Srila Prabhupada’s Discipline

by Vidura Mahatma dasa

“I am the spiritual master of this institution, and all the members of the society, they’re supposed to be my disciples. They follow the rules and regulations which I ask them to follow, and they are initiated by me spiritually.” (Srila Prabhupada radio interview, 12 march 1968, San Francisco)

The concept of a disciple is very simple: A disciple is one who follows discipline. And whoever is giving that discipline, that is who the student is a disciple of. In the International Society For Krsna Consciousness, founded by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, its members are required to follow a specific discipline. This discipline is essential to ones advancement in Krsna Consciousness. Srila Prabhupada wrote dozens of transcendental books which would act as the basis of the movement. The discipline required of every member to follow is given in these foundational books.

In this regard Srila Prabhupada says:

“Actually these books are the foundation stone of our movement. Whatever we are is resting on these books, so far reading them and distributing them. This should be our only motto.” (Letter — Bombay 31 October, 1974)

 “In this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement there are four basic regulative principles, forbidding illicit sex, meat-eating, gambling and intoxication. […]In addition to these four prohibitions (yama), there are positive regulative principles (niyama), such as the daily chanting of sixteen rounds on japa-mālā beads. These regulative activities must be faithfully performed with enthusiasm.” (Nectar of Instruction 3 : Purport)

“A disciple means one who is always following the orders of the spiritual master. So I instruct my disciples to refrain from four prohibitions, namely no eating of meat, fish or eggs, no illicit sex life, no taking of intoxication, including tea, coffee, cigarettes, etc., and no gambling. Besides that my students must chant sixteen rounds of japa-mala of Hare Krsna mantra daily. So if you are able to follow these principles without fail, then you are as good as my disciple. And after you have practiced these things for a few months’ time, then we can see to your formal initiation.” (Letter — London 11 August, 1972)


The following purport by Srila Prabhupada provides a complete idea of Srila Prabhupda’s relationship with the members of his society (numbered points added in parenthesis).

Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.2.31 Purport:

“One can achieve the seed of bhakti-latā, devotional service, by the mercy of guru and Kṛṣṇa. (1) The duty of the guru is to find the means, according to the time, the circumstances and the candidate, by which one can be induced to render devotional service, which Kṛṣṇa accepts from a candidate who wants to be successful in going back home, back to Godhead. After wandering throughout the universe, a fortunate person within this material world seeks shelter of such a guru, or ācārya, who trains the devotee in the suitable ways to render service according to the circumstances so that the Supreme Personality of Godhead will accept the service. This makes it easier for the candidate to reach the ultimate destination. The ācārya’s duty, therefore, is to find the means by which devotees may render service according to references from śāstra. Rūpa Gosvāmī, for example, in order to help subsequent devotees, published such devotional books as Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu. (2) Thus it is the duty of the ācārya to publish books that will help future candidates take up the method of service and become eligible to return home, back to Godhead, by the mercy of the Lord. (3) In our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, this same path is being prescribed and followed. (4) Thus the devotees have been advised to refrain from four sinful activities—illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating and gambling—and to chant sixteen rounds a day. (5) These are bona fide instructions. Because in the Western countries constant chanting is not possible, one should not artificially imitate Haridāsa hākura, but should follow this method. (6) Kṛṣṇa will accept a devotee who strictly follows the regulative principles and the method prescribed in the various books and literatures published by the authorities. The ācārya gives the suitable method for crossing the ocean of nescience by accepting the boat of the Lord’s lotus feet, and if this method is strictly followed, the followers will ultimately reach the destination, by the grace of the Lord. This method is called ācārya-sampradāya. It is therefore said, sampradāya-vihīnā ye mantrās te niṣphalā matāḥ (Padma Purāṇa). The ācārya-sampradāya is strictly bona fide.”

The following points may be taken from this purport.

(1) The guru or acharya prescribes the methods for the deliverance of his disciples (candidates) according to the specific time and circumstances.

(2) This is done through books and writings to help future candidates.

(3) This process is being followed in Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON.

(4) In his books, Srila Prabhupada specifically prescribes 16 rounds and 4 regulated principles to be adhered to by the society’s devotees and future candidates.

(5) These specific [bonafide] instructions have been prescribed by Srila Prabhupada according to time, place and circumstance (Western considerations).

(6) Lord Krsna will accept a devotee who strictly follows the bonafide method prescribed by Srila Prabhupada in his books.

Therefore, the discipline Srila Prabhupada specified in his books for ISKCON’s members to follow acts as the deliverance of these candidates. In other words, since every member of ISKCON must follow the specific discipline given in his books, all members of ISKCON are being delivered directly by Srila Prabhupada and are therefore direct disciples of Srila Prabhupada, “to be included in His Divine Grace’s “Initiated Disciples” book” (Letter, 7/9/77).

Whoever is strictly following the disciplinary instructions of Srila Prabhupada as detailed in his books is a disciple of Srila Prabhupada and will be delivered to Lord Krsna, and this constitutes initiation:

“A disciple means who voluntarily agrees to be disciplined by the spiritual master. When one becomes disciple, he cannot disobey the order of the spiritual master. […] “I am now surrendered to You, and I agree voluntarily to accept Your ruling.” This is the relationship between the spiritual master and the disciple.” (Lecture on Bhagavad-gita 2.11 — Mexico, February 11, 1975)

“This is the process of initiation. The disciple must admit that he will no longer commit sinful activity […] He promises to execute the order of the spiritual master. Then, the spiritual master takes care of him and elevates him to spiritual emancipation.” (C.c. Madhya, 24.256, Purport)

“Diksa actually means initiating a disciple with transcendental knowledge by which he becomes freed from all material contamination.” (C.c. Madhya, 4.111, Purport)

“The chanting of Hare Krishna is our main business, that is real initiation. And as you are all following my instruction, in that matter, the initiator is already there.” (Letter – 19 August, 1968)

“…disciplic succession does not always mean that one has to be initiated officially. Disciplic succession means to accept the disciplic conclusion.” (Letter to – 31 October, 1969)

 Narayana: So those disciples who don’t have the opportunity to see you or speak with you…

Srila Prabhupada: That he was speaking, vani and vapuh. Even if you don’t see his body, you take his words, vani.

Narayana: But how do they know that they’re pleasing you?

Srila Prabhupada: If you actually follow the words of Guru, that means he is pleased. And if you do not follow, how can he be pleased?

(Morning Walk, 21/7/75, San Francisco)

 Srila Prabhupada: Who is my disciple? First of all let him follow strictly the disciplined rules.

Disciple: As long as they are following, then he is…

Srila Prabhupada: Then he is all right.

(Morning walk, 13/6/76, Detroit)


Thus Srila Prabhupada acts as the initiating spiritual master of ISKCON for each and every one of its members, as it is he who prescribes the discipline to be followed in the society.

Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON is meant to give everyone a chance to hear from and accept a bonafide spiritual master. Without having to waste time searching after a bonafide spiritual master in this risky age of pseudo-religionists,  Srila Prabhupada himself is readily available through his books, from which one can receive transcendental knowledge (Diksa) in the execution of his prescribed discipline:

 “The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is started for this purpose, so that hundreds of ISKCON centers may give people a chance to hear and chant, to accept the spiritual master and to disassociate themselves from persons who are materially interested, for in this way one can make solid advancement in going back home, back to Godhead.” (SB 4.22.23 Purport)

“At present the whole world is on the verge of retiring from a blind materialistic civilization, which may be likened to hunting animals in the forest. People should take advantage of this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement and leave their troublesome life of killing.” (SB 4.26.10 Purport)

“My success is always there. Yes. Just like the sun is there always. It may come before your vision or not— the sun is there. But if you are fortunate, you come before the sun. Otherwise, you remain in darkness. The sun is open to everyone. Our Krishna consciousness movement, Krishna, is open to everyone. But if you are fortunate, you come to the light. If you are unfortunate, you do not. That is your choice.” (Room Conversation — February 12,1975, Mexico City)

This is the special, perhaps unprecedented concession arranged by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, carried out by His pure devotee Srila Prabhupada:

“An ācārya who comes for the service of the Lord cannot be expected to conform to a stereotype, for he must find the ways and means by which Kṛṣṇa consciousness may be spread. […] Therefore, what we are doing is perfect by the grace of Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu, for it is He who proposed to invent a way to capture those who strayed from Kṛṣṇa consciousness.” (Cc Adi-lila 7.31-32 Purport)

“Vaisnava who is preaching, it may be in a different way, according to time and place and the party–they have to change something, desa-kala-patra–but we have to see the essence.” (SB Lecture 10/18/74)

Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has empowered Srila Prabhupada to take up the rest of His cults preaching mission and Srila Prabhupada expertly executes this through ISKCON and its members, following in the footsteps of Srila Rupa Gosvami and provided its members stick to the instructions detailed in the society’s books by the society’s Founder and Acharya, Srila Prabhupada:

“Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu wanted to preach the saṅkīrtana movement of love of Kṛṣṇa throughout the entire world, and therefore during His presence He inspired the saṅkīrtana movement. Specifically, He sent Rūpa Gosvāmī and Sanātana Gosvāmī to Vṛndāvana and Nityānanda to Bengal and personally went to South India. In this way He kindly left the task of preaching His cult in the rest of the world to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. The members of this Society must always remember that if they stick to the regulative principles and preach sincerely according to the instructions of the ācāryas, surely they will have the profound blessings of Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu, and their preaching work will be successful everywhere throughout the world.” (Cc Adi-lila 7.171)

“Srila bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura explains that unless one is directly empowered by the causeless mercy of Krishna, one cannot become the spiritual master of the entire world (jagad-guru). One cannot become an acharya simply by mental speculation. The true acharya presents Krishna to everyone by preaching the holy name of the Lord throughout the world. Thus the conditioned souls, purified by chanting the holy name, are liberated from the blazing fire of material existence.” (Cc Antya-lila 7.12 Purport)

Devotee: Prabhupāda, they said that if Caitanya Mahāprabhu wanted Kṛṣṇa consciousness in the Western countries, why didn’t He go there Himself? That’s what they told us.

Prabhupāda: So He left the credit for me. (laughter)

Devotees: Jaya! Haribol!

Morning Walk — January 4, 1976, Nellore



ISKCON is constitutionally a society centered around Srila Prabhupada as the direct source of imparted transcendental knowledge by which an adherent candidate of the institution may become liberated from material bondage and go back home, back to Godhead. This is Srila Prabhupada’s direct relationship with each and every member of ISKCON. Without practically realizing this fact, the society will perish. Srila Prabhupada gives ample warning to this effect:

“Why this Gaudiya Matha failed? Because they tried to become more than guru. He, before passing away, he gave all direction and never said that “This man should be the next acarya.” But these people, just after his passing away they began to fight, who shall be acarya. That is the failure. They never thought, “Why Guru Maharaja gave us instruction so many things, why he did not say that this man should be acarya?” They wanted to create artificially somebody acarya and everything failed. They did not consider even with common sense that if Guru Maharaja wanted to appoint somebody as acarya, why did he not say? He said so many things, and this point he missed? The real point? (Room Conversation — August 16, 1976, Bombay)

“If everyone just initiates then there will only be a contradictory result. As long as it goes on, there will be only failure.” (Srila Prabhupada’s offering to his spiritual master – Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura (Third Vasistya, 23))

“I wish that each and every Branch shall keep their independent identity and cooperate keeping the Acarya in the centre.” (Letter — February 11, 1967)

“I have given in writing everything, whatever you wanted—my will, my executive(?) power, everything. Disaster will happen if you cannot manage it.” (Room Conversation — October 2, 1977, Vrndavana)


Srila Prabhupada’s pure, original and unedited (pre-1978) books remain accessible today for devotees and aspiring disciples of His Divine grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Pabhupada to take full positive advantage of and truly perfect their lives. This is the divine arrangement of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in the essential pursuit to deliver the fallen souls of this world. In this connection it is extremely important that we not meddle with these books of unimaginable significance but leave them in-tact. Srila Prabhupada’s books act as an essential source of pure knowledge for the world, carefully handed down through the authorized chain of disciplic succession and placed in our hands. Our only duty is to present Srila Prabhupada’s books as they are and in that way become spiritual masters and deliver the entire world.



Additional Quotes

“So although a physical body is not present, the vibration should be accepted as the presence of the Spiritual Master, vibration. What we have heard from the Spiritual Master, that is living.” (Letter, 13/01/69, Los Angeles)

 Madhudvisa: Is there any way for a Christian to do without the help of a Spiritual Master. To reach the spiritual sky through believing the words of Jesus Christ and trying to follow his teachings?

Srila Prabhupada: I don’t follow.

Tamala Krishna: Can a Christian in this age, without a Spiritual Master, but by reading the Bible, and following Jesus’ words, reach the …

Srila Prabhupada: When you read the Bible, you follow Spiritual Master. How can you say without? As soon as you read the Bible, that means you are following the instruction of Lord Jesus Christ, that means that you are following Spiritual Master. So where is the opportunity of being without Spiritual Master?

Madhudvisa: I was referring to a living Spiritual Master.

Srila Prabhupada: Spiritual master is not the question of… Spiritual master is eternal. Spiritual master is eternal. So your question is without spiritual master. Without spiritual master you cannot be, at any stage of your life. You may accept this spiritual master or that spiritual master. That is a different thing. But you have to accept. As you say that “by reading Bible,” when you read Bible that means you are following the spiritual master represented by some priest or some clergyman in the line of Lord Jesus Christ.

(Morning Walk, 2/10/68, Seattle)

 “These are not ordinary books. It is recorded chanting. Anyone who reads, he is hearing.” (Letter to Rupanuga Das, 19/10/74)

“In my books the philosophy of Krishna Consciousness is explained fully so if there is anything you do not understand, then you simply have to read again and again. By reading daily the knowledge will be revealed to you and by this process your spiritual life will develop.” (Letter to Brahmarupa Dasa, 22/11/74)

 Reporter: What will happen to the movement in the United States when you when you die?

Srila Prabhupada: I will never die

Devotees: Jaya! Haribol! (laughter)

Srila Prabhupada: I will live from my books and you will utilise.

Press Conference, 16/7/75, San Francisco


Always chant

Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/

Hare Rāma. Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma Hare Hare

And be happy

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