Members of ISKCON's Governing Body Commission with Srila Prabhupada.
Mayapur, West Bengal, India
- The Governing Body Commission (GBC) of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), during its Annual General Meeting in the society’s headquarters in Mayapur, West Bengal, on March 9, released an official statement regarding the “preeminent position” of ISKCON’s Founder-Acharya, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada.
Since Srila Prabhupada’s passing away in 1977, the GBC has sought to codify ISKCON’s ongoing relationship with its founder. The GBC wants to preserve Srila Prabhupada’s legacy and ensure that future generations do not lose sight of Prabhupada’s historical, religious, philosophical and institutional stature — as well as his importance in the personal spiritual development of every ISKCON member.
Srila Prabhupada himself took on the title of Founder-Acharya (acharya meaning one who “teaches by example”) and mandated that it be placed on all ISKCON Temples and publications, as well as all publications of his Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
Prabhupada was concerned to ensure that ISKCON remained firmly fixed on teaching and upholding the standards of the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition, as originally presented by the 16th Century saint Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and handed down through a chain of spiritual preceptors to Srila Prabhupada, and from him to the ISKCON society.
“This GBC Statement on Prabhupada’s Preeminent Position is part of an ongoing effort to better educate ISKCON devotees about Srila Prabhupada’s unique stature and contributions,” said Anuttama Dasa, ISKCON’s Minister of Communications.
“Prabhupada taught us that his books would be the law-books for the next ten thousand years," said Anuttama. “During that time many spiritual leaders and gurus will come and go within ISKCON; however, Prabhupada will be the Founder-Acarya and preeminent instructing guru for ISKCON for all times.”
The GBC Statement words it in this way:
“Srila Prabhupada, as the Founder-Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, is the preeminent guru for all members of ISKCON. All members of ISKCON, for all generations, are encouraged to seek shelter of Srila Prabhupada. All members of ISKCON are entitled and encouraged to have a personal relationship with Srila Prabhupada through his books, teachings, service, and his ISKCON society.”
“Its not that Srila Prabhupada is meant to be a guru only for his immediate disciples,” said Anuttama. “He is the preeminent spiritual authority for all ISKCON devotees and that will never change.”
The Statement also clarifies the role of ISKCON leaders in relationship to Srila Prabhupada:
"All members accepting leadership roles within ISKCON, including diksha gurus and siksha gurus, have the duty of serving together under ISKCON’s Governing Body Commission (GBC) to fulfill Srila Prabhupada’s instructions as he has given in his books, lectures, and personal communications. Overall, the primary duty of all diksha gurus, siksha gurus and others in leadership positions is to assist Srila Prabhupada in his service to his Guru Maharaja Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, and our Brahma Madhva Gaudiya Sampradaya."
The Statement has this to say regarding the spiritual status of gurus coming in the line of teachers after Srila Prabhupada. It stresses the need for such gurus to keep strong in their spiritual practice and to be careful in the execution of their duties:
“Those who accept the service of diksha or siksha guru within ISKCON are mandated to be strict followers of the instructions of Srila Prabhupada, and, as long as they follow, they are acting on the liberated platform. Thus they may serve, as Srila Prabhupada ordered, as bona fide representatives of the Lord and the Guru Parampara and be a via medium of Their mercy. Yet it should be clearly understood that if such diksha or siksha gurus deviate from strictly following, they may fall down from their position."
The new GBC Statement, which is just three pages in length, notes that while it is “conclusive” it is “not exhaustive” and that the GBC may release additional papers regarding Srila Prabhupada’s position, the role of gurus in ISKCON, and the duties of ISKCON members to Prabhupada and the ISKCON mission.
The GBC, which has been developing global strategic plans since 2006 to strengthen the society and its outreach efforts, has recently released other position papers on foundational principles for ISKCON.
A major GBC document released in 2012 entitled, “Lines of Authority,” confirmed that all members of ISKCON, regardless of their spiritual status or seniority, are to serve cooperatively under the ecclesiastic direction of the GBC, which Srila Prabhupada stated in his will is the “Ultimate Managing Authority” of ISKCON.
“Lines of Authority” also affirmed that those serving in the role of gurus, or spiritual teachers, must work under the direction of ISKCON authorities in their respective areas of jurisdiction, and that ISKCON managers must strive to work cooperatively with those serving as gurus within the society.
In 2013, another publication is also anticipated. Ravindra Svarupa, a senior GBC member and religion scholar, is working on a book on Srila Prabhupada to further explain his historic role and analyze the meaning of “Founder-Acharya” within the Gaudiya tradition. A draft of that book was presented to the GBC members this year for their feedback.
The just-released GBC Statement on Prabhupada’s position was felt to be of such importance that the GBC mandated its distribution and implementation:
"All GBC members must distribute this resolution to all ISKCON temples, communities and congregations via all appropriate means of communication for the education of all ISKCON members. This statement shall also be studied in ISKCON courses including introductory courses, the ISKCON Disciple Course, the Spiritual Leadership Seminar, and other relevant venues. Reading this statement, and affirming it has been read prior to initiation, shall be part of the test for all prospective initiates."
To read the complete document, please click here