ISKCON Revival Movement
THE FINAL ORDER
Foreword by Dr. Kim Knott
|Modification a) :||That the appointment of representatives or ritviks was only temporary, specifically to be terminated on the departure of Srila Prabhupada.|
|Modification b) :||Having ceased their representational function, the ritviks would automatically become diksa gurus, initiating persons as their own disciples, not Srila Prabhupada's .|
The reforms to the zonal acarya system, which took place around 1987, kept intact these two assumptions. The same assumptions, in fact, that underpinned the very system it replaced. We refer to a) and b) above as modifications since neither statement appears in the July 9th letter itself, nor in any policy document issued by Srila Prabhupada subsequent to this order.
The GBC's paper, GII, clearly upholds the above mentioned modifications:
"When Srila Prabhupada was asked who would initiate after his physical departure he stated he would "recommend" and give his "order" to some of his disciples who would initiate on his behalf during his lifetime and afterwards as "regular gurus", whose disciples would be Srila Prabhupada's grand-disciples." (GII, p.14)
Over the years increasing numbers of devotees have began questioning the legitimacy of these basic assumptions. For many, they have never been properly substantiated, and hence an uneasy sense of doubt and mistrust has grown both within and outside the Society. At present, books, papers, E-Mailouts and Internet Web Sites offer almost daily updates on ISKCON and its allegedly deviant guru system. Anything, which can bring about some sort of resolution to this controversy has got to be positive for anyone who truly cares about Srila Prabhupada's Movement.
One point everyone is agreed on is that Srila Prabhupada is the ultimate authority for all members of ISKCON, so whatever his intended order was, it is our duty to carry it out. Another point of agreement is that the only signed policy statement on the future of initiation, which was sent to all the Society's leaders, was the July 9th order.
It is significant to note that in GII the existence of the July 9th letter is not even acknowledged, even though this is the only place where the original eleven "acaryas" are actually mentioned. This omission is puzzling, especially given that GII is supposed to offer the "final siddhanta" on the entire issue.
Let us then look closely at the
July 9th order to see if there is indeed anything that supports
assumptions a) and b) above:
The Order Itself
As previously mentioned, the July 9th order states that the ritvik system should be followed "henceforward". The specific word used, "henceforward", only has one meaning, viz. "from now onwards". This is both according to Srila Prabhupada's own previous usage of the word and the meaning ascribed to it by the English Language. Unlike other words, the word "henceforward" is unambiguous since it only possesses one dictionary definition. On the other 86 occasions that we find on Folio where Srila Prabhupada has used the word "henceforward", nobody raised even the possibility that the word could mean anything other than "from now onwards". "From now onwards" does not mean "from now onwards until I depart". It simply means "from now onwards". There is no mention in the letter that the system should stop on Srila Prabhupada's departure, neither does it state that the system was to only be operational during his presence. Furthermore the argument that the whole ritvik system "hangs" on one word - "henceforward" - is untenable, since even if we take the word out of the letter, nothing has changed. One still has a system set up by Srila Prabhupada four months before his departure, with no subsequent instruction to terminate it. Without such a counter instruction, this letter must be seen as Srila Prabhupada's final instruction on initiation, and should therefore be followed.
There were other statements made by Srila Prabhupada, and his secretary, in the days following the July 9th letter, which clearly indicate that the ritvik system was intended to continue without cessation:
"...the process for initiation to be followed in the future." (July 11th , 1977)
"...continue to become ritvik
and act on my charge." (July 19th, 1977)
"...continue to become ritvik and act on my behalf." (July 31st, 1977)
(please see Appendices)
In these documents we find words such as "continue" and "future" which along with the word "henceforward" all point to the permanency of the ritvik system. There is no statement from Srila Prabhupada that even hints that this system was to terminate on his departure.
Once the ritvik system was up and running, Srila Prabhupada never issued a subsequent order to stop it, nor did he ever state that it should be disbanded on his departure. Perhaps aware that such a thing may mistakenly or otherwise occur, he put in the beginning of his final will that the "system of management" in place within ISKCON must continue and could not be changed - an instruction left intact by a codicil added just nine days before his departure. Surely this would have been the perfect opportunity to disband the ritvik system had that been his intention. That the use of ritviks to give initiates" names was a "system of management" can be illustrated by the following:
In 1975 one of the preliminary GBC resolutions sanctioned that the "GBC would have sole responsibility for managerial affairs". Below are some of the "managerial" issues the GBC dealt with that year:
"In order to receive first initiation, one must have been a full time member for six months. For second initiation there should be at least another one year after the first initiation." (GBC Resolution No. 9, March 25th, 1975)
"Method of initiating Sannyasis." (GBC Resolution No. 2, March 27th, 1975)
These resolutions were personally approved by Srila Prabhupada. They demonstrate conclusively that the methodology for conducting initiations was deemed a "system of management". If the whole methodology for conducting initiations is considered a "system of management" by Srila Prabhupada, then one element of initiation, viz. the use of ritviks to give spiritual names, has to fall under the same terms of reference.
Thus changing the ritvik system of initiation was in direct violation of Srila Prabhupada's final Will.
Another instruction in Srila Prabhupada's Will which indicates the intended longevity of the ritvik system, is where it states that the executive directors for his permanent properties in India could only be selected from amongst Srila Prabhupada's "initiated disciples":
"...a successor director or directors
may be appointed by the remaining directors, provided the new director
is my initiated disciple..."
(Srila Prabhupada's Declaration of Will, June 4th, 1977)
This is something that could only occur if a ritvik system of initiation remained in place after Srila Prabhupada's departure, since otherwise the pool of potential directors would eventually dry up.
Furthermore, every time Srila Prabhupada spoke of initiations after July 9th he simply reconfirmed the ritvik system. He never gave any hint that the system should stop on his departure or that there were gurus, waiting in the sidelines, ready to take on the role of diksa. Thus, at least as far as direct evidence is concerned, there appears to be nothing to support assumptions a) and b) referred to above. As stated, these assumptions - that the ritvik system should have stopped at departure and that the ritviks must then become diksa gurus - form the very basis of ISKCON's current guru system. If they prove to be invalid then there will certainly need to be a radical re-think by the GBC.
The above sets the scene. The instruction itself, supporting instructions and subsequent instructions only support the continuation of the ritvik system. It is admitted by all concerned that Srila Prabhupada did not give any order to terminate the ritvik system on his physical departure. It is further accepted by all concerned that Srila Prabhupada did set up the ritvik system to operate from July 9th onwards. Thus we have a situation whereby the acarya:
1) has given a clear instruction to follow a ritvik system.
2) has not given an instruction to stop following the ritvik system upon his physical departure.
Consequently, for a disciple to stop following this order, with any degree of legitimacy, demands he provide some solid grounds for doing so. The only thing that Srila Prabhupada actually told us to do was to follow the ritvik system. He never told us to stop following it, or that one could only follow it in his physical presence. The onus of proof will naturally fall on those who wish to terminate any system put in place by our acarya, and left to run henceforward. This is an obvious point; one can not just stop following the order of the guru whimsically:
"...the process is that you cannot change the order of the spiritual master." (C.c. Adi 7.76-81, Lecture, 2/2/67, San Francisco)
A disciple does not need to justify continuing to follow a direct order from the guru, especially when he has been told to continue following it. That is axiomatic - this is what the word "disciple" means:
"When one becomes disciple, he cannot disobey the order of the spiritual master." (Srila Prabhupada Bg. Lecture, 11/2/75, Mexico)
Since there is no direct evidence stating that the ritvik system should have been abandoned on Srila Prabhupada's physical departure, the case for abandoning it could therefore only be based on indirect evidence. Indirect evidence may arise out of special circumstances surrounding the literal direct instruction. These extenuating circumstances, should they exist, may be used to provide grounds for interpreting the literal instruction. We will now examine the circumstances surrounding the July 9th order, to see if such modifying circumstances might indeed have been present, and whether there is inferentially anything to support assumptions a) and b).
Relating Directly To The Form
And Circumstances Of The Final Order
|1) "The letter clearly implies that it was only set up for whilst Srila Prabhupada was present."|
For some years Srila Prabhupada had been using representatives to chant on beads, perform the fire yajna, give gayatri mantra etc. No one had ever questioned whom such new initiates belonged to. Right at the beginning of the July 9th letter it is emphatically stated that those appointed are "representatives" of Srila Prabhupada. The only innovation this letter contained then was the formalisation of the role of the representatives; hardly something which could be confused with a direct order for them to become fully-fledged diksa gurus. Srila Prabhupada's emphasis on disciple ownership would therefore have been completely redundant were the system to operate only in his presence, especially since as long as he was present he could personally ensure that no one claimed false ownership of the disciples. As mentioned above, this point is hammered home three times in a letter which itself was quite short and to the point:
"So as soon as one thing is three times stressed, that means final." (Srila Prabhupada Bg. Lecture, 27/11/68, Los Angeles)
The July 9th letter states that the names of newly initiated disciples were to be sent "to Srila Prabhupada" - Could this indicate that the system was only to run while Srila Prabhupada was physically present? Some devotees have argued that since we can no longer send these names to Srila Prabhupada, the ritvik system must therefore be invalid.
The first point to note is the stated purpose behind the names being sent to Srila Prabhupada, ie., so they could be included in his "Initiated Disciples" book. We know from the July 7th conversation (please see Appendices) that Srila Prabhupada had nothing to do with entering the new names into this book, it was done by his secretary. Further evidence that the names should be sent for inclusion in the book, and NOT specifically to Srila Prabhupada is given in the letter written to Hamsadutta, the very next day, where Tamala Krishna Goswami explains his new ritvik duties to him:
"...you should send their names to be included in Srila Prabhupada's 'Initiated Disciples' book." (Letter to Hamsadutta from Tamala Krishna Goswami, 10/7/77)
Their is no mention made here of needing to send the names to Srila Prabhupada. This procedure could easily have continued after Srila Prabhupada's physical departure. Nowhere in the final order does it state that if the "Initiated Disciples" book becomes physically separated from Srila Prabhupada all initiations must be suspended.
The next point is that the procedure of sending the names of newly initiated disciples to Srila Prabhupada in any case relates to a post-initiation activity. The names could only be sent after the disciples had already been initiated. Thus an instruction concerning what is to be done after initiation cannot be used to amend or in any way interrupt pre-initiation, or indeed initiation procedures (the ritvik's role being already fulfilled well before the actual initiation ceremony takes place). Whether or not names can be sent to Srila Prabhupada has no bearing on the system for initiation, since at the point where new names are ready to be sent, the initiation has already occurred.The last point is that if sending the names to Srila Prabhupada were a vital part of the ceremony, then even before Srila Prabhupada's departure, the system would have been invalid, or at least run the constant risk of being so. It was generally understood that Srila Prabhupada was ready to leave at any time, thus the danger of not having anywhere to send the names was present from day one of the order being issued. In other words, taking the possible scenario that Srila Prabhupada leaves the planet the day after a disciple has been initiated through the ritvik system, according to the above proposition, the disciple would not actually have been initiated simply because of the speed by which mail is delivered. We find no mention in Srila Prabhupada's books that the transcendental process of diksa, which may take many lifetimes to complete, can be obstructed by the vicissitudes of the postal service. Certainly there would be nothing preventing the names of new initiates being entered into His Divine Grace's "Initiated Disciples" book even now. This book could then be offered to Srila Prabhupada at a fitting time.
|2) "The letter does not specifically say "this system will continue after Srila Prabhupada's departure"; therefore, it was right to stop the ritvik system at Srila Prabhupada's departure."|
Please consider the following points:
In summary, the GBC insists on the following:
• the ritvik system must stop.
• the ritvik system must stop on Srila Prabhupada's departure.
Neither of the above stipulations appears in the July 9th letter, nor any other signed order; yet they form the very foundation of both the zonal acarya system and the current "Multiple Acarya Successor System," or M.A.S.S. as we shall refer to it. (In this context we use the word acarya in its strongest sense, that of initiating spiritual master, or diksa guru).
To argue that since the letter is not specific about the time period in which it is to run, it must therefore stop on departure is completely illogical. The letter does not specify that the ritvik system should be followed on July 9th either, so according to this logic it should never have been followed at all. Even accepting that "henceforward" can at least stretch to the end of the first day of the order being issued, it does not say it should be followed on July 10th, so perhaps it should have stopped then.
The demand for the ritvik system to only operate within a pre-specified time period is contradicted by accepting its operation for 126 separate 24 hour time periods (i.e. four months). Since none of these 126 separate time periods is specified in the letter, yet everyone seems quite happy that the system ran during this time frame. Unless we take the word "henceforward" literally to mean "indefinitely", we could stop the system at any time after July 9th, so why choose departure?
There is no example, either in Srila Prabhupada's 86 recorded uses, nor in the entire history of the English language, where the actual word "henceforward" has ever meant:
"Every time period until the departure of a person who issued the order"
to current thinking this is what the word must have meant when it was
used in the July 9th letter. All the letter states is that the
system is to be followed "henceforward". So why was it stopped?
|3) "Certain instructions obviously can not continue after Srila Prabhupada"s departure, and thus it is understood that they could only have been intended to operate in Srila Prabhupada's presence; e.g. someone may have been appointed "henceforward" to give Srila Prabhupada his regular massage. Maybe the ritvik order is of that type?|
If an instruction is impossible to perform, for example giving Srila Prabhupada his daily massage after his physical departure, then obviously there can be no question of doing it. The duty of a disciple is simply to follow an order until it is impossible to follow any longer, or until the spiritual master changes the order. The question then is whether it is feasible to follow a ritvik system without the physical presence of the person who set it up.
In fact, the ritvik
system was set up specifically
to be operational without any
physical involvement from Srila Prabhupada whatsoever. Had the
system continued after his departure, it would be identical in every respect to how it was practiced whilst Srila Prabhupada was
present. After July 9th,
Srila Prabhupada's involvement became non-letter existent, and so
even at that stage it was operating as though he had already left. This
being the case, we cannot classify the
ritvik system dysfunctional, or
inoperable, on the grounds of Srila Prabhupada's departure, since
his departure does not in any way affect the running of the system.
In other words, since
the system was specifically set up to operate as if Srila Prabhupada was
not on the planet, his leaving the planet can not in itself render the
|4)"The fact that the order was "only" issued in a letter, and not in a book, gives us a license to interpret it indirectly."|
This "letters v books" argument does not apply in this case since this was no ordinary letter. Generally, Srila Prabhupada wrote a letter in response to a specific query from an individual disciple, or to offer individualised guidance or chastisement. Naturally, in these cases the devotee"s original query, situation or deviation may give grounds for interpretation. Not everything in Srila Prabhupada's letters can be applied universally (for example in one letter he advised a devotee, who was not good with spices, to just cook with a little salt and tumeric; clearly this advice was not meant for the entire Movement). However, the final order on initiation is not open to any such interpretation since it was not written in response to a specific query from a particular individual, or to address a disciple's individual situation or behaviour. The July 9th letter was a procedural instruction, or management policy document, which was sent to every leader in the Movement.
The letter follows the format of any important instruction that Srila Prabhupada issued and wanted followed without interpretation - he had it put in writing, he approved it, and then sent it to his leaders. For example, he had one sent on April 22nd, 1972, addressed to "ALL TEMPLE PRESIDENTS":
"The zonal secretary's duty is to see
that the spiritual principles are being upheld very nicely in all the
Temples of his zone. Otherwise each Temple shall be independent and
(Srila Prabhupada Letter to All Temple Presidents, 22/4/72)
|5)"Maybe there was some special background surrounding the issuing of the order that precludes its application after Srila Prabhupada's departure?"|
If such circumstances did exist, Srila Prabhupada would have stated them in the letter, or in an accompanying document. Srila Prabhupada always gave enough information to enable the correct application of his instructions. He certainly did not operate on the assumption that his Temple Presidents were all mystic mind readers, and that he therefore only needed to issue fragmented and incomplete directives which would later be made sense of telepathically. For example, had Srila Prabhupada intended the ritvik system to stop on his departure he would have added the following seven words to the July 9th letter - "This system will terminate on my departure". A quick look at the letter tells us he wanted it to continue "henceforward". (please see Appendices)
Sometimes it is argued that the ritvik system was only set up because Srila Prabhupada was sick.
Devotees may or may not have been aware of the extent of Srila Prabhupada's illness; but how could they possibly be expected to deduce from a letter that says nothing about his health, that this was the only reason it was issued? When did Srila Prabhupada say that any instruction he issued must always be interpreted in conjunction with his latest medical report? Why should the recipients of the final order on initiation not have assumed the letter was a general instruction to be followed, without interpretation?
Srila Prabhupada had already announced that he had come to Vrindavan to leave his body. Being tri-kala-jna he was most likely aware of his departure in four months time. He had set in motion the final instructions for the continuation of his Movement. He had already drawn up his will and other documents relating to the BBT (Bhaktivedanta Book Trust) and GBC, specifically to provide guidance for after his imminent departure. The one matter that had not yet been settled was how initiations would operate when he left. At this point, no one had the faintest clue how things were to run. The July 9th order clarified for everyone precisely how initiations were to proceed in his absence.In summary, you can not modify an instruction with information that those to whom the instruction was given did not have access. Why would Srila Prabhupada purposely issue an instruction that he knew in advance no one could follow correctly, since he had not given them the relevant information within the instruction? If the ritvik system was only set up because he was ill, Srila Prabhupada would have said so in the letter or in some accompanying document. There is no record of Srila Prabhupada ever behaving in such a purposely ambiguous and uninformative manner, especially when instructing the entire Movement. Srila Prabhupada never signed anything in a cavalier fashion, and when one considers the magnitude of the instruction in question, it is inconceivable that he would have left out any vital information.
|6) "Does not the "Appointment Tape" contain relevant information that clearly frames the July 9th order as being only applicable whilst Srila Prabhupada was physically present on the planet?"|
In the GBC's handbook GII, the sole evidence offered in support of modifications a) & b) is extracted from a conversation, which took place on May 28th, 1977. The paper appears to concede that there is no other instructional evidence, which directly relates to the function of ritviks after Srila Prabhupada's departure:
"Although Srila Prabhupada did not repeat his earlier statements, it was understood that he expected these disciples to initiate in the future." (GII, p.35)
Since it is the sole evidence, there is a section exclusively dedicated to the May 28th conversation. Suffice to say it was not referred to in the July 9th letter, nor did Srila Prabhupada demand that a copy of the taped conversation be sent out with the final order. From this we can deduce, with absolute confidence, that it cannot contain a scrap of modifying information vital to the understanding of the final order. As a point of fact, the May 28th conversation was not released till several years after Srila Prabhupada's departure. Thus once more we are expected to modify a clear written instruction with information, which was not accessible to the very people who were issued the instruction. As will be seen later, the May conversation has nothing in it to contradict the final order.
As a general point, later instructions from the guru will always supersede previous instructions; the final order is the final order, and must be followed:
"I may say many things to you, but when I say something directly to you, you do it. Your first duty is to do that, you cannot argue - "Sir you said to me do like this before", no that is not your duty, what I say to you now you do it, that is obedience you cannot argue." (Srila Prabhupada S.B. Lecture, 14/4/75, Hyderabad)
Just as in the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna gave so many instructions to Arjuna, he spoke of all types of yoga from Dhyana to Jnana, but all this was superseded by the final order:
"Always think of Me and become My devotee"- should be taken as the final order of the Lord and should be followed." (Teachings of Lord Caitanya, chapter 11)
The final order given by Sankaracarya,"bhaja Govinda", was also meant to supersede many of his earlier statements - all of them, in fact. As mentioned in the introduction, the GBC itself recognises this as an axiomatic principle of logic:
"In logic, later statements supersede earlier ones in importance." (GII, p. 25)It is not possible to have a "later" statement than the last one. Therefore we must follow the ritvik system by the GBC's own logic.
|7) "Srila Prabhupada stated many times that all his disciples must become gurus, surely this proves that Srila Prabhupada did not intend the ritvik system to be permanent.|
Srila Prabhupada never appointed or instructed anyone to be diksa guru for after his departure. Evidence for this claim has never been produced, indeed many senior leaders within ISKCON have conceded the point:
"And it's a fact that Srila Prabhupada never said "Alright here is the next acarya, or here is the next eleven acaryas and they are authorised gurus for the Movement, for the world". He did not do that." (Ravindra Svarupa das, San Diego debate, 1990)
Srila Prabhupada unequivocally stated that the diksa guru must be a mahabhagavata (most advanced stage of God-realisation) and be specifically authorised by his own spiritual master. He had always strongly condemned the assumption of guruship by those who were not suitably qualified and authorised. We quote below from Srila Prabhupada's books where the qualifications of the diksa guru are stated.
brahmano vai gurur nrnam
sarvesam eva lokanam asau pujyo yatha harih
maha-kula-prasuto" pi sarva-yajnesu diksitah
sahasra-sakhadhya yi ca na guruh syad avaisnavah
"The guru must be situated on the topmost platform of devotional service. There are three classes of devotees, and the guru must be accepted from the topmost class." (C.c. Madhya, 24.330, purport)
"When one has attained the topmost position of maha-bhagavata, he is to be accepted as a guru and worshipped exactly like Hari, the Personality of Godhead. Only such a person is eligible to occupy the post of a guru." (C.c. Madhya, 24.330, purport)
Aside from the qualification, Srila Prabhupada also taught that specific authorisation from the predecessor acarya was also essential before anyone could act as a diksa guru:
"On the whole, you may know that he is not a liberated person, and therefore, he cannot initiate any person to Krishna Consciousness. It requires special spiritual benediction from higher authorities." (Srila Prabhupada Letter to Janardana, 26/4/68)
"One should take initiation from a bona fide spiritual master coming in the disciplic succession, who is authorised by his predecessor spiritual master. This is called diksa-vidhana." (S.B. 4.8.54, purport)
|Indian man:||When did you become spiritual the leader of Krishna Consciousness?|
|Srila Prabhupada:||What is that?|
|Brahmananda:||He is asking when did you become the spiritual leader of Krishna Consciousness?|
|Srila Prabhupada:||When my Guru Maharaja ordered me. This is the guru parampara.|
|Indian man:||Did it...|
Try to understand. don't go very
speedily. A guru can become guru when he is ordered by his guru.
That's all. Otherwise nobody can become guru.
(Srila Prabhupada Bg. Lecture, 28/10/75)
Evidence used to support an alternative to the ritvik system falls into three basic categories :
The instruction for everyone to become guru is found in the following verse in the Caitanya-Caritamrta, which was often quoted by Srila Prabhupada:
"Instruct everyone to follow the orders of Sri Krishna as they are given in Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. In this way become a spiritual master and try to liberate everyone in this land." (C.c. Madhya, 7.128)
However, the type of guru, which Lord Caitanya is encouraging everyone to become, is clearly established in the detailed purports following this verse:
"That is, one should stay at home, chant the Hare Krishna mantra and preach the instructions of Krishna as they are given in Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam." (C.c. Madhya, 7.128, purport)
"One may remain a householder, medical practitioner, an engineer or whatever. It doesn't matter. One only has to follow the instruction of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra and instruct relatives and friends in the teachings of Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam [...] It is best not to accept any disciples." (C.c. Madhya, 7.130, purport)
We can see that these instructions do not demand that the gurus in question first attain any particular level of realisation before they act. The request is immediate. From this it is clear everyone is simply encouraged to preach what they may know, and in so doing become siksa, or instructing, gurus. This is further clarified by the stipulation for the siksa guru to remain in that position, and not then go on to become a diksa guru:
"It is best not to accept any disciples." (C.c. Madhya, 7.130, purport)
To accept disciples is the main business of a diksa guru, whereas a siksa guru simply needs to carry on his duties and preach Krishna Consciousness as best he can. It is clear from Srila Prabhupada's purports that in the above verse Lord Caitanya is actually authorising siksa gurus, not diksa gurus.
This is also made abundantly clear in the many other references where Srila Prabhupada encourages everyone to become guru:
"yare dekha, tare kaha, Krishna-upadesa. You haven't got to manufacture anything. What Krishna has already said, you repeat. Finish. don't make addition, adulteration. Then you become guru [...] I may be fool, rascal [...] So we have to follow this path, that you become guru, deliver your neighbourhood men, associates, but speak the authoritative words of Krishna. Then it will act [...] Anyone can do. A child can do." (Srila Prabhupada Evening darshan, 11/5/77, Hrsikesh)
"Because people are in darkness, we require many millions of gurus to enlighten them. Therefore Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mission is, [...] He said that "Everyone of you become guru." (Srila Prabhupada Lecture, 21/5/76, Honolulu)
"You simply say [...] "Just always think of Me", Krishna said, "And just become My devotee. Just worship Me and offer obeisances." Kindly do these things." So if you can induce one person to do these things, you become guru. Is there any difficulty?" (Srila Prabhupada Conversation, 2/8/76, New Mayapur)
"Real guru is he who instructs what Krishna has said....You have simply to say, 'This is this.' That's all. Is it very difficult task?" (Srila Prabhupada Lecture, 21/5/76, Honolulu)
"...'But I have no qualification. How can I become guru ?' There is no need of qualification...Whomever you meet, you simply instruct what Krishna has said. That's all. You become guru." (Srila Prabhupada Lecture, 21/5/76, Honolulu)
(Astonishingly, some devotees have used such quotes as those above as a justification for "minimally qualified diksa gurus"*(1), an entity never once mentioned in any of Srila Prabhupada's books, letters, lectures or conversations).
An example of a guru who has no qualification other than repeating what he has heard, could be found on any bhakta induction course in ISKCON. It is perfectly clear therefore that the above are actually invitations to become instructing spiritual masters, siksa gurus. We know this since Srila Prabhupada has already explained for us in his books the far more stringent requirements for becoming a diksa guru:
"When one has attained the topmost position of maha-bhagavata, he is to be accepted as a guru and worshipped exactly like Hari, the Personality of Godhead. Only such a person is eligible to occupy the post of a guru." (C.c. Madhya, 24.330, purport)
"One should take initiation from a bona fide spiritual master coming in the disciplic succession, who is authorised by his predecessor spiritual master. This is called diksa-vidhana." (S.B. 4.8.54, purport)In the above quote Srila Prabhupada states that the order to become an initiating guru has to be received specifically from one's own guru. The general instruction from Lord Caitanya had been present for 500 years. It is obvious then that Srila Prabhupada did not consider "amara ajnaya guru hana" to refer specifically to diksa, otherwise why would we need yet another specific order from our immediate acarya? This general instruction from Lord Caitanya must be referring to siksa not diksa guru. Diksa guru is the exception, not the rule. Whereas Srila Prabhupada envisaged millions of siksa gurus, comprising of men, women and children.
There were a handful of overly confident devotees, anxious to initiate their own disciples in Srila Prabhupada's presence, who Srila Prabhupada wrote letters to. These letters are used to support the M.A.S.S. Srila Prabhupada had a fairly standard approach when dealing with such ambitious individuals. Generally he told them to keep rigidly trained up, and in the future, after his physical departure, they may accept disciples:
"The first thing, I warn Acyutananda, do not try to initiate. You are not in a proper position now to initiate anyone. [...] don't be allured by such maya. I am training you all to become future spiritual masters, but do not be in a hurry." (Srila Prabhupada Letter to Acyutananda and Jaya Govinda, 21/8/68)
"Sometime ago you asked my permission for accepting some disciples, now the time is approaching very soon when you will have many disciples by your strong preaching work." (Srila Prabhupada Letter to Acyutananda,16/5/72)
"I have heard that there is some worship of yourself by the other devotees. Of course it is proper to offer obeisances to a Vaisnava, but not in the presence of the spiritual master. After the departure of the spiritual master, it will come to that stage, but now wait. Otherwise it will create factions." (Srila Prabhupada Letter to Hansadutta, 1/10/74)
"Keep trained up very rigidly and then you are bonafide Guru, and you can accept disciples on the same principle. But as a matter of etiquette it is the custom that during the lifetime of your spiritual master you bring the prospective disciples to him, and in his absence or disappearance you can accept disciples without any limitation. This is the law of disciplic succession. I want to see my disciples become bonafide spiritual master and spread Krishna Consciousness very widely, that will make me and Krishna very happy." (Srila Prabhupada Letter to Tusta Krishna, 2/12/75)Eagerness to accept worship and followers is actually a disqualification for a spiritual master. We can only marvel at the power of the false ego, that even in the presence of the most powerful acarya the planet has ever seen, some personalities still felt amply qualified to initiate their own disciples right under Srila Prabhupada's nose! *(2)
(It is interesting to note that whilst GII quotes the above "law" in support of the M.A.S.S. doctrine, in the very same document it is asserted that it is actually not a law at all) :
"There are many such instances in the scriptures about disciples giving initiation in the presence of the guru, [...] In the scriptures there is no specific instruction about a disciple not giving initiation when his guru is present." (GII, p. 23)
It is apparent that in writing to these devotees, telling them they could take disciples if they just held on a little longer, Srila Prabhupada was simply trying to keep them in devotional service. In so doing there was at least the possibility that, in time, their ambitious mentalities might become purified:
Humble devotees who diligently performed their service in selfless sacrifice to their spiritual master would never have received a letter describing their glowing future as diksa gurus. Why would Srila Prabhupada only seriously promise diksa guruship to those who were most ambitious, and hence least qualified?
As far as statements to the effect that they would be free to initiate after his departure, that is true. Just as in England one is free to drive a car once he is 17 years old. However, we must not forget those two little provisos. First, one must be qualified to drive, and second one must be authorised by the driving license authority. The reader may draw his own parallels.
Another letter which is quoted to support the M.A.S.S. states:
"By 1975, all of those who have passed all of the above examinations will be specifically empowered to initiate and increase the number of the Krishna Consciousness population." (Srila Prabhupada Letter to Kirtanananda, 12/1/69)
Does the above statement validate the termination of the final order on initiation?
Since this is an attempt to terminate the ritvik system through the use of personal letters, we shall invoke here Srila Prabhupada's "law of disciplic succession". The first part of the "law" states that a disciple must not act as initiating acarya in his own guru's physical presence. Since this was the "law", clearly the above letter could not be referring to Srila Prabhupada's disciples initiating on their own behalf: Srila Prabhupada was still on the planet in 1975. We can therefore only conclude that he was already contemplating some sort of "officiating" initiation system as early as 1969. By 1975, Srila Prabhupada had indeed "empowered", or authorised, devotees such as Kirtanananda to chant on beads and conduct initiations on his behalf. The above letter appears then to be predicting the future use of representatives for the purpose of initiation. Later he called these representatives "ritviks", and formalised their function in the July 9th order. Again, it would be foolhardy to suggest that Srila Prabhupada was actually authorising Kirtanananda to act as a sampradaya initiating acarya as long as he passed a few exams.
"Anyone following the order of Lord Caitanya under the guidance of His bona fide representative can become a spiritual master, and I wish that in my absence all my disciples become the bona fide spiritual master to spread Krishna Consciousness throughout the whole world." (Srila Prabhupada Letter to Madhusudana, 2/11/67)
Using the quote above, it has been argued that since Srila Prabhupada mentions his disciples becoming spiritual masters in his absence, he must have been referring to diksa, since they were already siksa gurus. However Srila Prabhupada may simply have been reiterating his general encouragement for all his disciples to become good siksa spiritual masters, and that they should continue becoming good siksa spiritual masters also in his absence. There is definitely no mention in the above quote of his disciples initiating or accepting their own disciples. The term "bona fide spiritual master to spread Krishna Consciousness throughout the whole world" is equally applicable to a siksa guru.
Even if such letters as these did allude to some other type of guru system, they still could not be used to modify the final July 9th order since these instructions were not repeated to the rest of the Movement. The letters in question were not even published until 1986. It is occasionally alleged that some of these personal letters were leaked out to other members of the Society. This may or may not have been the case, but the important point to note is that the mechanics of such distribution appears never to have been set up or personally approved by Srila Prabhupada. We have seen no evidence that Srila Prabhupada ever ordered his private correspondence to be distributed to all and sundry. He once casually suggested his letters could be published "if there was time", but he never intimated that without these documents no one would know how to properly operate the M.A.S.S. on his departure.
To form a case regarding what should have been done in 1977, one can only use evidence that was readily available in an authorised form at that time. If such letters really held the key to how he planned initiations to be run for up to ten thousand years, surely Srila Prabhupada would have made their publication, and mass distribution, a matter of utmost urgency. There was, after all, the reasonable possibility that not all his leaders had read his private correspondence, and as a result gained a clear understanding of precisely how initiations were to run after his departure. We know this to be more than a possibility since the entire GBC still had no idea what Srila Prabhupada was planning as late on as May 28th, 1977. (please see May 28th conversation in Appendices)
In light of the above, any attempt to modify the July 9th order on the basis of these handful of letters can only be deemed recklessly inappropriate. Had such letters been vital appendices to his final order then Srila Prabhupada would certainly have made that clear in the order itself or in some accompanying document.
In the end, the only position granted to anyone as far as initiations were concerned, was as representatives of the acarya, ritviks.
Finally we shall look at
There are various statements in Srila Prabhupada's books and lectures which have been extracted to justify the disbanding of the ritvik system. We shall now examine this evidence.
In Srila Prabhupada's books, all we find are the qualifications of a diksa guru stated in general terms. There is no specific mention of his own disciples continuing to go on to become diksa gurus. Rather, the quotes merely reiterate the point that one must be highly qualified and authorised before even attempting to become diksa guru:
"One who is now the disciple is the next spiritual master. And one cannot be a bona fide and authorised spiritual master unless one has been strictly obedient to his spiritual master." (S.B. 2.9.43, purport)
The above injunction hardly gives carte blanche for anyone to initiate just because their guru has left the planet. The concept of the guru leaving the planet is not even mentioned here. Only the idea that they must be authorised and have been strictly obedient. We also know that they must have first attained the platform of maha-bhagavata.
Some devotees point to the section in Easy Journey to Other Planets (p.32) dealing with "monitor gurus" as evidence supporting the M.A.S.S., and the resultant dismantling of the ritvik system. However, this clever classroom analogy is clearly defining the position of siksa, not diksa, gurus. In this passage the monitor acts on behalf of the teacher. He is not a teacher himself. He may become qualified as a teacher, but that is a process, and is not described as automatic on the departure of the teacher (who obviously corresponds to the diksa guru). A monitor guru can only have, by definition, siksa disciples; and a limited number at that. Once such a monitor has become qualified, i.e. attained the platform of maha-bhagavata, and then been authorised by his predecessor acarya , there is no sense in calling him a monitor any longer; he will be a teacher in his own right. Once he is a teacher in his own right, he may accept unlimited disciples. So the monitor is the siksa guru, the teacher is the diksa guru, and by strictly following the diksa guru, the siksa guru may gradually rise to the platform necessary before diksa authorisation can theoretically take place. Furthermore, a monitor merely assists the teacher whilst the teacher is present. This again is at variance with the "law" of disciplic succession used to support the M.A.S.S. system, were the monitors actually diksa gurus. In other words, a monitor is not an entity that comes into being to replace or succeed the teacher, but exists to run in parallel or alongside him.
Certainly the monitor system in no way supports the GBC's a) and b) assumptions: that the ritvik system was meant to stop at Srila Prabhupada's departure, and that the ritviks could then automatically become diksa gurus.
There are other occasions, outside of Srila Prabhupada's personal letters, which are quoted as giving authorisation for his disciples to become diksa gurus:
"Now, tenth, eleventh, twelfth. My Guru Maharaja is tenth from Caitanya Mahaprabhu, I am eleventh, you are the twelfth. So distribute this knowledge." (Srila Prabhupada Arrival Lecture, 18/5/72, Los Angeles)
"At the same time, I shall request them all to become spiritual master . Every one of you should be spiritual master next." (Srila Prabhupada Vyasa-Puja address, 5/9/69, Hamburg)
The first quote clearly mentions that Srila Prabhupada's disciples are already the twelfth - "you are the twelfth". Thus this is not some authorisation for them to become diksa gurus in the future, but merely a statement that they are already carrying on the message of the parampara. The second quote is in a similar vein. It undoubtedly mentions that his disciples are next in line. But as the first quote states, that succession had already taken place by dint of the disciples vigorous preaching. Either way, there is no clear explicit order to take disciples, but simply to preach. Just because he was asking his disciples to become spiritual masters next, does not mean he wanted them to become initiating spiritual masters next. To insist that he did mean this is pure speculation. In fact, we know it is wrong since the final order made it clear that his disciples were only to act as representatives of the acarya, and not in any type of initiating or diksa capacity.To argue that such statements must override the final order is insupportable, and easily counteracted by quoting other statements made by Srila Prabhupada, specifically in relation to what would happen after his departure, which completely contradict the proposition being made:
|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)|
I will live from my books and you will utilise.
(Srila Prabhupada Press Conference, 16/7/75, San Francisco)
"Don't become premature acarya. First of all follow the orders of acarya, and you become mature. Then it is better to become acarya. Because we are interested in preparing acarya, but the etiquette is at least for the period the guru is present, one should not become acarya. Even if he is complete he should not, because the etiquette is, if somebody comes for becoming initiated, it is the duty of such person to bring that prospective candidate to his acarya." (Srila Prabhupada C.c. Lecture, 6/4/75, Mayapur)
The quote above does mention the principle of his disciples going on to become acarya. However the whole emphasis is that they should not do it now. In fact Srila Prabhupada only seems to mention the principle of his disciples becoming acarya, if he is cautioning them not to do it in his presence. This is in a similar vein to the personal letters mentioned above. This is clearly not a specific order for any particular individuals to take their own disciples, but rather a general statement of principle. As will be seen later, on the "Appointment tape", which is used in GII as principle evidence for the M.A.S.S. system, Srila Prabhupada still had not given the diksa guru order even as late as May, 1977 ("On my order, [...] But by my order, [...] When I order"). And this situation remained unchanged until his departure. Furthermore, later on in the same lecture, he encourages his disciples to channel these acarya ambitions in the following manner:
"And to become acarya is not very difficult. [...] amara ajnaya guru hana tara ei desa, yare dekha tare kaha Krishna-upadesa: "By following My order, you become guru." [...] Then, in future... suppose you have got now ten thousand. We shall expand to hundred thousand. That is required. Then hundred thousand to million; and million to ten million." (Srila Prabhupada C.c. Lecture, 6/4/75, Mayapur)
It has already been demonstrated that Lord Caitanya's instruction was
for everyone to preach vigorously, make lots of Krishna conscious
followers, but not
to take disciples. This point is reinforced where Srila Prabhupada
encourages his disciples to make many more devotees. It is significant
that Srila Prabhupada states "suppose you have got now
ten thousand..." (i.e. in Srila Prabhupada's presence). From this
it is clear he is talking about Krishna conscious followers, not
"disciples of his disciples",
since the main point of the lecture was that they should not initiate in
his presence. The implication being then, that just as at that time
there may have been around ten thousand followers of Krishna
Consciousness, so in the future millions more would be added. The
ritvik system was to ensure that
when these followers became suitably qualified for initiation, they
could receive diksa
from Srila Prabhupada, just as they could when he gave the above
There is no evidence of Srila Prabhupada issuing specific orders for his disciples to become diksa gurus, thus setting up an alternative to the ritvik system.
What we do have is a handful of (at the time) unpublished personal letters, sent only to individuals desirous of becoming diksa gurus even in Srila Prabhupada's presence, sometimes having only recently joined the Movement. In such cases they are told to wait until Srila Prabhupada leaves the planet before they fulfil their ambitions. The very fact that they were unpublished at the time of the July 9th letter means that they were not intended to have any direct bearing on the future of initiation within ISKCON.
Furthermore, Srila Prabhupada's books and conversations only contain instructions for his disciples to be siksa gurus. Though the general principle of a disciple becoming a diksa guru is mentioned, Srila Prabhupada does not specifically order his disciples to initiate and take their own disciples.
The above then does not represent grounds for supplanting the explicit instruction of July 9th, an order that was distributed to the whole Movement as a specific policy document. There is clearly no equivalent document outlining the M.A.S.S.
Thus the idea that Srila Prabhupada had taught far and wide that all his disciples should become diksa gurus, immediately on his departure, shortly after or indeed ever, is nothing but a myth.
It is commonly stated that Srila Prabhupada did not need to spell out in the final July 9th letter what was to be done about future initiations, since he had already explained again and again in his books, letters, lectures, and conversations precisely what he wanted to happen. Sadly this assertion, apart from being totally false, merely raises further absurdities:
Although we have been somewhat critical of the GBC's paper GII, there is one passage in it relating to this issue which we feel totally encapsulates the mood that will re-unite Srila Prabhupada's family:
"A disciple's only duty is to worship and serve his spiritual master. His mind should not be agitated over how he may become guru. A devotee who sincerely wants to make spiritual advancement should try to become a disciple, not a spiritual master." (GII, p. 25, GBC 1995, emphasis added)
We could not agree more.
.\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\since recognised their faults, and thus we apologise for any offence or embarrassment we may have caused. Perhaps they may appreciate the fact that personal letters sent by Srila Prabhupada, to specifically address their individual anarthas are currently being used to support the M.A.S.S. within ISKCON.
|8) "Maybe there is some sastric principle in Srila Prabhupada's books that forbids the granting of diksa when the guru is not on the same planet as the disciple?"|
The use of a ritvik system after Srila Prabhupada's departure would actually be in line with Srila Prabhupada's many instructions stating the immateriality of physical association in the guru-disciple relationship (please see Appendices). After reading these quotes one can see how some members of the GBC have presented a somewhat different picture over the years:
"Srila Prabhupada has taught us that the disciplic succession is a living affair [...] The law of disciplic succession is that one approaches a living spiritual master - living in the sense of being physically present." (Sivarama Swami ISKCON Journal, p.31, GBC 1990)
It is hard to reconcile the above assertion with statements such as:
"Physical presence is not important." (Srila Prabhupada Room conversation, 6/10/77, Vrindavan)
"Physical presence is immaterial." (Srila Prabhupada Letter, 19/1/67)
Of course, we must have a guru who is external, since in the conditioned stage pure reliance on the Supersoul is not possible, but nowhere does Srila Prabhupada teach that this physical guru must also be physically present:
"Therefore one must take advantage of the vani, not the physical presence." (C.c. Antya, concluding words)
Srila Prabhupada practically demonstrated this principle by initiating large numbers of his disciples without ever meeting them physically at all. This fact in itself proves that diksa can be obtained without any physical involvement from the guru. There is nothing in sastra, or from Srila Prabhupada, linking diksa with physical presence. Therefore, the continuation of the ritvik system is perfectly consistent with both sastra and the example our acarya set whilst he was physically present.
In one of the main sections on diksa in Srila Prabhupada's books, it is stated that the only requirement for receiving it is the agreement of the guru. This agreement was totally delegated to the ritviks:
"So without waiting for me, wherever you consider it is right. That will depend on discretion." (Srila Prabhupada Room conversation, 7/7/77, Vrindavan)
Srila Prabhupada instructs us that:
"As far as the time of diksa (initiation) is concerned, everything depends on the position of the guru.[...] If the sad-guru, the bona fide spiritual master agrees, one can be initiated immediately, without waiting for a suitable time or place." (C.c. Madhya, 24.331, purport)
It is significant to note that there is no stipulation that the diksa guru and the prospective disciple must have physical contact. Or that the diksa guru has to be physically present to give his agreement (it is also interesting that Srila Prabhupada equates the term sad-guru with the term diksa guru). Srila Prabhupada has stated many times that the requirement for being initiated is simply to abide by the rules and regulations he had taught over and over again:
"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)
|Devotee:||How important is formal initiation?|
Formal initiation means to
accept officially to abide by the orders of Krishna and his
representative. That is formal initiation.
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, 22/2/73, Auckland)
|Srila Prabhupada:||Who is my disciple? First of all let him follow strictly the disciplined rules.|
|Disciple:||As long as one is following, then he is...|
Then he is all right.
(Srila Prabhupada Morning walk, 13/6/76, Detroit)
"...unless there is discipline, there is no question of disciple. Disciple means one who follows the discipline." (Srila Prabhupada Morning walk, 8/3/76, Mayapur)
Does the definition of the word diksa imply a connection with the guru being physically present on the planet?
" Diksa is the process by which one can awaken his transcendental knowledge and vanquish all reactions caused by sinful activity. A person expert in the study of the revealed scriptures knows this process as diksa." (C.c. Madhya, 15.108, purport)
There is nothing in this definition of diksa that in any way implies that the guru needs to be on the same planet as the disciple in order for it to work properly. Conversely, Srila Prabhupada's instructions and personal example prove categorically that the elements, which constitute diksa, can be utilised without the need for the guru's physical involvement:
"Reception of spiritual knowledge is never checked by any material condition." (S.B. 7.7.1, purport)
"The potency of transcendental sound is never minimised because the vibrator is apparently absent." (S.B. 2.9.8, purport)
Thus, all the elements of diksa -, transcendental knowledge, the receiving of the mantra etc., can be effectively delivered without the guru's physical presence.
In summary, it can be shown conclusively that there is no sastric principle mentioned in any of Srila Prabhupada's books that precludes the granting of diksa once the guru leaves the earth planet. Although historical precedent is sometime cited as an objection, historical precedent is not a sastric principal. Our philosophy is based on following sastric injunctions not historical tradition. This is the very thing that distinguishes ISKCON from virtually every other Gaudiya Vaisnava group. There are many influential smarta brahmanas in India who strongly criticise the lack of adherence to tradition exhibited by Srila Prabhupada.Sastric statements, along with the practical example of Srila Prabhupada himself, fully support the principle that diksa is not dependent in any way on the guru's physical presence.
|9) "Since this instruction would lead to the setting up of a system that is unprecedented, and has no historical basis, it should be rejected.|
Srila Prabhupada did many things, particularly connected with initiation, which were unprecedented, yet we do not reject them (please see box ). It may be argued that he explained some of these changes in his books. This is true, but there were many he did not explain in his books. Besides, there was no need to give detailed explanations of the ritvik system in his books since he had practically demonstrated prototypes of it for many years, with the final touches of how it was to continue fully elucidated in the July 9th order. Srila Prabhupada never taught us to just blindly follow tradition:
"Our only tradition is how to satisfy Visnu." (Srila Prabhupada Bg. Lecture, 30/7/73, London)
"No. Tradition, religion, they are all material. They are also all designations." (Srila Prabhupada Room conversation, 13/3/75, Teheran)
Whether precisely the same orders we received from Srila Prabhupada were ever issued by a previous acarya is utterly irrelevant. Our only duty is to follow the orders given to us by our own acarya.
If a system of initiation can be rejected solely on the grounds that it has no exact historical precedent, then we would certainly be forced to reject the current guru system within ISKCON by the same token.
Never before has a plethora of diksa gurus been subordinate to a committee, which could suspend or terminate their initiating activities. No previous initiating acarya in our line has ever been voted into office with a two-thirds majority vote, nor subsequently fallen prey to gross sinful activity and as a consequence been hastily withdrawn from the "disciplic succession". We reject such irregular practices, not on the grounds of historical precedent, but because they clash violently with many of the basic tenets of Vaisnava philosophy found in Srila Prabhupada's books, and are in blatant violation of Srila Prabhupada's final order.
The fact that the identical system to ritvik is not directly mentioned in sastra, or ancient Vedic texts, is also not pertinent. According to some Vedic rules, sudras and women should not even receive brahmana initiation at all:
" Diksa cannot be offered to a sudra [...] This initiation is offered not according to Vedic rules, because it is very difficult to find out a qualified brahmana." (Srila Prabhupada Bg. Lecture, 29/3/71, Bombay)
Thus, strictly speaking, Srila Prabhupada should not have initiated any of his western disciples since they were all born lower than the lowest Vedic caste. Srila Prabhupada was able to over-rule such Vedic laws through the invocation of higher order sastric injunctions. He sometimes exercised these injunctions in ways that had never been applied before:
"As Hari is not subject to the criticism of mundane rules and regulations, the spiritual master empowered by Him is also not subjected." (C.c. Madhya, 10.136, text and purport)
"Therefore the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and Isvara Puri is not subjected to any Vedic rules and regulations" (C.c. Madhya, 10.137)
The important point is that although the ritvik system may be totally unique, (at least as far as we know), it does not violate higher order sastric principles. It is testament to Srila Prabhupada's genius that he was able to apply such sastric principles in new and novel ways according to time, place and circumstance.Perhaps we have yet to fully grasp just how unique Srila Prabhupada is. There has never been a world acarya before. No previous acarya has ever stated that his books would be the law books for ten thousand years. Here there has never been anything like ISKCON before. Why should we be so surprised that such an unprecedented personality might decide to set a seemingly unusual initiation system?
|10) "Since there is no specific mention of the ritvik system prior to July 9th, 1977, it could not possibly have been intended to continue past Srila Prabhupada's disappearance."|
As we have explained, the ritvik system was not "new" anyway. Prior to the July 9th letter, the experience of diksa initiation in the Movement would have predominantly been through the use of representatives. Srila Prabhupada was the diksa guru in ISKCON, and most initiation ceremonies, particularly in the later years, were performed by a Temple President or some other representative or priest.
The most notable
difference after July 9th, 1977 was that the acceptance of
new disciples would now be done by representatives without recourse to
Srila Prabhupada. The letter, which was sent out to new initiates, would
no longer be signed by Srila Prabhupada, and the selection of all the
initiates" names would be done by the ritviks. Also the procedure
was now linked with the relatively unfamiliar word -
To get connected to the bona fide acarya through the use of representatives was the experience of initiation that was familiar for thousands of disciples. The July 9th letter defines the word "ritvik" as meaning: "representative of the acarya". Clearly the system of being initiated by Srila Prabhupada through the use of representatives was nothing "new" at all. It was merely the continuation of what Srila Prabhupada had taught and put in practice as soon as his Movement reached a state of rapid growth.
Why should it have come as such a great shock that this system would continue beyond November 14th, 1977?
Although unfamiliar to many, the word "ritvik" was not new either. The word and its derivatives had already been defined 31 times by Srila Prabhupada in his books. What was "new" was that the system which had already been in existence for many years was now put in writing with the necessary adjustments for the future. Hardly surprising, since Srila Prabhupada was at this time issuing many documents in writing regarding the future of his Movement. This arrangement was actually a re-endorsement of a system that everyone had already come to consider as standard practise.
Ironically what was really "new" was the curious metamorphosis of the ritviks into the "material and spiritual pure successor acaryas" to Srila Prabhupada. This particular innovation came as such a shock that many hundreds of disciples left the Movement shortly after its implementation, with thousands to follow them.
We have demonstrated that there is no direct evidence supporting the termination of the ritvik system on Srila Prabhupada's departure, nor the subsequent transformation of the ritviks into diksa gurus - assumptions a) and b) . Even if there was extremely strong indirect evidence supporting a) and b), it would still be debatable whether it could actually supplant the direct evidence, since this usually takes precedence. However, as just demonstrated, there is not even a shred of indirect evidence supporting the discarding of the ritvik system on Srila Prabhupada's departure. Thus:
In view of the above analysis, we humbly submit that the revoking of Srila Prabhupada's final instruction regarding initiation on November 14th 1977, was at best an arbitrary and unauthorised act. We can find no evidence to support assumptions a) and b), which, as we have said, form the very foundation of ISKCON's current guru policy. To re-comply with Srila Prabhupada's original order is our only option as disciples, followers and servants of Srila Prabhupada.
To further assist with this compliance we will now go through the May 28th conversation and a number of related objections that appear to have given rise to confusion.
The GBC claims in GII that the sole justification for modifications a) & b) to the final July 9th order comes from a taped room conversation which took place in Vrindavan on May 28th, 1977. These modifications are given below for reference:
|Modification a) :||That the appointment of representatives or ritviks was only temporary, specifically to be terminated on the departure of Srila Prabhupada.|
|Modification b) :||Having ceased their representational function, the ritviks would automatically become diksa gurus, initiating persons as their own disciples, not Srila Prabhupada's .|
This section therefore will be dedicated to a close scrutiny of the May 28th conversation to see if it can be legitimately used to modify the final order in terms of a) and b) above.
Since the entire GBC position rests on just this one piece of evidence it is quite worrying that they have already published at least five different versions, or transcripts, of this very same evidence. These differing transcripts appeared in the following publications:
1983: Srila Prabhupada - Lilamrita, Vol 6 (Satsvarupa das
1985: Under My Order (Ravindra Svarupa das)
1990: ISKCON Journal (GBC)
1994: Continuing The Parampara (Sivarama Swami)
1995: Gurus and Initiation in ISKCON (GBC)
To be presented with five different versions of the same taped conversation in itself raises a number of serious questions. For example, it would not be unreasonable to ask, which is the correct version? Why are their differing versions in the first place? Is the transcript a composite of more than one conversation? Has the tape itself been edited from more than one conversation? Has there been more than one version of the tape released? If so, can we be sure that any version is true to any actual conversation? Thus already, even before the evidence is examined, we are placed in the invidious position of being expected to modify a signed letter through the analysis of a tape transcript, over which hang serious questions of authenticity.However, for the purpose of examining the tape, we shall use a composite of the five different transcripts. So here is the conversation, with the variations in brackets:
|1||Satsvarupa Goswami:||Then our next question concerns initiations in the future,|
||particularly at that time when you are no longer with us. We want to know how|
||(a) first and second initiation(s) would be conducted.|
|4||Srila Prabhupada:||Yes. I shall recommend some of you. After this is settled up|
||I shall recommend some of you to act as officiating acarya(s).|
|6||Tamal Krishna Goswami:||Is that called ritvik acarya?|
|7||Srila Prabhupada:||Ritvik. Yes. (Yes, ritviks)|
||Satsvarupa Goswami:||(Then) What is the relationship of that person who gives the initiation and ...|
|9||Srila Prabhupada:||He's guru. He's guru.|
|10||Satsvarupa Goswami:||But he does it on your behalf.|
||Srila Prabhupada:||Yes. That is formality. Because in my presence one should not become guru,|
||so on my behalf. On my order, amara ajnaya guru hana, (he is) (be) actually guru.|
||But by my order.|
|14||Satsvarupa Goswami:||So (then) (they) (they'll) (may) also be considered your disciples?|
|15||Srila Prabhupada:||Yes, they are (their) disciples, (but) (why) consider ... who|
||Tamal Krishna Goswami:||No. He is asking that these ritvik acaryas, they are officiating, giving diksa,|
||(Their)... the people who they give diksa to, whose disciples are they?|
|18||Srila Prabhupada:||They are his (the disciples of the one who is initiating) disciples.|
|19||Tamal Krishna Goswami:||They are his disciples (?)|
|20||Srila Prabhupada:||Who is initiating ... (And they are my) (his) (he is) grand-disciple ...|
|22||Tamal Krishna Goswami:||(That's clear)|
|23||Tamal Krishna Goswami:||(Let's go on)|
|24||Satsvarupa Goswami:||Then we have a question concerning ...|
|25||Srila Prabhupada:||When I order you (to) become guru, he (you) become(s) regular guru.|
||That's all. He (And they) become(s) disciple(s) of my disciple. (That's it). (Just see).|
As we have previously mentioned neither the July 9th order, nor any subsequent document signed by Srila Prabhupada, ever explicitly refers back to the above conversation. This is quite peculiar since the central argument of GII is that this brief exchange of words is absolutely crucial to the proper understanding of the July 9th order.
This was not the regular way in which Srila Prabhupada issued instructions to his vast world-wide organisation, i.e., by releasing incomplete and misleading written directives which could only be properly understood by rummaging through old taped conversations.
When one considers the magnitude of the order in question, namely the continuation of the sankirtan mission for up to ten thousand years, and what happened to the Gaudiya Math over precisely this issue, it seems inconceivable that Srila Prabhupada would have managed things in this way. However this is what we must believe if we are to accept the present GBC position. Let us now proceed carefully through the composite transcript, paying particular attention to all the lines which GII claim support the above mentioned modifications to the July 9th order.
Lines 1-3: Here Satsvarupa dasa Goswami asks Srila Prabhupada a specific question regarding how initiations will run in the future - "particularly at that time when you are no longer with us". Whatever answer Srila Prabhupada gives we know it will be particularly relevant to after his departure, since that is the time frame Satsvarupa is clearly concerned with, i.e. - "when you are no longer with us".
Lines 4-7: Here Srila Prabhupada answers Satsvarupa dasa Goswami's question. He says he will be appointing some disciples to act as "officiating acarya", or "ritviks". Having clearly answered the question Srila Prabhupada remains silent.
He offers no further elaboration at this point, nor does he qualify, nor attempt to qualify his answer. We therefore must assume that this was his answer. The only alternatives to this view are either:
1) Srila Prabhupada deliberately answered the question incorrectly or misleadingly,
2) He did not hear the question properly and thought that Satsvarupa dasa Goswami was only asking about what was to be done whilst he was still present.
No disciple of Srila Prabhupada would even consider option 1), and if option 2) were the case, then the conversation can tell us nothing about the future of initiation for after his departure; hence we would still be left with an unmodified July 9th order as his only statement on future initiations.
Sometimes people have argued that the full answer is only properly revealed, piecemeal as it were, throughout the rest of the conversation. The problem with this proposition is that, in issuing instructions in such a manner, Srila Prabhupada would only correctly answer the original question posed by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami if the following conditions were satisfied:
This would be an eccentric way for anyone to answer a question, what to speak of direct a world-wide organisation, and was certainly not Srila Prabhupada's style. Indeed if, as is being proposed by the GBC, he went to all the trouble of issuing a letter to the whole Movement with instructions on initiation which were only to have relevance for four months, surely he would not have dealt in such an obscurest manner with instructions which could run for as long as ten thousand years.
Clearly if we are looking to this transcript to incontrovertibly support modifications a) & b) we are not doing very well so far. Srila Prabhupada is asked what will happen about initiations, particularly when he leaves: he answers he will be appointing ritviks. This completely contradicts both of the GBC's proposed modifications and simply reinforces the idea that the July 9th order was meant to run "henceforward". Let us read on:
Lines 8-9: Here Satsvarupa dasa Goswami asks what relationship the initiator has with the person being initiated. Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami does not quite finish his question when Srila Prabhupada immediately answers "he is guru". Since ritviks, by definition, are not the initiators, Srila Prabhupada can only have been referring to himself as the "guru" of those being initiated. This is confirmed in the July 9th letter where it states three times that those being initiated were to be the "disciples of Srila Prabhupada".
Sometimes the curious theory is put forward that when Srila Prabhupada says "he is guru", he is really talking about the ritviks themselves. This is quite bizarre since Srila Prabhupada has only just defined the word ritvik as "officiating acarya"- literally a priest who conducts some type of religious or ceremonial function. In the July 9th letter Srila Prabhupada clarifies precisely what ceremonial function these priests will conduct. They were supposed to give spiritual names to new initiates, and in the case of second initiation, chant on their gayatri thread - all on Srila Prabhupada's behalf. That was it. There is no mention of them being diksa gurus, initiating their own disciples or being Spiritual Masters on their own behalf. The letter specifically defines ritvik as "representative of the acarya" They were to act on behalf of the acarya, not as acaryas in their own right. This being the case why would Srila Prabhupada cloud the issue by calling the ritviks "guru"? If they were initiating gurus all along, why not just call them that to save confusion?
When discussing philosophical or managerial issues surrounding his position as acarya, Srila Prabhupada would often speak of himself in the third person. It is particularly understandable that he should do so here since Satsvarupa dasa Goswami's questions at this point are posed in the third person.
Thus the conversation can only make sense if we take it that Srila Prabhupada is the "guru" who was initiating new disciples, through his representatives, the ritviks.
Although Srila Prabhupada's answers are quite clear and consistent, it does seem as though there is some confusion in the mind of the questioner at this point. This is where Satsvarupa dasa Goswami asks on Line 10 - "But he does it on your behalf". The "he" Satsvarupa dasa Goswami is referring to is the ritvik, whereas the "he" that Srila Prabhupada was referring to, as we have shown, could only have been himself, since he is the only initiator within the ritvik system. Despite his disciples apparent confusion Srila Prabhupada deftly adapts his next answer to match Satsvarupa dasa Goswami's actual concern, namely the status of these future ritviks.
Lines 11-13: This is where it is claimed in GII that there is evidence for modification a). Before considering whether or not these lines do constitute such evidence, we should first remember the analysis of lines 1-7.
If lines 11-13 do establish modification a), this will only be at the expense of contradicting lines 1-7 where Srila Prabhupada has already clearly answered that ritviks were to be appointed "particularly" for after his departure. So if indeed modification a) is established in lines 11-13, the implication is that Srila Prabhupada contradicted a statement he himself made just moments before. Should this be the case it would once more render the transcript useless for determining anything about future initiations, since two totally contradictory positions would be equally validated in the same conversation. Again we would be forced to refer back to the final July 9th order in an unmodified condition.
Let us see if this did in fact happen. Remember we are looking for a specific statement that the ritviks must cease their duties once Srila Prabhupada departs. In other words that they can only operate in his presence.
On reading lines 11-13 we see that all that is stated is that the ritviks must operate in his presence because in his presence they cannot be guru. Thus Srila Prabhupada is simply re-stating a principle he occasionally invoked in his dealings with ambitious disciples: that in the presence of the guru one must act only on his behalf. However what Srila Prabhupada does not say is that this "acting on his behalf" must cease once he leaves the planet. He also does not say that 'acting on his behalf' can only happen whilst he is present. Indeed nowhere thus far has he directly linked his physical presence in any way with the concept of acting on his behalf, but rather simply states it as a reason that prevents his disciples from being guru, and it is this "not being guru" which is linked to acting as a ritvik.
In other words, at the time of this conversation, one of the reasons they could not be diksa guru was Srila Prabhupada's physical presence. But this is not the only hurdle preventing his disciples from taking on the diksa guru mantle, as we learn on the very next line.
On line 12 we see that being guru also depends on receiving a specific order from Srila Prabhupada - "On my order". He repeats this condition on line 13 - "But by my order", and once more on line 25 - "When I order". It is quite clear then that this cannot be the order proper, otherwise why say "When I order"? If this was the actual order to become guru after his departure, as the GBC maintains, then surely he would have said something like: "I am now ordering you, that as soon as I leave, you stop being ritviks and become diksa gurus". Such a statement would certainly lend some credibility to the current GBC position and the M.A.S.S. doctrine. However, as can be seen, nothing even remotely resembling such a statement can be found anywhere in the May 28th conversation.
It is further argued that the use of the "amara ajnaya" verse at this point means that the order to be diksa guru had already been given, since this order from Lord Caitanya had been repeated many times by Srila Prabhupada. However the "amara ajnaya" order, as we have seen, refers only to siksa guru; we know that the order to become diksa guru had not yet been given since Srila Prabhupada states "When I order". Therefore Srila Prabhupada's use of the verse at this point is simply to convey the notion of an order needing to be given before guruship, of whatever type, is taken up.
There is certainly nothing on lines 11-13 which in any way modifies Srila Prabhupada's clear reply to Satsvarupa's original question - (lines 1-7) Thus our understanding of lines 1-7 remains intact. Srila Prabhupada did not contradict himself, the July 9th order stands so far unmodified
What lines 11-13 do establish is that the ritvik system was to operate whilst Srila Prabhupada was still present., but not that it can only operate whilst he is present. The July 9th letter makes this clear anyway by the use of the word "henceforward". The word "henceforward" encompasses all time frames from that day onwards, regardless of Srila Prabhupada's physical proximity. Let us read on.
Lines 14-15: Interestingly, at this point Satsvarupa dasa Goswami asks a question referring to Srila Prabhupada’s position directly: "So then they'll also be considered your disciples?" Srila Prabhupada answers "Yes, they are disciples..." Once more confirming the ownership of any future disciples. Although it is not clear what Srila Prabhupada is going on to say, his initial answer is quite definite. He is asked a direct question, about his own position, and he answers "Yes".
If the GBC had any hope of upholding modifications a) & b) Srila Prabhupada would have had to answer this question something along the lines of: "No, they are not my disciples." Whatever Srila Prabhupada was going on to say is irrelevant since no one can ever know. We only know that when asked whether future initiates were to be his disciples, he answered "Yes"; again not a good sign for the modifications a) & b).
Lines 16-18: Tamal Krishna Goswami seems to sense some confusion here and interrupts Srila Prabhupada. He further clarifies Satsvarupa dasa Goswami's question by asking Srila Prabhupada whose disciples are those who are being given diksa by the ritviks. Once again Srila Prabhupada answers in the third person (having been asked the question in the third person): "They are his disciples". As we have discussed he can only be referring to himself since ritviks do not, by definition, possess their own disciples. Furthermore we know that he was definitely referring to himself since he answers the question in the singular ("his disciples...who is initiating"), having been asked the question about the ritviks in the plural ("these ritvik-acaryas").
One idea, which is sometimes put forward, is that at this point in the conversation Tamal Krishna Goswami is asking the question in some vaguely futuristic sense, about an unspecified time frame in which the ritviks have somehow transformed themselves into diksa gurus. According to this theory when Srila Prabhupada, who is now presumably mystically attuned to Tamal Krishna Goswami's mind set, answers that future initiates are "his disciples", what he actually means is that they are disciples of the ritviks, who are now not ritviks at all, but diksa gurus. Leaving aside the fact that this fanciful "meeting of minds" is both unlikely and highly speculative, there is at least one other problem with this hypothesis:
Up till this point Srila Prabhupada has not stated that the ritviks, which he has yet to appoint, will ever act in any capacity other than as ritviks. So why would Tamal Krishna Goswami have assumed their status was to change?
Lines 19-20: Tamal Krishna Goswami (TKG) repeats the answer, and then Srila Prabhupada continues; "who is initiating ... his grand-disciple." We have chosen the transcript version "his grand-disciple" over the version "he is grand-disciple" since it most closely resembles the tape, and seems to flow best with the sense of the conversation. (Otherwise the person initiating would simultaneously become a grand-disciple! - "who is initiating ... he is grand-disciple.")The argument that when speaking here in the third person, Srila Prabhupada must be referring to the ritviks and not himself, can be tested by modifying the conversation in accordance with this view (shown in brackets), for lines 17-20 :
|TKG:||Whose disciples are they?|
|Srila Prabhupada:||They are (the ritvik's) disciples.|
|TKG:||They are (the ritvik's) disciples.|
|Srila Prabhupada:||(The ritvik) is initiating ... (The ritvik's) grand-disciple ...|
The accusation has been made that we are in some way "twisting" Srila Prabhupada's words by taking third person to be first person statements. However we feel our interpretation is consistent with the function Srila Prabhupada assigned to his ritviks. There appears to be just two possible options for interpretation in considering this conversation:
Option 1) is just absurd. Therefore we have gone for option 2) as the only rational choice, and have thus interpreted the tape accordingly.
A great deal is made of the use of the term "grand-disciple". For many, the use of this phrase by Srila Prabhupada acts as a clincher, since you can only have grand-disciples if there are diksa gurus. This is true. Unfortunately the words following the term "his grand-disciple" are usually ignored. Srila Prabhupada goes on to state that a grand-disciple and hence a diksa guru will only exist when Srila Prabhupada orders his disciple to become a diksa guru. In other words Srila Prabhupada is simply saying that when a guru orders his disciple to become a diksa guru, he will have grand-disciples ("his grand- disciple"), since the new diksa guru will then be initiating in his own right ("he becomes disciple of my disciple"). This seems straightforward enough, a point nobody could dispute. But where is the order for this guruship to occur? Certainly not on lines 25-26, nor for that matter anywhere else in the conversation.
In actuality the May 28th conversation is not ordering any specific person to do anything at all. Srila Prabhupada is simply making known his intention to appoint ritviks at some point in the future. He then goes on to answer slightly muddled questions about guru-disciple relationships within the ritvik system. He then concludes with a statement about what would happen should he ever decide to give the relevant order to someone to become a diksa guru. It is clear though that the specific order naming specific people to perform specific functions was first made on July 7th (please see Appendices), and then confirmed in the signed letter of July 9th. But as can be seen from reading the July 9th letter, there is no mention whatsoever of the eleven appointed ritviks ever becoming diksa gurus; or for the ritvik system to ever stop.
After our exhaustive analysis of the May 28th conversation, it is clear that what the GBC is presenting is a classic circular argument:
In order to support modifications a) and b), which are absolutely vital to the current position on gurus within ISKCON, we are told we must modify the July 9th letter using an "order" which Srila Prabhupada gave in the May 28th transcript. However, having read the transcript carefully we see that Srila Prabhupada says they can only be gurus "When I order". So how can it be asserted that this "When I order" was the same "order" that was finally put in place on July 7th and 9th, since this "order" is purely for the creation of ritviks, and is the very same "order" which was required by the GBC to be modified in the first place in order to support their crucial a) and b) modifications?
Unfortunately, in adopting the line of reasoning championed in GII, we find ourselves drawn inexorably towards the above absurd dialectical impasse.
As an aid to understanding the above impasse please see the flow chart.
Ultimately, the biggest problem with the whole "modification" theory, apart from the obvious absence of any supportive evidence, is that you cannot legitimately modify an instruction with information which was not available to the very people who were supposed to carry out the instruction.
If it was indeed the case that the May 28th conversation had contained clear instructions supporting modifications a) and b) , then surely the final letter should have contained at least some hint of them. Indeed the main purpose of the meeting on May 28th was to clearly establish what was to be done about initiations after Srila Prabhupada left the planet. And yet it is being proposed that when Srila Prabhupada finally releases his last written directive on initiation, he somehow only addressed what was to be done before he left the planet.
In other words the subject Srila Prabhupada was not being asked about he supposedly gave clear and emphatic directives on; whilst the really important matter, the one which everyone did want to know about, i.e. the future of initiations for up to ten thousand years, he entirely omitted to address in his last signed instruction on the issue.
We can find no example of Srila Prabhupada ever directing his Society in the following manner:
directives which fail to even address the main purpose of their being
withholding vital information pertaining to an important new system of
Expecting the recipients of his instructions to be mystic mind readers in order to correctly follow an instruction.
The common defence that Srila Prabhupada did not need to spell out in the final letter what was to be done about future initiations, since he had already clearly explained in his books and lectures how he wanted everyone to become a diksa guru, has already been disproved in objection 7 above.
There is one further attempt made in GII to extract something from the May 28th conversation in support of a) and b) when it points to Srila Prabhupada's use of the verse "amara ajnaya guru hana" on line 12. The verse is also repeated further along in the May 28th conversation after discussion relating to the translation of his books. According to this view the ritvik order is identical to the order to be a diksa guru, simply by merit of Srila Prabhupada mentioning this famous instruction of Lord Caitanya for "everyone to become guru" in the same conversation as he discusses ritviks. But all Srila Prabhupada states is that:
"...one who understands his guru's order, the same parampara, he can become guru. And therefore I shall select some of you." (May 28th 1977 Conversation)
The essential points to consider here are:
G11 presents the contradictory proposition that in following the guru's order to act as ritvik only (not as a diksa guru), one should automatically act as a diksa guru.
By this logic anyone who follows any order given by the guru, has also somehow automatically received a specific order to become a diksa guru! Unfortunately GII does not offer any evidence to support this thesis. As shown previously, the use of the "amara ajnaya" verse is simply an order for everyone to become a siksa guru only ("It is best not to accept any disciples.").
It should be noted that there are at least five different transcripts, and three differing "official" GBC interpretations of this very same conversation. Many devotees feel that for this reason alone the conversation cannot be considered as conclusive evidence. Should this be the readers conclusion then he will have no choice but to return once more to the July 9th letter as the final order, since it is a signed letter, clearly written and sent to the entire Movement. This would certainly be the conclusion in a court of law; signed written evidence always takes precedence over tape recordings. The only reason we have examined the May 28th conversation so carefully here is because the GBC have put forward as the only piece of evidence in support of modifications a) and b).
We are forced then to reject totally modifications a) and b), the very foundations of the GBC's current position on initiation within ISKCON, since there is no evidence to support them. Consequently, the instructions given in the July 9th policy document do indeed constitute Srila Prabhupada's final order on initiation and should therefore be followed.Here follow some related objections we thought it would be helpful to address.
Other Related Objections
|1) "Srila Prabhupada has not mentioned the use of ritviks in his books."|
|Ritvik :||4.6.1 / 4.7.16 / 5.3.2 / 5.3.3 / 5.4.17 / 7.3.30 / 8.20.22 / 9.1.15 .|
|Rtvijah :||4.5.7 / 4.5.18 / 4.7.27 / 4.7.45 / 4.13.26 / 4.19.27 / 4.19.29 / 5.3.4 / 5.3.15 / 5.3.18 / 5.7.5 / 8.16.53 / 8.18.21 /8.18.22 / 9.4.23 / 9.6.35|
|Rtvijam :||4.6.52 / 4.21.5 / 8.23.13 / 9.13.1 .|
|Rtvigbhyah :||8.16.55 .|
4.7.56 / 9.13.3 .
(all these references are from the Srimad-Bhagavatam)
2) Although spiritual principles were covered extensively by Srila Prabhupada in his books, the specifics concerning those principles would often not be given (for example in the area of Deity worship). These specific details would usually be communicated by other means such as letters, and practical demonstration. Thus, one needs to distinguish between the principle of diksa or initiation, and the details of its formalisation. Srila Prabhupada never defined diksa in terms of any ritualistic ceremony, but as the receipt of transcendental knowledge that leads to liberation:
"In other words, the spiritual master awakens the sleeping living entity to his original consciousness so that he can worship Lord Visnu. This is the purpose of diksa, or initiation. Initiation means receiving the pure knowledge of spiritual consciousness." (C.c. Madhya, 9.61, 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)
"Diksa is the process by which one can awaken his transcendental knowledge and vanquish all reactions caused by sinful activity. A person expert in the study of the revealed scriptures knows this process as diksa." (C.c. Madhya, 15.108, purport)
Diksa normally involves a ceremony, but it is not absolutely essential, more a formality:
"So anyway, from 1922 to 1933 practically I was not initiated, but I got the impression of preaching Caitanya Mahaprabhu's cult. That I was thinking. And that was the initiation by my Guru Maharaja." (Srila Prabhupada Lecture, 10/12/76, Hyderabad)
"Initiation is a formality. If you are serious, that is real initiation. My touch is simply a formality. It is your determination, that is initiation." ("The Search for the Divine", Back To Godhead #49)
"...disciplic succession does not always mean that one has to be initiated officially. Disciplic succession means to accept the disciplic conclusion." (Srila Prabhupada Letter to Dinesh, 31/10/69)
"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." (Srila Prabhupada Letter to Tamal Krishna, 19/8/68)
"Well, initiation or no initiation, first thing is knowledge... knowledge. Initiation is formality. Just like you go to a school for knowledge, and admission is formality. That is not very important thing." (Srila Prabhupada Interview, 16/10/76, Chandigarh)
|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...|
Then he is all right.
(Srila Prabhupada Morning walk, 13/6/76, Detroit)
"...unless there is discipline, there is no question of disciple. Disciple means one who follows the discipline." (Srila Prabhupada Morning walk, 8/3/76, Mayapur)
"If one does not observe the discipline, then he is not disciple." (Srila Prabhupada S.B. Lecture, 21/1/74)
Thus the ceremonial initiation is a formality performed to solidify in the mind of the disciple the serious commitments he has made to the process of diksa. Such commitments include:
transcendental knowledge which will purify him of all contamination.
determination to always follow the order of the diksa guru.
To begin enthusiastically executing the spiritual master's orders.
Srila Prabhupada has clearly stated that the formality of the ceremony is just that, a formality, not an essential. Furthermore, this formalisation of initiation through a ceremony, itself involves a number of elements:
1. Recommendation by an official of the institution, usually the Temple President.
2. Acceptance by acting ritvik.
3. The participation in a fire yajna.
4. The taking of a spiritual name.
It is only points 2 and 4 which necessarily involves a ritvik priest. 1 and 3 are usually carried out by the Temple President.
As mentioned previously, nowhere is it ever stated that the guru and disciple must co-exist on the same planet in order for the disciple to receive any element of diksa, such as transcendental knowledge, annihilation of sinful reactions, a fire yajna ceremony and a spiritual name. On the other hand, every element of diksa (knowledge transmission, the yajna, etc.), can be given easily without the guru's physical presence. This was demonstrated practically by Srila Prabhupada, as he gave all the elements of diksa through intermediaries such as his disciples and books. Thus, no spiritual principles are changed through the use of ritviks. Only a change of detail is involved.
Thus to put into perspective the use of ritviks, it has been shown that we are dealing with the details of a formalisation ceremony; a ceremony which itself constitutes but one element, and a non-essential element at that, of the transcendental process of diksa (see diagram below)We note that Srila Prabhupada dealt with all these elements in a manner proportional to their importance:
|ITEM||EXPLAINED IN BOOKS?||FOLLOWED TRADITION?||MAJOR CHANGES TO TRADITION?||CHANGES TO TRADITION EXPLAINED IN BOOKS?|
Knowledge given primarily through vani
and not physical contact.
Personal pariksa little used.
New initiation standards.
|Initiation ceremony process||NO||NO||
Use of deputies to chant on initiates beads.
Giving gayatri mantra by magnetic tape.
|Name giving process||NO||NO||
Name given at time of harinama diksa.
The use of deputies to give the name.
|2) "How can pariksa (mutual examination between disciple and guru), an essential element of diksa, be achieved without physical contact?"|
"In our Krishna Consciousness Movement the requirement is that one must be prepared to give up the four pillars of sinful life [...] In western countries especially we first observe whether a potential disciple is prepared to follow the regulative principles." (C.c. Madhya, 24.330, purport, emphasis added)
This facility to use representatives is again repeated a few lines later when discussing the observation required for prospective second initiation candidates:
"In this way the disciple renders devotional service under the guidance of the spiritual master or his representatives for at least six months to a year." (C.c. Madhya, 24.330, purport, emphasis added)
A few lines later we see how vital the use of representatives really is:
"The spiritual master should study the disciple's inquisitiveness for no less then six months or a year." (C.c. Madhya, 24.330, purport)
|3) "We may accept Srila Prabhupada, but how do we know he has accepted us as his disciple even in his physical absence?"|
|Srila Prabhupada:||So without waiting for me, wherever you consider it is right. That will depend on discretion.|
|Tamal Krishna:||On discretion.|
(Srila Prabhupada Room conversation, 7/7/77, Vrindavan)
|4) "Only if diksa initiation has occurred before the guru leaves the planet is it possible to carry on approaching, enquiring and serving him in his physical absence."|
"...disciplic succession does not always mean that one has to be initiated officially. Disciplic succession means to accept the disciplic conclusion." (Srila Prabhupada Letter to Dinesh, 31/10/69)
"Well, initiation or no initiation, first thing is knowledge... knowledge. Initiation is formality. Just like you go to a school for knowledge, and admission is formality. That is not very important thing." (Srila Prabhupada Interview, 16/10/76, Chandigarh)
It is irrational to assert that the transcendental process of diksa cannot work properly if the guru is not physically present during a non-essential fire yajna; particularly since:
It might be argued that although Srila Prabhupada was not present at these initiations, still he was physically present on the same planet at the time they took place. So is the guru's physical presence on the planet during initiation essential to diksa? In order to lend weight to this argument we would need to find an injunction in Srila Prabhupada's books to the effect that:
"Diksa can only take place if the guru is within a distance, not greater than the earth's diameter, of his disciple during a formal initiation ceremony."
To date no one has been able to locate such an injunction. Rather as the quote below shows, a well-known example of diksa in our philosophy (Bg. 4.1)actually contradicts the above proposition:
"So there was no difficulty in communicating with Manu or Manu's son, Iksvaku. The communication was there, or the radio system was so nice that communication could be transferred from one planet to another." (Srila Prabhupada Bg. Lecture, 24/8/68)It would appear that diksa is not affected by the physical distances between gurus and disciples.
|5) "What you are proposing sounds suspiciously like Christianity!"|
|Madhudvisa:||Is there any way for a Christian to, 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.|
|Tamal Krishna:||Can a Christian in this age, without a Spiritual Master, but by reading the Bible, and following Jesus"s 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)|
"Regarding the end of devotees of Lord Jesus Christ, they can go to heaven, that is all. That is a planet in the material world. A devotee of Lord Jesus Christ is one who is strictly following the ten commandments. [...] Therefore the conclusion is that the devotees of Lord Jesus Christ are promoted to the heavenly planets which are within this material world." (Srila Prabhupada Letter to Bhagavan, 2/3/70)
"Actually, one who is guided by Jesus Christ will certainly get liberation." (Perfect Questions Perfect Answers, chapter 9)
"...Or the Christians are following Christ, a great personality. mahajano yena gatah sa panthah. You follow some mahajana, great personality [...] You follow one acarya, like Christians, they follow Christ, acarya. The Mohammedans, they follow acarya, Mohammed. That is good. you must follow some acarya [...] evam parampara-praptam." (Srila Prabhupada Room conversation, 20/5/75, Melbourne)
"Voting procedures [...] for guru candidate [...] who will be established by the voting members [...] voting for guru process [...] by a two third vote of the GBC [...] all GBCs are candidates for appointment as guru." (GBC Resolutions)
Similarly the GBC calls itself "the highest ecclesiastical body guiding ISKCON" (Back To Godhead 1990-1991): again "Christian" terminology.
These particular "Christian" practices were never taught by Jesus, and were totally condemned by Srila Prabhupada:
"Mundane votes have no jurisdiction to elect a Vaisnava acarya. A Vaisnava acarya is self effulgent, and there is no need for any court judgement." (C.c. Madhya, 1.220, purport)
"Srila Jiva Gosvami advises that one not accept a spiritual master in terms of hereditary or customary social, and ecclesiastical conventions." (C.c. Adi, 1.35, purport)
|6) "The ritviks give a type of diksa. Srila Prabhupada is only our siksa guru."|
the divya jnana or transcendental knowledge - definition of
He plants the bhakti lata bija - definition of diksa.
Devotees can also assist in the above two activities (by preaching, book distribution etc.), but they are vartma-pradasaka gurus, not diksa gurus, though by such service they may also become liberated souls.
"Srila Prabhupada is the foundational siksa guru for all ISKCON devotees [...] Srila Prabhupada's instructions are the essential teachings for every ISKCON devotee." (GBC Resolutions, No. 35, 1994)
"Generally a spiritual master who constantly instructs a disciple in spiritual science becomes his initiating spiritual master later on." (C.c. Adi, 1.35, purport)
"It is the duty of the siksa guru or diksa guru to instruct the disciple in the right way, and it depends on the disciple to execute the process. According to sastric injunctions, there is no difference between siksa guru and diksa guru, and generally the siksa guru later on becomes the diksa guru." (S.B. 4.12.32, purport)
|7) "If Srila Prabhupada is everyones siksa guru, then how can he be diksa guru too?|
|Pradyumna:||Guru-padasrayah. "First one must take shelter of the lotus feet of a spiritual master." Tasmat Krishna- diksadi-siksanam. Tasmat, "from him", Krishna- diksadi-siksanam, "one should take Krishna-Diksa, initiation, and Siksa."|
Diksa means divya-jnanam ksapayati iti diksa. Which explains the divya-jnana, transcendental, that is diksa. Di, divya, diksanam. diksa. So divya-jnana, transcendental knowledge... If you don't accept a spiritual master, how you'll get transcen... you'll be taught here and there, here and there, and waste time. Waste time for the teacher and waste your valuable time. Therefore you have to be guided by an expert spiritual master. Read it.
Siksanam. We have to learn. If you don't learn, how you'll make
(Srila Prabhupada Room conversation, 27/1/77, Bhubaneswar)
Some individuals have gone the next step; arguing that Srila Prabhupada
can not even give transcendental
siksa without a physical body.
If this were the case, one wonders why Srila Prabhupada went to such
effort to write so many books and set up a trust with the sole purpose
of propagating them for the next ten thousand years? If it is no longer
possible to receive transcendental instruction from Srila Prabhupada's
books, why are we distributing them, and why are people still
surrendering purely on the strength of them?
|8) "Are you saying that Srila Prabhupada created no pure devotees?"|
Even taking a worst case scenario, that there are in fact no pure devotees at present, one should consider the situation that existed after the departure of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. After almost 40 years, Srila Prabhupada indicated that there was only one authorised initiating acarya produced from the Gaudiya Matha:
"Actually amongst my Godbrothers no one is qualified to become acarya*. [...] instead of inspiring our students and disciple they may sometimes pollute them. [...] they are very competent to harm our natural progress." (Srila Prabhupada Letter to Rupanuga, 28/4/74)
*(Srila Prabhupada used the terms "acarya" and "guru" interchangeably):
"I shall choose some guru. I shall say, “Now you become acarya." [...] You can cheat, but it will not be effective. Just see our Gaudiya Matha. Everyone wanted to be guru. A small temple and "guru". What kind of guru?" (Srila Prabhupada Morning walk, 22/4/77)
This could be seen as a damning indictment of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's preaching work. However, it would be extremely unwise to argue that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta was a "failure". Srila Bhaktisiddhanta is known to have said that if his mission only produced one pure devotee he would have considered it a success.
Furthermore, the implementation of a ritvik system does not rule out, a priori, the possible existence of pure devotees. There are various scenarios that could easily accommodate both ritviks and pure devotees, e.g.:
Srila Prabhupada may have created many pure devotees who have no desire to become diksa gurus. There is no evidence to suggest that the most advanced devotees in ISKCON must necessarily be those individuals who put themselves up for election each year. These pure devotees may simply wish to humbly assist Srila Prabhupada's mission. It is nowhere stated that it is mandatory for a pure devotee to become a diksa guru. Such persons would be delighted to work within the ritvik system if that was their guru's order.
Srila Prabhupada's desire may be for large numbers of instructing gurus, but not necessarily for more initiating ones. This would be consistent with the earlier quoted instruction for everyone to become a siksa guru, and Srila Prabhupada's caution not to take disciples. It would also be consistent with the fact that Srila Prabhupada had single-handedly already put in place the success of his mission:
|Guest:||Are you planning to choose a successor?|
|Srila Prabhupada:||It is already successful.|
|Guest:||But there must be somebody you know, needed to handle the thing.|
|Srila Prabhupada:||Yes. That we are creating. We are creating these devotees who will handle.|
|Hanuman:||One thing He's saying, this gentlemen, and I would like to know, is your successor named or your successor will...|
My success is always there.
(Srila Prabhupada Room conversation, 12/2/75 Mexico)
"So there is nothing to be said new. Whatever I have to speak, I have spoken in my books. Now you try to understand it and continue your endeavour. Whether I am present or not present it doesn't matter." (Srila Prabhupada Arrival conversation, 17/5/77, Vrindavan)
|Reporter:||What will happen to the movement in the United States when you die?|
|Srila Prabhupada:||I will never die|
|Devotees:||Jaya! Haribol! (laughter)|
I will live from my books and you will utilise.
(Srila Prabhupada Press Conference, 16/7/75, San Francisco)
Reporter: Are you training a successor?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, my Guru Maharaja is there.
(Srila Prabhupada Press conference, 16/7/75, San Francisco)
|Interviewer:||What happens when that inevitable time comes a successor is needed.|
|Ramesvara:||He is asking about the future, who will guide the Movement in the future.|
|Srila Prabhupada:||They will guide, I am training them.|
|Interviewer:||Will there be one spiritual leader though?|
No. I am training GBC, 18 all over the world.
(Srila Prabhupada Interview, 10/6/76, Los Angeles)
|Reporter:||Do you expect to name one person as your successor or have you already?|
That I am not contemplating
now. But there is no need of one person.
(Srila Prabhupada Interview, 4/6/76, Los Angeles)
|Interviewer:||I was wondering if he had a successor to do...Do you have a successor to take your place when you die?|
|Srila Prabhupada:||Not yet settled up. Not yet settled up.|
|Interviewer:||So what process? Would the Hare Krishnas...|
We have got secretaries. They
(Srila Prabhupada Interview, 14/7/76, New York)
"The GBC should all be the instructor gurus. I am the initiator guru, and you should be the instructor guru by teaching what I am teaching and doing what I am doing." (Srila Prabhupada Letter to Madhudvisa, 4/8/75)
"Sometimes a diksa guru is not present always. Therefore one can take learning, instruction, from an advanced devotee. That is called the siksa guru." (Srila Prabhupada Bg. Lecture, 4/7/74, Honolulu)Thus the issue is not whether Srila Prabhupada created any pure devotees, but the fact that he did set up the ritvik system. Although the diksa guru at this time is not physically present, that does not mean he is not the diksa guru. In his absence we are expected to take instruction from bona fide siksa gurus, of which there may eventually be millions.
|9) "As long as a guru is following strictly it does not matter how advanced he is, he will eventually become qualified and take his disciples back to Godhead."|
"Although Prthu Maharaja was factually an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he rejected those praises because the qualities of the Supreme Person were not yet manifest in him. He wanted to stress that one who does not actually possess these qualities should not try to engage his followers and devotees in offering him glory for them, even though these qualities might be manifest in the future. If a man who does not factually possess the attributes of a great personality engages his followers in praising him with the expectation that such attributes will develop in the future, that sort of praise is actually an insult." (S.B. 4.15.23, purport)
Just as it would be an insult to address a blind man as "lotus eyed one", to address partially conditioned souls as being "as good as God" (GII, point 8, p.15) is similarly offensive; not only to the person being falsely flattered, but also to the pure disciplic succession of factually realised souls, on up to the Supreme Lord Himself.
To "strictly follow" is the process by which a disciple advances, not a qualification in and of itself. Devotees often confuse the process with the qualification, sometimes even preaching that they are one and the same. Just because someone is following strictly does not mean he is a maha-bhagavata, or that he has been asked to initiate by his own spiritual master; and if a disciple does start initiating before he is properly qualified and authorised , he is certainly not "strictly following" either.
Sometimes, devotees quote text 5 of The Nectar of Instruction (purport) to prove that "a neophyte Vaisnava or a Vaisnava on the intermediate platform can also accept disciples..." For some reason they do not notice that the rest of the sentence warns disciples of such gurus that "they cannot advance very well towards the ultimate goal of life under his insufficient guidance." It then states:
"Therefore a disciple should be careful to accept an uttama-adhikari as a spiritual master."
Unqualified gurus are also warned:
"One should not become a spiritual master unless he has attained the platform of uttama-adhikari." (The Nectar of Instruction, text 5, purport)If a guru is only offering "insufficient guidance" he cannot, by definition, be a diksa guru, since this requires the transmission of full divya-jnana. "Insufficient" means - not enough. It is self-evident that initiating gurus who cannot help one "advance very well" are probably best avoided altogether.
|10) "The ritvik system by definition means the end of the disciplic succession."|
Previous acaryas have remained current for long periods of time, thousands (Srila Vyasadeva) or even millions of years (see quote below). We see no reason why the duration of Srila Prabhupada's reign as "current link", even if it extends right till the end of the Sankirtan Movement, should pose any particular problem.
"Regarding parampara system: there is nothing to wonder for big gaps [...] we find in the Bhagavad-gita that the Gita was taught to the sungod, some millions of years ago, but Krishna has mentioned only three names in this parampara system - namely, Vivasvan, Manu, and Iksvaku; and so these gaps do not hamper from understanding the parampara system. We have to pick up the prominent acaryas, and follow from him [...] We have to pick up from the authority of the acarya in whatever sampradaya we belong to." (Srila Prabhupada Letter to Dayananda, 12/4/68)The July 9th order is significant since it means that Srila Prabhupada shall be the prominent acarya, at least for members of ISKCON, for as long as the Society exists. Only the direct intervention of Srila Prabhupada or Krishna can revoke the final order (such intervention needing to be at least as clear and unequivocal as a signed directive sent to the entire Society). Thus until some counter-instruction is given, the science of devotional service shall continue to be transmitted directly by Srila Prabhupada to successive generations of his disciples. Since this is a common phenomenon in our disciplic succession, there is no cause for alarm. The succession can only be considered "ended" if this science of devotional service is lost. On such occasions, Lord Krishna Himself usually descends to re-establish the principles of religion. As long as Srila Prabhupada's books are in circulation, this "science" shall remain vigorously intact, and perfectly accessible.
|11) "The ritvik system means an end to the guru-disciple relationship which has been the tradition for thousands of years."|
The details of how diksa guru-disciple relationships are formally bonded may be adapted by an acarya, according to time place and circumstance, but the principle remains the same:
"Srimad Viraraghava Acarya, an acarya in the disciplic succession of the Ramanuja-sampradaya, has remarked in his commentary that candalas, or conditioned souls who are born in lower than sudra families, can also be initiated according to circumstances. The formalities may be slightly changed here and there to make them Vaisnavas." (S.B. 4.8.54 purport)
Similarly this principle of accepting initiation from a bona fide spiritual master is in no way diminished or compromised by the ritvik system.
Some people point to traditional gurus living in villages in India as a model for ISKCON. Each guru has a few disciples who he personally trains. However cosy this may sound it has nothing remotely to do with the worldwide mission Lord Caitanya predicted, and Srila Prabhupada established. Within that mission Srila Prabhupada is the world acarya with thousands, and potentially millions, of disciples. Srila Prabhupada set up a world Movement through which anyone can "approach", "serve" and "inquire from" him anywhere in the world. Why should we want to introduce a village guru system into ISKCON, when it was not what Srila Prabhupada ordered or set up?
If everyone is meditating on hundreds of different gurus of differing viewpoints, opinions and levels of realisation, how can there be unity? Rather than this lucky-dip approach to spiritual life, as we have demonstrated, Srila Prabhupada gave us a tried and tested system that facilitated surrender directly to himself, who is one hundred percent guaranteed. We know he shall never let us down, and in this way ISKCON will remain united, not just in name, but in consciousness.Some devotees feel that without a succession of living, physically present, initiating diksa gurus, the science of devotional service will be lost. However, this principle is never once stated by Srila Prabhupada, and thus cannot exist in our philosophy. As long as the ritvik system remains in force (once it is re-instituted of course), there will be a succession of living siksa gurus acting on behalf of a living, though not physically present, maha-bhagavata. As long as these siksa gurus do not change anything, invent philosophy, disobey important orders, and unauthorisedly pose themselves as diksa gurus, the science of devotional service shall remain perfectly intact. If such misbehaviour were to obstruct the imperishable science of bhakti, then Krishna would certainly intervene in some way, perhaps by sending again a resident of Goloka to establish a new bona fide Society. Let us work together to make sure this will not be necessary.
|12) "Ritvik is not the regular way of conducting the disciplic succession. The proper way to do it is for the guru to teach the disciple everything he needs to know about Krishna while he is physically present. Once the guru leaves the planet it is the duty of all his strict disciples to immediately start initiating their own disciples, thus carrying on the disciplic succession. That is the "regular" way of doing things."|
These are all the occasions when an acarya in the parampara
leaves, and there is no next link to immediately start initiating. Or
the person who is to become the next link does not immediately receive
authorisation from his spiritual master to initiate on, or directly
after, his departure. For example, there was a gap of some twenty years
between the departure of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and the next bona fide
initiation in our sampradaya.
Gaps of more than one hundred years are not uncommon between members of
the disciplic succession.
b) Reverse gaps
There are instances of a disciple accepting an acarya as his principal spiritual master after he has left the planet. Whether the departed acarya is a siksa or a diksa guru to the disciple is often difficult to discern. Srila Prabhupada does not generally specify the precise nature of these spiritual interactions. For example, the exact nature of the relationship between Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura and Narottama dasa Thakura who lived over a hundred years apart, is not detailed by Srila Prabhupada. We may wish to call it a siksa relationship, but that is speculation, since Srila Prabhupada simply says :
"Srila Narottama dasa Thakura who accepted Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti as his servitor." (C.c. Adi,1)
"...Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura. He accepted his guru, Narottama dasa Thakura." (Srila Prabhupada S.B. Lecture 17/4/76, Bombay)
Although such disciples normally go through some sort of ceremony with someone who is physically present, that still may not preclude the departed acarya from being his diksa guru ; just as a ritvik ceremony does not mean that the ritvik or Temple President is the eternal diksa guru. Also such disciples normally obtained permission from an authority who was physically present, to accept a sad-guru who was not. In a similar way, were the ritvik system re-instated, new disciples of Srila Prabhupada would first gain the approval of the Temple President and the ritvik before they were initiated.
d) Mode of initiation
These are anomalous forms of initiation where unique, or inconceivable forms of diksa transmission take place. For example, Lord Krishna to Lord Brahma; or Lord Caitanya whispering into a Buddhist's ear. Interplanetary diksa might also come under this category. This is where personalities initiate, or transmit diksa to a disciple who resides on a different planet, for example Manu to Iksvaku in Bhagavad-gita (4.1).
e) Successor systems
This refers to differing successor acarya systems within our sampradaya. For example Srila Bhaktivinoda adopted a "powerful Vaisnava son" successor system. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta envisioned a "self-effulgent acarya" successor system. As far as we can determine, Srila Prabhupada left in place a " rittik - representative of the acarya, for the purpose of performing initiations" system, whereby "the newly initiated devotees are disciples of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada." The present system favoured by the GBC is a "multiple acarya successor system".It is clear that the approach of each acarya is fairly unique; so to talk about a "regular" system for continuing the parampara is practically meaningless.
|13) "If we adopted the ritvik system, what would stop us taking initiation from any previous acarya, such as Srila Bhaktisiddhanta?"|
"...in order to receive the real message of Srimad-Bhagavatam one should approach the current link, or spiritual master, in the chain of disciplic succession." (S.B. 2.9.7, purport)It is self-evident that Srila Prabhupada is the sampradaya acarya who succeeded Srila Bhaktisiddhanta. Srila Prabhupada is therefore our current link, and is thus the correct person to approach for initiation.
|14)"In order to be the current link you must be physically present."|
So let us consider: Can a spiritual master be "current" if he is physically absent?
As far as we can see all the above definitions can be applied to Srila Prabhupada and his books.
"...in order to receive the real message of Srimad-Bhagavatam one should approach the current link, or spiritual master, in the chain of disciplic succession." (S.B. 2.9.7, purport)
"Without intervening medium", "closest or most direct in effect or relationship". (Collins English Dictionary)
These definitions lend validity to a direct relationship with Srila Prabhupada without the need for intermediaries, again all regardless of physical presence/absence.
|15) "Srila Prabhupada's Godbrothers all became initiating acaryas after the disappearance of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, so what is wrong with Srila Prabhupada's disciples doing the same?"|
In posing as initiating acaryas, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's disciples acted in direct defiance of their spiritual master's final order (to form a GBC and await a self-effulgent acarya). Srila Prabhupada roundly condemned his Godbrothers for their insubordination, describing them as useless for preaching, what to speak of initiating:
"Amongst my Godbrothers no one is qualified to become acarya." (Srila Prabhupada Letter to Rupanuga, 28/4/74)
"On the whole you may know that he (Bon Maharaja) is not a liberated person, and therefore he cannot initiate any person to Krishna Consciousness. It requires special benediction from higher authorities." (Srila Prabhupada Letter to Janardana, 26/4/68)
"If everyone just initiates there will be contradictory result. As long as it goes on, there will be only failure." (Srila Prabhupada Phalgun Krishnan Pancami, verse 23, 1961)
We can see from recent experience what havoc just one of these personalities can cause to Srila Prabhupada's mission. We would suggest respect from as great a distance as possible. Certainly we cannot afford to use them as role models for how a disciple should carry on their spiritual master's mission. They destroyed their spiritual master's mission, and are more than capable of doing the same to ISKCON if we were to allow them.
With regards to the Gaudiya Matha's guru system, this may be the only
historical precedent the M.A.S.S. can lay claim to, i.e. that it was
also set up in direct defiance of clear orders from the Founder-acarya.
|16) "When Srila Prabhupada said they should not be acaryas, he meant acarya with a big "A". That is, an acarya who heads up an institution."|
|17) "It is just common knowledge that there are three types of acarya. Everyone in ISKCON accepts that."|
"I have taken this definition of acarya from the letter of August 7th 1978, from Pradyumna to Satsvarupa dasa Goswami. The reader should now turn to this letter (which I have appended) for careful study." (Under My Order, Ravindra Svarupa dasa, August 1985)
In his letter, Pradyumna explains that the word acarya may be taken in three senses:
1. One who practices what he preaches.
2. One who grants initiation to a disciple.
3. The spiritual head of an institution who has been specifically declared by the previous acarya to be his successor.
We accept definition 1, since it was used by Srila Prabhupada. This definition would automatically apply to any effective preacher, be he siksa or diksa guru.
Moving on to definition 2: Pradyumna explains that this type of acarya can initiate disciples and be referred to as acaryadeva, but only by his disciples:
"Anyone who grants initiation or is a guru may be called as "acaryadeva", etc - by his disciples only. Whoever has accepted him as guru must give all respects to him in every way, but this does not apply to those who are not his disciples." (Pradyumna 7/8/78)
This is a concoction. Nowhere does Srila Prabhupada ever describe an initiating guru whose absolute nature must only be recognised by his disciples, but not by the world at large, or even other Vaisnavas in the same line. Let us see how Srila Prabhupada defines the word acaryadeva. The following are excerpts from Srila Prabhupada's Vyasa-Puja offering printed in The Science of Self Realisation (SSR) chapter 2 where he uses the term in relation to his own spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta:
"The guru, or acaryadeva, as we learn from bona fide scriptures, delivers the message of the absolute world,..."
"...when we speak of the fundamental principle of gurudeva, or acaryadeva, we speak of something that is of universal application."
"The acaryadeva for whom we have assembled tonight to offer our humble homage is not the guru of a sectarian institution or one out of many differing exponents of the truth. On the contrary, he is the Jagad-Guru, or the guru of all of us..." (Srila Prabhupada, SSR, chapter 2)
Srila Prabhupada's use and definition of the word acaryadeva is diametrically opposed to that of Pradyumna. Implicit in what Pradyumna says is that the term acaryadeva can be falsely applied to persons who are not actually on that highly elevated platform. Thus, he relativises the absolute position of the diksa guru.
The term acaryadeva can only be applied to someone who is factually "the guru of all of us"; someone who should be worshipped by the entire world:
"...he is known to be the direct manifestation of the Lord and a genuine representative of Sri Nityananda Prabhu. Such a spiritual master is known as acaryadeva." (C.c. Adi, 1.46)
In definition 3, Pradyumna explains that the word acarya indicates the head of an institution, and that this meaning is very specific:
"It does not mean just anyone. It means only one who has been specifically declared by the previous acarya to be his successor above all others to the seat of the spiritual institution which he heads. [...] This is the strict tradition in all of the Gaudiya Sampradaya." (Pradyumna's letter to Satsvarupa dasa Goswami, 7/8/78)
We certainly agree that to initiate one must first be authorised by the predecessor acarya (a point which is not even mentioned in the elaboration of definition 2):
"One should take initiation from a bona fide spiritual master coming in the disciplic succession, who is authorised by his predecessor spiritual master." (S.B. 4.8.54, purport)
However, what this has got to do with taking over the "seat of the spiritual institution" is rather baffling, since Srila Prabhupada is the acarya of an entirely separate institution from that of his Guru Maharaja. According to Pradyumna's philosophy therefore, Srila Prabhupada might only come in as a definition 2 acarya. Whatever "strict tradition" Pradyumna is referring to, it was certainly never mentioned by Srila Prabhupada, and thus we can safely discard it. Further down the page, we see exactly from where Pradyumna's insidious ideas originated:
"Indeed in the different Gaudiya Mathas, even if one Godbrother is in the position of acarya, he usually, out of humility, takes only a thin cloth asana, not anything higher." (Pradyumna's letter to Satsvarupa dasa Goswami, 7/8/78)
None of Srila Prabhupada's Godbrothers were authorised acaryas. One would think that genuine humility should translate into giving up one's unauthorised activity, whatever it may be, recognising Srila Prabhupada's pre-eminent position, and then surrendering to the true Jagad-Guru. Unfortunately, few members of the Gaudiya Matha have ever done this. The fact that Pradyumna cites these personalities as bona fide examples means he is once more denigrating the position of the true acaryadeva.
"Regarding Bhakti Puri, Tirtha Maharaja, they are my Godbrothers and should be shown respect. But you should not have any intimate connection with them as they have gone against the orders of my Guru Maharaja." (Srila Prabhupada Letter to Pradyumna, 17/2/68)
It is a shame Pradyumna prabhu ignored this direct instruction from his Guru Maharaja, and quite remarkable that his deviant views were allowed to shape ISKCON's current guru "siddhanta".
Thus, when Srila Prabhupada said none of his Godbrothers were qualified to be become acarya, whether he meant definitions 1 or 3 acarya is irrelevant. If they were not qualified for definition 1 then that meant they did not teach by example, which would automatically disqualify them from definition 3, and hence from initiating altogether. And if they were not qualified as per definition 3, then they were not authorised, and hence once more they could not initiate.
Within ISKCON all devotees are instructed
to become definition 1 acaryas, teaching through example,
or siksa gurus. A good start on the path to becoming this
type of acarya is to begin strictly following the orders
of the spiritual master.
|18) "It seems a small point, so how could these ideas regarding the acarya have had any noticeable adverse effect on ISKCON?"|
If we return once more to GII, we can see that the GBC is highly ambivalent towards the gurus it "authorises".
Whilst acknowledging the rubber-stamping of sampradaya acaryas is bogus (GII, point 6, p.15), the GBC nevertheless, in effect, performs precisely this function every Gaura-Purnima at Mayapur, year after year. We now have close to a hundred initiating gurus, all anointed with the "no objection" stamp of approval. All these gurus are being worshipped as "saksad hari" ("as good as God") in accordance with the GBC's own directives for disciples (GII, point 8, p.15).
These initiating acaryas are heralded as "current links" to a disciplic succession of maha-bhagavatas stretching back thousands of years to the Supreme Lord Himself:
"Devotees should take shelter of the representatives of Srila Prabhupada who are the "current link" in the disciplic succession." (GII, p. 34)
At the same time however the aspiring disciple is sternly warned that ISKCON approval..."...is not automatically to be taken as a statement about the degree of God-realisation of the approved guru." (GII, section 2.2, p.9)
Elsewhere we are further cautioned:
"When a devotee is allowed to carry out the "order" of Srila Prabhupada to expand the disciplic succession by initiating new disciples it is not to be taken as a certification or endorsement of his being an "uttama adhikari", "pure devotee", or to having achieved any specific state of realisation." (GII, p.15)
These gurus are not to be worshipped by everyone in the temple, but only by their own disciples in a separate place. (GII, p.7) - (Pradyumna's acaryadeva definition).
We have shown that the only type of bona fide diksa guru is an authorised maha-bhagavata; (we have also shown that the actual "order" was for ritviks and siksa gurus). Thus, to describe anyone as a "current link" or "initiator guru", is synonymous with claiming he is a large "A" or definition 3 acarya, an "uttama adhikari" or a "pure devotee".
We would venture that it is infelicitous to approve, or "not object" to, the creation of diksa gurus, and simultaneously disavow any blame or responsibility should they deviate. This is what's termed "living in denial" according to modern psychological parlance. We are sure Srila Prabhupada did not intend ISKCON to be a type of lottery, or Russian roulette, where the stake is someone's spiritual life. Perhaps the GBC should refrain from further rubber stamping until they can stand one hundred percent behind those they approve. After all, every one of us stands one hundred percent behind Srila Prabhupada as a bona fide spiritual master; so such consensual recognition of personal qualification is not impossible.
GBC guru ambivalence was recently summed up quite succinctly by Jayadvaita Swami:
"The word appointed is never used. But there are "candidates for initiating guru", votes are taken, and those who make it through the procedures become "ISKCON-approved" or "ISKCON-authorised" gurus. To boost your confidence: On one hand the GBC encourages you to be initiated by a bona fide, authorised ISKCON guru and worship him like God. On the other, it has an elaborate system of laws to invoke from time to time when your ISKCON-authorised guru falls down. One might perhaps be forgiven for thinking that for all the laws and resolutions the role of guru is still a perplexity even for the GBC." ("Where the ritvik People are Right", Jayadvaita Swami, 1996)When we look at the appalling track record of gurus in ISKCON it is hardly surprising that such mistrust should exist. To quote once more from Jayadvaita Swami's paper:
|FACT:||ISKCON gurus have opposed, oppressed and driven out many sincere Godbrothers and Godsisters.|
|FACT:||ISKCON gurus have usurped and misused money, and diverted other ISKCON resources for their own personal prestige and sense gratification.|
|FACT:||ISKCON gurus have had illicit sexual intercourse with both women and men, and possibly children as well.|
(...etc, etc... )
(Where the ritvik People are Right, Jayadvaita Swami, 1996)
Newcomers to ISKCON are told that the onus is on them to carefully examine ISKCON gurus on the basis of Srila Prabhupada's books and instructions, to make sure for themselves that they are qualified to initiate. However, should such a prospective disciple come to the conclusion that none of the "physically present" gurus on offer are up to standard, and that he wishes instead to repose his faith in Srila Prabhupada as his diksa guru, he is ruthlessly hounded from the Society. Is this really fair? After all, he is only doing what the GBC has told him to do. Should he be punished for not coming to the "right" conclusion, especially since there is such clear and unequivocal evidence that this choice is precisely what Srila Prabhupada wanted all along?
Is it reasonable to expect someone to have unflinching faith in a current ISKCON guru, when he sees that the GBC themselves have felt it necessary to construct a rigorous penal system just to keep them in line? A penal system which itself is never once mentioned in the very books and instructions the prospective disciple is being asked to base his decision on. A clearer case of self-referential incoherence it would be hard to find.It would be safer for all concerned if we just follow Srila Prabhupada's clear order to keep him as the only initiator within ISKCON. Who could object to that?
|19) "According to the ISKCON Journal 1990, some of Srila Prabhupada's Godbrothers were actually acaryas."|
"Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati has not said or given any document that Swamiji (Srila Prabhupada) will be guru." (ISKCON Journal 1990, p.23)
"But there is a system in our sampradaya. So Tirtha Maharaja, Madhava Maharaja, Sridhar Maharaja, our Gurudev, Swamiji - Swamiji Bhaktivedanta Swami - they all became acaryas." (ISKCON Journal 1990, p.23)
Contrast the above with what Srila Prabhupada thought of one of these "acaryas":
"Bhakti Vilas Tirtha is very much antagonistic to our Society and he has no clear conception of devotional service. He is contaminated." (Srila Prabhupada Letter to Sukadeva, 14/11/73)
and with what he said of the rest:
|20) "Srila Prabhupada spoke well of his Godbrothers sometimes."|
It is true that on occasion Srila Prabhupada dealt with his Godbrothers diplomatically, referring to Sridhar Maharaja as his siksa guru etc. Srila Prabhupada was also a warm person who had genuine care and affection for his Godbrothers, always trying to find ways of engaging them in the Sankirtan Movement. We must realise however that had these been genuine acaryadevas, Srila Prabhupada would never have spoken ill of them, not even once. To speak of bona fide diksa gurus as disobedient, envious snakes, dogs, pigs, wasps etc., would itself have been a serious offence, and thus not something Srila Prabhupada would have done. To illustrate the way in which Srila Prabhupada viewed his Godbrothers, we shall offer excerpts below from a room conversation in which Bhavananda is reading a pamphlet put out by Tirtha Maharaja's matha:
Bhavananda: " It starts off in big print, "Acaryadeva Tridandi Swami Srila Bhaktivilasa Tirtha Maharaja. All learned men are aware that in the dark ages of India when the Hindu religion was in great danger..."
Srila Prabhupada: (laughs)...This is nonsense.
It is obvious what type of "acaryadeva" Srila Prabhupada considers Tirtha Maharaja (the same Tirtha who is hailed as a bona fide acarya in the 1990 ISKCON Journal mentioned earlier). Later on the pamphlet describes how Srila Bhaktisiddhanta was so fortunate to have a wonderful personality to carry on the mission.
Bhavananda: "...In proper time, he (Srila Bhaktisiddhanta) got a great personality who readily shouldered the..."
Srila Prabhupada: "Just see now. "He got a great personality". He is that personality. He'll also prove that. ..(later)...No one accepts him...Where is his greatness? Who knows him? Just see. So he is making a plan to declare himself a great personality...(Tirtha Maharaja) is very envious about us...These rascals they may create some trouble." (Room Conversation, 19/1/76, Mayapur)
can never be described as envious rascals who just want to cause
trouble. Sadly, even to this day, some members of the Gaudiya Matha are
still causing trouble. Respect from a distance has to be the safest
|21) "We know that bona fide acaryas do not have to be so advanced because sometimes they fall down."|
Srila Prabhupada states the precise opposite:
"A bona fide spiritual master is in
the disciplic succession from time eternal and he does not deviate
at all from the instructions of the Supreme Lord." (Bg. 4.42, purport)
|22) "But previous acaryas even describe what one should do when one's spiritual master deviates."|
"God is always God, Guru is always Guru." (The Science of Self Realisation, chapter 2)
"Well if he is bad, how can he become a guru?" (The Science of Self Realisation, chapter 2)
"The pure devotee is always free from the clutches of Maya and her influence." (S.B. 5.3.14)
"There is no possibility that a first class devotee will fall down." (C.c. Madhya, 22.71)
"A spiritual master is always liberated." (Srila Prabhupada Letter to Tamal Krishna, 21/6/70)
There is not a single example in Srila Prabhupada's books of a formally authorised diksa guru, in our disciplic succession, ever deviating from the path of devotional service. The rejection of Sukracarya is sometimes used to validate the view that acaryas fall down, or can be rejected, but this example is highly misleading since he was never an authorised member of our disciplic succession. Lord Brahma's pastimes with his daughter are sometimes mentioned. Yet it is clearly stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam that these incidents occurred before Lord Brahma became the head of our sampradaya. Indeed, when the disciple Nitai referred to the pastime as an example of an acarya falling down, Srila Prabhupada became most displeased.
Aksayananda: I was recently told by one
devotee that the acarya does not have to be a pure devotee. [....]
Prabhupada: Who is that rascal? [...]
Aksayananda: He said it. Nitai said it.
He said it in this context. He said that Lord Brahma is the acarya
in the Brahma-sampradaya, but yet he is sometimes afflicted
by passion. So therefore he is saying that it appears that the acarya
does not have to be a pure devotee. So it does not seem right. [...]
Prabhupada: He manufactured his idea. Therefore he's a rascal. Therefore he's a rascal. Nitai has become an authority? [...] He thought something rascaldom, and he is expressing that. Therefore he is more rascal. These things are going on. (Morning Walk, Vrindavan, December 10th, 1975)
According to Srila Prabhupada only unauthorised gurus can be carried away by opulence and women.
Despite a total absence from Srila Prabhupada's books of bona fide gurus deviating, the GBC's book GII has a whole section on what a disciple should do when his previously bona fide guru deviates! The chapter begins by asserting the importance of approaching a current link, and not "jumping over" (GII, p. 27). However, the authors proceed to do precisely this by quoting numerous previous acaryas in an attempt to establish principles never taught by Srila Prabhupada. The gurus described by these previous acaryas could never have been bona fide members of the parampara:
"Narada Muni, Haridasa Thakura and similar acaryas especially empowered to broadcast the glories of the Lord cannot be brought down to the material platform." (S.B. 7.7.14, purport)
The danger of "jumping over" in the manner prevalent in GII is clearly demonstrated in the chapter on "re-initiation", (itself a term never once used by Srila Prabhupada, nor any previous acarya). In the question and answer section (GII, question 4, p.35) the conditions under which one may reject a guru and take "re-initiation" are described. The "explanation" follows:
"Fortunately, the crux of this issue has been clarified for us by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura in his Jaiva Dharma and by Srila Jiva Gosvami in his Bhakti Sandarbha." (GII, p35)The word "fortunately" rather unfortunately implies that "since Srila Prabhupada neglected to tell us what to do when a guru deviates, it's just as well we can jump over him to all these previous acaryas". But Srila Prabhupada told us that everything we needed to know about spiritual life was in his books. Why are we introducing systems never mentioned by our acarya?
|23)"But what is wrong in consulting previous acaryas?"|
Nothing, as long as we do attempt to use them to add new principles which were not mentioned by our own acarya. The idea that a bona fide guru can deviate is totally alien to anything Srila Prabhupada taught. The problems over the "origin of the jiva" issue, all stem from this propensity to jump over:
"...we must see the previous acaryas through Prabhupada. We cannot jump over Prabhupada and then look back at him through the eyes of previous acaryas." (Our Original Position, GBC Press, p. 163)
How is adopting entirely new philosophical principles, never mentioned by Srila Prabhupada, seeing "the previous acaryas through Prabhupada"?
Even if the interpretation the GBC in GII has placed on these previous acaryas writings were correct, we still could not use them to modify or add to Srila Prabhupada's teachings. This is clearly explained in two verses in the book Sri Krishna Bhajanamrta by Srila Narahari Sarakara. GII should have mentioned these verses by way of caution , since it supported its thesis with other verses from the very same book:
"A disciple may hear some instruction from another advanced Vaisnava, but after gaining that good instruction he must bring it and present it to his own spiritual master. After presenting them he should hear the same teachings again from his spiritual master with appropriate instructions."
"...a disciple who listens to the words of other Vaisnavas, even if their instructions are proper and true, but does not re-confirm those teachings with his own spiritual master and instead directly personally accepts these instructions, is considered a bad disciple and a sinner."We would humbly suggest that in the interest of the spiritual lives of all the members of ISKCON, the GII book be revised in a manner congruous with the above injunction.
|24) "Why did Srila Prabhupada not explain what to do when a guru deviates?"|
"The bona fide spiritual master always engages in unalloyed devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead." (C.c. Adi, 1.46)
Srila Prabhupada taught that a guru will only fall down if he is not properly authorised to initiate:
"...sometimes a spiritual master is not properly authorised to initiate and only on his own initiative becomes a spiritual master, he may be carried away by an accumulation of wealth and a large number of disciples." (Nectar Of Devotion, p116)
When a guru falls down it is conclusive proof that he was never properly authorised by his predecessor acarya. Even if no ISKCON guru had ever fallen down one could still legitimately question where their authorisation came from to initiate.
The problem for the GBC is that in accepting the stark truth of quotes such as the one above, various unpleasant ramifications loom menacingly before them. Since all of ISKCON's gurus claim to be authorised to the same degree as part of the same package, (the alleged order from Srila Prabhupada being equally applicable to all of them), the very fact that many of them have visibly fallen down is proof positive that the "order" was misunderstood. Had they actually been given proper authorisation there would be no question of any of them falling down. Indeed they would all be maha-bhagavatas.
"A spiritual master is always liberated."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter 21/6/70)
|25) "As soon as one of Srila Prabhupada's disciples reaches perfection, the ritvik system will have become redundant."|
However, this premise is speculation since it was never articulated by Srila Prabhupada. There is no evidence that the ritvik system was set up only as a reaction to a dearth of qualified people, and that once there is a qualified person we should stop following it. This notion has the unfortunate side effect of making the ritvik system seem only second best, or makeshift, when actually it is Krishna's perfect plan. It also makes it possible for some future unscrupulous charismatic personality to stop the system through some false show of devotion.
In theory, even if there were qualified uttama adhikari disciples present now, they would still have to follow the ritvik system if they wanted to remain in ISKCON. There is no reason why a qualified person would not be more than happy to follow the order of Srila Prabhupada, as we have already stated.
One possible source of this misconception could be the instructions Srila Bhaktisiddhanta left the Gaudiya Matha. Srila Prabhupada told us that his Guru Maharaja had asked for there to be a GBC, and that in due course a self-effulgent acarya would emerge. As we know the Gaudiya Matha did not follow this, to catastrophic effect. Some devotees believe we must also be on the look out for a self-effulgent acarya; and that since he could come at any time the ritvik system is only a stop-gap measure.
The difficulty with this theory is that the instructions Srila Bhaktisiddhanta left his disciples, and the ones Srila Prabhupada left us, are different. Srila Prabhupada certainly left instructions that the GBC should continue managing his Society, but he said nothing anywhere about the emergence of a future self-effulgent acarya for ISKCON. Instead he set up a ritvik system whereby he would remain the acarya "henceforward". Obviously as disciples we cannot jump over Srila Prabhupada and start following Srila Bhaktisiddhanta.
If Srila Prabhupada had been given some dictation from Krishna that his Society was shortly to be helmed by a new acarya, then he would have made some provision for this in his final instructions. Instead he ordered that only his books were to be distributed, and that they would be law for the next ten thousand years. What would a future acarya have left to do? Srila Prabhupada has already put in place the Movement that will fulfill every prophecy and purport of our disciplic succession for the remainder of the Sankirtan Movement.
How will it be possible for a new self-effulgent diksa guru to emerge within ISKCON, when the only person allowed to give diksa is Srila Prabhupada?
Some have argued that acaryas have the power to change things, and thus a new one could alter the ritvik system within ISKCON. But would an authorised acarya ever contradict the direct orders left by a previous acarya to his followers? To do so would surely undermine the authority of the previous acarya. It would certainly cause confusion and bewilderment for those followers faced with the tortuous choice of whose order to follow.
All such concerns melt away once we read the final order. There is simply no mention of the "soft" ritvik injunction. The letter just says "henceforward". Thus to say it will end with the emergence of a new acarya, or perfected disciple, is superimposing one's own speculation over a perfectly clear request. The letter only supports a "hard" ritvik understanding, i.e. that:
Srila Prabhupada will be the initiator within ISKCON for as long as the Society is extant.
This understanding is consistent with the idea that Srila Prabhupada had already single-handedly put into place the success of his mission (please see related objection 8: "Are you saying that Srila Prabhupada created no pure devotees?")
It is sometimes claimed that since the July 9th letter only authorises the original 11 appointed ritviks, the system must stop once the 11 persons nominated die or deviate.
This is rather an extreme argument. After all the July 9th letter does not state that only Srila Prabhupada can chose ritviks, or that the list of acting ritviks may never be added to. There are other systems of management put in place by Srila Prabhupada, such as the GBC, where new members are freely added or subtracted whenever it is felt necessary. It is illogical to single out one system of management, and treat it entirely differently from other equally important ones. This is particularly so since Srila Prabhupada never even hinted that the approach to maintaining the ritvik system should differ in any way from the upkeep of other systems he personally put in place.
This argument has become popular, so we invite the reader to consider the following points:1) In the Topanga Canyon transcript Tamal Krishna Goswami relates the following question he asked whilst preparing to type the list of selected ritviks:
|Tamal Krishna:||"Srila Prabhupada, is this all or do you want to add more?"|
"As necessary, others may be added."
(Pyramid House confessions, Topanga Canyon, 3/12/80)
2) The July 9th letter defines ritvik as: "representative of the acarya". It is perfectly within the remit of the GBC to select or decommission anyone to represent Srila Prabhupada, be they sannyasis, Temple Presidents or indeed GBC members themselves. At present they approve diksa gurus, who are supposedly direct representatives of the Supreme Lord Himself. Thus it should be easily within their capacity to select a few name-giving priests to act responsibly on Srila Prabhupada's behalf.
3) The July 9th letter shows Srila Prabhupada's intention was to run a ritvik system "henceforward". Srila Prabhupada made the GBC the ultimate managing authority in order that they could maintain and regulate all the systems he put in place. The ritvik system was his system for managing initiations. It is the job of the GBC to maintain that system, adding or subtracting personnel as they can do in all other areas over which they are authorised to preside.
4) Letters issued on July 9th, 11th, and 21st all indicate that the list could be added to, with the use of such phrases as "thus far", "so far", "initial list", etc. So a mechanism for adding more ritviks must have been put in place, even though it has yet to be exercised.
5) When trying to understand an instruction one will naturally consider the purpose behind it. The letter states that Srila Prabhupada appointed "some of his senior disciples to act as "rittik" - representative of the acarya, for the purpose of performing initiations ...", and that at that time Srila Prabhupada had "so far" given eleven names. The aim of an obedient disciple is to understand and satisfy the purpose of the system. The purpose of the final order was clearly not to exclusively bind all future initiations to an "elite" group of individuals ("some [...] so far") who must eventually die, and in so doing end the process of initiation within ISKCON. Rather the purpose was to ensure that initiations could practically continue from that time on. Therefore this system must remain in place as long as there is a need for initiation. Thus the addition of more "senior disciples" to act as "representatives of the acarya", as and when they are required, would ensure that the purpose of the system continued to be satisfied.
6) Taken together with Srila Prabhupada's Will (which indicates all future directors for permanent properties in India could only be selected from amongst his "initiated disciples"), it is quite clear Srila Prabhupada's intention was for the system to run indefinitely, with the GBC simply managing the whole thing.Having said this it is always possible that Srila Prabhupada could revoke the order if he wanted to. As stated previously the counter instruction would need to be at least as clear and unequivocal as the personally signed letter which put the ritvik system in place in the first place. With Krishna and his pure devotees anything is possible:
|Newsday Reporter:||You are now the leader and the Spiritual Master. Who will take your place?|
That Krishna will dictate, who
will take my place.
(Interview, 14/7/76, New York)
|26) "Proponents of ritvik just don't want to surrender to a Guru."|
This accusation is based on the misconception that in order to surrender to a Spiritual Master he must be physically present. If this were the case then none of Srila Prabhupada's original disciples could currently be surrendering to him. Surrender to the Spiritual Master means following his instructions, and this can be done whether he is physically present or not. The purpose of ISKCON is to provide proper guidance and encouragement to all comers through potentially unlimited siksa relationships. Once the current GBC itself surrenders to the "order" of Srila Prabhupada this system will naturally inspire more and more surrender from others, eventually perhaps even attracting die hard ritvik activists to do the same.Even if all ritvik proponents were actually stubbornly unwilling to surrender to a Guru, that still does not invalidate the July 9th order. The fact that pro-ritviks are allegedly so un-surrendered should make the GBC even more anxious to follow Srila Prabhupada's final order, if for no other reason than to prove a contrast.
|27) "But who will offer guidance and give service to devotees if there are to be no diksa Gurus."|
|28) "On three occasions Srila Prabhupada states that you need a physical guru, and yet your whole position rests on the idea that you do not."|
"Therefore, as soon as we become a little inclined towards Krishna, then from within our heart he gives us favourable instruction so that we can gradually make progress, gradually. Krishna is the first spiritual master, and when we become more interested then we have to go to a physical spiritual master." (Srila Prabhupada Bg. Lecture, 14/8/66, New York)
"Because Krishna is situated in everyone's heart. Actually, he is the spiritual master, caitya-guru. So in order to help us, he comes out as physical spiritual master." (Srila Prabhupada S.B. Lecture, 28/5/74, Rome)
"Therefore God is called caitya-guru, the spiritual master within the heart. And the physical spiritual master is God's mercy [...] He will help you from within and without, without in the physical form of the spiritual master, and within as the spiritual master within the heart." (Srila Prabhupada Room conversation, 23/5/74)
Srila Prabhupada used the term "physical guru" when explaining that in the conditioned stage we cannot rely purely on the caitya-guru or Supersoul for guidance. It is imperative that we surrender to the external manifestation of the Supersoul. This is the diksa Guru. Such a Spiritual Master, who is considered a resident of the spiritual world, and an intimate associate of Lord Krishna, makes his physical appearance just to guide the fallen conditioned souls. Often such a Spiritual Master will write physical books; he will give lectures which can be heard with physical ears and be recorded on physical tape machines; he may leave physical murtis and even a physical GBC to continue managing everything once he has physically departed.However what Srila Prabhupada never taught was that this physical guru must also be physically present in order to act as guru. As we have pointed out, were this the case, then currently no-one could be considered his disciple. If the guru must always be physically present in order for transcendental knowledge to be imparted, then once Srila Prabhupada left the planet all his disciples should have taken "re-initiation". Furthermore thousands of Srila Prabhupada's disciples were initiated having had no contact with the physical body of Srila Prabhupada. Yet it is accepted that they approached, enquired from, surrendered to, served and took initiation from the physical spiritual master. No one is arguing that their initiations were null and void by dint of the above three quotes.
|29)"Can not the diksa Guru be a conditioned soul?"|
1) Quotes dealing with the qualification for a siksa guru: These quotes will stress how easy it is to act as a guru, how even children can do it, and is usually linked to Lord Caitanya's amara ajnaya verse.
2) Quotes describing the process of achieving guruhood: These quotes will usually always have the word "become" in them. This is because by "strictly following" the process outlined, one will advance and qualify oneself for guruhood. In this way one will "become" guru. The quotes will never say that the qualification of the resultant guru will be less than maha-bhagavata. They will usually just describe the process.We have kept this brief since it is a subject on which another paper could be written; more importantly it is a topic that is not directly relevant to the issue in hand - namely what Srila Prabhupada actually ordered. Just because the diksa guru must be a maha-bhagavata does not mean we have to have a ritvik system, or that Srila Prabhupada set up such a system. Conversely even if the qualification of a diksa guru was simple, that does not mean Srila Prabhupada did not order a ritvik system. We simply need to examine what Srila Prabhupada did and follow that; not what Srila Prabhupada may or should have done. This paper has dealt exclusively with Srila Prabhupada's actual final instructions.
|30) "Srila Prabhupada put the GBC at the head of the Society to manage everything and this is the way they have chosen to run initiations."|
"Resolved: The GBC (Governing Body Commission) has been established by
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada to represent Him in
carrying out the responsibility of managing the International
Society for Krishna Consciousness of which He is the Founder-Acarya and
supreme authority. The GBC accepts as its life and soul His divine
and recognises that it is completely dependent on His mercy in all
respects. The GBC has no other function or purpose other than to
execute the instructions so kindly given by His Divine Grace
and preserve and spread His Teachings to the world in their pure form."
(Definition of GBC, Resolution 1, GBC minutes 1975)
"The system of management will continue as it is now and there is no need of any change." (Srila Prabhupada's Declaration of Will, 4th June, 1977)
"The standards I have already given you, now try to maintain them at all times under standard procedure. Do not try to innovate or create anything or manufacture anything, that will ruin everything." (Srila Prabhupada Letter to Bali Mardan and Pusta Krishna, 18/9/72)
"Now I have invested the GBC for maintaining the standard of our Krishna Consciousness Society, so keep the GBC very vigilant. I have already given you full directions in my books." (Srila Prabhupada Letter to Satsvarupa, 13/9/70)
"I have appointed originally 12 GBC members and I have given them 12 zones for their administration and management, but simply by agreement you have changed everything, so what is this, I don't know." (Srila Prabhupada Letter to Rupanuga, 4/4/72)
"What will happen when I am not here, shall everything be spoiled by GBC?" (Srila Prabhupada Letter to Hansadutta, 11/4/72)
The GBC body should act solely within the parameters it was set by Srila Prabhupada. It pains us to see Srila Prabhupada's representative body in any way compromised, since it was his desire that everyone cooperate under it's direction.
Let us all cooperate under the direction of Srila Prabhupada's final order.
We hope the reader has now gained a deeper appreciation for Srila Prabhupada's momentous final order on the future of initiation within ISKCON. We apologise if any part of our presentation has offended anyone; that was not our intention, so please forgive our inadequacies.
We started this paper stressing how we are sure that if any mistakes have been made, they were not deliberate, and it should therefore not be felt necessary to witch-hunt or spend unnecessary energy blaming anyone. It is a fact that when the acarya leaves, there is automatically some confusion. When one considers that the Movement is destined to run for at least another 9,500 years, nineteen years of confusion is very little indeed. It is time now to digest what has gone wrong, learn from our mistakes and then put the past behind us and work together to build a better ISKCON.
It may be considered necessary to ease the ritvik system in gently, in phases perhaps. Maybe it can even run concurrently with the M.A.S.S. for a short, pre-specified time period, in order not to create undue tension and disturbance. Such points will need careful consideration and discussion. As long as our goal is to re-establish Srila Prabhupada's final order, then within that there should be scope to deal gently with everyone's feelings. We must treat devotees with care and consideration, allowing them time to adjust. If an extensive program can be introduced whereby Srila Prabhupada's teachings and instructions on the guru and initiation are presented systematically, we are confident the whole thing can be turned round quite quickly, and with a minimum of disturbance and ill feeling.
Once it is agreed that the ritvik system is the way forward, there will need to be a cooling off period where the enmity which has built on both sides of the issue can be allowed to dissipate. Retreats should be organised where both sides can come together and make friends. Unfortunately there is considerable immaturity at present, as much from ritvik proponents as from anyone else. Certainly for ourselves, we do not believe that had we been senior disciples at the time of Srila Prabhupada's passing, we would necessarily have acted any differently, or any better. More likely we would have made matters worse.
In our experience many devotees in ISKCON, even more senior ones, have never really had the chance to closely examine the ritvik issue in detail. Unfortunately the form of much ritvik literature is enough to put anybody off, filled as it is with personal attacks and very little philosophy. The best solution, as far as we can see, is for the GBC themselves to resolve this issue. With the correct information before them we are confident everything will be adjusted correctly in time. This would certainly be more desirable than being constantly pressured into change by a band of disgruntled and embittered devotees, some of whom may also have their own agendas not entirely in line with Srila Prabhupada's final order.
Of course we are also subject to the four defects and thus we warmly welcome any comments or criticism. Our main hope in writing this booklet is that the discussion it may inspire might go some ways towards resolving one of the most protracted and difficult controversies ISKCON has faced since the departure of His Divine Grace. Please forgive our offences. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
Only Srila Prabhupada can unite us.
Ritviks are often defined in one of two incorrect ways:
1) As insignificant priests, mere functionaries, who simply dish out spiritual names robotically.
2) As apprentice diksa gurus who are acting as ritviks only until they are fully qualified, at which point they will initiate on their own behalf.
We shall now compare these definitions with the role of a ritvik as given by Srila Prabhupada.
Looking first at definition 1). The post of ritvik is a very responsible position. This should be obvious since Srila Prabhupada specifically chose 11 devotees who already had a proven track record of taking senior responsibility within his mission. He did not simply pull the names out of a hat. Thus, although for the most part their function would be fairly routine, they would also be the first to spot deviations from the strict standards necessary for initiation. Rather as a policeman's job is mostly routine, since most citizens are law abiding, yet he will often be the first person to know when some misdemeanour is being committed. Srila Prabhupada would often express concern that initiation should only take place when a student has proven, for at least six months, that he can chant 16 rounds a day, follow the four regulative principles, read his books etc. Should a Temple President start sending recommendations to a ritvik for students who were failing in one of these essential areas, the ritvik would have the power to refuse initiation. In this way the ritvik would ensure that the standards within ISKCON remained the same as the day Srila Prabhupada left the planet.
Certainly a ritvik would himself have to be following strictly, and would hence be a qualified siksa guru. Whether the ritvik would have a siksa or instructing relationship with the persons being initiated is a separate issue. He may or may not. For a devotee who takes on this position, his ritvik portfolio is separate and distinct from his siksa guru portfolio, though the two may sometimes over-lap. Whilst Srila Prabhupada was present new initiates would not necessarily even meet the acting ritvik for his zone. Very often the initiation ceremony would be carried out by the Temple President, the initiates name arriving by post from his designated ritvik. At the same time we can see no reason why a ritvik should not meet new initiates, and even perform the ceremony, if such an arrangement is agreeable at the local Temple level.
We shall now examine definition 2). As we have several times mentioned, in order to take disciples one must be a fully authorised maha-bhagavata. Before Srila Prabhupada left, he put in place a system which made it illegal for anyone other than himself to initiate within ISKCON. Thus there is no authorisation for anyone, at any time in the future of ISKCON, to initiate on their own behalf, apart from Srila Prabhupada. Thus even if a ritvik, or anyone else for that matter, were to attain the level of maha-bhagavata, he would still need to follow the ritvik system if he wished to stay within ISKCON. We were given an order on July 9th 1977, and it says nothing about the ritviks ever becoming diksa gurus.
What they do and how they are selected:
a) The ritvik accepts the disciple, issues new initiates with a spiritual name, chants on beads, and for second initiation gives the gayatri mantra - all on Srila Prabhupada's behalf (please see the July 9th letter in Appendices). This was Srila Prabhupada's chosen method for having responsible devotees overseeing initiation procedures and standards within ISKCON. The ritvik will examine all recommendations sent by the Temple Presidents to ensure prospective disciples have met the requisite standard of devotional practice.
b) A ritvik is a priest and thus must be a qualified brahmana. When selecting the ritviks, Srila Prabhupada first suggested "senior sannyasis" though he also selected persons who were not sannyasis (please see July 7th conversation in Appendices). The ritviks chosen were senior responsible men to ensure that the process of initiation went on smoothly throughout the whole world.
c) Future ritviks can be selected by the GBC. The way in which ritviks would be selected, reprimanded or decommissioned, would be practically identical to the way in which diksa gurus are currently managed by the GBC within ISKCON. This is definitely within the scope of the powers granted to the GBC by Srila Prabhupada, as they had the authority to select and review much senior personnel such as Sannyasis, Trustees, Zonal Secretaries etc. That more ritviks could be added by the GBC was also admitted by Tamal Krishna Goswami at the "Topanga Canyon" talks in 1980. (please see Appendices)
So in summary the system would work exactly as it did when Srila Prabhupada was still on the planet. The mood, attitude, relationship between the various parties etc. will continue unchanged from the way it was for a brief four month period in 1977. As Srila Prabhupada emphatically stated in the second paragraph of his Will:
"The system of management will continue as it is now and there is no need of any change."
Does the Guru have to be physically present?
immaterial. Presence of the transcendental sound received from the
Spiritual Master should be the guidance of life. That will make our
spiritual life successful. If you feel very strongly about my absence
you may place my pictures on my sitting places and this will be source
of inspiration for you."
(SP Letter to Brahmananda and other students, 19/1/67)
remember that I am always with you. As you are always thinking of me, I
am always thinking of you also. Although physically we are not
together, we are not separated spiritually. So we should be
concerned only with this spiritual connection."
(SP Letter to Gaurasundara, 13/11/69)
"So we should
associate by vibration, and not by the physical presence. That is
(SP Lectures SB, 18/08/68)
"There are two
conceptions, the physical conception and the vibrational
conception. The physical
conception is temporary. The vibrational conception is eternal.[...]
When we feel separation from Krishna or the Spiritual Master, we should
just try to remember their words or instructions, and we will no longer
feel that separation. Such association with Krishna and the Spiritual
Master should be association by vibration not physical presence.
That is real association."
(Elevation to Krishna Consciousness, chapter 4)
according to material vision His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta
Sarsavati Thakura Prabhupada passed away from this material world on the
last day of December 1936, I still consider his Divine Grace to be
always present with me by his vani, his words. There are two ways
of association - by vani and by vapuh.
Vani means words and vapuh means physical presence. Physical
presence is sometimes appreciable and sometimes not, but vani continues to exist eternally. Therefore, one must take advantage
of the vani, not the physical
(C.c. Antya, concluding words)
should take advantage of the vani, not the physical
(SP Letter to Suci Devi Dasi, 4/11/75)
"I shall remain
your personal guidance,
physically present or not physically present, as I
am getting guidance from my Guru Maharaja."
(SP Room Conversation, Vrindavan, 14/7/77)
"It is sometimes
misunderstood that if one has to associate with persons engaged in
devotional service, he will not be able to solve the economic problem.
To answer this argument, it is described here that one has to associate
with liberated persons not directly, physically, but by
understanding, through philosophy and logic, the problems of life."
(SB 3:31:48 purport)
"I am always with
you. Never mind if I am physically absent."
(SP Letter to Jayananda, 16/9/67)
|Paramananda:||We're always feeling your presence very strongly, Srila Prabhupada, simply by your teachings and your instructions. We're always meditating on your instructions.|
Thank you. That is the real presence. Physical
presence is not important.
(SP Room Conversation, Vrndavana, 6/10/77)
"As far as my
blessing is concerned, it does not require my physical presence.
If you are chanting Hare Krishna there, and following my instructions,
reading the books, taking only Krishna prasadam etc., then there is no
question of your not receiving the blessings of Lord Caitanya, whose
mission I am humbly trying to push on."
(SP Letter to Bala Krishna, 30/6/74)
"Anyone who has
developed unflinching faith in the Lord and the Spiritual Master can
understand the revealed scripture unfolding before him". So continue
your present aptitude and you will be successful in your spiritual
progress. I am sure that even if I am not physically
present before you, still you will be able to execute all
in the matter of Krishna Consciousness, if you follow the above
(SP Letter to Subala, 29/9/67)
"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
(SP Letter, 13/01/69, Los Angeles)
|Devotee:||...so sometimes the Spiritual Master is far away. He may be in Los Angeles. Somebody is coming to Hamburg Temple. He thinks "How will the Spiritual Master be pleased?"|
follow his order, Spiritual Master is along with you by his words.
Just like my Spiritual Master is not
present, but I am associating with him by his words.
(SP Lectures, 18/08/71)
"Just like I am
working, so my Guru Maharaja is there, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati.
he may not be, but in every action he is there. To serve master's
word is more important than to serve physically."
(SP Room Conversation, Vrindavan, 2/5/77)
"So that is
called prakata, physically present. And there is another phrase,
which is called aprakata,
not physically present. But that does not mean, Krishna is dead or God
is dead. That does not mean, prakata or aprakata,
present or not present, it does not matter."
(SP Lectures 11/12/73, Los Angeles)
there is no question of separation, even physically we may be in
far distant place."
(SP Letter to Syama Dasi, 30/08/68)
"I went to your
country for spreading this information of Krishna Consciousness and you
are helping me in my mission, although I am not physically
there but spiritually I am always with you."
(SP Letter to Nandarani, Krishna Devi and Subala, 3/10/67)
"We are not
separated actually. There are two - Vani or Vapuh
- so Vapu
is physical presence and Vani is presence by the vibration, but
they are all the same."
(SP Letter to Hamsadutta, 22/6/70)
"So in the
absence of physical presentation of the spiritual master, the vaniseva
is more important. My Spiritual Master Sarsavati Goswami, may appear to
be physically not present, but still because I try to
serve his instruction, I never feel separated from him."
(SP Letter to Karandhara, 22/8/70)
"I also do not
feel separation from my Guru Maharaja. When I am engaged in his service,
his pictures give me sufficient strength. To serve master's word is more
important than to serve him physically."
(SP Letter to Syamasundara, 19/7/70)
"So far as
personal association with Guru is concerned, I was only with Guru
Maharaj 4 or 5 times, but I have never left his association, not even
for a moment. Because I am following his instruction, I have never felt
any separation. There are some of my Godbrothers here in India, who had
constant personal association with Guru Maharaja, but who are neglecting
his orders. This is just like the bug who is sitting on the lap of the
king. He may be very puffed up by his position but all he can succeed in
doing is biting the king. Personal association is not so important as
association through serving."
(SP Letter to Satyadhana, 20/2/72)
appearance and disappearance, there is no difference ... spiritually
there is no such difference, appearance or disappearance. Although this
is the disappearance day of Om Visnupada Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta
Sarasvati Thakura, there is nothing to be lamented, although we feel
(SP Lecture, Los Angeles 13/12/73)
"So my Guru
Maharaja will be very, very much pleased with you ... it is not that he
is dead and gone. That is not spiritual understanding ... he is seeing.
I never feel that I am alone."
(SP Lecture, 2/3/75)
"Vani is more
important than vapuh."
(SP Letter to Tusta Krishna Das, 14/12/72)
"Yes I am glad
that your centre is doing so well and all the devotees are now
appreciating the presence of their spiritual master by following his
instructions, although he is no longer present. This is the right
(SP Letter to Karandhara, 13/9/70)
master by his words, can penetrate into the heart of the
suffering person and inject knowledge transcendental which alone
can extinguish the fire of material existence."
(S.B. 1.7.22, purport)
"There are two
words, vani and vapuh.
Vani means words, and vapuh
means the physical body. Vapuh will be finished. This material
body it will be finished, that is the nature. But if we keep to the
vani, to the words of the spiritual master, then we remain very
fixed up...if you always keep intact, in link with the words and
instructions of the higher instructions, then you are always fresh. This
is spiritual understanding."
(SP lectures, 02/03/75)
"So we should
give more stress on the sound vibration, either of Krishna or Spiritual
Master. Never think that I am absent from you, presence by message (or
hearing) is the real touch."
(SP Letter to students, 2/8/67)
spiritual knowledge is never checked by any material condition."
(S.B. 7.7.1. purport)
"The potency of
transcendental sound is never minimised because the vibrator is
(S.B. 2.9.8. purport)
"The disciple and
Spiritual Master are never separated because the Spiritual Master always
keeps company with the disciple as long as the disciple follows strictly
the instructions of the Spiritual Master. This is called the association
Vani. Physical presence is called Vapuh.
As long as the Spiritual Master is physically present, the
disciple should serve the physical body of the Spiritual Master,
and when the Spiritual Master is no longer physically
existing, the disciple should serve the instructions of the Spiritual
(S.B. 4:28:47, purport)
"If there is no
chance to serve the spiritual master directly, a devotee should serve
him by remembering his instructions. There is no difference between the
spiritual masters instructions and the spiritual master himself. In the
absence therefore, his words of direction should be pride of the
(C.c. Adi 1.35, purport)
"He lives forever
by his divine instructions, and the follower lives with him."
"He reasons ill
who tells that Vaisnavas die, when thou art living
"Yes, the ecstacy
of separation of Spiritual Master is even greater ecstasy than meeting
(SP Letter to Jadurani, 13/1/68)
"Krishna and his
representative are the same. Similarly, the spiritual master can be
present wherever the disciple wants. A spiritual master is the
principle, not the body. Just like a television can be seen in
thousands of place by the principle of relay monitoring."
(SP Letter to Malati, 28/5/68)
"It is better
service to Krishna and Spiritual Master in a feeling of separation;
sometimes there is a risk in the matter of direct service."
(SP Letter to Madhusudana, 31/12/67)
|Devotee:||Srila Prabhupada when you're not present with us, how is it possible to receive instructions? For example in questions that may arise...|
Well the questions are answ...answers are there in my books.
(SP Morning Walk, Los Angeles, 13/5/73)
"If it is
possible to go to the temple, then take advantage of the temple. A
temple is a place where by one is given the opportunity to render direct
devotional service to the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna. In conjunction with
this you should always read my books daily and all your questions
will be answered and you will have a firm basis of Krishna
Consciousness. In this way your life will be perfect."
(SP Letter to Hugo Salemon, 22/11/74)
"Every one of you
must regularly read our books at least twice, in the morning and
automatically all questions will be answered."
(SP Letter to Randhira, 24/01/70)
"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
to you and by this process your spiritual life will develop."
(SP Letter to Brahmarupa Dasa, 22/11/74)
|Srila Prabhupada:||Even a moments association with a pure devotee - all success!|
|Revatinanda:||Does that apply to reading the words of a pure devotee?|
|Revatinanda:||Even a little association with your books has the same effect?|
Effect. Of course it requires both things. One must be very eager to
(SP Room Conversation, 13/12/70)
|Paramahamsa:||My question is, a pure devotee, when he comments on Bhagavad Gita, someone who never sees him physically, but he just comes in contact with the commentary, explanation, is this the same thing?|
Yes. You can associate with Krishna by reading Bhagavad-Gita. And
these saintly persons, they have given their explanations, comments.
So where is the difficulty?
(SP Morning Walk, Paris 11/6/74)
"If I depart
there is no cause for lamentation. I will always be with you through my
books and orders. I will always remain with you in that way."
(Back To Godhead 13:1-2, December 1977)
|Reporter:||Who will succeed you when you die?|
|Srila Prabhupada:||I will never die!|
|Srila Prabhupada:||I will
live forever from my books and you will utilise.
(SP Interview, Berkley, 17/7/75)
|Indian Lady:||... is that spiritual master still guiding after death?|
Yes, yes. Just like Krishna is guiding us, similarly spiritual
master will guide us.
(SP lectures, 23/09/69)
between disciple and Spiritual Master begins from the day he hears."
(SP Letter to Jadurani, 4/9/72)
"The influence of
the pure devotee is such that if someone comes to associate with him
with a little faith, he gets the chance of hearing about the Lord
from authoritative scriptures like Bhagavad
Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam. This is the first stage of association with the pure devotee."
(Nectar of Devotion, (1982 Ed.), p146)
"These are not
ordinary books. It is recorded chanting. Anyone who reads, he is
(Letter to Rupanuga Das, 19/10/74)
parampara system, there is nothing to wonder for big gaps. [...]We have
to pick up the
prominent acarya and follow from him."
(Letter to Dayananda, 12/4/68)
souls (members of the disciplic succession) were not mere luminaries
like comets appearing in the firmament for a while and disappearing as
soon as their mission is done. They are like so many suns shining all
along to give light and heat to succeeding generations. Long time yet to
roll on when they will be succeeded by others of sublime mind, beauty
(Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura)
|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?|
|Sudama:||Not only that, but your mercy is spread everywhere, and if we take advantage, you told us once, then we will feel the result.|
|Jayadvaita:||And if we have faith in what the Guru says, then automatically we'll do that.|
|Srila Prabhupada:||Yes. My Guru Maharaja passed away in 1936, and I started this movement in 1965, 30 years after. Then? I am getting mercy of Guru. This is vani. Even if Guru is not physically present, if you follow the vani, then you are getting help.|
|Sudama:||So there is no question of ever separation as long as the disciple follows the instructions of Guru.|
|Srila Prabhupada:||No. Cakhu-dano-dilo-jei. What is the next one?|
|Sudama:||Cakhu-dano-dilo-jei, janme janme prabhu sei.|
Janme janme prabhu sei. So where there is separation? Who
has opened your eyes, he is birth after birth your prabhu.
(SP Morning Walk, 21/7/75, San Francisco)
|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"s words, reach the ...|
|Srila Prabhupada:||When you read the Bible, you follow the 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 the Spiritual Master. So where is the opportunity of being without Spiritual Master.|
|Madhudvisa:||I was referring to a living Spiritual Master.|
Spiritual Master is not question of ... 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.
(SP Morning Walk, Seattle, 2/10/68)
"You have asked
if it is true that the spiritual master remains in the universe until
all his disciples are transferred to the spiritual sky. The answer is
yes, this is the rule."
(SP Letter to Jayapataka, 11/7/69)
INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY FOR KRISHNA CONSCIOUSNESS
Founder-Acharya: His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
July 9th, 1977
To All G.B.C., and Temple Presidents
Dear Maharajas and Prabhus,
Please accept my humble obeisances at your feet. Recently when all of the GBC members were with His Divine Grace in Vrndavana, Srila Prabhupada indicated that soon He would appoint some of His senior disciples to act as "rittik"-representative of the acarya, for the purpose of performing initiations, both first initiation and second initiation. His Divine Grace has so far given a list of eleven disciples who will act in that capacity:
• His Holiness Kirtanananda Swami
• His Holiness Satsvarupa dasa Gosvami
• His Holiness Jayapataka Swami
• His Holiness Tamala Krishna Gosvami
• His Holiness Hrdayananda Gosvami
• His Holiness Bhavananda Gosvami
• His Holiness Hamsaduta Swami
• His Holiness Ramesvara Swami
• His Holiness Harikesa Swami
• His Grace Bhagavan dasa Adhikari
• His Grace Jayatirtha dasa Adhikari
In the past Temple Presidents have written to Srila Prabhupada recommending a particular devotee"s initiation. Now that Srila Prabhupada has named these representatives, Temple Presidents may henceforward send recommendation for first and second initiation to whichever of these eleven representatives are nearest their temple. After considering the recommendation, these representatives may accept the devotee as an initiated disciple of Srila Prabhupada by giving a spiritual name, or in the case of second initiation, by chanting on the Gayatri thread, just as Srila Prabhupada has done. The newly initiated devotees are disciples of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad, the above eleven senior devotees acting as His representative. After the Temple President receives a letter from these representatives giving the spiritual name or the thread, he can perform the fire yajna in the temple as was being done before. The name of a newly initiated disciple should be sent by the representative who has accepted him or her to Srila Prabhupada, to be included in His Divine Grace"s "Initiated Disciples" book.
Hoping this finds you all well.
Tamala Krishna Gosvami
Secretary to Srila Prabhupada
Approved: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
[Srila Prabhupada's signature appears on the original]
|Letter to Hamsadutta July 10th, 1977|
INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY FOR KRISHNA CONSCIOUSNESS
Founder-Acharya: His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
July 10th 1977
My dear Hamsadutta Maharaja,
Please accept my humble obeisances at your feet. Srila Prabhupad has received your letters dated July 4th and July 5th, 1977 respectively, and has instructed me to reply to them.
Srila Prabhupad was very pleased to hear how you have organized everything in Ceylon, and that so many people are now taking interest seriously is proof of the effectiveness of your preaching. His Divine Grace said, “You are a suitable person and you can give initiation to those who are ready for it. I have selected you among eleven men as “rittvik” or representative of the acharya, to give initiations, both first and second initiation, on my behalf.” (A newsletter is being sent to all Temple Presidents and GBC in this regard, listing the eleven representatives selected by His Divine Grace. Those who are initiated are the disciples of Srila Prabhupada, and anyone who you deem fit and initiate in this way, you should send their names to be included in Srila Prabhupada’s “Initiated Disciples” book. In this way the Temple Presidents will send their recommendations for initiation direct to the nearest representative who will give a spiritual name or chant on the Gayatri thread just as Srila Prabhupada has been doing.)
Srila Prabhupad smiled very broadly when he heard of the successful program organized by the local people in which 2000 persons attended. When he heard that you have introduced a full feasting program on Sundays, he said, “You are a good cook, so teach others now how to cook just as I taught you.”
Regarding the printing going slowly, His Divine Grace stated, “Never mind. Go surely. It doesn’t matter slowly.” I inquired from Pradyumna Prabhu about the Sinhalese translation which you mentioned. He said that “On Chanting Hare Krishna Mantra” was translated into Sinhalese, and that translation is in his trunk in Bombay. We will try to get it to you as soon as possible. I do not know if Gopal Krishna has any Tamil manuscript, but if he does, when I see him in about ten days, I will tell him to send it to you. You may also write him directly. Pradyumna says it will be faster just to get a new translation – it is only 1 page.
Srila Prabhupada was very glad to know that you would try to bring some Ceylonese devotees to Mayapur and said, “Oh, that is very good!” He did not know whether the story about Bhaktisiddhanta’s disciples seeing a man eating a rat was true or not. Regarding the exact position of Sri Lanka, this is the opinion of some people. Srila Prabhupad advised that we not discuss this matter publicly at this time. Prabhupad also recommended that from Hari Sauri you take ghee. He said that you could have one fifth of whatever Hari Sauri sends to India. Regarding whether you should use the name Swami or Goswami, Srila Prabhupad said, “Stick to one. Swami is better.”
(signature appears on the original document)
Tamal Krishna Gosvami
Secretary to Srila Prabhupad
His Holiness Hamsadutta Swami
c/o ISKCON Colombo
|Letter to Kirtanananda July 11th, 1977|
INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY FOR KRISHNA CONSCIOUSNESS
Founder-Acharya His Divine Grace A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
July 11th 1977
My dear Kirtanananda Maharaja,
Please accept my most humble obeisances at your feet. His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada has just received the latest issue of Brijabasi Spirit, Vol.IV,No.4, which brought Him great joy. As He looked at the cover showing Kaladri performing a fire ceremony, He said, "Just see his face how devotee he is, so expert in everything". When Srila Prabhupada opened the first page, His eyes fixed on the picture of Radha- Vrindavana Chandra, and He said, "Vrindavana Bihari - so beautiful. There is no danger wherever Vrindavana Chandra is." After enjoying the whole magazine throughly Srila Prabhupada said, "It is printed on their own press. It is very good progress." His Divine Grace very much appreciated the article "How I Was Deprogrammed" by the young devotee boy. Prabhupada was feeling great sympathy when he heard his story and said, "If one man is turned like this boy then this movement is successful. There is good prospect, good hope. You all combine together and push this movement on and on. Now I am assured that it will go on." While going through the magazine, Srila Prabhupada also saw your good photo on the page "Istagosthi" and Srila Prabhupada bestowed a long loving look upon your good self expressing his deep appreciation for how you have understood this Krishna Consciousness.
A letter has been sent to all the Temple Presidents and GBC which you should be receiving soon describing the process for initiation to be followed in the future. Srila Prabhupada has appointed thus far eleven representitives who will initiate new devotees on His behalf. You can wait for this letter to arrive (the original has been sent to Ramesvara Maharaja for duplicating) and then all of the persons whom you recommened in your previous letters can be initiated.
His Divine Grace has been maintaining His health on an even course and most amazingly has doubled His translation work keeping pace with the doubling of book distribution. Hoping this meets you well.
Tamala Krishna Goswami
Secretary to Srila Prabhupada
(signature appears on original)
His Holiness Kirtanananda Swami
c/o ISKCON New Vrndavana
|Letter From Ramesvara, July 21 1977|
THE BHAKTIVEDANTA BOOK TRUST
Founder - Acarya: His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
July 21st, 1977
ALL GLORIES TO SRI GURU AND GOURANGA!
Dear GBC Godbrother Prabhus,
Please accept my most humble obeisances in the dust of your feet. All glories to Srila Prabhupada! I have just received some letters from Tamal Krishna Maharaja, and am enclosing herein two documents: 1) Srila Prabhupada's final version of his last will, and 2) Srila Prabhupada's initial list of disciples appointed to perform initiations for His Divine Grace. This initial list is also being sent to all centers.
From Tamal"s letter it seems that Srila Prabhupada is enthusiastic despite poor health, and is translating full force. He especially becomes enthused when reports arrive from different GBC men and temples with preaching results, general good news, etc. and Tamal Krishna Maharaja has stressed that we should all be sending such reports, as His Divine Grace often asks, "What is the news?" An outstanding example of Srila Prabhupada's mood was shown after receiving an encouraging preaching report from Hansadutta Swami in Ceylon. Srila Prabhupada said, "I want to go to Ceylon. I can go. I can go anywhere by chair. It is difficult only in the imagination. The swelling is touching the skin, not my soul.
More than anything else, Tamal has stressed the genuine need for a visiting GBC member to come every month for personal service. Since Srila Prabhupada has recently said that now this regular visiting is very important, all GBC members should be anxious to do this, as it not only involves important work which will help relieve Prabhupada from management, but also involves attending Srila Prabhupada personally, giving him massages and many other nectarian services, and in general affords an unusual amount of personal association, even more than in the past. Out of over 23 GBC members there should never be one month not filled up.
One final news report is that Srila Prabupada has appointed a new GBC member for North India (including Delhi but not Vrndavana) - His Holiness Bhakti Caitanya Swami. Tamal Krishna Maharaja said that His divine Grace appointed him to encourage him for the outstanding preaching work he is doing in Punjab.
Jai, I hope this finds you all well, and fully absorbed in preaching and thus satisfying Srila Prabhupada fully.
Your most unworthy servant,
(signature appears on the original document)
Ramesvara dasa Swami
|Letter from Tamala Krishna Goswami (on Srila Prabhupada's behalf) to Hansadutta.|
July 31st 1977
Please accept my most humble obeisances at your feet. I have been instructed by His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada to thank you for your letter dated July 25th 1977.
You have written to Srila Prabhupada saying you do not know why Srila Prabhupada has chosen you to be a recipient of his mercy. His Divine Grace immediately replied, "It is because you are my sincere servant. You have given up attachment for a beautiful and qualified wife and that is a great benidiction. You are a real preacher. Therefore I like you. (Then laughing) Sometimes you become obstinate, but that is true of any intelligent man. Now you have a very good field. Now organize it and it will be a great credit. No one will disturb you there. Make your own field and continue to become ritvik and act on my behalf."
Srila Prabhupada listened with great enthusiasm as I read to him the newspaper article. His Divine Grace was very pleased: "This article will increase your prestige. It is very nice article. Therfore the newspaper has spared so much space to print it. It is very nice. It must be published in Back to Godhead. Now there is a column in Back to Godhead called "Prabhupada Speaks Out". Your article may be entitled "Prabhupada's Disciple Speaks Out". Yes, we shall publish this article certainly. Let this rascal be fool before the public. I have enjoyed this article very much. I want my disciples to speak out...backed by complete reasoning. "Brahma sutra sunisthita", this is preaching. Be blessed. All my disciples go forward. You have given the challenge. They cannot answer. This Dr. Kovoor should be invited...For Dr. Svarupa Damodara"s convention on "Life comes from Life". He can learn something at this scientific convention."
Yes, you should certainly get some ISKCON Food Relief money. For your program American money collected and sent for food distribution. That is my proposal. Three hundred people coming is no joke. You mentioned so many nice preperations. I would like to eat but I cannot. At simply hearing these names (of preperations) it is satisfying. Just thinking this morning of you, and now you have written me.
(last paragraph illegible)
Tamala Krishna Goswami
Secretary to Srila Prabhupada(signature appears on the original)
|Srila Prabhupada's Declaration of Will|
Tridandi Goswami A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami
Founder-Acharya:International Society for Krishna Conciousness
CENTER: Krishna-Balarama Mandir
Bhaktivedanta Swami Marg
Ramanareti, Vrndavana, U.F.
DATE; 5th June 1977.
I, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna consciousness, Settlor of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, and disciple of Om Visnupada 108 Sri Srimad Bhaktsiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvama Maharaja Prabhupada, presently residing at Sri Krishna-Balarama Mandir in Vrndavana, make this my last will:
The executive directors who have herein been designated are appointed for life. In the event of death or failure to act for any reason of any of the said directors, a successor director or directors may be appointed by the remaining directors, provided the new director is my initiated disciple following strictly all the rules and regulations of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness as detailed in my books, and provided that there are never less than three (3) or more than five (5) exeutive directors acting at one time.
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
The above will was signed by Srila Prabhupada and sealed and witnesses by the following,
Tamal Krishna Goswami
Bhagavan das Adhikari
and several other witnesses.
(signatures on original document)
|Codicil 5th November 1977|
I, A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, a sannyasi and Founder- Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Settlor of Bhaktivedanta Book Trust and disciple of Om Visnupada 108 Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Maharaja Prabhupada, presently residing at Sri Krishna-Balarama Mandir in Vrindavana do hereby make this last will and codocil to give vent to my intention, and to clarify certain things which are to a certain extent a liitle vague in my previous Will dated 4th June, 1977, as follows:
I had made a Will on 4th June, 1977, and had made certain provisions therein. One of them being a provision of maintainance allowance to Sri M.M. De, Brindaban Chandra de, Miss Bhakti Lata De and Smt. Sulurmana Dey, who were born of me during my grhastha ashram, and Smt. Radharani De, who was my wife in the grhastha ashrama for their lives as per para.8 of the said Will. Since on careful consideration I feel that the said paragraph does not truly depict my intentions, I hereby direct that as regards Smt. Radharani De, she will get Rs. 1,000/- per month for her life out of interest to be earned from a fixed deposit of Rs. One Lakh Twenty Thousand to be made by ISKCON in any bank that the authorities of the said society think proper for a period of seven years in the name of ISKCON, which amount shall not be available to any of her heirs and after her death the said amount be appropiated by ISKCON in any way the authorities of ISKCON think proper looking to the objects of this society.
As regards Sri M.M. De, Sri Brindaban Chandra De, Smt. Sulurmana Dey and Miss Bhakti Lata De, the ISKCON will deposit Rs. One Lakh Twenty Thousand under 4 seperate Fixed Deposit receipts, each for Rs. 1,20,000/- for seven years in a bank to earn interest at least Rs. 1,000/- a month under each receipt. Out of the said sum of Rs. 1,000/-, only Rs. 250/- will be paid to each of them from the interest of their Fixed Deposit receipts. The remaining interset of Rs. 750/- will be deposited again under new fixed Deposit receipts in their respective names for seven years. On the maturity of these Fixed Deposit receipts created from Rs. 750/- monthly interest for the first seven years, the said sums shall be invested by the above named persons in some Govt. Bonds, Fixed Deposit recepits or under any Govt. Deposit scheme or shall be used to purchase some immovable property so that the amount may remain safe and may not be dissipated. In case, however, the aboved named persons or any of them violate these conditions and use the said sum in purpose or puposes other than those described above, the ISKCON authorities will be free to stop the payment of the monthly maintainance of such person or persons from the original Fixed Deposits of Rs. 1,20,000/- and they shall instead give the amount of interest of Rs. 1,000/- per month to Bhaktivedanta Swami Charity Trust. It is made clear that the heirs of the said persons will have no right to anything out of the said sums and that these sums are only for the personal use of the said persons of my previous life during their respective lifetimes only.
I have appointed some executors of my said Will. I now hereby add the name of Sri. Jayapataka Swami, my disciple, residing at Sri Mayapur Chandrodoya Mandir, Dist. Nadia, West Bengal, as an executor of my said Will along with the previous already named in the said Will dated 4th June, 1977. I hereby further direct that my executors will be entitled to act together or individually to fulfill their obligations under my said Will.
I therefore hereby extend, modify and alter my said Will dated 4th June, 1977, in the manner mentioned above. In all other respects the said Will continues to hold good and shall always hold good.
I hereby make this Will codocil this 5th day of November, 1977, in my full conscience and with sound mind without any persuasion, force or compulsion from anybody.
Witnesses: (signatures on original document)
|ROOM CONVERSATION - APRIL 22, 1977, BOMBAY|
|Srila Prabhupada:||"I told him that "You cannot do so independent. You are doing nice, but not to do in the magazine." (Pause) People complained against Hansadutta. Did you know that?"|
|Tamala Krishna:||"I'm not sure of the particular incidences, but I've heard general..."|
|Srila Prabhupada:||"In Germany. In Germany."|
|Tamala Krishna:||"The devotees there."|
|Srila Prabhupada:||"So many complaints."|
|Tamala Krishna:||"Therefore, change is good."|
|Srila Prabhupada:||"You become guru, but you must be qualified first of all. Then you become.|
|Tamala Krishna:||"Oh, that kind of complaint was there."|
|Srila Prabhupada:||"Did you know that?"|
|Tamala Krishna:||"Yeah, I heard that, yeah."|
|Srila Prabhupada:||"What is the use of producing some rascal guru?"|
|Tamala Krishna:||"Well, I have studied myself and all of your disciples, and it's a clear fact that we are all conditioned souls, so we cannot be guru. Maybe one day it may be possible."|
|Tamala Krishna:||"...but not now."|
|Srila Prabhupada:||"Yes. I shall produce some gurus. I shall say who is guru, "Now you become acarya. You become authorised." I am waiting for that. You become, all, acarya. I retire completely. But the training must be complete."|
|Tamala Krishna:||"The process of purification must be there."|
|Srila Prabhupada:||"Oh yes, must be there. Caitanya Mahaprabhu wants. amara ajnaya guru hana. You become guru. But be qualified. (Laughs) Little thing, strictly follower."|
|Tamala Krishna:||"No rubber stamp."|
|Srila Prabhupada:||"Then you'll not be effective. You can cheat, but it will not be effective. Just see our Gaudiya Math. Everyone wanted to become guru, and a small temple and guru. What kind of guru? No publication, no preaching, simply bring some foodstuff...My Guru Maharaja used to say, "Joint mess, a place for eating and sleeping."|
|ROOM CONVERSATION. May 27 1977|
|Bhavananda:||"There will be men, I know. There will be men who want to try and pose themselves a gurus."|
|Tamal Krsna:||"That was going on many years ago. Your Godbrothers were thinking like that. Madhava Maharaja ... "|
|Bhavananda:||"Oh yes. Oh, ready to jump."|
|Srila Prabhupada:||"Very strong management required and vigilant observation ... "|
|ROOM CONVERSATION. Vrindavana, May 28th, 1977|
|Satsvarupa:||"Then our next question concerns initiations in the future, particularly at that time when you are no longer with us. We want to know how first and second initiations will be conducted."|
|Srila Prabhupada:||"Yes. I shall recommend some of you. After this is settled up. I shall recommend some of you to act as officiating acarya."|
|Tamala Krishna:||"Is that called ritvik-acarya?"|
|Srila Prabhupada:||"Ritvik. Yes."|
|Satsvarupa:||"What is the relationship of that person who gives the initiation and..."|
|Srila Prabhupada:||"He's guru. He's guru."|
|Satsvarupa:||"But he does it on your behalf."|
|Srila Prabhupada:||"Yes. That is formality. Because in my presence one should not become guru, so on my behalf. On my order, amara ajnaya guru hana, be actually guru. But on my order."|
|Satsvarupa:||"So they maybe considered your disciples?"|
|Srila Prabhupada:||"Yes, they are disciples but consider... who..."|
|Tamala Krishna:||"No. He is asking that these ritvik-acaryas, they are officiating, giving diksa, their - the people who they give diksa to - whose disciples are they?"|
|Srila Prabhupada:||"They are his disciples."|
|Tamala Krishna:||"They are his disciples."|
|Srila Prabhupada:||"Who is initiating...His grand-disciple..."|
|Satsvarupa:||"Then we have a question concerning..."|
|Srila Prabhupada:||"When I order you become guru, he becomes regular guru. That's all. He becomes disciple of my disciple. Just see."|
|ROOM CONVERSATION. Vrindavana, July 7th, 1977|
|Tamala Krishna:||Srila Prabhupada, we are receiving a number of letters now. These are people who want to get initiated. So, up until now, since you're becoming ill, we asked them to wait.|
|Srila Prabhupada:||The local senior sannyasis can do.|
|Tamala Krishna:||That's what we were doing. I mean, formally we were...the local GBC sannyasis were chanting on their beads, and they were writing to Your Divine Grace. And you were giving a spiritual name. So should that process be resumed, or should we...I mean, one thing is that it is said the spiritual master takes on the...he takes on the...he has to cleanse the disciple by...so we don't want that you should have to uh...your health is not so good, so that should not be...That's why we've been asking everybody to wait. I just want to know if we should continue to wait some more time.|
|Srila Prabhupada:||No. Senior sannyasis.|
|Tamala Krishna:||So they should continue to...|
|Srila Prabhupada:||You can give me a list of sannyasis. I'll mark them.|
|Srila Prabhupada:||You can do. Kirtanananda can do. Satsvarupa can do. So these three can do.|
|Tamala Krishna:||So suppose someone is in America. Should they simply write to Kirtanananda or Satsvarupa?|
|Srila Prabhupada:||Nearby. Jayatirtha can do.|
|Srila Prabhupada:||Bhagavan. And he can do also...Harikesa.|
|Tamala Krishna:||Harikesa Maharaja.|
|Srila Prabhupada:||Five, six men they divide, who is nearest.|
|Tamala Krishna:||Who is nearest. So persons wouldn't have to write to Your Divine Grace. They could write directly to that person. Actually they are initiating that person on Your Divine Grace's behalf. The persons who are initiated are still your...|
|Srila Prabhupada:||Second initiation. We shall think. Second.|
|Tamala Krishna:||This is for the first initiation. OK. And for second initiation, for the time being they should...|
|Srila Prabhupada:||Again have to wait. Second initiation, that should be.|
|Tamala Krishna:||Some devotees are writing you now for second initiation. And I am writing to them to wait a while, because you are not well. So can I continue to tell them that?|
|Srila Prabhupada:||They can be second initiated.|
|Tamala Krishna:||By writing to you?|
|Srila Prabhupada:||No. These men.|
|Tamala Krishna:||These men. They can also do second initiation. So there's no need for devotees to write to you for first and second initiation. they can write to the man nearest them. But all these persons are still your disciples. Anybody who would give initiations is doing so on your behalf.|
|Tamala Krishna:||You know that book that I'm maintaining of all your disciple's names? Should I continue that?|
|Tamala Krishna:||So if someone gives initiations like Harikesa Maharaja, he should send the persons name to us here, and I'll enter it into the book. OK. Is there someone else in India that you want to do this?|
|Srila Prabhupada:||India? I am here. We shall see. In India - Jayapataka.|
|Tamala Krishna:||Jayapataka Maharaja?.|
|Srila Prabhupada:||You are also in India. You can note down these names.|
|Tamala Krishna:||Yes I have them.|
|Srila Prabhupada:||Who are they?|
|Tamala Krishna:||Kirtanananda Maharaja, Satsvarupa Maharaja, Jayatirtha Prabhu, Bhagavan Prabhu, Harikesa Maharaja, Jayapataka Maharaja and Tamal Krishna Maharaja.|
|Srila Prabhupada:||That's alright. Now distribute.|
|Tamala Krishna:||Seven. There's seven names.|
|Srila Prabhupada:||For the time being, seven names. Sufficient. (A little time passes) You can write, Ramesvara Maharaja.|
|Tamala Krishna:||Ramesvara Maharaja.|
|Srila Prabhupada:||And Hrdayananda.|
|Tamala Krishna:||Oh, South America.|
|Srila Prabhupada:||So without waiting for me, whoever you consider deserves. That will depend on discretion.|
|Tamala Krishna:||On discretion.|
|Tamala Krishna:||That's the first and second initiations.|
|Tamala Krishna:||Should I send a kirtana party, Srila Prabhupada?|
|Room Conversation July 19th 1977, Vrndavan|
|Tamala Krishna:||Upendra and I could see it far last... (break)|
|Srila Prabhupada:||And nobody is going to disturb you there. Make your own field and continue to be ritvik and act on my charge. People are becoming sympathetic there. The place is very nice.|
|Tamala Krishna:||Yeah. He says: "the introduction of Bhagavad-Gita has been translated into Tamil, and I will have the second chapter done next. Then publish a small booklet for immediate distribution."|
|ROOM CONVERSATION Vrindavana, October 18th 1977|
"Hare Krishna. One Bengali gentleman has come from New York?" (One man had travelled from New York to be initiated by Srila Prabhupada.)
|Tamala Krishna:||"Yes, Srila Prabhupada. Mr Sukamoy Roy Choudry."|
|Srila Prabhupada:||"So I have deputied some of you to initiate?"|
|Srila Prabhupada:||"So, I think Jayapataka can do that. If you like, I have already deputed. Tell him, some deputies, that Jayapataka's name was there? So, I depute him to do this at Mayapur and he may go with him. I have stopped for the time being. Is that alright?"|
|Tamala Krishna:||"What Srila Prabhupada?"|
|Srila Prabhupada:||"This initiation I have deputed my disciples, is that clear or not?"|
|Tamala Krishna:||"It is clear"|
|Srila Prabhupada:||"You have got a list of names? And if by Krishna's grace I recover from this condition then I shall begin or I may not but in this condition to initiate is not good".|
|ROOM CONVERSATION Vrindavana, November 2nd, 1977|
|Srila Prabhupada:||"...So after you, who will take the leadership, and (I said) everyone will take. All my disciples. If you want you can take also. (Laughter) But if you follow. They are prepared to sacrifice everything. they'll take the leadership. I may, one, go away. But there will be hundreds. Hundreds will preach. If you want you can also be leader. We have no such thing that here is leader. Anyone who follows the previous leadership. He's leader.|
|Srila Prabhupada:||"Indian! We have no such distinction. Indian. European.|
|Devotee:||"They wanted an Indian to be leader".|
|Srila Prabhupada:||"Yes. Everyone. All my disciples they're leaders. As purely as they follow, they'll become leaders. If you want to follow, you can become leader. But you don't follow. I told that. (pause)|
|Tamala Krishna:||"Yeah. They probably wanted to propose someone who would take over our movement."|
|Srila Prabhupada:||"Yes. Hmm. (pause) "Leader"...all nonsense. (pause) Leader means one who has become first-class disciple. He's leader, "evam parampara praptam", one who is perfectly following our instructions, He's leader. Hmm. To become leader is not very difficult, provided one is prepared to follow the instructions of a bona fide guru.|
|PYRAMID HOUSE CONFESSIONS December 3rd 1980|
Tamala Krishna Maharaja: "I've had a certain realization a few days ago.(...) There are obviously so many statements by Srila Prabhupada that his Guru Maharaja did not appoint any successors.(...) Even in Srila Prabhupada's books he says guru means by qualification.(...)
The inspiration came because there was a questioning on my part, so Krishna spoke. Actually Prabhupada never appointed any gurus. He appointed eleven ritviks. He never appointed them gurus. Myself and the other GBC have done the greatest disservice to this movement the last three years because we interpreted the appointment of ritviks as the appointment of gurus.
What actually happened I'll explain. I explained it but the interpretation is wrong. What actually happened was that Prabhupada mentioned he might be appointing some ritviks, so the GBC met for various reasons, and they went to Prabhupada, five or six of us. (This refers to the meeting of May 1977,). We asked him, "Srila Prabhupada, after your departure, if we accept disciples, whose disciples will they be, your disciples or mine?"
Later on there was a piled up list of people to get initiated, and it was jammed up. I said, "Srila Prabhupada, you once mentioned about ritviks. I don't know what to do. We don't want to approach you, but there's hundreds of devotees named, and I'm just holding all the letters. I don't know what you want to do".
Srila Prabhupada said, "All right, I will appoint so many..." and he started to name them. He made it very clear that they are his disciples. At that point it was very clear in my mind that they were his disciples. Later on I asked him two questions, one: "What about Brahmananda Swami?". I asked him this because I happened to have an affection for Brahmananda Swami.(...) So Srila Prabhupada said, "No, not unless he is qualified". Before I got ready to type the letter, I asked him, two: "Srila Prabhupada is this all or do you want to add more?". He said, "As is necessary, others may be added."
Now I understand that what he did was very clear. He was physically incapable of performing the function of initiation; therefore he appointed officiating priests to initiate on his behalf. He appointed eleven, and he said very clearly, "Whoever is nearest can initiate". This is very important because when it comes to initiating, it isn't whoever is nearest, it's wherever your heart goes. Who (you) repose your faith on, you take initiation from him. But when it's officiating, it's whoever is nearest, and he was very clear. He named them. They were spread out all over the world, and he said, "Whoever your nearest, you just approach that person, and they'll check you out. Then, on my behalf, they'll initiate." It is not a question that you repose your faith in that person - nothing. That's a function for the guru.
"In order for me to manage this movement", Prabhupada said, "I have to form a GBC and I will appoint the following people. In order to continue the process of people joining our movement and getting initiated, I have to appoint some priests to help me because(...) I cannot physically manage everyone myself."
And That's all it was, and it was never any more than that, you can bet your bottom dollar that Prabhupada would have spoken for days and hours and weeks on end about how to set up this thing with the gurus, because he had already said it a million times. He said: My Guru Maharaja did not appoint anyone. It's by qualification." We made a great mistake. After Prabhupada's departure what is the position of these eleven people?(...)
Prabhupada showed that it is not just sannyasis. He named two people who were grihastas, who could at least be ritviks, showing that they were equal to any sannyasi. So anyone who is spiritually qualified - it's always been understood that you cannot accept disciples in the presence of your guru, but when the guru disappears, you can accept disciples if you are qualified and someone can repose their faith. Of course, they (prospective disciples) should be fully appraised at how to distinguish who is a proper guru. But if you are a proper guru, and your guru is no longer present, that is your right. It's like a man can procreate(...) Unfortunately the GBC did not recognise this point. They immediately (assumed, decided) that these eleven people are the selected gurus. I can definitely say for myself, and for which I humbly beg forgiveness from everybody, that there was definitely some degree of trying to control(...) This is the conditioned nature, and it came out in the highest position of all, "Guru, oh wonderful! Now I am guru, and there is only eleven of us"(...).
I feel that this realization or this understanding is essential if we are to avoid further things from happening, because, believe me, it's going to repeat. It's just a question of time until things have a little bit faded out and again another incident is going to happen, whether it's here in L.A. or somewhere else. It's going to continuously happen until you allow the actual spiritual force of Krishna to be exhibited without restriction.(...) I feel that the GBC body, if they don't adopt this point very quickly, if they don't realize this truth. You cannot show me anything on tape or in writing where Prabhupada says: "I appoint these eleven as gurus". It does not exist because he never appointed any gurus. This is a myth.(...) The day you got initiated you get the right to be come a father when your father disappears, if you are qualified. No appointment. It doesn't require an appointment, because there isn't one.