By Anuttama Dasa, Global Minister of Communications
The Governing Body Commission (GBC) of ISKCON has released a decision clarifying initiation standards in ISKCON. The decision came, in part, as a response to a thorough paper produced by ISKCON’s Sastric Advisory Council (SAC) entitled “Brahma-gayatri Mantra in ISKCON -Varnashrama, Bhakti – Principle or Detail?”
The SAC paper was studied in detail by the GBC in plenary sessions and by an ad hoc GBC Committee. The committee drew from the paper what they considered the essential principles that needed clarification in ISKCON. Those principles were presented as a proposal to the full GBC. After several GBC Body discussions, the proposal was brought to a vote and supported by a large majority of GBC members, thus becoming ISKCON Law.
The GBC decision highlights and clarifies five areas regarding initiation standards in ISKCON. In summary, they are as follows:
- The vows at first initiation shall be, as Srila Prabhupada required, to chant a minimum of sixteen rounds daily of the Hare Krishna mantra as well as abstaining from intoxication, illicit sex, gambling, and the eating of meat, fish, and eggs.
- Initiating gurus at the second initiation shall give the specific seven mantras that Srila Prabhupada gave to all initiates.
- Gurus and those who recommend initiation candidates shall not make any distinction of birth, nationality, race, ethnicity, previous *samskara*, marital status, gender, or classifications within the *varnas* (such as occupational livelihood).
- Gurus should include a standard explanation at the time of initiation, “As a member of ISKCON under the guidance and leadership of the GBC Body, I give you initiation in the guru Parampara.” And that only the vows given by Srila Prabhupada (above # 1) may be required of initiates.
- That the GBC will publish the SAC paper referenced above.
After approval of the GBC, the decision was further discussed by the ISKCON SABHA (Spiritual Advisors Bhagavata Assembly), the international body that reviews GBC decisions. Per ISKCON Law, the SABHA can return a decision to the GBC if 2/3 of that body does not support a particular decision. In this case, the resolution was returned with the support of a majority of SABHA members and thus is now officially ISKCON law.
The SAC paper is an advisory document for the GBC and is not binding. In this case, the GBC voted explicitly to release the SAC paper to the public. Further recommendations from the GBC Committee regarding the SAC paper may be considered at a future date.