Spring 2005

1) MYTH:  It cannot be the case that Srila Prabhupada intended to operate a representational system of initiation within ISKCON, in which he remained the diksa guru indefinitely, since it goes completely against tradition.

BUSTED: Srila Prabhupada most certainly did set up a ritvik system, even the GBC admit as much, and there is no evidence he ever ordered it to stop.
Srila Prabhupada never taught that a disciple can stop following one of his orders just because he thinks it may not be 'traditional'.
In relation to the Spiritual Master, the 'tradition' we follow is to accept him as Krishna's representative and then do whatever he says:

"According to the Vaisnava tradition, we arrive at the truth through the guru, the spiritual master, who is accepted as the representative of the Absolute Truth, the Personality of Godhead."
(TQE 6)

"Disciple means there is no argument. Whatever the guru will say, you have to accept. That is disciple. That is final. There is no argument."
(Srila Prabhupada conversation 28.6.76)

By definition, such orders from the bona fide guru are always in accordance with sastric (scriptural) injunctions, though not necessarily with the traditional way in which such injunctions have been exemplified or practised previously.

Therefore it is quite 'traditional' to follow the ritvik system since this is what Srila Prabhupada ordered us to do.
Opponents of the ritvik system need to show which specific sastric injunction ritvik violates, not simply mutter the word 'tradition' as though it encapsulated some sort of profound argument.

2) MYTH:  But such a ritvik system has never been used before.

BUSTED: Anyone making this assertion is simply bluffing, since they cannot possibly know what every single Acarya in every single previous age has done. Even if they did it would still be an irrelevant argument since nowhere did Srila Prabhupada say an Acarya cannot change various formalities and details according to time, place and circumstance, indeed he taught the very opposite with specific reference to initiation:

"Srimad Viraraghava Acarya, an acarya in the disciplic succession of the Ramanuja-sampradaya, has remarked in his commentary that candelas (people of low birth), 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."
(Srimad Bhagavatam 4.8.54 purport)

The use of priests to perform initiations in the physical absence of a guru is certainly nothing more that a change of 'formality'. The onus is on those who insist it is a change of principle to state what that principle is and where it is stated by Srila Prabhupada.

Similarly the following quote shows, that since every acarya may employ different specific methods to bring persons to Krishna consciousness, there cannot be a set tradition that every acarya must adhere to:

"Every acarya has a specific means of propagating his spiritual movement with the aim of bringing men to Krsna consciousness. Therefore, the method of one acarya may be different from that of another, but the ultimate goal is never neglected.
(Caitanya Caritamrta, Adi 7:37)

3) MYTH:  We follow historical precedent, and therefore since we have no evidence that it has been done, we cannot do it.

BUSTED: Everyone agrees that Srila Prabhupada set up a ritvik system to be operated prior to his departure, yet this system was also completely unique so far as we know. So by this logic the system should never have been implemented at all since it is not mentioned previously; yet even the GBC accept that Srila Prabhupada implemented it.
There is no historical precedent for a disciple to reject an order of his guru purely on the basis that it has no historical precedent, therefore the whole argument suffers from self-referential incoherence.

4) MYTH:  The Acarya always follows past tradition in all respects and never deviates from it.

BUSTED: Srila Prabhupada never taught this axiom in any of his books, nor did he follow it since he did many things that were not traditional (such as give gayatri mantra by magnetic tape, setting up a ritvik system etc.)

The very introduction of formal initiation ceremonies within our disciplic succession was an innovation introduced only relatively recently by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. Srila Prabhupada never said that we should reject Srila Bhaktisiddhanta just because he broke with tradition.

By this logic Acaryas could only do and say exactly what had been done and said before. Clearly this is ludicrous.

To even sensibly discuss this 'tradition' argument one would first need to do a comparative study showing exactly what initiation system all previous world acaryas, who appeared just after the Golden Avatar in previous kali-yugas during the mini-golden age, left in place for their missions just prior to their departure. Yet we have no authorised information to even begin such a study.

"No. Tradition, religion, they are all material. They are also all designation."
(Srila Prabhupada conversation 13.3.75)

"Our only tradition is how to satisfy Vishnu."
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture 30.7.73)