Winter 2004/5


Srila Prabhupada left final instructions on all aspects of his ISKCON Movement before his physical departure in November 1977, including how his book trust (BBT) should be run, how various properties should be managed, and of course how spiritual initiation would continue within ISKCON.
For the latter, he left in place a simple, clear, easy-to-operate system as set out in his July 9th 1977 management directive. In this system, Srila Prabhupada remained the sole initiating (diksa) Guru via the use of representational priests (called ritviks) who were to initiate new disciples on his behalf.

Immediately after Srila Prabhupada's departure, the Governing Body Commission (GBC) of ISKCON decided to scrap this simple, single Guru system, and instead operate a multiple Guru system, with the eleven appointed ritviks all miraculously transforming themselves into fully fledged diksa Gurus. There was just one problem.

Srila Prabhupada had left no instructions on how to operate such a complex system, since that is not what he had set up. The GBC knew that if they simply concocted out of thin air, without any sort of authority, a radically new system, then it would be extremely hard to sell it to the rest of the Movement.

So in early 1978, they decided to approach one of Srila Prabhupada's senior Godbrothers, His Holiness Sridhara Swami (photo, right), and get him to lend some credibility to their deviant plans.
With this in mind, a number of senior ISKCON leaders went to visit him at his ashram in Navadvipa, West Bengal.
Jayapataka Maharaja (one of the eleven appointed ritviks) started the ball rolling:
Jayapataka Maharaja:

"Maharaja, when our Srila Prabhupada left, then he has given instruction that for initiating and for carrying on the sampradaya-there would be eleven in the beginning, he appointed eleven devotees, his disciples, to be initiating spiritual masters or to accept disciples and in the future that number would also be able to be increased. So we wanted to take your advice on some points as to various details of how these initiating spiritual masters should deal with certain questions. If we could ask questions to you then?"

Sridhara Maharaja:

"yes, you may ask."
(GBC conversation with Sridhara Maharaja, March 1978)

As we can see, Jayapataka Maharaja straight away seriously misleads Sridhara Maharaja as to what Srila Prabhupada had requested. Nowhere did Srila Prabhupada ever order any of the eleven ritviks to accept their own disciples. In nearly thirty years of asking, the GBC have never been able to come up with any such evidence.

Being as thorough as he was, firstly Srila Prabhupada would have clearly ordered such a Guru system with some sort of signed directive or approved GBC resolution, and further, he would have told the GBC how to operate it. We are expected to believe he did neither. The very fact that the most senior leaders in ISKCON were frantically trying to construct a new Guru system, strongly indicates the whole idea was their own invention.

Jayapataka Maharaja continued:

"He has given explicit desires, but he told us that, on other technical points and other matters of philosophy, if there was question we should approach you."
(Jayapataka Swami, GBC conversation with Sridhara Maharaja, March 1978)

There is not one shred of relevant evidence either for these alleged "explicit desires", nor for the fact that Srila Prabhupada wanted his disciples to approach any of his Godbrothers for advice on "matters of philosophy" pertaining to running a multiple Guru system. Jayapataka's statements are thus pure fiction. Indeed, Srila Prabhupada strongly warned against taking instruction from his Godbrothers:

"Actually amongst my Godbrothers no one is qualified to become acarya. So it is better not to mix with my Godbrothers very intimately because instead of inspiring our students and disciples they may sometimes pollute them."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, 28th April, 1974)

Jayapataka Swami continued:

"He said that during his...when he was very ill, he had appointed eleven ritviks and he said that after he disappears that these ritviks would continue as initiating spiritual masters and that they could be increased later, that would be decided by the GBC or Governing Body Commission."
(Jayapataka Swami, GBC conversation with Sridhara Maharaja, March 1978)

The above is once again a total fabrication. No where did Srila Prabhupada ever say "after he disappears that these ritviks would continue as initiating spiritual masters". If such an instruction exists, please let us see it!

It was on the basis of such blatant disinformation that Sridhara Maharaja gave his advice, the outcome of which was the abysmal GBC paper, The Process for Carrying Out Srila Prabhupada's Desires for Future Initiations
(see http://www.gosai.com/chaitanya/gbc/78_gbc_paper.html -
The paper is also archived at http://www.iskconirm. com/docs/webpages/GBC_1978.htm).

This position paper set in motion the now defunct "Zonal Acarya" system, which lasted for nearly a decade, during which time thousands of Srila Prabhupada's original disciples were driven out of the Movement by the powercrazed ritviks-turned-zonal-Gurus. To be fair to Sridhara Maharaja, even though he had been told a complete pack of lies, he was still able to foresee future difficulties with having a non-absolute body such as the GBC overseeing and regulating a bunch of Gurus (who are meant to be entirely autocratic and absolute):

Sridhara Maharaja:

"A most difficult thing, a non Guru comes to regulate the Gurus. Is it not?"
(Conversation with the GBC, March 1978)

Just one of the many possible anomalies that arise when you concoct a Guru system on the basis of a hoax. Sridhara Maharaja was later hypocritically dumped and blackballed by the very same GBC who had used him to grab power for themselves. To this day, the remaining ritviks are still struggling to find a viable Guru system.
Unfortunately, the system they appear most unwilling to re-introduce is the very one Srila Prabhupada originally gave them, namely the ritvik system.