utilize this recognition in India by advertising themselves as repatriated preachers. Many svāmīs have adopted this hypocritical means of preaching for the last eighty years or more, but no one could preach the real cult of Kṛishṇa consciousness all over the world. They merely came back to India falsely advertising that they had converted all the foreigners to the ideas of Vedānta or Kṛishṇa consciousness, and then they collected funds in India and lived satisfied lives of material comfort. As one fans paddy to separate the real paddy from useless straw, by accepting the criterion recommended by Kṛishnadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī one can very easily understand who is a genuine world-preacher and who is useless.” (Cc. Adi 12.12, Purport)
Apparently not all who approach the Krishna consciousness movement are sincere in their motives. Similarly, not all students and teachers who approach the Vedic literatures want to realize the conclusive truth. Many only seek material wealth and power. In Srimad-Bhagavatam, Lord Krishna explains to Sri Uddhava how such insincere persons are misled and weeded out from true Vedic paths leading to pure devotional service. This passage below is cited by Lord Chaitanya, speaking to Srila Sanatana Gosvami:
” ‘There are many types of Vedic literatures and supplementary Puranas. In each of them there are particular demigods who are spoken of as the chief demigods. This is just to create an illusion for moving and nonmoving living entities. Let them perpetually engage in such imaginations. However, when one analytically studies all these Vedic literatures collectively, he comes to the conclusion that Lord Viṣhṇu is the one and only Supreme Personality of Godhead.’…” (Cc. Madhya 20.145)
In this age it is nearly impossible for most people to analytically study all Vedic literatures collectively. Fortunately, however, for the immense benefit of sincere seekers of truth, great teachers have done this work for us. All great acharyas, such as Ramanuja, Madhva, Nimbarka, Vishnu Swami, Sridhara Svami, Rupa Gosvami, Jiva Gosvami, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati and many others have given the exact same conclusions about pure devotional service to Krishna that Srila Prabhupada has taught—and is still teaching– all over the world.
Srila Prabhupada explains the means of success and why personal motives for sense enjoyment are dangerous in the Krishna consciousness movement: “I have got this personal experience in my Guru Maharaj’s institution. Different Godbrothers took the words of Guru Maharaj in different interpretations for sense gratification and the whole mission [was] disrupted. This is still going on for the last 40 years without any proper settlement. I am always afraid of this crack, but I am sure if our aim is to serve Krishna sincerely and the Spiritual Master simultaneously, that will be our success. That means serve Krishna and the Spiritual Master simultaneously with equal faith and serious vow, and then success is sure. ” (Letter, Oct. 1968)
Hare Krishna. Om Tat Sat.