The Purpose of Srila Prabhupada's System


Back To Prabhupada, Issue 56, Summer 2017

The application of Srila Prabhupada's rtvik system of initiation for ISKCON will depend on its purpose. If the purpose is temporary, due to being conditional or restricted in some way, then its application will similarly be temporary. Conversely, if its purpose is of a permanent nature, then its application will also be permanent. Emphases below added.

The purpose

1) The July 9th, 1977 directive, approved and counter-signed by Srila Prabhupada and sent to all ISKCON temples and GBCs, states that rtviks were being appointed:

"for the purpose of performing initiations, both first initiation and second initiation."

Thus, the purpose of this rtvik system is to enable "first initiation and second initiation" to be performed generally in ISKCON.

2) On 28/5/77, Srila Prabhupada is asked by Satsvarupa Dasa:

"Then our next question concerns initiation in the future, particularly at that time when you are no longer with us. We want to know how first and second initiation would be conducted."

Note the direct correspondence with what is stated in the July 9th, 1977 directive. Srila Prabhupada is asked how "first and second initiations" would be "conducted" (performed). In addition, Srila Prabhupada is asked about this for "particularly at that time when you are no longer with us". Srila Prabhupada then answers that he would "recommend" some persons who would be:

"Rtvik, yes".

Which corresponds to the appointment made in the July 9th, 1977 directive.

3) Then, in a room conversation held on 7/7/77, it is stated:

Tamala Krsna ("TKG"): "We're receiving a number of letters now, and these are people who want to get initiated. So up until now, since your becoming ill, we asked them to wait."
Srila Prabhupada: "The local, mean, senior sannyasis can do that."

Srila Prabhupada then sets out the rtvik system that was put in writing 2 days later in the July 9th, 1977 directive. Thus, it is clear that rather than initations being stopped due to Srila Prabhupada's illness, Srila Prabhupada instead proposed the rtvik system to continue initiations in ISKCON.

Not temporary

Thus, 3 times Srila Prabhupada stated that the purpose of the rtvik initiation system was only for the general performance of initiations in ISKCON, and not due to any temporary purpose, such as his illness. Therefore, the system would need to apply for as long as such initiations would be required to be performed in ISKCON. And initiations would always be required to be performed in ISKCON, as it is stated in Srila Prabhupada's books that one gets initiated in ISKCON 6 months after joining (Cc., Madhya-lila, 15.108). Hence, the system would be required for as long as ISKCON exists.

"India I am here"

On 7/7/77, whilst discussing the names of those who would be representatives (rtviks) for India, Srila Prabhupada included himself as being able to perform initiations:

TKG: "Is there someone else in India that you want to do this?"
Srila Prabhupada: "India, I am here. We shall see. In India, Jayapataka."
TKG: "Jayapataka Maharaja."
Srila Prabhupada: "You are also in India."

Because the purpose of the system was to perform initiations in ISKCON, and this system was set up to begin whilst Srila Prabhupada was still physically present, it would include being applied during Srila Prabhupada's physical presence. But, as ISKCON was established to endure long after Srila Prabhupada's physical disappearance, initiations in ISKCON would need to continue in Srila Prabhupada's physical absence as well. Therefore, in addition to mentioning he can initiate, Srila Prabhupada also makes arrangements for Jayapataka and TKG to initiate in India. And in this way initiations in ISKCON could also continue in Srila Prabhupada's physical absence via the rtvik initiation system.

Initiated disciples book

As already established, the purpose of the rtvik initiation system is to ensure that initiations will always continue in ISKCON. Arrangements were also made for immediate post-initiation record-keeping. In the 7/7/77 room conversation, it is stated:

TKG: "that book I'm maintaining of all of your disciples' names? Should I continue that?"
Srila Prabhupada: "Hmm."

TKG then stated that the names should be sent to him to enter in the book, by having them sent to their joint location, where he and Srila Prabhupada were:

"he should send the person's name to us here, and I'll enter it in the book."

Thus, since the rtvik system was set up to begin whilst Srila Prabhupada was physically present, the immediate record-keeping of the names necessitated that they be sent to the location where the book was kept by Srila Prabhupada's secretary, TKG, so that he could receive and enter them into the book. Which at that time, for the foreseeable future, would have been the same as Srila Prabhupada's location, since TKG was always with Srila Prabhupada as his secretary. Hence, TKG stated that the names should be sent to "us here". Therefore, after the rtvik system of initiation was set out in the July 9th, 1977 directive, a final sentence was added giving this immediate post-initiation record-keeping mechanism of needing to send the names to wherever Srila Prabhupada was, so that they could be received and entered by TKG, as already discussed:

"The name of a newly initiated disciple should be sent by the representative who has accepted him or her to Srila Prabhupad, to be included in His Divine Grace's "Initiated Disciples" book."

Therefore, there are two different procedures given in the July 9th, 1977 directive:

1) The initiation system, whose purpose is to always initiate everyone in ISKCON.
2) The immediate post-initiation record-keeping mechanism.

2) is not part of the initiation system, and Srila Prabhupada is mentioned only for the purpose of giving the initial location of the book. Therefore, it cannot change the purpose of the initiation system to always perform initiations in ISKCON.


The rtvik initiation system's purpose confirms that it is to be applied in ISKCON for as long as initiations are required. This is further confirmed by the fact that Srila Prabhupada never ordered for this system to be terminated.

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