Narayana Maharaja Confused About Ritvik (Part 2)




 2nd March 2003

In a previous article we had highlighted Narayana Maharaja (NM)’s utter confusion and complete misunderstanding regarding the ‘ritvik’ position as advocated by the IRM. Any hope that this was simply a one-off aberration on the part of Maharaja is dashed by the fact that he has also repeated similar nonsensical statements in a magazine containing 6 of his essays called: “The True Conception of Sri Guru Tattva". Below we analyse some of these statements. Statements made by NM in the aforementioned magazine shall be enclosed in a blue tinted panel, with our comments following underneath in bold text.


“So in the tradition of our sampradaya there is a provision for Diksa- guru, siksa-guru, bhajana-guru, patha-pradarsaka-guru, caitya-guru and so on. But we will not find any statement in the scriptures which recommends accepting a ‘rtvik-guru’ or the rtvik tradition in order to perform one’s sadhana of paramartha (the highest transcendental goal).”


Nor will we find any statement from the IRM or “The Final Order” (TFO – the IRM’s position paper) proposing the same. No one has ever proposed that one accept a 'ritvik-guru' (this term is never used by either Srila Prabhupada or "The Final Order") as an alternative to accepting a Diksa Guru in order to perform one’s sadhana. Rather a ritvik priest is simply someone who officiates on behalf of the Diksa Guru when the initiation is being performed. Thus NM is presenting here a classic ‘straw-man argument’ – this is an argumentative device in which one attacks a position not held by one’s adversary and defeats this false position as an alternative to addressing the adversary’s real position, which one is unable to defeat.


“Thus, at the current time, some people put forward the idea that Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj was the last sad-guru, and after his disappearance there is no longer a sad-guru present in the world, nor will there be one in the future.”


This is again another ‘straw-man argument’. “The Final Order” offers no opinion on the state of the world. It merely states what was the system of initiation established by Srila Prabhupada for ISKCON. And this, as established by his July 9th 1977 directive, was to have him as the initiating Guru for ISKCON.


“Therefore, after his disappearance there is not need for anyone to accept any living guru because rtviks will carry forward this sisya-parampara (disciplic succession) and they will give Diksa only by utilizing the cassette recordings of his own voice chanting the gayatri-mantras. This conception is completely speculative and is against the injunctions of the scriptures.”


It is the above statement which is completely speculative. Firstly no one, except NM’s fertile imagination it seems, has ever proposed that the ‘ritviks will carry forward this sisya-parampara (disciplic succession)’. Rather it is Srila Prabhupada who will carry forward the parampara as its current link. For parampara is NOT defined as the existence of a ‘physically present body’, but as the following:


Parampara means to hear the truth from the spiritual master”.

(Room Conversation, 20/12/76)


Parampara means they do not change the word of Krishna. That is parampara”.

(SB lecture, 11/8/74)


Srila Prabhupada is still giving us this truth and is not changing the word of Krishna. In this way HE is continuing the parampara, not ‘ritviks’.

Secondly in the July 9th directive Srila Prabhupada authorises representatives to give first and second initiation just as it was being done when Srila Prabhupada himself was physically accepting disciples, and this involved extensive use of ‘cassette recordings’ of Srila Prabhupada chanting the gayatri mantra.


“To say, ‘There is no sad-guru living in the world at present and neither will there be any in the future", is an atheistic opinion.”


Of course no one, except NM’s imagination has proposed such a thing. The position of TFO relates only to what Srila Prabhupada ordained for ISKCON, not what may or may not happen in every nook or cranny of the planet from now till the end of time.


“Some people talk about accepting Diksa through the medium of the audio cassettes of great personalities after they have disappeared. There are various flaws in this ideology. Before giving Diksa, a guru examines the characteristics, thoughts, intentions, and so on of the aspiring candidate. Similarly, for some period of time, the aspirant will also observe the gurutva (greatness), conduct, bhajana and attitude of his guru. When both of them are satisfied, then only is there an arrangement to give and to accept Diksa. This process is not possible through cassettes once the guru is no longer physically present.”


This process was also not possible through cassettes when Srila Prabhupada was physically present, since Srila Prabhupada second initiated the vast majority of his disciples via the medium of his audio recordings, having never met most of them. Thus NM is here directly attacking both the system by which Srila Prabhupada gave initiation when he was on the planet, and the system Srila Prabhupada set up for initiations to continue in ISKCON. NM’s contention that there is a ‘flaw in the ideology’ of using audio cassettes to give Diksa after the disappearance of the Guru thus applies equally to the use of audio cassettes even whilst Srila Prabhupada was on the planet, since even in the latter case mutual examination between Guru and disciple did not take place in the majority of cases. For as already stated Srila Prabhupada used this ‘cassette’ system to give second initiation to the vast majority of his disciples without having ever met them. Thus NM is saying therefore that there is a flaw in Srila Prabhupada’s ideology, since it is a proven fact that this is the system he used.


“It is not possible for the cassette to examine the aspirant before giving Diksa, and neither is it possible for the aspirant to observe the greatness, conduct and mode of bhajana of the guru though the medium of cassettes alone.”


NM again re-affirms that his criticism applies equally to the use of cassette recordings by Srila Prabhupada even whilst he was on the planet, since the above process of mutual examination between Guru and disciple was not undertaken in the majority of cases where Srila Prabhupada gave initiation. This is a new departure for NM in that he is attacking Srila Prabhupada’s conduct directly, implying that all those disciples of Srila Prabhupada who received second initiation by hearing the gayatri mantra on the cassette tape without having met Srila Prabhupada, which was the vast majority of them, were not correctly initiated. It may only be a matter of time therefore, before NM takes the further bold step of ‘re-initiating’ all the second initiated disciples of Srila Prabhupada who were incorrectly initiated via the ‘cassette tape’. This is the logical implication of his criticism of the method via which Srila Prabhupada gave second initiation.


“From the history of our sampradaya, it is well known that Krsna Dvaipayana Vedavyasa was a perfected saint or guru of Dvarpara-yuga. But yet his sat-sisya, Srila Madhvacarya, had direct darsana of Srila Vedavyasa who had appeared about 5000 years prior to him. Despite being so qualified, Srila Madhvacarya never thought he could become the disciple of Srila Vedavyasa without the latter’s physical presence.”


Yet the vast majority of Srila Prabhpada’s disciples became his disciples without ever receiving his ‘direct darsana’ or experiencing his ‘physical presence’. Thus Srila Prabhupada himself proved by his direct example that there is no link between becoming a disciple and associating physically with the Guru. Why is NM trying so hard to prove the opposite and thus try to prove that there was a ‘flaw’ in the way Srila Prabhupada initiated his disciples?


“For the common people, the process of accepting Diksa is to directly receive krsna-mantra from a sad-guru who knows krsna-tattva. But in the case of uttama-adhikaris, the example of bhagvata parampara is visible everywhere. Hence, it is not a proven fact that the cassette is a bona fide and effective medium to give Diksa.”


Yet Srila Prabhupada established through his world institution ISKCON that the COMMON method for the common people to receive Diksa was without his physical presence and via the cassette recording. Thus again NM is attacking Srila Prabhupada’s method of conducting initiations by stating that Srila Prabhupada did not give his initiations via a ‘bona fide and effective medium’.


“If, in modern times, in special circumstances a guru has given Diksa through his representative or through cassette, this still cannot be accepted as the ultimate principle for everyone at all times and in all places. A guru may give Diksa through the medium of his representative or cassette to a faithful person who is living in a remote place, and cannot personally come before his guru due to circumstances. But this is a temporary situation arising out of extreme circumstances only. Whenever it is possible, the guru will himself personally give Diksa.


Here NM contradicts himself. Previously he had stated that giving initiation via a cassette was an ideology which had ‘flaws’ because the Guru and disciple could not examine each other, and was NOT a ‘bona fide and effective medium to give Diksa’. Now he claims it is acceptable when the disciple is not able to come before the Guru due to circumstances. Then the Guru’s representative or cassette CAN give initiation. Which is exactly what the Ritvik position states. This principle that NM has enunciated here is applicable whether the Guru is on the planet or not. Whenever the Guru is not present, either by being somewhere else on the planet or in the universe, the disciple is unable to come before him and he can receive initiation via a representative or cassette. The key point according to NM is only that the Disciple is faithful and he is unable to come before the Guru due to his circumstances. So in another flip-flop contradiction, NM is endorsing the ritvik system he is supposed to be attacking.


“Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami has neither accepted nor mentioned the tradition of rtviks as gurus anywhere in his bona fide books. Nor did he support the tradition of rtviks in his personal letters. Whatever Srila Swami Maharaj arranged, it was definitely not ‘rtvik-guru’, which is a contradiction of terms. To call it this is the cause of embarrassment for him among those who know the Vedic sastras. If any of his disciples have anywhere, on the pretext of his name, made such a declaration, then after the word ‘rtvik’, must be added the statement, ‘the representative of guru’.”


Neither has anyone else accepted the tradition of ‘ritviks as Gurus’. The Ritvik position IS that Ritvik means ‘representative of Guru’ as defined in the July 9th directive. Why NM is wasting his time defeating one ‘straw-man’ argument after another is baffling. He should at least make some attempt to learn about what he supposed to be talking about. Otherwise he should simply stay quiet, lest he ends up revealing his great ignorance on the subject, just as he has continually done here.


“And it must be understood that such representatives can only act on a timely or provisional basis.”


Understood according to whom, that such representatives can only act on a timely or provisional basis? NM has not presented one word from Guru, sadhu or sastra to back up this speculation of his.


“Therefore the sadhaka of suddha-bhakti, after thoroughly deliberating on these facts, must not neglect the principles of guru-parampara. If there is any doubt, then it is necessary to remove it by accepting the correct understanding of guru-parampara. One must accept the innermost thoughts or intentions of the guru, otherwise one will be deceived and misled from suddha-bhakti.”


Yes one MUST accept the correct understanding of Guru-parampara and accept the intentions of the Guru. These intentions of Srila Prabhupada are given by him in the July 9th directive, and his many teachings that parampara simply means transmitting the knowledge of Krishna without change, which Srila Prabhupada continues to do even today. Any assertions to the contrary as given herein by NM, will indeed lead us to “be deceived and misled from suddha-bhakti.”


“In consideration of this principle, can it be conjectured that a guru, being ignorant of the Diksa mantras and their conceptions, will appoint a rtvik more qualified than himself, who in turn will give Diksa to others, thus acting as the representative of the guru? Some people say that Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja appointed rtviks who were to give Diksa to his disciples.”


No one except NM is conjecturing this. No one has ever proposed that the Diksa Guru appoints a Ritvik who is more qualified than him to give Diksa to others. For the umpteenth time - how much simpler can one make it – the Diksa Guru gives Diksa – the ritvik simply assists in conducting the initiation formalities. Thus NM presents yet another ludicrous ‘straw-man’ argument further revealing his gross ignorance of the subject.


“If this statement is accepted as true, then it means they are accusing Srila Swami Maharaj of being an unqualified guru, and ignorant yajman who, for the sake of fulfilling his material desires or perfection in spiritual life, would have appointed rtviks more qualified than himself. No, it cannot be true, for this is completely impossible. Therefore on the path toward attaining the supreme absolute reality, Bhagavan, this concocted rtvik conception is impractical and against the scriptural conclusions.”


No one is accusing Srila Prabhupada of this. Only NM’s fertile imagination is able to conjure up such useless notions, due to his poor fund of knowledge regarding the subject at hand. Therefore on the path toward attaining the supreme absolute reality, Bhagavan, this concocted rtvik conception as given by NM is impractical and against the scriptural conclusions, and also a gross mis-representation of the actual position advocated by the IRM.




As well as seeing yet again NM’s gross ignorance of the subject he is supposed to be enlightening us on, he has also revealed some more of his traits. He is very keen to undermine Srila Prabhupada by attacking the initiation methodology he employed. This merely reveals his lack of understanding of Guru tattva, since he incorrectly thinks that Diksa is not bona fide if given by an audio recording. The reality however, as demonstrated by Srila Prabhupada, is that Diksa is always bona fide as long as the Guru has authorised the system via which Diksa is given. And finally we have also seen that NM has infected himself with the GBC disease of contradicting himself. Self-contradiction is a common ailment when one does not have a consistent and coherent philosophy, but instead speaks due to a mixture of speculation and ignorance.

In conclusion, we see yet again how the ideology of NM regarding Guru tattva is at complete odds with that presented by Srila Prabhupada, and those who claim to be loyal and faithful to Srila Prabhupada should not continue to be in ignorance of this fact. Thank You.