The following is a response to an article called “Ritvik Defeated” by Swami B.G. Narasingha (SN), which is published on a Gaudiya Matha related website. Statements from SN’s article will be enclosed in speech marks “ “ thus, with my comments following underneath.
“One of the parts to the answer to Mother Dirgha's question is that...how to defeat the ritvik idea and the answer is that, because there is no example of a ritvik acarya ever in the whole history of existence in this universe.”
In order to use precedent as a valid method by which to evaluate the bona fide nature of any practice, one would need to:
a) First determine if the issue of precedence is relevant to the activity in question by proving that such an activity has never taken place anywhere since the material universe began.
b) Then if one is able to prove the above, they would need to quote Srila Prabhupada stating that precedent was a valid method by which to evaluate the bona fide nature of any practice.
c) To round off the proof as being complete, one would further need to show that every bona fide practice has always had a precedent.
The burden of proof always falls on those who advance a particular claim. Thus, those who advance precedence as a valid argument have the burden of proof of demonstrating the above.
a) has not been done, since SN has not provided any proof that no ritvik initiations have ever occurred since the beginning of the material universe.
b) cannot be done, since Srila Prabhupada never states this.
c) would suffer from the same problems as a), as one would need to separately prove that every bona fide practice in existence had been practiced previously.
Further, this argument suffers from ontological problems, since one would initially need unprecedented actions to establish precedents in the first place.
“And there are hundreds of stories in the Srimad-Bhagavatam of guru disciple, guru disciple. In the C.c. there wasn't even ritvik what to speak of Srila Prabhupada, Caitanya Mahaprabhu was present but the people weren't ritviking for Him. There is no example of a ritvik ever.”
SN claims that there are no examples of ritvik initiations of any kind mentioned in the scriptures, including when the Diksa Guru is present on the planet. This immediately destroys the relevance of this claim, because SN himself accepts that ritvik initiations when the Diksa Guru is present on the planet are bona fide.
“So there is no example of a ritvik anywhere except sometimes during the living presence of the spiritual master a ritvik acts as a priest because he can't be present. That is quite common.”
Having told us there is no example of ritvik at all, he now immediately contradicts himself and says examples of ritviks initiating on behalf of the spiritual master, when the latter is on the planet, are “quite common”!
“There is only the example of parampara. […] Without being initiated by a bonafide spiritual master...it doesn't say without being initiated by a ritvik of a bonafide spiritual master although he has left the world. It says without being initiated by a bonafide spiritual master one cannot go back to Godhead.”
If one is initiated with a representative performing the initiation ceremony, one is being initiated by a bonafide spiritual master, just as the majority of the Srila Prabhupada’s disciples were initiated by him, using this method. The method by which the initiation ceremony is conducted does not change this. Thus, there is no conflict between being initiated by a bona fide spiritual master and … being initiated by a bona fide spiritual master.
“And also in there it says, first one generally takes siksa, then the siksa-guru then gives diksa.”
Correct. And it is accepted even by the GBC, that the pre-eminent siksa guru in ISKCON is Srila Prabhupada.
“But in our line there is no example. There is no precedence anywhere; not in any lecture of Srila Prabhupada.”
SN repeats here the already defeated “no precedence” argument. Please see opening exchange.
"One time one newspaper reporter inquired, "After you, who will be guru?" And Srila Prabhupada said, "All my disciples will be guru." "
The burden is on SN to cite to the date and place of the exchange and the tape number or location in the references such as in the Vedabase. Recall that the burden is on the proponent. We checked the Vedabase and could not find such a quotation. Therefore, it is an example of an unverified statement.
“He established the ritviks to initiate around the world before he left the world on his behalf. In their mind there is no proof that that was ever changed. Therefore that is what he set up and that is what goes on, until he indicates otherwise. But the otherwise had already been indicated for 12 years of preaching.”
Srila Prabhupada never stated via 12 years of preaching that the ritviks which are appointed on his behalf should terminate acting as such on his departure. Never mind for 12 years, Srila Prabhupada did not state this once.
“When I took sannyasa (1976), and I can show you my sannyasa initiation, Prabhupada said in his very short sannyasa initiation lecture, "you become guru." He says it five times in this lecture. "You become guru. You become guru." Some people say that that means siksa guru. In Srila Prabhupada's essay, that is in the BBT archives, we printed that in the book, Search for the Ultimate Goal of Life. Srila Prabhupada says, there are some who say that become guru means only become siksa-guru. And he said, such persons are foolish. They do not understand the parampara. That is in The Search for the Ultimate Goal of Life. What he says five times, particularly in my sannyasa initiation lecture, he says in hundreds of times in other places, both generally and pointedly.”
Asking everyone to become guru hundreds of times in his physical presence, cannot refer to Srila Prabhupada ordering Diksa gurus, otherwise we would have had every one of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples become Diksa Gurus alongside Srila Prabhupada. If SN himself thought this was what Srila Prabhupada was referring to, then he is guilty of at least 5 times disobeying the order of Srila Prabhupada. For, in these hundreds of calls to become guru, no mention is made that the person needs to wait until Srila Prabhupada has departed, nor is there any mention of requiring any qualification. Rather, Srila Prabhupada states that “no qualification” is required:
"How can I become guru?' There is no need of qualification... Whomever you meet, you simply instruct what Krsna has said."
"Anyone can do. A child can do."
And we know SN is not claiming that unqualified children should all be made Diksa Gurus, because later on in the same article, he states:
SN: “We must give respect to the post of guru, of course we should have the necessary qualifications, guru nistha and niskincana bhakti, firm faith in the order of the spiritual master and freedom from the desire for power, profit, adoration and distinction. And we should have this before accepting the post of guru and accepting disciples.”
“But if you say there is no one qualified among Prabhupada's disciples, then why would anyone want to become his disciple?”
This is not being claimed. What is claimed is that Srila Prabhupada is qualified to remain as ISKCON’s Diksa Guru, and he ordered that this be the case, and his qualified disciples, would automatically follow such orders.
“So, the ritvik idea is a cop out philosophy, to say that no one is qualified, therefore I don't have to become qualified, we will just initiate everyone as Prabhupada's disciple.”
This is a repeat of the same straw-man argument just answered.
“But what are the ritvik acaryas doing, they are pointing to the so called disqualification of others. They say no one is qualified to hold the post of guru. They see only disqualification in everyone.”
The IRM does not say this. We say Srila Prabhupada is qualified to hold the post of Diksa guru of ISKCON, and he did not order a successor, and therefore the qualification of others to be guru is not relevant, even though they may be qualified. However, anyone who disobeys the order of the spiritual master is automatically demonstrating he is not even qualified as a disciple, never mind guru.
“When Srila Prabhupada was ill he started setting up a system, this area and that area they would initiate on his behalf.”
Srila Prabhupada did not state he set up the system of ritvik because he was ill. Nor could this be the reason, because the only change was that now the ritvik would give the spiritual name, and send out an acceptance letter. Chanting on the beads and the performance of the fire sacrifice was already largely being done by others. Therefore, the responsibilities which Srila Prabhupada now devolved only required the use of his vocal chords to give a spiritual name, and have his secretary type and send out a standard initiation acceptance letter. And at the time the ritvik system was set up, his vocal chords were working fine, and indeed he even continued writing letters.
Like his Gaudiya Matha influenced colleague, Swami Tripurari (please go here ), SN relies on using historical precedence and straw-man arguments to try and rebut Srila Prabhupada’s ritvik system, while avoiding discussing Srila Prabhupada’s actual orders for the application of the ritvik system to ISKCON.