Are all priests at ISKCON Spiritual Masters

Excerpts from the article: "Spiritual Pain and Painkiller Spirituality: Issues of Spiritual Abuse, Religious Addiction, and Codependency in ISKCON" by Dhyana-kunda dasi,

(...) without entering into a discussion about all of them (...) Statements in the scriptures that are misused or may be used can rightly be said to be the scriptures of the Vaishnava (Followers of the Vishnu religion, d. C.) Warn both against giving in to one's own thoughts, feelings and desires blindly, and against rejecting them without distinction .... By disregarding our inner voice (the oversoul, intuition and conscience) on the grounds that it might lead us astray, we plant the seeds of spiritual abuse. Discernment is required, not censorship. Our "feeling" is the inner compass that protects us from being misused ourselves. Our conscience protects us from the abuse of others.


A fanatical attitude grows out of a profound distrust of one's own thoughts and feelings. Their suppression leads to a state of inner numbness in which the individual no longer knows what they actually want and feel.

In an attempt to give order and meaning to its life, it may try to replace its lost inner voice, by which it has allowed itself to be guided, with the voice of an outside authority. Such people are very attracted to religious authority claiming absolute truth (Porterfield 1993). The individual tends to fanatically and blindly submit, having thrown his critical discernment overboard. However, such submission is not as unconditional as it appears; for example, the person would leave aside or distort teachings on the ABCs of emotional awareness or self-confidence as they undermine their adaptation strategies ... Their "radar" selectively picks out those teachings that can serve as a justification for blind chasing , Denial of self and hurting others.

Religion as addiction and spiritual abuse are propagated in their own "student succession". A person who is addicted to religion usually inevitably goes over to the intellectual abuse of others:

Relating the above to the reality of life in ISKCON is best left to the reader. The problem has been known for centuries and was suggested by Rupa Gosvami (a Hindu saint) recognized as a hindrance to devotional service - niyamagraha, blind following of rules, not to advance spiritually but as an end in itself. The Linns also state that it is not their intention to say that scripture and religious authorities have no truth to offer at all. As bearers of tradition, they play an indispensable role. However, they assert, we cannot develop a proper relationship with the bearers of this tradition if we are no longer in relationship with our selves, as we experience it in the here and now, or when we try to escape from ourselves.

Fear or aversion to self in the present does not lead us to discover our deeper, eternal selves. The history of ISKCON shows us what usually happens; after a few years the neglected side of the personality finds a way to gain attention; but at this point the problems are already piling up.

One symptom of addiction to religion is taking everything literally, thinking to the letter in black and white schemes. The Linns point out that Bill Wilson (the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous) found this way of thinking in alcoholics, and family therapists call it characteristic of dysfunctional families in which addicts grow up.

D. Johnson and J. VanVonderen refer to this approach to the revealed text as "scriptural abuse":

Signs of misuse of the script are indisputably present in our organization. As for ISKCON members, the recorded words of our founder acharya (of Guru Prabhupada) have the same status as the scriptures themselves, the arsenal of usable (and abusive) utterances is probably greater than in any other religion. In religious education in the temple, we had sannyasins for years (Monks)which took a certain selection of verses out of context to condemn family life; later we had married men who quoted other verses to condemn the "false renunciation" of sannyasis. Now we have a debate about which role women should play (exclusively that of housewife and mother or depending on their personal wishes), with both sides lashing out with quotes - often without worrying too much about their context. "Another one from the VedaBase (a database of scriptural references) shot down, "commented a member of the GBC, the Governing Body Commission, the governing body of ISKCON, once in a nutshell the effect of the procedure.

Approaches to the scriptures recommended by the spiritual masters of the Visnuit tradition will be illustrated here using quotations from two works by Bhaktivinoda Thakura (1838-1914, a major religious authority in Vishnuism who wrote books on Krishna in English); he calls us to approach that in the revelations of the scriptures with intuitive awareness and an alert conscience. The first quotation is from an early work entitled "The Bhagavata: Its Philosophy, Ethics and Theology" (Bhagavata = holy scripture about Krishna)- the other is the Shri Tattva Sutra, which Thakura wrote many years later at the height of his literary activity:

Both of the Bhaktivinoda quotes reproduced above end with a warning: Freedom can be abused; creative access to the scriptures requires personal integrity and a degree of spiritual advancement. The authors who write about mental abuse acknowledge this as well. Uncritical reliance on outside guidance and authority is not always a sign of religion as an addiction. It is also typical of the beginning of the development of the faith.

This gives us an additional insight into the nature of the mental abuse:

Translated with permission, (C) translation 2003