In response to: On Changing My Dīkṣā
In Bhakti Sandarbha Jīva Goswāmī explains that there are circumstances in which a guru-disciple relationship can be dissolved. He quotes Nārada Pañcarātra: “He who gives irrational guidance, and he who follows that guidance, both attain a horrible destination.”
He also refers to Mahābhārata: “We should even reject a guru who proudly cannot explain the difference between right and wrong, or embarks on the wrong path.”
He also refers to Nārada Pañcaratra, “The guidance and mantras of a non-Vaiṣṇava lead one to hell. One should reject these and accept them from a Vaiṣṇava.”
In Jaiva Dharma Śrī Bhaktivinode explains that these references delineate two different reasons for changing one’s guru. “Though a dīkṣā guru shouldn’t be rejected,” he says, “still there are two causes where rejection is acceptable.”
One cause is when the guru literally opposes very basic Vaiṣṇava philosophies. This is illustrated by the later Nārada Pañcarātra quote, “The guidance and mantras of a non-vaiṣṇava lead one to hell. One should reject these and accept them from a vaiṣṇava.”
The other cause, however, is less drastic and is illustrated by the former Nārada Pañcarātra quote “He who gives irrational guidance, and he who follows that guidance, both attain a horrible destination.” Bhaktivindode explains, “The disciple may have prematurely accepted the guru without having carefully examined him. Later he will realize that his endeavors are not bearing their expected fruits, so he may reject that guru.”
The Mahābhārata quote makes reference to both reasons: “We should reject even a guru who is proud, cannot explain the difference between right and wrong, or embarks on the wrong path.” The two reasons are (1) improper behavior – “embarking on the wrong path” and (2) improper guidance – “cannot explain the difference between right and wrong.” And this is compounded by “pride” which means the guru doesn’t respond to attempts at correction.
Hari Bhakti Vilāsa also explains that a guru can be rejected under some circumstances. If the guru is found to be or become unqualified, for example. Many qualifications of a guru are given, but the key to all of them is being thoroughly conversant in all śāstra and being able to answer all questions in reference to these śāstra. If a guru falls short in this department, the disciple has legitimate grounds to consider that he does not in fact have a guru, and therefore may seek another guru.
Now I will explain my personal situation:
Neither ISKCON not my guru in it exactly fits into either cateogry entirely, and thus I have not “rejected” them. “Rejection” indicates forsaking something without need for permission or agreement from that party. That is not what I have done. I have dissolved my relationship with ISKCON and my guru in it under mutual consent. Thus I describe it as a “transferral” of dīkṣā, and use the term “dissolve” rather than “reject.”
With mutual consent, the above conditions need not be explicitly met.
I do not feel that ISKCON is “avaiṣṇava” or “against śāstric conclusions” – but I do feel that it is not strong enough in either of these departments for me. I found there was, for me, too much avaiṣṇava behavior in ISKCON as a whole. To mention only a few things, this ranged from child abuse to sexism, coupled with exploitation and pride, (us/them, and better-than-then-ism) leading to anger and divisiveness. And I found, for me, insufficiently broad and mature comprehension of śāstra (I even felt there was unwillingness to change that if it meant challenging their existing conceptions of what is “Vedic” and “bona-fide.”).
As a result I came to feel that I was not truly a disciple, and did not truly have a guru after all.
I explained myself to the parties involved over many months (if not years), and finally we agreed to this course of action. The relationship dissolved. Then with my former guru-disciple relationship dissolved, I sought the shelter of a person I myself can easily see has inspirationally vast comprehension of śāstra, holds śāstra above all else as the prime authority, has exemplary character in both major details and fine, day-to-day behavior. This person more fully inspires me to put in the significant effort it will take for me to one day become a Vaiṣṇava, and more effectively removes my confusions and misconceptions.
Therefore I absolutely do not agree at all with any claim that what I have done is not supported by śāstra.
My ISKCON guru, in fact, should be praised for exemplary behavior in agreeing to this – at is was clearly the best thing for my spiritual development, and a true devotee puts the wellbeing of others ahead of all other considerations.
Vraja Kishor das