|Illuminating Srila Prabhupada's Order
This is in response to
the paper -'Illuminations on Guru Parampara. An Essay Addressing the Ritvik
Misconception in light of bona-fide siddhanta' by
Sripad Bhakti Bhavana Visnu Maharaja.
The author starts by explaining why it is some people can understand
points of siddhanta, whilst others cannot:
many devotees are disqualified from understanding finer siddhantic
truths by virtue of their impurities, material desires, subtle and
gross deviations from the strict line of Sri Rupa, and particularly
because of their offenses to other Vaisnavas."
We assume the author
must believe that he is in a category that can understand these subtler
truths, at least as far as the ritvik/guru
controversy goes. Truths that sadly evade ritviks
and GBC's alike. The author explains the GBC's shortcomings:
have they been able to answer the internal ritvik challenge
and defeat it. Due to iskcon's leaders having made many offenses to
higher Vaisnavas, they seem to have lost the sakti
to deal properly with such challenges to the true line of Gaudiya
The irony is that the
author uses exactly the same arguments to try to defeat ritvik
as the GBC. So it is hard to see of what benefit all this higher
understanding of 'finer siddhantic truths' has
construed upon him. He even uses the same old quotes that the GBC use,
such as the private letter to the ambitious Tusta Krishna that was not
published till years after the GBC would have needed to see it, were it
to have any direct bearing on this issue. So we shall ignore all the
posturing about higher understandings, and simply point out all the
inconsistencies and deficiencies that plague every facet of the
author's paper, just as they infect the writings of the GBC.
We shall also not be
considering any statements from other gurus or previous acaryas
that have not been mentioned in Srila Prabhupada's
books. The reason for this should be obvious. Since we are considering
what Srila Prabhupada wanted for ISKCON, it is clearly sensible to
start with what he himself taught. As far as we are concerned he is
also the current link, from whom everything relating to devotional
service, or the message of the Bhagavatam, must be primarily
understood. If these conditions are not acceptable then there will
never be any scope for mutual understanding; we are simply on different
planets. Quotes from the author shall be boxed thus " ".
It seems the author would have us all going to the Gaudiya Matha for
higher guidance, yet it is clear from this article that they have
exactly the same misconceptions as the GBC ('living guru' 'siksa
vs diksa' etc). Indeed, to a large extent
they are the source of them, which is why we were warned to respect
them from a distance. Excluding the above, the author's main points are
Prabhupada did not leave clear instructions on how initiation would be
managed within ISKCON:
into consideration all the available documents, tapes and instructions
of Srila Prabhupada we see that he did not leave clear instructions
regarding the managerial aspect of the process of initiation after his
departure, although he did give a clear understanding of its spiritual
The above flies in the
face of the facts. On July 9th 1977
an order was sent to the entire movement outlining what the system of
initiation was to be within ISKCON. This directive was extremely clear,
and was addressed to all the movement's managers. The author admits
that Srila Prabhupada did indeed establish a ritvik system
whilst he was present, so something clear and specific must have got
through. It is for the author to prove that this clear specific system
was meant to stop on Srila Prabhupada's departure. That is how the
burden of proof works. It is for him to prove that a system that was
established and running within ISKCON should be stopped, not for us to
prove that it must continue. That everything should go on as it was is
established in the Final Will,
in the clause stating that the systems of management should not change.
Therefore if the author wants to change something he must provide
evidence of authorisation for such change. That authorisation must
clearly be of the same magnitude as that which set the system running
in the first place. In other words, it must be an order to the entire
movement that directly relates to the issue of future initiations. As
we shall see, the author falls as short on such evidence as the
Prabhupada did not appoint any successor acaryas."
can understand from these statements that it is highly unlikely that
Srila Prabhupada would appoint any successor acaryas."
We completely agree
with the above. Yet it is interesting that Narayan
Maharaja, one of the learned advanced Vaisnavas that we are
often told to seek guidance from, stated the opposite in the 1990
ISKCON journal. He claims the ritviks were
appointed to succeed Srila Prabhupada as initiating acaryas.
We are glad to see the author does not subscribe to such nonsense.
is also clear from a thorough study of Srila Prabhupada's teachings
that he desired that the traditional parampara
system be followed in his mission, and that his consistent desire is
that his disciples initiate disciples when qualified."
We find absolutely no
mention of the term 'traditional parampara system' on
folio. The parampara system is certainly mentioned,
and in no sense does the ritvik system violate
this. We shall now see what evidence the author can produce relating to
this alleged 'desire' for his disciples to
initiate 'when qualified':
" I wish
that in my absence all my disciples become the bona fide spiritual
master to spread Krsna consciousness throughout the whole world. (SPL
Madhusudana, Nov. 2, 1967)"
Bona fide spiritual
master can refer equally to siksa as diksa.
The above is also a private letter that was not published till the
mid-eighties, and thus can not in itself be used to stop the ritvik
system that was up and running in 1977.
your question about the disciplic succession coming down from Arjuna,
it is just like I have got my disciples, so in the future these many
disciples may have many branches of disciplic succession. (Los
Angeles, 25 January, 1969)"
In the above private
letter to Kirtananda, Srila Prabhupada is simply giving an example to
illustrate a point- 'it is just like'. Clearly he
is not giving an order here, or saying that this is what will happen.
Again this letter was not published till years after it would have been
needed by the GBC in order to stop the ritvik
system on his departure.
of you should be spiritual master next.
(Hamburg, September 5, 1969)"
The phrase Spiritual
Master can equally refer to siksa as the following
two kinds of instructing spiritual masters. One is the liberated person
fully absorbed in meditation in devotional service, and the other is he
who invokes the disciple's spiritual consciousness by means of relevant
instructions.' (Adi, 1:47)
"These students, who are initiated from me, all of
them will act as I am doing. Just like I have got many Godbrothers,
they are all acting.
Similarly, all these disciples which I am making, initiating, they are
being trained to become future spiritual masters.
(RC Detroit, July 18, 1971)"
The above conversation
with a one-off student visitor to the temple was not discovered until
just two years ago. That is twenty years too late to have any direct
bearing on this issue. Also it is clear Srila Prabhupada is just giving
a general picture since he had also said he did not think any of his
Godbrothers were actually qualified to be acarya.
my disciples, everyone should become spiritual master. (London,
August 22, 1973)"
As before, spiritual
master need not necessarily means diksa guru.
student is expected to become acarya. Acarya means
one who knows the scriptural injunctions and follows them practically
in life, and teaches them to his disciples. I want to see my disciples
become bona fide Spiritual Master and spread Krishna consciousness very
widely, that will make me and Krishna very happy. 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.
(SPL Tusta Krsna, December 2, 1975)"
This private letter
was not published until the mid-eighties, and therefore, in itself,
could not be used as a reason to stop a system that was set up to run
globally in 1977.
Furthermore the letter was sent to an ambitious disciple who was also a
follower of Siddhasvarupa, and thus the circumstances were not
generally applicable. Such a 'law of disciplic succession' is
not mentioned in any of Srila Prabhupada's books, nor did Srila
Bhaktisiddhanta follow it. Generally Srila Prabhupada invoked it when
dealing with neophyte devotees who were anxious to initiate even when
he was still present.
We note that the author has not found any instruction that supports his
position unambiguously from Srila Prabhupada's books, or instructions
to the whole society.
Furthermore such evidence as has been offered can be easily countered
by the following quotes where Srila Prabhupada is specifically asked
about who would succeed him:
||Are you planning to choose a successor?
||It is already successful.
||But there must be somebody you know, needed
to handle the thing.
||Yes. That we are creating. We are
creating these devotees who will handle.
||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.
(SP 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 endeavor.
Whether I am present or not present it doesn't matter."
(SP Arrival conversation, 17/5/77, Vrindavan)
||What will happen to the movement in the
United States when you die?
||I will never die Devotees: Jaya!
||I will live from my books and you
(SP Press Conference, 16/7/75, San
||Are you training a successor?
||Yes, my Guru Maharaja is there.
(SP Press conference, 16/7/75, San
Caitanya can take my place. He will take care of the Movement."
(SP Room conversation, 2/11/77)
||What happens when that inevitable time comes
a successor is needed.
||He is asking about the future, who will guide
the Movement in the future.
||They will guide, I am training them.
||Will there be one spiritual leader though?
||No. I am training GBC, 18 all over
(SP Interview, 10/6/76, Los Angeles)
Prabhupada says nothing about his disciples going on to succeed him as initiator
acaryas. There are other points on
all these quotes that were made in response to the GBC. We suggest the
author reads 'Institutional
Cataclysm' and our response to 'Prabhupada's
'amara ajnaya' verse where Lord Chaitanya orders
everyone to become guru is somehow linked to the 'yei
krsna-tattva' in such a way that the order is for everyone to
become diksa guru.
Prabhupada, quoting his Guru Maharaja, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati
Thakura, writes very clearly that the order of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu
is for everyone to become spiritual master (yare dekhi tare
kaha krsna upadesa amara ajnaya guru hana tare ei desa) and
that one is qualified to become guru if he knows the science of Krsna
consciousness (yei krsna-tattva vetta sei guru haya)."
We need to unpack the
above. These are two entirely different verses that deal with two
entirely separate issues. In the purports following the 'amara'
verse Srila Prabhupada states : 'it is best not to accept any
disciples.' (C.c.Madhya 7.130 purport).
Thus clearly this order, as relayed to us by Srila Prabhupada, is not
for everyone to become diksa guru. The other verse
deals with the Smarta misconception, and is very important since Srila
Prabhupada himself was from a vaisya family. Not that we are all
automatically instructed to become diksa guru.
guru [in this verse, yei krsna-tattva sei guru haya]
is equally applicable to vartma-pradarsaka-guru, siksa-guru
and diksa-guru. Unless we accept the principle
enunciated by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, this Krsna consciousness
movement cannot spread all over the world. (Cc.
Madhya-lila 8.128, purp.)"
Srila Prabhupada thus
authorises all his disciples to become vartma pradarsaka
and eventually siksa guru, whilst he remain the diksa
guru. The movement could not spread without this allowance for people
born in lower than Brahmin caste to become gurus of whatever the
applicable category may be. If Lord Caitanya had already authorised
everyone to become diksa guru 500 years ago then
the following statement in the Srimad Bhagavatam
would be redundant:
order to receive the real message of Srimad-Bhagavatam one should
approach the current link, or spiritual master, in the chain of
(S.B. 2.9.7, purport)
or the transfer of transcendental knowledge, is the most essential
aspect of the guru disciple relationship.
the guru-disciple relationship, siksa is the most
essential element: the transferal of transcendental knowledge (divya-jnanam)
comprises the essence of initiation."
We completely agree
with the above. According to the GBC Srila Prabhupada is the siksa
guru for everyone for as long as ISKCON exists. This must be the case
since everyone is getting siksa from his books. Of
course they are not just reading books of knowledge, they are absorbing
the lucid purports and practicing strictly the rules and regulations
etc. The author has been caught in his own logistical trap; for if he
concedes that Srila Prabhupada can still impart siksa
(transcendental knowledge) without being
physically present, then he must accept he can be the diksa
guru. This is because he has already stated that siksa is
the most 'essential element'. If the most essential
element of diksa is still available from Srila
Prabhupada, then clearly the author should have no problem with the
substantial siksa is essential to help one extract
and understand the teachings of Srila Prabhupada and the previous acaryas."
Srila Prabhupada is
already giving the siksa, this is accepted. If
someone is having a problem then a more learned Godbrother can point
him in the right direction by showing him where Srila Prabhupada deals
with such an issue. But that is vartma pradarsaka guru,
Further, it is the injunction of the Bhakti-sandarbha of Sri Jiva
Goswami that only one on the transcendental platform can associate with
a non-manifest personality."
We would need to see
what Srila Prabhupada says about this alleged injunction.
Prabhupada is always with the sincere disciple in the form of his
instructions, but the degree to which we are able to associate with him
is limited by our degree of realization."
But that is the case
whether he is physically present or not. And as Srila Prabhupada always
taught, physical presence is irrelevant to the guru disciple
presence is not important."
(SP Room conversation, 6/10/77, Vrindavan)
"Physical presence is immaterial."
(SP 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
one must take advantage of the vani, not the
|6)"Everything is in Srila Prabhupada's
books, and when properly understood, these books are sufficient in
themselves for one to advance in Krsna consciousness and attain
We completely agree
with the above. That is why we are disinclined to read anyone else's
books. If one does, then one must be very careful to make sure Srila
Prabhupada gives the same teaching, otherwise if he acts on separate
instruction his behavior is most sinful.
"Srila Prabhupada mentions instructions for a number of essential areas
of devotional service only in seed form, and we submit that he does
have his reasons which are not always revealed to his disciples in
their neophyte stages. An advanced Vaisnava is needed to help us in our
progress beyond the neophyte stage we require specific instructions for
our specific questions. "
The above contradicts
the assertion made in point 6. We
do not need to go outside of Srila Prabhupada's teachings for our
spiritual life. We thought this was conceded. Now the author is
backtracking. We may need advice from a senior devotee in how to apply
and where to study, but that does not mean Srila Prabhupada is not our diksa
When Srila Prabhupada was here he wanted devotee's everyday 'specific
questions' to be answered by his TP's, Bhakta Leaders and Sanyasis
etc; but all the time he remained the sole Diksa
Guru. We are suggesting that this situation should have continued.
Prabhupada was not bothered if ISKCON was dissolved :
are not attached to any organization,' he said. 'It is an instrument we
will use and if it becomes troublesome we will dissolve it and go on
chanting Hare Krsna. (Acyutananda dasa,
letter to Gaudiya Magazine, 1994)"
We do not accept such
hearsay evidence. There is nothing on folio to this effect.
ritvik system must be wrong since it is
is not a single example in our sampradaya nor by
any of our acaryas, nor any other bonafide sampradaya
where devotees take initiation from a guru by
proxy after he has left this world."
Before we can even
entertain such an objection we need to see evidence that the objection
itself is bona fide. Where did Srila Prabhupada ever say that the order
of the guru can be ignored or disobeyed just because an identical order
was not issued at some point in the past? As we have explained many
times, ritvik does not violate any sastric
injunction. The use of priests to give names etc is merely a detail of
the diksa process, and Acaryas
are fully at liberty to change such details:
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. 4.8.5, purport)
Bhaktivinode gives an example of an apasampradaya
that is ideologically close to ritvik.
Thakura has mentioned thirteen apasampradayas that
deviate from the strict line of Sri Caitanya. The ritvik conception
is ideologically closest to the Kartabhaja apasampradaya;
one of these thirteen:
In Bangladesh, a new version of the Kartabhaja sect was founded by one
Anukul Chandra. Posing himself as a Supreme Lord, Anukul Chandra has
been worshipped by his followers as such."
Firstly we do not jump
over Srila Prabhupada in order to find reasons to justify not following
one of his direct orders. Secondly the example is nothing like the ritvik
system Srila Prabhupada established since:
guru was claiming to be God Himself.
2.. The guru was thus bogus.
3.. Any type of initiation he did would thus also be bogus.
"The underlying diseased vision of the ritvik idea,
that all are equally unqualified, is a sign of crippled faith in the
process of Krsna consciousness."
We have never said
anything like the above. Thus the author is merely insulting us without
justification, the very thing he is supposed to be aloof from.
"To categorically reject all members of the Gaudiya Matha based on
particular statements of twenty years past, without a proper look at
their individual spiritual qualifications, is foolish, offensive and
diametrically opposed to an honest endeavor to find the truth in a
spiritually dynamic way. "
Srila Prabhupada also
writes about the Gaudiya Matha's deviations in his books, which shall
be the law for ten thousand years to come.
"If we listen to the ritvik proponents, they will
tell us even to reject the words of Jiva Goswami (Sat-sandarbhas) and
Bhaktivinoda Thakura (Harinama Cintamani) when they don't agree with
their particular ideology. They argue that Srila Prabhupada did not
present the points illuminated by these acaryas,
therefore we can never consider them valid. "
It is quite clear from
all the above that the author still has a very poor grasp of Srila
Prabhupada's instructions and teachings, and yet he is very eager to
jump over to previous acaryas. He would be advised
to start by trying to get to grips with his own guru's teachings. We do
not reject any previous acarya; we just understand
them through the current link. To do otherwise is very sinful.
"The deliberate attempt to create and maintain Vaisnavas on the plane
of lower adhikari (kanistha adhikari) as is the
case in iskcon and among ritvik vadis, is a symptom
of the incapacity to surrender and reach a higher plane of self
abnegation, the plane where the greatest necessity is being served."
Since we are not
trying to do this, and have never written anything like this, we have
no idea what the author is talking about. We are quite happy for
everyone to become disciples of the topmost platform. And if they are
on this platform they will want to follow Srila Prabhupada's direct
order, rather than try to come up with every possible lame excuse under
the sun why not to.
Given the author's
strong recommendation to take siksa from senior
members of the Gaudiya Matha, we must assume that he has taken full
advantage of such instruction himself. Yet in spite of this it is clear
he has not the slightest grasp of the issues, nor of Srila Prabhupad's
teachings on how initiation should continue within his society, nor of
basic aspects of guru tattva. The author is all too
ready to go anywhere and everywhere in his single-minded attempt to
justify yet another deviation from a bona fide acarya's
instructions (the Gaudiya Matha having already gone against
the orders of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and then failing to recognise or
surrender to his clear successor). We hope he will reconsider
his position in light of the above.
Yours in the service of Srila Prabhupada IRM