‘Current link’ does NOT mean ‘living guru’ (2003)
“ABSTRACT: Deepak Vohra declared that, absent proof, he would not approach an accessible, living guru, but attempt a theoretical relationship with a departed guru.” I declared no such thing. My article was only two paragraphs long, in which I simply asked Rama Kesava prabhu to substantiate his speculation that ‘current’ means ‘living’. Ananda needs to read what I actually wrote, and respond to that, instead of responding to some imaginary ‘ritvik theory’ he thinks I am proposing.
“Ananda das suggests that, even without specific words from Prabhupada requiring aspirants to approach a living guru, such is the clear intent of past practice, as well as of Prabhupada’s books and numerous lectures.” This is a contradiction. How can a ‘clear intent’ come from Srila Prabhupada’s books and lectures unless expressed in SPECIFIC WORDS? Srila Prabhupada only ever communicates using words, and in order for them to express an intent which is ‘clear’, they must be ‘specific’ and clear, not vague and unclear. Yet Ananda prabhu says that this ‘clear intent’ is evidenced ‘even WITHOUT SPECIFIC WORDS’.
“Book-initiation is a meaningless pretense, he says; one must apprentice with a guru capable of administering correction.” No one as far as I know has ever proposed ‘book initiation.’ Certainly not I. Initiation must always be from a spiritual master, not a book. And this idea of ‘apprenticing with a guru capable of administering correction’, was never practiced by Srila Prabhupada, since he never MET the majority of his disciples, and thus they were never administered ‘correction’ personally in the capacity of being an apprentice.
So just from the abstract, Ananda prabhu: Makes it clear that he will not be responding to what I actually said, but instead he will answering imaginary ‘straw man’ ‘ritvik theory’ arguments. Contradicts the basis of his whole thesis, which is to prove that Srila Prabhupada expressed a clear and specific intent, by saying he did so without needing to use specific words; yet Srila Prabhupada only ever commuinicated via ‘specific words’ to express a ‘clear intent’. He definitely did not use vague words to express something ‘clear’, and he certainly did not use sign language.
He also proposes a Guru-disciple model that was not practiced by Srila Prabhupada. And since Srila Prabhupada is an acarya, which means he teaches by example, we also know that whatever he did not practice, he did not teach either. Since the abstract gives the substance of the article, we can be sure that the article will not contain any material which will be relevant to either what I said, or what Srila Prabhupada taught, and hence is of no relevance to this debate. Indeed having read the article, I can confirm that all the points which Ananda prabhu makes can actually be responded to by regurgitating the above 3 points. I will give but one example:
Ananda prabhu opens his article by saying:
“Mr. Vohra persists in attributing great importance to the term “current link”, declares that it must, a priori and forever into the future, only refer to the ISKCON Founder-Acharya Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, then “challenges” us to find in the “Vedabase” a sentence he himself invented.” I never said the term ‘current link’ must refer to Srila Prabhupada ‘forever into the future’. I only asked that Rama Kesava Prabhu substantiate his assertion about what HE declared the term meant.
I also did not ask anyone to find a sentence I invented. I asked Rama Kesava prabhu to substantiate a concept which HE invented, which is that ‘current means living’. Rama Kesava prabhu said that “The words ‘current link’ clearly mean that we must approach a living guru, .”. I simply asked where Srila Prabhupada states this speculation, since it was Srila Prabhupada who used the term ‘current link’, and we can only ascribe to it a meaning that Srila Prabhupada himself gives.
In this way the whole article can be responded to by simply repeating the 3 points made above, with which I responded to his abstract. I therefore humbly suggest that Ananda prabhu re-writes his article so that it both addresses what I actually said, and what Srila Prabhupada specifically said, thus making it of value to this discussion.
Next we come to Robert Newman and Rama Kesava Das’s attempts to respond to my request that Rama Kesava Prabhu provide support from Srila Prabhupada to support his speculation that the words “current link’ clearly mean that we must approach a living guru”.
The reply from Mr. Robert Newman, agrees that no such support can be found from Srila Prabhupada’s teachings. However, he states that such support is not necessary since it is a matter of “common sense” that “current link” must mean someone who is physically present. Another reply from Rama Kesava Prabhu also agrees that no such support can be found from Srila Prabhupada’s teachings. He also agrees with Mr Newman that no such support is necessary. He gives a different reason however. He states that we can interpret the word “current link” to mean ‘physically present’, since this is what historical practice would teach us – i.e. all Diksa Gurus previously have been physically present.
However, neither of these methods – “common sense” and “historical practice” – have been sanctioned by Srila Prabhupada as the method by which to understand his words. Without such sanction, everyone can propose his own method by which to understand what Srila Prabhupada’s words ‘really’ mean. Some even say we should understand Srila Prabhupada’s words by interpreting them in line with current scientific evidence, or by having them double-checked by Narayana Maharaja etc. Everyone will have his own method. We already have two here from two different individuals. There is no end. That is why we need AUTHORITY from Srila Prabhupada that we can understand his words by a method other than – his words. So before we consider the arguments put forward by Mr Newman and Rama Kesava Das, we first need a statement from Srila Prabhupada sanctioning that their arguments are even valid. Then we can examine the actual arguments in more detail.