Anonymous – USA: For those of us who are recent converts to Krishna Consciousness and don’t know all the history of Vaishnavism within Iskcon since 1977, when Śrīla Prabhupāda took a less active role, here are some things I have heard on the subject.
Putting aside the controversial issue of what kind of gurus Śrīla Prabhupāda appointed most devotees agree on at least one thing, Śrīla Prabhupāda did appoint some of his disciples to initiate on his behalf. What kind of initiations is another topic. He also was very much aware of the nature of his disciples. Some of his disciples were ambitious to the point where Śrīla Prabhupāda said something to the effect that he had to create so many big big positions to satisfy some of his disciples’ big false egos. Does this mean he was unable to predict what a disaster some of his future guru disciples would create after he left the planet? Just the opposite.
When Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disciples brought up the question of who would become guru after he left some of them might have already been greedy on their own behalf. One sannyāsī had already told the devotees in his zone they had to approach Śrīla Prabhupāda through him, and later he would be the first to try and implement that policy within his zone after Śrīla Prabhupāda left. Another devotee had asked Prabhupāda for a letter stating he was his duly initiated sannyāsa disciple and once he got that letter he ignored Śrīla Prabhupāda and went around doing his own thing until finally Brahmānanda got the letter back. Later this devotee, once he became guru, went back to preaching his own ideas, dressing devotees in robes and so on. Devotees seemed to equate becoming guru with somehow being above the GBC, the ultimate managerial authority of Iskcon.
Another devotee went to one guru outside of Iskcon who Śrīla Prabhupāda said we could approach for advice on how to perform samādhi arrangements. Instead of asking for samādhi advice he asked they decided how the gurus could be placed in a position above the GBC. The guru outside of ISKCON said it was offensive for the GBC to be above the gurus in any way, and that the disciples would lose faith in their gurus if this happened, and most gurus acted as if this was proper.
I have heard allegations that some of these devotees plotted to get rid of Śrīla Prabhupāda, poisoned him, or at least were anxiously waiting for the day he would leave the planet. But here is where all of the new gurus who were in māyā were outsmarted. Prabhupāda knew none of his disciples were ready to become pure devotees overnight. He did not say any specific devotee was pure just before he left. He allowed devotees who wanted to become guru to ask him about it and most of them displayed their lack of advancement within a very short time and proved they weren’t ready for it by falling down but he gave them the chance to become gurus if they were ready. What he didn’t do was make them into gurus then give them a license to act independently of Krishna. He did not make them free agents. They still had to be under the direction of ISKCON, the GBC, Lord Krishna or himself. Imagine the surprise on the looks of all of the gurus who fell down when they finally realized they weren’t outsmarting Śrīla Prabhupāda and Lord Krishna, instead they were being outsmarted the whole time themselves!
Some devotees criticize the GBC for not doing enough. As far as policing the gurus goes, ISKCON’s history has shown they cannot do too much policing. Gurus regularly fall and when they do they don’t wish to be caught any more than their disciples do. In fact it seems they have even more reasons to cover it up. When I say regularly I mean most have fallen since becoming guru just as most devotees who have been initiated leave as well after some time, otherwise the temples would all be full of all the devotees who were initiated, but we know that is not true.
Śrīla Prabhupāda said when a GBC misuses his position he will become a śūdra in his next life. What will be the position of all these gurus who become gurus for the wrong reasons? If they have materialistic motives and mentalities and wish to change things to their advantage even before they become gurus then their future does not seem very bright. Krishna Consciousness is difficult for the crooked.