GBC’s Ritvik Philosophy


Back To Prabhupada, Issue 35, Spring 2012

In the last issue we detailed the resignation by Prabhavisnu Das from his guru and sannyasa positions. The GBC has now passed resolutions regarding the status of those who had their initiations conducted by Prabhavisnu Das, and they further confirm that their understanding of the initiation system in ISKCON is actually akin to that of a ritvik initiation system.

Ritvik initiation system

During Srila Prabhupada's physical presence many devotees had an initiation conducted by someone other than Srila Prabhupada, henceforward denoted as the "person conducting the initiation" (PCI). This initiation's characteristics were:

a) The initiates would trace their connection to the parampara (disciplic succession) via Srila Prabhupada, and not through the PCI, who was not a member of the parampara.

b) Even if the initiate subsequently had no contact with the PCI, the initiate advanced in Krishna consciousness by taking shelter of Srila Prabhupada and other senior devotees in ISKCON.

This initiation system was formalised by Srila Prabhupada on July 9, 1977, shortly before he departed from the planet, whereby now "ritviks" were appointed to oversee it by accepting the disciples on behalf of Srila Prabhupada.

"Guru" function only ceremonial

The GBC has now confirmed that anyone who got initiated by Prabhavisnu Das is considered to be connected to Srila Prabhupada and the parampara, even though Prabhavisnu Das himself is not in the parampara:

"Those devotees initiated by Prabhavisnu Das continue to be connected to Srila Prabhupada and our entire Vaisnava parampara."
(GBC Resolution 311, 2012)

They have further stated that these persons are able to carry on Krishna consciousness by taking shelter of Srila Prabhupada and other ISKCON devotees:

"Thus, they are encouraged to take shelter of Srila Prabhupada and siksa gurus or other senior devotees as per their faith."
(GBC Resolution 311, 2012)

And, in the case of the initiations conducted by another so-called ISKCON "guru", Umapati Das, who, like Prabhavisnu Das, is also not considered a member of the parampara, Umapati Das was not required to have any special position even when he conducted the initiations:

"Umapati prabhu had misused his status as a guru to behave inappropriately with several male disciples over a number of years and that this behavior was of a sexual nature. […] ISKCON will not recognize initiations given by Umapati Dasa after February 2010. Devotees initiated prior to this date are accepted as duly initiated members of ISKCON."
(GBC Statements from GBC meetings, 2010 and 28/2/2011)

All of the initiations that Umapati Das carried out before 2010 are considered to have connected the initiates to the parampara, even though during this period Umapati Das is deemed to have behaved "inappropriately", with the behaviour being of a "sexual nature". Thus, these ISKCON "gurus" fulfilled no more than the ceremonial role of conducting an initiation.


GBC's ritvik parampara

Thus, the GBC has confirmed that one is connected to the parampara through an initiator who fulfils a function that is no different to a ritvik initiator:

a) He connects the initiate to Srila Prabhupada and the parampara, but he himself is not in the parampara;
b) Even when he delivered the initiation he did not require any special qualification;
c) The initiator is not required as a "living guru" for the initiate - who instead takes shelter of Srila Prabhupada and other senior devotees to actually advance in Krishna consciousness.

Previously, especially in the 1980s, if an ISKCON "guru" was considered to have "fallen" from his status as guru, the initiate was encouraged to take re-initiation, so that he would be connected to the parampara through a "bona fide spiritual master" who was supposedly in the parampara. Consequently, we find today there are devotees who may be on their 3rd or even their 4th ISKCON guru. However, with their recent resolutions, the GBC has now accepted that one can be connected to the parampara through Srila Prabhupada via a person who himself is not in the parampara, nor in the life of the initiate, nor who necessarily had any special spiritual qualifications at the time of the initiation - i.e. a ritvik.

And, as we reported in the last issue (please see "Creating a deviant parampara"), unless one accepts the ritvik reality of these initiations, we end up creating a deviant "invisible" parampara, whereby initiates are considered to be connected to the parampara via an "invisible man" who is himself not in the parampara.

The diagram above illustrates this "ritvik" parampara that recent GBC resolutions have established.


1) The GBC accepts that the initiate is connected to the parampara through Srila Prabhupada via
an initiation that has the same characteristics as a ritvik initiation; the PCI is not in the parampara, nor in the life of the initiate.

2) Thus, the ISKCON "guru" is not required to fulfil any spiritual function other than that of a ritvik.

3) Therefore, the ISKCON guru system - in which the ritvik initiators are deliberately mislabelled as diksa gurus, whilst the real diksa guru Srila Prabhupada is deliberately mislabelled as being only a siksa guru - only exists in order to provide an opportunity for these ritvik initiators to be worshipped as good as God and procure enjoyment facilities for PAD (Profit, Adoration and Distinction).

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