(right) Srila Prabhupad with Rupanuga das and the other original members of the Bhaktivedanta Institute, surrounded by the New Hastinipur devotees and guests. The devotee standing behind Rupanuga das is Brsakapi Prabhu, the temple president. Seated L. to R., Swarup Damodar das Brahmachari and Sadaputa das Adhikary, with Madhava das Brahmachari far right. July, 1976.

Prabhupada Direct

The primary test of a devotee's speech or behavior is whether he/she is being a transparent medium for Srila Prabhupada, i.e., exactly in the disciplic succession. But, buyer beware! It is said that one must know something about gold before purchasing it in the marketplace. Otherwise, it is most certain one will be cheated. Unfortunate is the person who accepts someone as an authority on bhakti-yoga without testing for gold.

To know what that gold is, one has to first study Srila Prabhupada's books and recordings (he called his books "recorded sound"). However, there is a popular propaganda that, in any case, one must hear from a "living (diksa) guru" for real spiritual benefits or advancement, or that listening to Srila Prabhupada's recordings or studying his books without hearing from a "living guru" is insufficient. Or that reading his books is not the same as associating with Srila Prabhupada directly. In other words, since Srila Prabhupada is not still living, one must have a living guru. As one of his disciples used to say, "You cannot get to Srila Prabhupada except through me."

These ideas started appearing in ISKCON just after Srila Prabhupada's disappearance in 1977. The bonafide agenda for the GBC at that time was to lead the Movement, immersed in bereavement, from its dependence upon both Srila Prabhupada-vapu and vani to a singular dependence upon Srila Prabhupada-vani. This was a lesson Srila Prabhupada had been teaching for years: Prabhupada-vapu is temporary, destined to disappear, but Srila Prabhupada-vani would go on. Srila Prabhupada wrote in his dedication of the Srimad Bhagavatam about Srila Bhaktisiddhanta: "He lives forever by his divine instructions and the follower lives with him." The same is true of our Srila Prabhupada.

Unfortunately, the eleven rtvik appointees (half the GBC at that time), claimed an exclusive right to be spiritual masters, and immediately began giving second initiation to their Godbrothers and sisters who hadn't been able to receive it from Srila Prabhupada before he disappeared. So, instead of leading the natural transition from Srila Prabhupada-vapu to Srila Prabhupada-vani, the transition was to enthrone new "vapus", or living gurus. The transition continues as an integral part of the general metamorphosis of the International Society for Krsna Consciousness.

An interesting interpolation in the purport of Bhagavad-gita 4.34, 1983 revised edition, illustrates how the "living guru" concept and minimizing the transcendental potency of Srila Prabhupada's words go hand in hand. The original purport, 1st Edition reads:
"Therefore, mental speculation or dry arguments cannot help one progress in spiritual life. One has to approach a bonafide spiritual master to receive the knowledge."
And the revised version purport reads:
"Therefore, mental speculation or dry arguments cannot help lead one to the right path. Nor by independent study of knowledge can one progress in spiritual life."
Now even if, as they often claim, this additional wording was purloined by the editors from a previous draft of the manuscript submitted to Macmillan, it is not applicable to Srila Prabhupada's books and was better edited out. In fact, the independent, serious study of Srila Prabhupada's books of knowledge guarantee advancement in spiritual life! Because reading Srila Prabhupada's purports is approaching the bonafide spiritual master. The whole point of distributing those books is to get people to read them and experience spiritual enlightenment. As Srila Prabhupada writes in his Preface to the Srimad Bhagavatam (1ast Ed.): "The reading matter is so arranged… that one is sure to become a God realized soul at the end of finishing the first nine cantos." And in the Krsna Book Introduction (1st Ed.), he explains that when people who are after sex life in this material world read "…about Krsna's pastimes with the gopis, they will relish transcendental pleasure, although it appears to be materialistic." Actually, the potency or power of Srila Prabhupada-vani to revive Krsna consciousness, rasabhavamrita, is proving inconceivable.

The idea that one must have a living diksa guru to understand Krsna consciousness from Srila Prabhupada appears to be a scam. The fact is that reading or hearing from Srila Prabhupada is associating with the most bonafide spiritual master, the best spiritual master, at whose pada (lotus feet) all other prabhus pay obeisances. And reading his books is directly associating with him and equal in power to hearing in his physical presence.

In a lecture in Bombay on December 6, 1974, Srila Prabhupada said, referring to sastras, "Only highly qualified brahmins, they used to keep hand-written. And it was worshipped in the temple as Deity sastra. Not that it was available anywhere. Now press has made it very cheaper. But we should always understand that grantah or the scripture should be worshipped as God. That is sound incarnation of God. It should not be neglected. Don't neglect Bhagwat, Bhagavad-gita as ordinary books. You must be very careful. So, as you take care of the Deities, so take care of the books also."

The conclusion is that in the same way Lord Krsna is identical with His words in the Gita, even though He spoke them long ago, Srila Prabhupada is actually present in his purports, even though he is no longer physically present. And those purports are as much sastra as the verses they explain. Those books are as good as Deities in the temple. They are not the playthings of editors, but the literary incarnations of God and His most confidential servants. Therefore, they must be approached with all respect and reverence.

Srila Prabhupada's books and recordings are a consistent and constant source of revelation for anyone who follows him. If one is able to follow Srila Prabhupada's instructions to chant 16 rounds, follow the four regulative principles, systematically study his teachings and then help others do the same, that person will undoubtedly remember Lord Krsna at the time of death. Such a bhakta may be unable to discover a guru fully qualified to give diksa and specific name. Those who factually meet the standards required by Srila Prabhupada to become a genuine spiritual master may be few and far between. But by honestly and seriously accepting Srila Prabhupada as siksa guru, anyone can obtain freedom from the material conception of life, be inspired to action in Krsna consciousness, and learn to think of Srila Prabhupada and Lord Krsna always.