Forward by Dr. Kim Knott
Objections Relating Directly
to the Form and Circumstances of the Order
The 'Appointment Tape'
Other Related Objections
What is a Ritvik?
July 9th, 1977
Letter "To All GBC, and Temple Presidents"
Srila Prabhupada's Declaration
of Will (4th June, 1977)
(5th November, 1977)
Relevant Quotes from Srila
Does the Guru need to be
Follow the Instruction not
The Books are enough
is our Eternal Guru
Foreword to The Final Order
by Dr Kim Knott, Senior
Lecturer in Religious Studies, University
of Leeds, UK.
Whilst researching a recent paper
on 'Insider and Outsider Perceptions of Srila Prabhupada', I found myself trying
briefly to do justice to the different views held by devotees concerning disciplic
succession and the role of gurus following Prabhupada's disappearance in 1977.
Naturally, I had been aware before this of the periods of crisis surrounding the
fall of individual gurus and the waves of shock and sadness experienced by their
initiated disciples, godbrothers and godsisters. I had hoped like many, that guru-reforms
in the late-1980s would solve ISKCON's leadership and initiation difficulties.
Looking again at the issue when preparing the paper, I read some of the arguments
for and against the present system, as well as the work of other scholars on questions
of guru and succession. It was clearly still a live issue. In the very latest
scholarship on 'The Parampara Institution' in volume 5 of Journal of Vaisnava
Studies, Jan Brzezinski discusses various aspects of this, stressing the importance
of qualified, charismatic leadership in the future of ISKCON. His is just one
view, but it is indicative of the power of this subject to motivate interest inside
and outside the Movement.
Late in 1996 I was asked to read
The Final Order, to give my opinions and to discuss the questions posed
within it. Reading it, I was left in no doubt that this was a matter of very great
significance to ISKCON and about which many devotees felt deeply. It seemed to
me that it raised important theological questions concerning spiritual authority
and its transmission, the relationship of the disciple and Krishna's representative,
the guru, and the proper objects of devotional worship. As an outsider, I am quite
unable to judge the matter (and unable to weigh the evidence presented here against
the evidence for the present acharya system). However, I am able to commend what
is presented here as a serious attempt to argue the case that Srila Prabhupada
established a system of ritvik gurus whom he intended would initiate disciples
on his behalf. I hope it will be read carefully and discussed widely, not because
I support or condemn its position, but because the profound issues it raises demand
consideration at all levels. Every devotee has a real stake in the matter.
No doubt it is unwise for an
outsider to involve herself by writing such a foreword, but my motives remain
my interest in the movement and goodwill to all its devotees.
Kim Knott, February 1997
--- THE FINAL ORDER ---
A discussion paper on Srila
Prabhupada's instructions for initiation within ISKCON
This paper was presented to a
select committee of the GBC in October 1996.
(This draft contains some minor
This booklet is a humble attempt
to present the instructions Srila Prabhupada left the Governing Body Commission
on how he intended initiations to continue within the International Society for
Krishna Consciousness. Although we will refer to several papers and articles that
have been published by senior ISKCON devotees on this subject, the main points
of reference will be the GBC's most recent official handbook on initiation entitled.
'Gurus And Initiation In ISKCON' (to be referred to henceforward
as GII), and the paper 'On My Order Understood' which is
mentioned under section 1.1 of the 'Laws of ISKCON':
GBC approves of the paper entitled 'On My Order Understood' which establishes
as ISKCON law the final siddhanta on Srila Prabhupada's desire for continuing
the disciplic succession after the departure of His Divine Grace. [See Part II:GBC
Position Papers in this volume.]" (GII, p.1)
In GII it is the GBC's
clearly stated intention to remove incoherence and contradiction from ISKCON's
codes and laws surrounding gurus, disciples and guru tattva in general,
thus establishing a final siddhanta: We sincerely pray that this
paper is in pursuance of those very same aims.
In the interest of ever-greater
consistency and philosophical chastity, we feel there are still one or two discrepancies,
not fully addressed in GII that might benefit from further investigation
and discussion. Although some of the issues thrown up in confronting these discrepancies
may seem quite radical, even painful to deal with, we feel that tackling them
now will greatly minimise future confusion and potential deviation. It is not
unprecedented that guru systems in ISKCON have come under quite radical review.
In the past, symbols have been removed, ceremonies curtailed and paradigms shifted
- all without too much long-term disruption.
In the whole scheme of things
ISKCON is undoubtedly the most important Society on the planet. It is therefore
imperative that constant vigilance is maintained in ensuring it does not stray
even one millionth of a hair's breadth from the managerial and philosophical parameters
set out by our Founder-Acarya. Srila Prabhupada constantly stressed that
we must not change, invent or speculate; but simply carry on expanding that which
he so carefully and painstakingly established. What better time to closely scrutinise
the way we are carrying on Srila Prabhupada's mission than this, his Centennial
It is our strong conviction that
the present guru system within ISKCON should be brought fully in line with Srila
Prabhupada's last signed directive on the matter; his final order on initiation,
issued on July 9th, 1977 (please see appendices
). Sometimes people question the stress placed on this letter over and above
other letters or teachings. In our defence we shall simply repeat an axiom the
GBC itself uses in the GII handbook:
"In logic, later statements
supersede earlier ones in importance."
Since the July 9th
letter really is the final instruction on initiation within ISKCON, addressed
as it was to the entire Movement, it must be viewed in a category of its own.
It will be shown that the full acceptance and implementation of this order does
not in any way clash with the teachings of Srila Prabhupada.
We have no interest in conspiracy
theories, nor do we intend to dredge up the gory details of unfortunate individuals'
spiritual difficulties. What is done is done. We can certainly learn from previous
mistakes, but we would rather help pave the way for a positive future of re-unification
and forgiveness, than dwell too long on past scandal. As far as the authors are
concerned, the vast majority of devotees in ISKCON are sincerely striving to please
Srila Prabhupada; thus we consider it highly unlikely that anyone is deliberately
disobeying, or causing others to disobey, a direct order from our Founder-Acarya.
Nevertheless, somehow or other, it does seem as though certain aberrations of
epistemology and managerial detail have found their way into general ISKCON currency
over the last nineteen years. In identifying these grey areas we pray we may be
of some assistance in rooting out unnecessary obstructions to our devotional service
to Srila Prabhupada and Krsna.
In this booklet we shall be presenting
as evidence signed documentation, issued personally by Srila Prabhupada, and conversation
transcripts, all of which are accepted as authentic by the GBC. We shall then
look carefully at both the content and the context of these materials to see if
they should be taken literally, or whether modifying instructions exist which
might reasonably alter their meaning or applicability. We shall also discuss all
relevant philosophical issues raised in connection with this evidence, and answer
all of the most common objections raised against a literal acceptance of the July
9th initiation policy document. And finally we shall look at how the
'officiating acarya system', as outlined in the July 9th order,
might be implemented with the minimum disturbance.
We shall base all our arguments
solely on the philosophy and instructions given by Srila Prabhupada in
his books, letters, lectures and conversations. We humbly beg the mercy of all
Vaisnavas that we may not cause offence to anyone or in any way disrupt
the vital mission of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada.
Anyone who knew Srila Prabhupada would often
note his meticulous nature. His fastidious attention to every detail of his devotional
service was one of Srila Prabhupada's most distinguishing characteristics; and
for those who served him closely, was profound evidence of his deep love and devotion
to Lord Sri Krsna. His whole life was dedicated to carrying out the order of his
spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, and in that duty he was uncannily vigilant.
He left nothing to chance, always correcting, guiding and chastising his disciples
in his effort to establish ISKCON. His mission was his life, he even said ISKCON
was his body.
It would certainly have been
entirely out of character for Srila Prabhupada to leave an important issue, such
as the future of initiation in his cherished society, up in the air, ambiguous,
or in any way open to debate or speculation. This is particularly so in light
of what happened to his own spiritual master's mission, which, as he would often
point out, was destroyed largely through the operation of an unauthorised guru
system. Bearing this in mind, let us begin with facts that no-one disputes:
On July 9th 1977,
four months before his physical departure, Srila Prabhupada set up a system of
initiations employing the use of ritviks, or representatives of the acarya. Srila
Prabhupada instructed that this 'officiating acarya' system was to be instituted
immediately, and run from that time onwards, or 'henceforward' - (please see Appendices).
This management directive, which was sent to all Governing Body Commissioners
and Temple Presidents of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness,
instructed that from that time on new disciples would be given spiritual names
and have their beads and gayatri mantras from the 11 named ritviks. The ritviks
were to act on Srila Prabhupada's behalf, new initiates all becoming disciples
of Srila Prabhupada.. Srila Prabhupada thus handed over to the ritviks total power
of attorney over who could receive initiation, he made it clear that from that
time onwards he was no longer to be consulted. (for details of a ritvik's duties,
please see the section entitled 'What
is a Ritvik? in Appendices)
Immediately after Srila Prabhupada's
physical departure, on November 14th 1977, the GBC suspended this ritvik
system. By Gaura Purnima 1978, the 11 ritviks had assumed the roles of zonal acarya
diksa gurus, initiating disciples on their own behalf. Their mandate for doing
so was an alleged order from Srila Prabhupada that they alone were to succeed
him as initiating acaryas. Some years later this zonal acarya system was itself
challenged and replaced, not by the restoration of the ritvik system, but by the
addition of dozens more gurus, along with an elaborate system of checks and balances
to deal with those that deviated. The rationale for this change being that the
order to become guru was not, as we had first been told, only applicable to the
11, but was a general instruction for anyone who strictly followed, and received
a two-thirds majority vote from the GBC body.
The above account is not a
political opinion, it is historical fact, accepted by everyone, including
As mentioned above, the July
9th letter was sent to all GBCs and Temple Presidents, and remains
to this day the only signed instruction on the future of initiation Srila
Prabhupada ever issued to the whole Society. Commenting on the July 9th
order, Jayadvaita Swami recently wrote:
"Its authority is beyond
question [...] Clearly, this letter establishes a ritvik-guru system."
(Jayadvaita Swami 'Where the
Ritvik People are Wrong' 1996)
The source of the controversy
arises from two modifications, which were subsequently superimposed over this
otherwise clear and authoritative directive
a) : That the appointment of representatives or ritviks
was only temporary, specifically to be terminated on the departure of Srila Prabhupada.
- Modification b)
ceased their representational function, the ritviks would automatically
become diksa gurus, initiating persons as their own disciples, not Srila
The reforms to the zonal acarya
system, which took place around 1987, kept intact these two assumptions. The same
assumptions, in fact, that underpinned the very system it replaced. We refer to
above as modifications since neither statement appears in the July 9th
letter itself, nor in any policy document issued by Srila Prabhupada subsequent
to this order.
The GBC's paper, GII,
clearly upholds the above mentioned modifications:
"When Srila Prabhupada
was asked who would initiate after his physical departure he stated he would "recommend"
and give his "order" to some of his disciples who would initiate on his behalf
during his lifetime and afterwards as "regular gurus", whose disciples would be
Srila Prabhupada's grand-disciples." (GII, p.14)
Over the years increasing numbers
of devotees have began questioning the legitimacy of these basic assumptions.
For many, they have never been properly substantiated, and hence an uneasy sense
of doubt and mistrust has grown both within and outside the Society. At present,
books, papers, E-Mailouts and Internet Web Sites offer almost daily updates on
ISKCON and its allegedly deviant guru system. Anything, which can bring about
some sort of resolution to this controversy has got to be positive for anyone
who truly cares about Srila Prabhupada's Movement.
One point everyone is agreed
on is that Srila Prabhupada is the ultimate authority for all members of ISKCON,
so whatever his intended order was, it is our duty to carry it out. Another point
of agreement is that the only signed policy statement on the future of
initiation, which was sent to all the Society's leaders, was the July 9th
It is significant to note that in GII
the existence of the July 9th letter is not even acknowledged,
even though this is the only place where the original eleven 'acaryas'
are actually mentioned. This omission is puzzling, especially given that GII
is supposed to offer the 'final siddhanta' on the entire issue.
Let us then look closely at the
July 9th order to
see if there is indeed anything that supports assumptions a)
and b) above:
As previously mentioned, the July 9th
order states that the ritvik system should be followed 'henceforward'.
The specific word used, 'henceforward', only has one meaning, viz. 'from
now onwards'. This is both according to Srila Prabhupada's own previous usage
of the word and the meaning ascribed to it by the English Language. Unlike other
words, the word henceforward is unambiguous since it only possesses one dictionary
definition. On the other 86 occasions that we find on Folio where Srila Prabhupada
has used the word 'henceforward', nobody raised even the possibility that the
word could mean anything other than 'from now onwards'. 'From now onwards' does
not mean 'from now onwards until I depart'. It simply means 'from now onwards'.
There is no mention in the letter that the system should stop on Srila
Prabhupada's departure, neither does it state that the system was to only be
operational during his presence. Furthermore the argument that the whole
ritvik system 'hangs' on one word - henceforward - is untenable, since
even if we take the word out of the letter, nothing has changed. One still
has a system set up by Srila Prabhupada four months before his departure, with
no subsequent instruction to terminate it. Without such a counter instruction,
this letter would still remain intact as Srila Prabhupada's final instruction
Supporting Instructions :
There were other statements made
by Srila Prabhupada, and his secretary, in the days following the July 9th
letter, which clearly indicate that the ritvik system was intended to continue
• "...the process for
initiation to be followed in the future." (July
to become ritvik and act on my charge."
to become ritvik and act on my behalf."
(July 31th) (please see Appendices)
In these documents we find words
such as 'continue' and 'future' which along with the word 'henceforward' all point
to the permanency of the ritvik system. There is no statement from Srila
Prabhupada that even hints that this system was to terminate on his departure.
Once the ritvik system
was up and running, Srila Prabhupada never issued a subsequent order to stop it,
nor did he ever state that it should be disbanded on his departure. Perhaps aware
that such a thing may mistakenly or otherwise occur, he put in the beginning of
his final will that the system of management in place within ISKCON must
continue and could not be changed - an instruction left intact by a
codicil added just nine days before his departure. Surely this would have
been the perfect opportunity to disband the ritvik system had that been
his intention (please see Appendices). That the
use of ritviks to give initiates' names was a system of management
can be illustrated by the following:
In 1975 one of the preliminary
GBC resolutions sanctioned that the 'GBC would have sole responsibility for
managerial affairs'. Below are some of the 'managerial' issues the GBC dealt
with that year:
to receive first initiation, one must have been a full time member for six months.
For second initiation there should be at least another one year after the first
No. 9, March 25th, 1975)
of initiating Sannyasis."
(Resolution No. 2, March 27th, 1975)
These resolutions were personally
approved by Srila Prabhupada. They demonstrate conclusively that the methodology
for conducting initiations was deemed a system of management. If the whole
methodology for conducting initiations is considered a system of management
by Srila Prabhupada, then one element of initiation, viz. the use of ritviks
to give spiritual names, has to fall under the same terms of reference.
Thus changing the ritvik system of
initiation was in direct violation of Srila Prabhupada's final will.
Another instruction in Srila Prabhupada's will which indicates
the intended longevity of the ritvik system, is where it states that the
executive directors for his permanent properties in India could only be selected
from amongst Srila Prabhupada's initiated disciples:
"...a successor director
or directors may be appointed by the remaining directors, provided the new director
is my initiated disciple,..."
(Srila Prabhupada 's Declaration of Will, June 4th, 1977)
This is something that could
only occur if a ritvik system of initiation remained in place after Srila
Prabhupada's departure, since otherwise the pool of potential directors would
eventually dry up.
Furthermore, every time Srila
Prabhupada spoke of initiations after July 9th he simply reconfirmed
the ritvik system. He never gave any hint that the system should stop on
his departure or that there were gurus, waiting in the sidelines, ready to take
on the role of diksa. Thus, at least as far as direct evidence is concerned,
there appears to be nothing to support assumptions a)
and b) referred to above. As stated, these
assumptions - that the ritvik system should have stopped at departure and
that the ritviks must then become diksa gurus - form the very basis
of ISKCON's current guru system. If they prove to be invalid then there will certainly
need to be a radical re-think by the GBC.
The above sets the scene. The
instruction itself, supporting instructions and subsequent instructions only support
the continuation of the ritvik system. It is admitted by all concerned
that Srila Prabhupada did not give any order to terminate the ritvik system
on his physical departure. It is further accepted by all concerned that Srila
Prabhupada did set up the ritvik system to operate from July 9th
onwards. Thus we have a situation whereby the acarya:
1) has given a clear instruction to follow a
2) has not given an instruction to stop following
the ritvik system upon his physical departure.
Consequently, for a disciple
to stop following this order, with any degree of legitimacy, demands he provide
some solid grounds for doing so. The only thing that Srila Prabhupada actually
told us to do was to follow the ritvik system. He never told us to stop
following it, or that one could only follow it in his physical presence.
The onus of proof will naturally fall on those who wish to terminate any system
put in place by our acarya, and left to run henceforward. This is an obvious
point; one can not just stop following the order of the guru whimsically:
"...the process is that
you cannot change the order of the spiritual master."
(SP C.c. Lecture, 21/12/73, Los Angeles)
A disciple does not need to justify
continuing to follow a direct order from the guru, especially when he has been
told to continue following it. That is axiomatic - this is what the word 'disciple'
"When one becomes disciple,
he cannot disobey the order of the spiritual master."
(SP Bg. Lecture, 11/2/75, Mexico)
Since there is no direct
evidence stating that the ritvik system should have been abandoned
on Srila Prabhupada's physical departure, the case for abandoning it could therefore
only be based on indirect evidence. Indirect evidence may arise
out of special circumstances surrounding the literal direct instruction. These
extenuating circumstances, should they exist, may be used to provide grounds for
interpreting the literal instruction. We will now examine the circumstances surrounding
the July 9th order, to see if such modifying circumstances might indeed
have been present, and whether there is inferentially anything to support assumptions
and b) .
RELATING DIRECTLY TO THE FORM AND CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE FINAL ORDER
1) "The letter clearly implies that it was
only set up for whilst Srila Prabhupada was present."
There is nothing in the letter
that says the instruction was only meant for whilst Srila Prabhupada was physically
present. In fact, the only information given supports the continuation of the
ritvik system after Srila Prabhupada's departure. It is significant
to note that within the July 9th letter it is stated three times that
those initiated would become Srila Prabhupada's disciples. The GBC in
presenting evidence for the current guru system have argued vigorously that Srila
Prabhupada had already made it clear that, as far as he was concerned, it was
an inviolable law that no one could initiate in his presence. Thus
the necessity to state Srila Prabhupada's ownership of future disciples must indicate
that the instruction was intended to operate during a time period when the ownership
could even have been an issue, namely
after his departure.
For some years Srila Prabhupada
had been using representatives to chant on beads, perform the fire yajna,
give gayatri mantra etc. No one had ever questioned whom such new initiates
belonged to. Right at the beginning of the July 9th letter it is emphatically
stated that those appointed are 'representatives' of Srila Prabhupada. The only
innovation this letter contained then was the formalisation of the role of the
representatives; hardly something which could be confused with a direct order
for them to become fully-fledged diksa gurus. Srila Prabhupada's emphasis
on disciple ownership would therefore have been completely redundant were the
system to operate only in his presence, especially since as long as he was present
he could personally ensure that no one claimed false ownership of the disciples.
As mentioned above, this point is hammered home three times in a letter
which itself was quite short and to the point:
"So as soon as one thing is
three times stressed, that means final."
(SP Bg. Lecture, 27/11/68, Los Angeles)
The July 9th letter
states that the names of newly initiated disciples were to be sent 'to Srila Prabhupada'
- Could this indicate that the system was only to run while Srila Prabhupada was
physically present? Some devotees have
argued that since we can no longer send these names to Srila Prabhupada, the ritvik
system must therefore be invalid.
The first point to note is the
stated purpose behind the names being sent to Srila Prabhupada, ie., so they could
be included in his "Initiated Disciples" book. We know from the July 7th
conversation (please see Appendices) that
Srila Prabhupada had nothing to do with entering the new names into this book,
it was done by his secretary. Further evidence that the names should be sent for
inclusion in the book, and NOT specifically to Srila Prabhupada is given in the
letter written to Hansaduta, the very next day, where Tamala Krishna Goswami explains
his new ritvik duties to him:
"...you should send
their names to be included in Srila Prabhupada's 'Initiated Disciples' book."
(Letter to Hansaduta from Tamala Krishna
Their is no mention made here
of needing to send the names to Srila Prabhupada. This procedure could easily
have continued after Srila Prabhupada's physical departure. Nowhere in the final
order does it state that if the "Initiated Disciples" book becomes physically
separated from Srila Prabhupada all initiations must be suspended.
The next point is that the procedure
of sending the names of newly initiated disciples to Srila Prabhupada in any case
relates to a post-initiation -initiation activity.
The names could only be sent after the disciples had already been initiated.
Thus an instruction concerning what is to be done after initiation cannot
be used to amend or in any way interrupt pre-initiation, or indeed
initiation procedures (the ritvik's role being already fulfilled well before
the actual initiation ceremony takes place). Whether or not names can be sent
to Srila Prabhupada has no bearing on the system for initiation, since at the
point where new names are ready to be sent, the initiation has already occurred.
The last point is that if sending
the names to Srila Prabhupada were a vital part of the ceremony, then even before
Srila Prabhupada's departure, the system would have been invalid, or at least
run the constant risk of being so. It was generally understood that Srila Prabhupada
was ready to leave at any time, thus the danger of not having anywhere to send
the names was present from day one of the order being issued. In other words,
taking the possible scenario that Srila Prabhupada leaves the planet the day after
a disciple has been initiated through the ritvik system, according to the
above proposition, the disciple would not actually have been initiated simply
because of the speed by which mail is delivered. We find no mention in Srila Prabhupada's
books that the transcendental process of diksa, which may take many lifetimes
to complete, can be obstructed by the vicissitudes of the postal service. Certainly
there would be nothing preventing the names of new initiates being entered into
His Divine Grace's "Initiated Disciples" book even now. This book could
then be offered to Srila Prabhupada at a fitting time.
2) "The letter does not specifically say 'this
system will continue after Srila Prabhupada's departure'; therefore, it was right
to stop the ritvik system at Srila Prabhupada's departure."
Please consider the following points:
- The July 9th letter also does not
specifically state: 'The ritvik system should end on Srila Prabhupada's
departure'. . Yet it was terminated immediately on his departure.
- The letter also does not state: 'The ritvik
system should run while Srila Prabhupada is still present'. ritvik
system should run while Srila Prabhupada is still present'. Yet it
was run while he was still present.
- The letter also does not state :'The
ritvik system should only run until the departure of Srila Prabhupada'.
Yet it was only allowed to run till his departure.
- The letter also does not state: 'The ritvik
system must stop'. Yet it was stopped.
In summary, the GBC insists on
ritvik system must stop.
ritvik system must stop on Srila Prabhupada's departure.
Neither of the above stipulations
appears in the July 9th letter, nor any other signed order;
yet they form the very foundation of both the zonal acarya system and the
current 'Multiple Acarya Successor System,' or M.A.S.S. as
we shall refer to it. (In this context we use the word acarya in its strongest
sense, that of initiating spiritual master, or diksa guru).
To argue that since the letter
is not specific about the time period in which it is to run, it must therefore
stop on departure is completely illogical. The letter does not specify that the
ritvik system should be followed on July 9th either, so according
to this logic it should never have been followed at all. Even accepting that 'henceforward'
can at least stretch to the end of the first day of the order being issued, it
does not say it should be followed on July 10th, so perhaps it should
have stopped then.
The demand for the ritvik
system to only operate within a pre-specified time period is contradicted by accepting
its operation for 126 separate 24 hour time periods (i.e. four months). Since
none of these 126 separate time periods is specified in the letter, yet everyone
seems quite happy that the system ran during this time frame. Unless we take the
word 'henceforward' literally to mean 'indefinitely', we could stop the system
at any time after July 9th, so why choose departure?
There is no example, either in
Srila Prabhupada's 86 recorded uses, nor in the entire history of the English
language, where the actual word 'henceforward' has ever meant:
'Every time period until the
departure of a person who issued the order'
Yet according to current thinking
this is what the word must have meant when it was used in the July 9th
letter. All the letter states is that the ritvik system is to be
followed 'henceforward'. So why was it stopped?
3) "Certain instructions obviously can not
continue after Srila Prabhupada's departure, and thus it is understood that they
could only have been intended to operate in Srila Prabhupada's presence; e.g.
someone may have been appointed 'henceforward' to give Srila Prabhupada his regular
massage. Maybe the ritvik order is of that type?"
If an instruction is impossible
to perform, for example giving Srila Prabhupada his daily massage after his physical
departure, then obviously there can be no question of doing it. The duty of a
disciple is simply to follow an order until it is impossible to follow any longer,
or until the spiritual master changes the order. The question then is whether
it is feasible to follow a ritvik system without the physical presence
of the person who set it up.
In fact, the ritvik system
was set up specifically to be operational without any physical involvement
from Srila Prabhupada whatsoever. Had the ritvik system continued after
his departure, it would be identical in every respect to how it was practised
whilst Srila Prabhupada was present. After July 9th, Srila Prabhupada's
involvement became non-letter existent, and so even at that stage it was operating
as though he had already left. This being the case, we cannot classify the ritvik
system dysfunctional, or inoperable, on the grounds of Srila Prabhupada's
departure, since his departure does not in any way affect the running of the system.
In other words, since the system was
specifically set up to operate as if Srila Prabhupada was not on the planet, his
leaving the planet can not in itself render the system invalid.
The fact that the order was 'only' issued in a letter, and not in a book, gives
us a license to interpret it."
This 'letters v books' argument
does not apply in this case since this was no ordinary letter. Generally, Srila
Prabhupada wrote a letter in response to a specific query from an individual disciple,
or to offer individualised guidance or chastisement. Naturally, in these cases
the devotee's original query, situation or deviation may give grounds for interpretation.
Not everything in Srila Prabhupada's letters can be applied universally (for example
in one letter he advised a devotee, who was not good with spices, to just cook
with a little salt and tumeric; clearly this advice was not meant for the entire
Movement). However, the final order on initiation is not open to any such interpretation
since it was not written in response to a specific query from a particular individual,
or to address a disciple's individual situation or behaviour. The
July 9th letter was a procedural instruction, or management policy
document, which was sent to every leader in the Movement.
The letter follows the format
of any important instruction that Srila Prabhupada issued and wanted followed
without interpretation - he had it put in writing, he approved it, and then sent
it to his leaders. For example, he had one sent on April 22nd, 1972,
addressed to 'ALL TEMPLE PRESIDENTS':
"The zonal secretary's
duty is to see that the spiritual principles are being upheld very nicely in all
the Temples of his zone. Otherwise each Temple shall be independent and self-supporting."
(SP Letter to All Temple Presidents, 22/4/72)
Srila Prabhupada did not publish
a new book each time he issued an important instruction, regardless of whether
the instruction was to continue past his departure. Thus, the form in which the
instruction was issued does not make it prey for indirect interpretations, nor
in any way diminishes its validity.
5) "Maybe there was some special background
surrounding the issuing of the order that precludes its application after Srila
If such circumstances did exist,
Srila Prabhupada would have stated them in the letter, or in an accompanying document.
Srila Prabhupada always gave enough information to enable the correct application
of his instructions. He certainly did not operate on the assumption that his Temple
Presidents were all mystic mind readers, and that he therefore only needed to
issue fragmented and incomplete directives which would later be made sense of
telepathically. For example, had Srila Prabhupada intended the ritvik system
to stop on his departure he would have added the following seven words to the
July 9th letter - "This system will terminate on my departure". A quick
look at the letter tells us he wanted it to continue 'henceforward'. (please
Sometimes it is argued that
the ritvik system was only set up because Srila Prabhupada was sick.
Devotees may or may not have
been aware of the extent of Srila Prabhupada's illness; but how could they possibly
be expected to deduce from a letter that says nothing about his health, that this
was the only reason it was issued? When did Srila Prabhupada say that any
instruction he issued must always be interpreted in conjunction with his latest
medical report? Why should the recipients of the final order on initiation not
have assumed the letter was a general instruction to be followed, without interpretation?
Srila Prabhupada had already
announced that he had come to Vrindavan to leave his body. Being tri-kala-jna
he was most likely aware of his departure in four months time. He had set
in motion the final instructions for the continuation of his Movement. He had
already drawn up his will and other documents relating to the BBT (Bhaktivedanta
Book Trust) and GBC, specifically to provide guidance for after his imminent departure.
The one matter that had not yet been settled was how initiations would operate
when he left. At this point, no one had the faintest clue how things were to run.
The July 9th order clarified for everyone precisely how initiations
were to proceed in his absence.
In summary, you can not modify
an instruction with information that those to whom the instruction was given did
not have access. Why would Srila Prabhupada purposely issue an instruction that
he knew in advance no one could follow correctly, since he had not given them
the relevant information within the instruction? If the ritvik system was
only set up because he was ill, Srila Prabhupada would have said so in the letter
or in some accompanying document. There is no record of Srila Prabhupada ever
behaving in such a purposely ambiguous and uninformative manner, especially when
instructing the entire Movement. Srila Prabhupada never signed anything in a cavalier
fashion, and when one considers the magnitude of the instruction in question,
it is inconceivable that he would have left out any vital information.
6) "Does not the 'Appointment Tape' contain
relevant information that clearly frames the July 9th order as being
only applicable whilst Srila Prabhupada was physically present on the planet?"
In the GBC's handbook GII,
the sole evidence offered in support of modifications a)
& b) is extracted
from a conversation, which took place on May 28th, 1977. The paper
appears to concede that there is no other instructional evidence, which directly
relates to the function of ritviks after Srila Prabhupada's departure:
Srila Prabhupada did not repeat his earlier statements, it was understood that
he expected these disciples to initiate in the future."
(GII, p.14, emphasis added)
Since it is the sole evidence,
there is a section exclusively dedicated to the May 28th
conversation. Suffice to say it was not referred to in the July 9th
letter, nor did Srila Prabhupada demand that a copy of the taped conversation
be sent out with the final order. From this we can deduce, with absolute confidence,
that it cannot contain a scrap of modifying information vital to the understanding
of the final order. As a point of fact, the May 28th conversation was
not released till several years after Srila Prabhupada's departure. Thus once
more we are expected to modify a clear written instruction with information, which
was not accessible to the very people who were issued the instruction. As will
be seen later, the May conversation has nothing in it to contradict the final
As a general point, later instructions
from the guru will always supersede previous instructions: The
final order is the final order, and must be followed:
"I may say many things
to you, but when I say something directly to you, you do it. Your first duty is
to do that, you cannot argue - 'Sir you said to me do like this before',
no that is not your duty, what I say to you now you do it, that is obedience
you cannot argue." (SP
S.B. Lecture, 14/4/75, Hyderabad)
Just as in the Bhagavad-gita
Lord Krsna gave so many instructions to Arjuna, he spoke of all types of yoga
from Dhyana to Jnana, but all this was superseded by the final order:
"Always think of Me
and become My devotee"- should be taken as the final order of the Lord
and should be followed."
(Teachings of Lord Caitanya, chapter
The final order given by Sankaracarya,'bhaja
Govinda', was also meant to supersede many of his earlier statements - all
of them, in fact. As mentioned in the introduction, the GBC itself recognises
this as an axiomatic principle of logic:
"In logic, later statements
supersede earlier ones in importance."
(GII, p. 25)
It is not possible to have a
'later' statement than the last one. Therefore we must follow the
ritvik system by the GBC's own logic.
7) "Srila Prabhupada stated many times that
all his disciples must become gurus, surely this proves that Srila Prabhupada
did not intend the ritvik system to be permanent."
Srila Prabhupada never appointed
or instructed anyone to be diksa guru for after his departure. Evidence
for this claim has never been produced, indeed many senior leaders within ISKCON
have conceded the point:
it's a fact that Srila Prabhupada never said "Alright here is the next acarya,
or here is the next eleven acaryas and they are authorised gurus for the Movement,
for the world". He did not do that." (Ravindra
Svarupa das, San Diego debate, 1990)
Srila Prabhupada unequivocally
stated that the diksa guru must be a maha-bhagavata
(most advanced stage of God-realisation) and be specifically
authorised by his own spiritual master. He had always strongly condemned
the assumption of guruship by those who were not suitably qualified and authorised.
We quote below the only passage in Srila Prabhupada's books where the qualifications
of the diksa guru is stated.
brahmano vai gurur nrnam
sarvesam eva lokanam asau pujyo yatha harih
maha-kula-prasuto' pi sarva-yajnesu diksitah
sahasra-sakhadhya yi ca na guruh syad avaisnavah
guru must be situated on the topmost platform of devotional service. There
are three classes of devotees, and the guru must be accepted from
the topmost class." (C.c.
Madhya, 24.330, purport)
one has attained the topmost position of maha-bhagavata, he is to be accepted
as a guru and worshipped exactly like Hari, the Personality of Godhead. Only
such a person is eligible to occupy the post of a guru."
(C.c. Madhya, 24.330, purport))
Aside from the qualification,
Srila Prabhupada also taught that specific authorisation from the predecessor
acarya was also essential before anyone could act as a diksa guru:
"On the whole, you may
know that he is not a liberated person, and therefore, he cannot initiate
any person to Krsna Consciousness. It requires special spiritual benediction
from higher authorities."
(SP Letter to Janardana, 26/4/68)
"One should take initiation
from a bona fide spiritual master coming in the disciplic succession, who is authorised
by his predecessor spiritual master. This is called diksa-vidhana."
When did you become spiritual the leader of Krsna
What is that?
Brahmananda: He is asking
when did you become the spiritual leader of Krsna Consciousness?
When my Guru Maharaja ordered me. This is the guru parampara.
Indian man: Did it...
Try to understand. Don't go very speedily. A guru can become guru when
he is ordered by his guru. That's all. Otherwise nobody can become
(SP Bg. Lecture, 28/10/75)
Thus, according to Srila Prabhupada,
one can only become a diksa guru when both the qualification and
authorisation are in place. Srila Prabhupada had not authorised any such
gurus, nor had he stated that any of his disciples were qualified to initiate.
Rather, just prior to July 9th, he agreed that they were still
'conditioned souls', and that vigilance was essential lest persons pose themselves
as guru. (please see Appendices April 22nd 1977)
used to support an alternative to the ritvik system falls into three basic categories
- Srila Prabhupada's frequent call for everyone
to become guru, often made in conjunction with the 'amara ajnaya guru hana'
verse from the Caitanya-Caritamrta.
- The half dozen or so personal letters where
Srila Prabhupada mentions his disciples acting as diksa guru after his
- Other statements in Srila Prabhupada's books
and lectures where the principle of disciples going on to be diksa guru
Looking first at category 1) :
The instruction for everyone to become guru is
found in the following verse in the Caitanya-Caritamrta, which was often
quoted by Srila Prabhupada:
"Instruct everyone to
follow the orders of Sri Krsna as they are given in Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam.
In this way become a spiritual master and try to liberate everyone in this land."
(C.c. Madhya, 7.128, purport)
However, the type of guru,
which Lord Caitanya is encouraging everyone to become, is clearly established
in the detailed purports following this verse:
"That is, one should
stay at home, chant the Hare Krsna mantra and preach the instructions
of Krsna as they are given in Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam."
Madhya, 7.128, purport)
"One may remain a
householder, medical practitioner, an engineer or whatever. It doesn't matter.
One only has to follow the instruction of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, chant the
Hare Krsna maha-mantra and instruct relatives and friends in the teachings of
Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam [...] It is best not to accept any disciples."
(C.c. Madhya, 7.130, purport)
We can see that these instructions
do not demand that the gurus in question first attain any particular level of
realisation before they act. The request is immediate. From this it is clear everyone
is simply encouraged to preach what they may know, and in so doing become siksa,
or instructing, gurus. This is further clarified by the stipulation for the
siksa guru to remain in that position, and not then go on to become
a diksa guru:
"It is best not to accept
any disciples." (C.c.
Madhya, 7.130, purport)
To accept disciples is the main
business of a diksa guru, whereas a siksa guru simply needs to carry
on his duties and preach Krsna Consciousness as best he can. It is clear from
Srila Prabhupada's purports that in the above verse Lord Caitanya is actually
authorising siksa gurus, not diksa gurus.
This is also made abundantly
clear in the many other references where Srila Prabhupada encourages everyone
to become guru:
"yare dekha, tare
You haven't got to manufacture anything. What Krsna has already said, you repeat.
Finish. Don't make addition, adulteration. Then you become guru [...] I may be
fool, rascal [...] So we have to follow this path, that you become guru, deliver
your neighbourhood men, associates, but speak the authoritative words of Krsna.
Then it will act [...] Anyone can do. A child can do."
(SP Evening darsan, 11/5/77, Hrsikesh)
"Because people are
in darkness, we require many millions of gurus to enlighten them. Therefore
Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mission is, [...] He said that "Everyone of you become guru."
(SP Lecture, 21/5/76, Honolulu)
"You simply say [...]
"Just always think of Me", Krsna said, "And just become My devotee. Just worship
Me and offer obeisances." Kindly do these things." So if you can induce one
person to do these things, you become guru. Is there any difficulty?"
(SP Conversation, 2/8/76, Paris)
"Real guru is he who
instructs what Krsna has said....You have simply to say, 'This is this.' That's
all. Is it very difficult task?"
(SP Lecture, 21/5/76, Honolulu)
"...'But I have no qualification.
How can I become guru ?' There is no need of qualification...Whomever you
meet, you simply instruct what Krsna has said. That's all. You become guru."
(SP Lecture, 21/5/76, Honolulu)
some devotees have used such quotes as those above as a justification for 'minimally
qualified diksa gurus'*(1), an entity never
once mentioned in any of Srila Prabhupada's books, letters, lectures or conversations).
An example of a guru who has
no qualification other than repeating what he has heard, could be found
on any bhakta induction course in ISKCON. It is perfectly clear therefore
that the above are actually invitations to become instructing spiritual masters,
siksa gurus. We know this since Srila Prabhupada has already explained
for us in his books the far more stringent requirements for becoming a diksa
"When one has attained
the topmost position of maha-bhagavata, he is to be accepted as a guru
and worshipped exactly like Hari, the Personality of Godhead. Only such
a person is eligible to occupy the post of a guru."
(C.c. Madhya, 24.330, purport)
should take initiation from a bona fide spiritual master coming in the disciplic
succession, who is authorised by his predecessor spiritual master. This
is called diksa-vidhana."
(S.B. 4.8.54, purport)
As it has been shown Srila Prabhupada
stated that the order to become an initiating guru has to be received specifically
from one's own guru. The general instruction from Lord Caitanya had been present
for 500 years. It is obvious then that Srila Prabhupada did not consider 'amara
ajnaya guru hana' to refer specifically to diksa, otherwise
why would we need yet another specific order from our immediate acarya?
This general instruction from Lord Caitanya must be referring to siksa not
diksa guru. Diksa guru is the exception, not the rule. Whereas
Srila Prabhupada envisaged millions of siksa gurus, comprising of men,
women and children.
- Looking now at category
There were a handful of overly confident devotees,
anxious to initiate their own disciples in Srila Prabhupada's presence, who Srila
Prabhupada wrote letters to. These letters are used to support the M.A.S.S. Srila
Prabhupada had a fairly standard approach when dealing with such ambitious individuals.
Generally he told them to keep rigidly trained up, and in the future, after his
physical departure, they may accept disciples:
"The first thing, I
warn Acyutananda, do not try to initiate. You are not in a proper position now
to initiate anyone. [...] Don't be allured by such maya. I am training
you all to become future spiritual masters, but do not be in a hurry."
(SP Letter to Acyutananda and Jaya Govinda,
ago you asked my permission for accepting some disciples, now the time is approaching
very soon when you will have many disciples by your strong preaching work."
(SP Letter to Acyutananda,16/5/72)
have heard that there is some worship of yourself by the other devotees. Of course
it is proper to offer obeisances to a Vaisnava, but not in the presence
of the spiritual master. After the departure of the spiritual master, it will
come to that stage, but now wait. Otherwise it will create factions."
(SP Letter to Hansadutta, 1/10/74)
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. I want to see my disciples become bonafide
spiritual master and spread Krsna Consciousness very widely, that will make me
and Krsna very happy."
(SP Letter to Tusta Krsna, 2/12/75)
(It is interesting to note that whilst GII
quotes the above 'law' in support of the M.A.S.S. doctrine, in the very SAME document
it is asserted that it is actually not a law at all) :
are many such instances in the scriptures about disciples giving initition in
the presence of the guru, [...] In the scriptures there is no specific instruction
about a disciple not giving initiation when his guru is present." (GII,
Eagerness to accept
worship and followers is actually a disqualification for a spiritual master. We
can only marvel at the power of the false ego, that even in the presence
of the most powerful acarya the planet has ever seen, some personalities
still felt amply qualified to initiate their own disciples right under
Srila Prabhupada's nose! *(2)
It is apparent that in writing
to these devotees, telling them they could take disciples if they just held on
a little longer, Srila Prabhupada was simply trying to keep them in devotional
service. In so doing there was at least the possibility that, in time, their ambitious
mentalities might become purified:
Humble devotees who diligently
performed their service in selfless sacrifice to their spiritual master would
never have received a letter describing their glowing future as diksa gurus.
Why would Srila Prabhupada only seriously promise guruship to those who were most
ambitious, and hence least qualified?
As far as statements to the effect
that they would be free to initiate after his departure, that is true. Just as
in England one is free to drive a car once he is 17 years old. However, we must
not forget those two little provisos. First, one must be qualified to drive, and
second one must be authorised by the driving license authority. The reader may
draw his own parallels.
Another letter which is quoted
to support the M.A.S.S. states:
1975, all of those who have passed all of the above examinations will be specifically
empowered to initiate and increase the number of the Krsna Consciousness population."
(SP Letter to Kirtanananda, 12/1/69)
Does the above statement validate the termination
of the final order on initiation?
Since this is an attempt to terminate
the ritvik system through the use of personal letters, we shall invoke
here Srila Prabhupada's 'law of disciplic succession'. The first part of the 'law'
states that a disciple must not act as initiating acarya in his own guru's
physical presence. Since this was the 'law', clearly the above letter could not
be referring to Srila Prabhupada's disciples initiating on their own behalf:
Srila Prabhupada was still on the planet in 1975. We can therefore
only conclude that he was already contemplating some sort of 'officiating' initiation
system as early as 1969. By 1975, Srila Prabhupada had indeed 'empowered', or
authorised, devotees such as Kirtanananda to chant on beads and conduct initiations
on his behalf. The above letter appears then to be predicting the future use of
representatives for the purpose of initiation. Later he called these representatives
'ritviks', and formalised their function in the July 9th order.
Again, it would be foolhardy to suggest that Srila Prabhupada was actually authorising
Kirtanananda to act as a sampradaya initiating acarya as
long as he passed a few exams.
"Anyone following the order
of Lord Caitanya under the guidance of His bona fide representative can become
a spiritual master, and I wish that in my absence all my disciples become the
bona fide spiritual master to spread Krsna Consciousness throughout the whole
(SP Letter to Madhusudana, 2/11/67)
Using the quote above, it has
been argued that since Srila Prabhupada mentions his disciples becoming spiritual
masters in his absence, he must have been referring to diksa, since
they were already siksa gurus. However Srila Prabhupada may simply have
been reiterating his general encouragement for all his disciples to become good
siksa spiritual masters, and that they should continue becoming good siksa
spiritual masters also in his absence. There is definitely no mention in the
above quote of his disciples initiating or accepting their own disciples.
The term 'bona fide spiritual master to spread Krsna Consciousness throughout
the whole world' is equally applicable to a siksa guru.
Even if such letters as these
did allude to some other type of guru system, they still could not be used to
modify the final July 9th order since these instructions were not repeated
to the rest of the Movement. The letters in question were not even published until
1986. It is occasionally alleged that some of these personal letters were
leaked out to other members of the Society. This may or may not have been the
case, but the important point to note is that the mechanics of such distribution
appears never to have been set up or personally approved by Srila Prabhupada.
We have seen no evidence that Srila Prabhupada ever ordered his private
correspondence to be distributed to all and sundry. He once casually suggested
his letters could be published 'if there was time', but he never intimated that
without these documents no one would know how to properly operate the M.A.S.S.
on his departure.
To form a case regarding what
should have been done in 1977, one can only use evidence that was readily
available in an authorised form at that time. If such letters really held the
key to how he planned initiations to be run for up to ten thousand years, surely
Srila Prabhupada would have made their publication, and mass distribution, a matter
of utmost urgency. There was, after all, the reasonable possibility that not all
his leaders had read his private correspondence, and as a result gained a clear
understanding of precisely how initiations were to run after his departure. We
know this to be more than a possibility since the entire GBC still had no idea
what Srila Prabhupada was planning as late on as May 28th, 1977. (please
In light of the above, any attempt
to modify the July 9th order on the basis of these handful of letters
can only be deemed recklessly inappropriate. Had such letters been vital appendices
to his final order then Srila Prabhupada would certainly have made that clear
in the order itself or in some accompanying document.
In the end, the only position
granted to anyone as far as initiations were concerned, was as representatives
of the acarya, ritviks.
Finally we shall look at category 3) :
There are various statements
in Srila Prabhupada's books and lectures which have been extracted to justify
the disbanding of the ritvik system. We shall now examine this evidence.
In Srila Prabhupada's books,
all we find are the qualifications of a diksa guru stated in general terms.
There is no specific mention of his own disciples continuing to go on to become
diksa gurus. Rather, the quotes merely reiterate the point that one must
be highly qualified and authorised before even attempting to become diksa
"One who is now the disciple
is the next spiritual master. And one cannot be a bona fide and authorised
spiritual master unless one has been strictly obedient to his spiritual
(S.B. 2.9.43, purport)
The above injunction hardly gives
carte blanche for anyone to initiate just because their guru has left the
planet. The concept of the guru leaving the planet is not even mentioned here.
Only the idea that they must be authorised and have been strictly obedient. We
also know that they must have first attained the platform of maha-bhagavata.
Some devotees point to the section
in Easy Journey to Other Planets (p.32) dealing with monitor 'gurus'
as evidence supporting the M.A.S.S., and the resultant dismantling of the ritvik
system. However, this clever classroom analogy is clearly defining the position
of siksa, not diksa, gurus. In this passage the monitor acts on
behalf of the teacher. He is not a teacher himself. He may become qualified
as a teacher, but that is a process, and is not described as automatic
on the departure of the teacher (who obviously corresponds to the diksa
guru). A monitor guru can only have, by definition, siksa disciples; and
a limited number at that. Once such a monitor has become qualified, i.e. attained
the platform of maha-bhagavata, and then been authorised by his predecessor
acarya , there is no sense in calling him a monitor any longer; he will
be a teacher in his own right. Once he is a teacher in his own right, he may accept
unlimited disciples. So the monitor is the siksa guru, the teacher is the
diksa guru, and by strictly following the diksa guru, the siksha
guru may gradually rise to the platform at which he may at least become qualified
to be a diksa guru. Furthermore, a monitor merely assists the teacher whilst
the teacher is present. This again is at variance with the 'law' of disciplic
succession that is used to support the M.A.S.S. system. A monitor is not an entity
that comes into being to replace or succeed the teacher, but exists to run in
parallel or alongside the teacher. We do not see how this description supports
the GBC's a)
assumptions: that the ritvik system was meant to stop at Srila Prabhupada's
departure, and that the ritviks could then automatically become diksa
There are other occasions, outside
of Srila Prabhupada's personal letters, which are quoted as giving authorisation
for his disciples to become diksa gurus:
"Now, tenth, eleventh, twelfth.
My Guru Maharaja is tenth from Caitanya Mahaprabhu, I am eleventh, you are the
twelfth. So distribute this knowledge."
(SP Arrival Lecture, 18/5/72, Los Angeles)
"At the same time, I shall
request them all to become spiritual master . Every one of you should be spiritual
(SP Vyasa-Puja address, 5/9/69, Hamburg)
The first quote clearly mentions
that Srila Prabhupada's disciples are already the twelfth - 'you ARE the
twelfth'. Thus this is not some authorisation for them to become diksa
gurus in the future, but merely a statement that they are already carrying
on the message of the parampara. The second quote is in a similar vein.
It undoubtedly mentions that his disciples are next in line. But as the first
quote states, that succession had already taken place by dint of the disciples
vigorous preaching. Either way, there is no clear explicit order to take disciples,
but simply to preach. Just because he was asking his disciples to become spiritual
masters next, does not mean he wanted them to become initiating
spiritual masters next. To insist that he did mean this is pure speculation.
In fact, we know it is wrong since the final order made it clear that his disciples
were only to act as representatives of the acarya, and not in any
type of initiating or diksa capacity.
To argue that such statements
must override the final order is insupportable, and easily counteracted by quoting
other statements made by Srila Prabhupada, specifically in relation to what would
happen after his departure, which completely contradict the proposition being
will happen to the movement in the United States when you when you die?
I will never die
Jaya! Haribol! (laughter)
I will live from my books and you will utilise.
(SP Press Conference, 16/7/75, San
Here was a clear opportunity
for Srila Prabhupada to lay out his plans for the M.A.S.S. were that to be his
intention. But instead of saying his disciples will succeed him as diksa
gurus he says he shall never die. From the above exchange it can be understood
Srila Prabhupada is a living spiritual master who continues to impart
transcendental knowledge (the main constituent of diksa) through
his books; and that this will continue for as long as ISKCON exists. The role
of his disciples being to facilitate the process.
become premature acarya. First of all follow the orders of acarya,
and you become mature. Then it is better to become acarya. Because we are
interested in preparing acarya, but the etiquette is at least for the period
the guru is present, one should not become acarya. Even if he is complete
he should not, because the etiquette is, if somebody comes for becoming initiated,
it is the duty of such person to bring that prospective candidate to his acarya."
(SPC.c. Lecture, 6/4/75, Mayapur)
The quote above does mention
the principle of his disciples going on to become acarya. However the whole
emphasis is that they should not do it now. In fact Srila Prabhupada only
seems to mention the principle of his disciples becoming acarya, if he
is cautioning them not to do it in his presence. This is in a similar vein to
the personal letters mentioned above. This is clearly not a specific order for
any particular individuals to take their own disciples, but rather a general statement
of principle. As will be seen later, on the 'Appt. tape' (p.21),
which is used in GII as principle evidence for the M.A.S.S. system, Srila
Prabhupada still had not given the diksa guru order even as late as May,
1977 ("On my order, [...] But by my order, [...] When I order").
And this situation remained unchanged until his departure. Furthermore, later
on in the same lecture, he encourages his disciples to channel these acarya
ambitions in the following manner:
to become acarya is not very difficult. [...] amara ajnaya guru hana
tara ei desa, yare dekha tare kaha krsna-upadesa: "By following My order,
you become guru." [...] Then, in future... suppose you have got now ten thousand.
We shall expand to hundred thousand. That is required. Then hundred thousand to
million; and million to ten million."
(SP C.c. Lecture, 6/4/75, Mayapur)
It has already been demonstrated
that Lord Caitanya's instruction was for everyone to preach vigorously, make lots
of Krsna conscious followers, but not to take disciples. This point is
re-inforced where Srila Prabhupada encourages his disciples to make many more
devotees. It is significant that Srila Prabhupada states "suppose you have
got now ten thousand..." (i.e. in Srila Prabhupada's presence).
From this it is clear he is talking about Krsna conscious followers, not 'disciples
of his disciples', since the main point of the lecture was that they should
not initiate in his presence. The implication being then, that just as at that
time there may have been around ten thousand followers of Krsna Consciousness,
so in the future millions more would be added. The ritvik system was to
ensue that when these followers became suitably qualified for initiation, they
could receive diksa from Srila Prabhupada, just as they could when he gave
the above lecture.
In conclusion :
There is no evidence of Srila
Prabhupada issuing specific orders for his disciples to become diksa gurus,
thus setting up an alternative to the ritvik system.
What we do have is a handful
of (at the time) unpublished personal letters, sent only to individuals who were
desiring to become diksa gurus even in Srila Prabhupada's presence, sometimes
having only recently joined the Movement. In such cases they are told to wait
until Srila Prabhupada leaves the planet before they fulfil their ambitions. The
very fact that they were unpublished at the time of the July 9th letter
means that they were not intended to have any direct bearing on the future of
initiation within ISKCON.
Furthermore, Srila Prabhupada's
books and conversations only contain instructions for his disciples to be siksa
gurus. Though the general principle of a disciple becoming a diksa
guru is mentioned, Srila Prabhupada does not specifically order his disciples
to initiate and take their own disciples.
The above then does not represent
grounds for supplanting the explicit instruction of July 9th,
an order that was distributed to the whole Movement as a specific policy document.
There is clearly no equivalent document
outlining the M.A.S.S.
Thus the idea that Srila Prabhupada
had taught far and wide that all his disciples should become diksa gurus,
immediately on his departure, shortly after or indeed ever, is nothing but a myth.
It is commonly stated that Srila
Prabhupada did not need to spell out in the final July 9th letter what
was to be done about future initiations, since he had already explained again
and again in his books, letters, lectures, and conversations precisely what he
wanted to happen. Sadly this assertion, apart from being totally false, merely
raises further absurdities:
If Srila Prabhupada's previous
teachings on how he wanted to continue initiations in his absence were really
so crystalline clear that he saw no need to issue a specific directive on the
matter; then why did the GBC send a special delegation to his bedside in the first
place? A delegation whose principal objective it was to find out what was to be
done about initiations 'particularly' at that time when he was no longer with
them! (Please see 'Appt. tape', p.21). Srila
Prabhupada was in ill health, about to leave his body, and here we have his most
senior men asking him elementary questions which he had supposedly already answered
scores of times over the preceding decade.
If Srila Prabhupada had clearly
spelled out the M.A.S.S. system, why did he leave so little instruction on how
to set it up that shortly after his departure his most senior men0 felt compelled
to question Sridhar Maharaja on how to operate it?
If it really was so clear to
everyone precisely how Srila Prabhupada wanted everyone to become diksa
guru, then why did the GBC set up the '11 diksa gurus only' zonal acarya system,
and allow it to run for an entire decade?
Although we have been somewhat
critical of the GBC's paper GII, there is one passage in it relating to this issue
which we feel totally encapsulates the mood that will re-unite Srila Prabhupada's
disciple's only duty is to worship and serve his spiritual master. His mind should
not be agitated over how he may become guru. A devotee who sincerely wants to
make spiritual advancement should try to become a disciple, not a spiritual master."
(GII, p. 25, GBC 1995)
We could not agree more.
*(1) - This interpretation is advocated in Ajamila
das's paper 'Regular or Ritvik', published in the GBC's ISKCON Journal
*(2) - We would like to
point out that most of the devotees mentioned above have since recognised their
faults, and thus we apologise for any offence or embarrassment we may have caused.
Perhaps they may appreciate the fact that personal letters sent by Srila Prabhupada,
to specifically address their individual anarthas are currently being used
to support the M.A.S.S. within ISKCON.
8) "Maybe there is some sastric principle
in Srila Prabhupada's books that forbids the granting of diksa when the
guru is not on the same planet as the disciple?"
There is no such statement
in Srila Prabhupada's books, and since Srila Prabhupada's books contain all essential
sastric principles, such a restriction simply can not exist in our philosophy.
The use of a ritvik system
after Srila Prabhupada's departure would actually be in line with Srila Prabhupada's
many instructions stating the immateriality of physical association in the guru-disciple
relationship (please see Appendices). After reading these quotes one can
see how some members of the GBC have presented a somewhat different picture over
Prabhupada has taught us that the disciplic succession is a living affair [...]
The law of disciplic succession is that one approaches a living spiritual master
- living in the sense of being physically present."
(Sivarama Swami ISKCON Journal, p.31, Gaura
It is hard to reconcile the above
assertion with statements such as:
"Physical presence is not
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 present:
"Therefore one must take advantage
of the vani, not the physical presence."
(C.c. Antya, concluding words)
Srila Prabhupada practically
demonstrated this principle by initiating large numbers of his disciples without
ever meeting them physically at all. This fact in itself proves that diksa
can be obtained without any physical involvement from the guru. There is nothing
in sastra, or from Srila Prabhupada, linking diksa with physical
presence. Therefore, the continuation of the ritvik system is perfectly
consistent with both sastra and the example our acarya set whilst
he was physically present.
In one of the main sections on
diksa in Srila Prabhupada's books, it is stated that the only requirement
for receiving it is the agreement of the guru. This agreement was totally delegated
to the ritviks:
"So without waiting for me,
wherever you consider it is right. That will depend on discretion."
(SP Room conversation, 7/7/77, Vrindavan)
Srila Prabhupada instructs us
"As far as the time of diksa
(initiation) is concerned, everything depends on the position of the guru.[...]
If the sad-guru, the bona fide spiritual master agrees, one can be initiated
immediately, without waiting for a suitable time or place."
(C.c. Madhya, 24.331, purport)
It is significant to note that
there is no stipulation that the diksa guru and the prospective disciple
must have physical contact. Or that the diksa guru has to be physically
present to give his agreement (it is also interesting that Srila Prabhupada equates
the term sad-guru with the term diksa guru). Srila Prabhupada has
stated many times that the requirement for being initiated is simply to abide
by the rules and regulations he had taught over and over again:
"This is the process of initiation.
The disciple must admit that he will no longer commit sinful activity [...] He
promises to execute the order of the spiritual master. Then, the spiritual
master takes care of him and elevates him to spiritual emancipation."
(C.c. Madhya, 24.256)
How important is formal initiation?
Formal initiation means to accept
officially to abide by the orders of Krsna and his representative. That is formal
(SP Lecture, 22/2/73, Auckland)
Who is my disciple? First of all let
him follow strictly the disciplined rules.
As long as one is following, then he is...
Then he is all right. (SP
Morning walk, 13/6/76, Detroit)
"...unless there is discipline,
there is no question of disciple. Disciple means one who follows the discipline."
(SP Morning walk, 8/3/76, Mayapur)
Does the definition of the word diksa imply
a connection with the guru being physically present on the planet?
"Diksa is the process
by which one can awaken his transcendental knowledge and vanquish all reactions
caused by sinful activity. A person expert in the study of the revealed scriptures
knows this process as diksa."
(C.c. Madhya, 15.108, purport) (please
see 'Diksa' diagram, in book )
There is nothing in this definition
of diksa that in any way implies that the guru needs to be on the same
planet as the disciple in order for it to work properly. Conversely, Srila Prabhupada's
instructions and personal example prove categorically that the elements, which
constitute diksa, can be utilised without the need for the guru's physical
"Reception of spiritual knowledge
is never checked by any material condition."
(S.B. 7.7.1, purport)
"The potency of transcendental
sound is never minimised because the vibrator is apparently absent."
(S.B. 2.9.8, purport)
Thus, all the elements of diksa
-, transcendental knowledge, the receiving of the mantra etc., can be effectively
delivered without the guru's physical presence.
In summary, it can be shown conclusively
that there is no sastric principle mentioned in any of Srila Prabhupada's
books that precludes the granting of diksa once the guru leaves the earth
planet. Although historical precedent is sometime cited as an objection, historical
precedent is not a sastric principal. Our philosophy is based on
following sastric injunctions not historical tradition. This is
the very thing that distinguishes ISKCON from virtually every other Gaudiya Vaisnava
group. There are many influential smarta brahmins in India who strongly
criticise the lack of adherence to tradition exhibited by Srila Prabhupada.
Sastric statements, along
with the practical example of Srila Prabhupada himself, fully support the principle
that diksa is not dependent in any way on the guru's physical presence
"Since this instruction would lead to the setting
up of a system that is unprecedented, and has no historical basis, it should be
This can not be a reason to reject
the July 9th order since Srila Prabhupada set many precedents - (reducing
the number of required rounds of japa from sixty-four to sixteen, performing
marriages, allowing women to live in the temples, giving gayatri mantra
by tape, etc). Indeed, it is a distinguishing feature of acaryas in our
line that, practically without exception, they set their own historical precedents.
As acaryas, it is their prerogative to do this; albeit in accordance with
sastric principles. As already stated, the use of ritviks without
the guru's physical presence on the planet does not violate any sastric principle.
Srila Prabhupada's books contain all essential sastric principles, and
since there is no mention in his books of the guru needing to be on the planet
at the time of initiation, it can not be a principle. Thus the historical precedent
of continuing to use ritviks after his departure can only be a change in
detail, not in principle.
Srila Prabhupada did many things,
particularly connected with initiation, which were unprecedented, yet we do not
reject them (please see box on page 29,
in book). It may be argued that he explained some of these changes in his books.
This is true, but there were many he did not explain in his books. Besides, there
was no need to give detailed explanations of the ritvik system in his books
since he had practically demonstrated prototypes of it for many years, with the
final touches of how it was to continue fully elucidated in the July 9th
order. Srila Prabhupada never taught us to just blindly follow tradition.:
"Our only tradition
is how to satisfy Visnu." (SP
Bg. Lecture, 30/7/73, London)
"No. Tradition, religion,
they are all material. They are also all designations."
(SP Room conversation, 13/3/75, Teheran)
Whether precisely the same orders
we received from Srila Prabhupada were ever issued by a previous acarya
is utterly irrelevant. Our only duty is to follow the orders given to us by our
If a system of initiation
can be rejected solely on the grounds that it has no exact historical precedent,
then we would certainly be forced to reject the current guru system within ISKCON
by the same token.
Never before has a plethora of
diksa gurus been subordinate to a committee, which could suspend or terminate
their initiating activities. No previous initiating acarya in our line
has ever been voted into office with a two-thirds majority vote, nor subsequently
fallen prey to gross sinful activity and as a consequence been hastily withdrawn
from the 'disciplic succession'. We reject such irregular practices, not
on the grounds of historical precedent, but because they clash violently with
many of the basic tenets of Vaisnava philosophy found in Srila Prabhupada's
books, and are in blatant violation of Srila Prabhupada's final order.
The fact that the identical system
to ritvik is not directly mentioned in sastra, or ancient Vedic
texts, is also not pertinent. According to some Vedic rules, sudras and
women should not even receive brahmin initiation at all:
"Diksa cannot be offered
to a sudra [...] This initiation is offered not according to Vedic rules,
because it is very difficult to find out a qualified brahmana."
(SP Bg. Lecture, 29/3/71, Bombay)
Thus, strictly speaking, Srila
Prabhupada should not have initiated any of his western disciples since they were
all born lower than the lowest Vedic caste. Srila Prabhupada was able to over-rule
such Vedic laws through the invocation of higher order sastric injunctions. He
sometimes exercised these injunctions in ways that had never been applied before:
"As Hari is not subject to
the criticism of mundane rules and regulations, the spiritual master empowered
by Him is also not subjected.
(C.c. Madhya, 10.136, text and purport)
"Therefore the mercy of the
Supreme Personality of Godhead and Isvara Puri is not subjected to any Vedic rules
and regulations" (C.c.
The important point is that although the ritvik
system may be totally unique, (at least as far as we know), it does not violate
higher order sastric principles. It is testament to Srila Prabhupada's
genius that he was able to apply such sastric principles in new and novel
ways according to time, place and circumstance.
Perhaps we have yet to fully
grasp just how unique Srila Prabhupada is. There has never been a world acarya
before. No previous acarya has ever stated that his books would be
the law books for ten thousand years. Here there has never been anything like
ISKCON before. Why should we be so surprised that such an unprecedented personality
might decide to set a semingly unusual initiation system?
10) "Since there is no specific mention of
the ritvik system prior to July 9th, 1977, it could not possibly have
been intended to continue past Srila Prabhupada's disappearance."
This objection rests on the premise that Srila
Prabhupada would never spring anything new on the Movement. Taken literally,
this objection is absurd, for it means that any order from the guru can be rejected
if it is new, or even just a bit different from ones issued previously. It infers
that in his final months Srila Prabhupada should not have delivered far-reaching
instructions regarding his Society, unless everyone was already familiar with
As we have explained, the ritvik
system was not 'new' anyway. Prior to the July 9th letter, the
experience of diksa initiation in the Movement would have predominantly
been through the use of representatives. Srila Prabhupada was the diksa
guru in ISKCON, and most initiation ceremonies, particularly in the later years,
were performed by a Temple President or some other representative or priest.
The most notable difference after
July 9th, 1977 was that the acceptance of new disciples would now be
done by representatives without recourse to Srila Prabhupada. The letter, which
was sent out to new initiates, would no longer be signed by Srila Prabhupada,
and the selection of all the initiates' names would be done by the ritviks.
Also the procedure was now linked with the relatively unfamiliar word -
To get connected to the bona
fide acarya through the use of representatives was the experience of initiation
that was familiar for thousands of disciples. The July 9th letter defines
the word 'ritvik' as meaning: 'representative of the acarya'.
Clearly the system of being initiated by Srila Prabhupada through the use of representatives
was nothing 'new' at all. It was merely the continuation of what Srila
Prabhupada had taught and put in practice as soon as his Movement reached a state
of rapid growth.
Why should it have come
as such a great shock that this system would continue beyond November 14th,
Although unfamiliar to many,
the word 'ritvik' was not new either. The word and its derivatives had
already been defined 32 times by Srila Prabhupada in his books. What was 'new'
was that the system which had already been in existence for many years was now
put in writing with the necessary adjustments for the future. Hardly suprising,
since Srila Prabhupada was at this time issuing many documents in writing regarding
the future of his Movement. This arrangement was actually a re-endorsement of
a system that everyone had already come to consider as standard practise.
what was 'new' was the curious metamorphosis of the ritviks into
the 'material and spiritual pure successor acaryas' to Srila Prabhupada.
This particular innovation came as such a shock that many hundreds of disciples
left the Movement shortly after its implementation, with thousands to follow them.
We have demonstrated that there
is no direct evidence supporting the termination of the ritvik system
on Srila Prabhupada's departure, nor the subsequent transformation of the ritviks
into diksa gurus - assumptions a) and
b) . Even if there was extremely strong
indirect evidence supporting a) and
b) , it would still be debatable whether it
could actually supplant the direct evidence, since this usually takes precedence.
However, as just demonstrated, there is not even a shred of indirect evidence
supporting the discarding of the ritvik system on Srila Prabhupada's departure.
- An instruction was issued to
the whole Movement to be followed
- Direct evidence
- An examination of the instruction
itself, as well as other supporting and subsequent instructions, only supports
the continuation of the ritvik system -
- There is no direct evidence
of Srila Prabhupada specifically ordering the termination of the ritvik
system upon his departure
- There is also
no indirect evidence
on the basis of the instruction, sastra,
other instructions, special circumstances, the background, the nature and the
context of the instruction, nor anything else we can conceive of, that gives valid
grounds for stopping the ritvik system at the time of Srila Prabhupada's
departure. Interestingly, in examining these other factors we find only further
indirect evidence supporting the continued application of the order.
In view of the above analysis,
we humbly submit that the revoking of Srila Prabhupada's final instruction regarding
initiation on November 14th 1977, was at best an arbitrary and unauthorised
act. We can find no evidence to support assumptions a)
which, as we have said, form the very foundation of ISKCON's current guru policy.
To re-comply with Srila Prabhupada's original order is our only option
as disciples, followers and servants of Srila Prabhupada.
To further assist with this compliance
we will now go through the May 28th conversation and a number of related
objections that appear to have given rise to confusion.
The GBC claims in GII that
the sole justification for modifications a) & b) to the
final July 9th order comes from a taped room conversation which took
place in Vrindavan on May 28th, 1977. These modifications are given
below for reference:
a) : That the appointment of
representatives or ritviks was only temporary, specifically to be terminated
on the departure of Srila Prabhupada.
b) : Having ceased their representational
function, the ritviks would automatically become diksa gurus, initiating
persons as their own disciples, not Srila Prabhupada's.
This section therefore will be
dedicated to a close scrutiny of the May 28th conversation to see if
it can be legitimately used to modify the final order in terms of a)
and b) above.
Since the entire GBC position
rests on just this one piece of evidence it is quite worrying that they have already
published at least four different versions, or transcripts, of this
very same evidence. These differing transcripts appeared in the following publications:
• 1985: Under
My Order (Ravindra Svarupa das)
• 1990: ISKCON Journal (GBC)
• 1994: Continuing The Parampara (Sivarama
• 1995: Gurus and Initiation in ISKCON (GII)
To be presented with four
different versions of the same taped conversation in itself raises a number of
serious questions. For example, it would not be unreasonable to ask, which is
the correct version? Why are their differing versions in the first place? Is the
transcript a composite of more than one conversation? Has the tape itself been
edited from more than one conversation? Has there been more than one version of
the tape released? If so, can we be sure that any version is true to any actual
conversation? Thus already, even before the evidence is examined, we are placed
in the invidious position of being expected to modify a signed letter through
the analysis of a tape transcript, over which hang serious questions of authenticity.
However since a large part of
the transcript is common to all versions, we shall allow a composite of the four
different transcripts, to be considered as evidence. So here is the conversation,
with the variations in brackets:
dasa Goswami: Then our next question concerns initiations in the future,
(2) particularly at that
time when you are no longer with us. We want to know how
(3) first and second initiation(s)
would be conducted.
Prabhupada: Yes. I shall recommend some of you. After this is settled
(5) I shall recommend
some of you to act as officiating acarya(s).
Krsna Goswami: Is that called
Prabhupada: Ritvik. Yes.
dasa Goswami: (Then) What is the relationship
of that person who gives the initiation and ...
Prabhupada: He's guru. He's guru.
dasa Goswami: But he does it on your behalf.
Prabhupada: Yes. That is formality. Because in my presence one should
not become guru,
(12) so on my behalf.
On my order, amara ajnaya guru hana, (he is) (be) actually
(13) But by my order.
dasa Goswami: So (then) (they) (they'll)
(may) also be considered your disciples?
Prabhupada: Yes, they are disciples, (but) (why) consider ... who
Krsna Goswami: No. He is asking that these ritvik acaryas, they
are officiating, giving diksa,
the people who they give diksa to, whose disciples are they?
Prabhupada: They are his disciples.
Krsna Goswami: They are his disciples
Prabhupada: Who is initiating ... (his) (he is) grand-disciple ...
dasa Goswami: (Yes)
Krsna Goswami: (That's clear)
Krsna Goswami: (Let's go on)
dasa Goswami: Then we have a question
Srila Prabhupada: When I order you become guru, he becomes regular
(26) That's all.
He becomes disciple of my disciple. (That's it). (Just see).
As we have previously mentioned
neither the July 9th order, nor any subsequent document signed by Srila
Prabhupada, ever refers back to the above conversation. This is quite peculiar
since the central argument of GII is that this brief exchange of words
is absolutely crucial to the proper understanding of the July 9th order.
This was not the regular way
in which Srila Prabhupada issued instructions to his vast world-wide organisation,
i.e., by releasing incomplete and misleading written directives which could only
be properly understood by rummaging through old taped conversations.
When one considers the magnitude
of the order in question, namely the continuation of the Sankirtan mission for
up to ten thousand years, and what happened to the Gaudiya Math over precisely
this issue, it seems inconceivable that Srila Prabhupada would have managed things
in this way. However this is what we must believe if we are to accept the present
GBC position. Let us now proceed carefully through the composite transcript, paying
particular attention to all the lines which GII claim support the above
mentioned modifications to the July 9th order.
Lines 1-3: Here
Satsvarupa dasa Goswami asks Srila Prabhupada a specific question regarding how
initiations will run in the future - 'particularly at that time when
you are no longer with us'. Whatever answer Srila Prabhupada gives we know
it will be particularly relevant to after his departure, since that is
the time frame Satsvarupa is clearly concerned with, i.e. - 'when you are no
longer with us'.
Lines 4-7: Here
Srila Prabhupada answers Satsvarupa dasa Goswami's question. He says he will be
appointing some disciples to act as 'officiating acarya', or 'ritviks'.
Having clearly answered the question Srila Prabhupada remains silent. He offers
no further elaboration at this point, nor does he qualify, nor attempt to qualify
his answer. We therefore must assume that this was his answer. The only alternatives
to this view are either:
Srila Prabhupada deliberately answered the question incorrectly
Or he did not hear the question properly and thought that
Satsvarupa dasa Goswami was only asking about what was to be done whilst he was
No disciple of Srila Prabhupada
would even consider option 1), and if option 2) were the case, then
the conversation can tell us nothing about the future of initiation for after
his departure; hence we would still be left with an un-modified July 9th
order as his only statement on future initiations.
Sometimes people have argued
that the full answer is only properly revealed, piecemeal as it were, throughout
the rest of the conversation. The problem with this proposition is that, in issuing
instructions in such a manner, Srila Prabhupada would only correctly answer the
original question posed by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami if the following conditions
- That somebody took it upon
themselves to ask more questions.
- That by sheer luck they would
happen upon the right questions to get the correct answer to Satsvarupa Maharaja's
This would be an eccentric way
for anyone to answer a question, what to speak of direct a world-wide organisation,
and was certainly not Srila Prabhupada's style. Indeed if, as is being proposed
by the GBC, he went to all the trouble of issuing a letter to the whole Movement
with instructions on initiation which were only to have relevance for four months,
surely he would not have dealt in such an obscurest manner with instructions which
could run for as long as ten thousand years.
Clearly if we are looking to
this transcript to incontrovertibly support modifications a)
& b) we are
not doing very well so far. Srila Prabhupada is asked what will happen about initiations,
particularly when he leaves: he answers he will be appointing ritviks. This completely
contradicts both of the GBC's proposed modifications and simply reinforces the
idea that the July 9th order was meant to run 'henceforward'.
Let us read on:
Lines 8-9: Here
Satsvarupa dasa Goswami asks what relationship the initiator has with the
person being initiated. Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami does not quite finish his question
when Srila Prabhupada immediately answers 'he is guru'. Since ritviks,
by definition, are not the initiators, Srila Prabhupada can only have been
referring to himself as the 'guru' of those being initiated. This is confirmed
in the July 9th letter where it states three times that those being
initiated were to be the disciples of Srila Prabhupada.
Sometimes the curious theory
is put forward that when Srila Prabhupada says 'he is guru', he is really
talking about the ritviks themselves. This is quite bizarre since Srila
Prabhupada has only just defined the word ritvik as 'officiating acarya'-literally
a priest who conducts some type of religious or ceremonial function. In the July
9th letter Srila Prabhupada clarifies precisely what ceremonial function
these priests will conduct. They were supposed to give spiritual names to new
initiates, and in the case of second initiation, chant on their gayatri
thread - all on Srila Prabhupada's behalf. That was it. There is no mention of
them being diksa gurus, initiating their own disciples or being Spiritual
Masters on their own behalf. The letter specifically defines ritvik as
'representative of the acarya' They were to act on behalf of the
acarya, not as acaryas in their own right. This being the case why
would Srila Prabhupada cloud the issue by calling the ritviks 'guru'? If
they were initiating gurus all along, why not just call them that to save confusion?
When discussing philosophical
or managerial issues surrounding his position as Acarya, Srila Prabhupada
would often speak of himself in the third person. It is particularly understandable
that he should do so here since Satsvarupa dasa Goswami's questions at this point
are posed in that tense.
Thus the conversation can
only make sense if we take it that Srila Prabhupada is the 'guru' who was initiating
new disciples, through his representatives, the ritviks.
Although Srila Prabhupada's answers
are quite clear and consistent, it does seem as though there is some confusion
in the mind of the questioner at this point. This is where Satsvarupa dasa Goswami
asks on Line 10 - 'But he does it on your behalf'. The 'he' Satsvarupa
dasa Goswami is referring to is the ritvik, whereas the 'he' that
Srila Prabhupada was referring to, as we have shown, could only have been himself,
since he is the only initiator within the ritvik system. Despite
his disciples apparent confusion Srila Prabhupada deftly adapts his next answer
to match Satsvarupa dasa Goswami's actual concern, namely the status of these
Lines 11-13: This
is where it is claimed in GII that there is evidence for modification
a) . Before considering whether or not these
lines do constitute such evidence, we should first remember the analysis of lines
If lines 11-13 do establish
modification a) , this will only be at the expense
of contradicting lines 1-7 where Srila Prabhupada has already clearly answered
that ritviks were to be appointed 'particularly' for after his departure.
So if indeed modification a) is established
in lines 11-13, the implication is that Srila Prabhupada contradicted a
statement he himself made just moments before. Should this be the case it would
once more render the transcript useless for determining anything about future
initiations, since two totally contradictory positions would be equally validated
in the same conversation. Again we would be forced to refer back to the final
July 9th order in an un-modified condition.
Let us see if this did in fact
happen. Remember we are looking for a specific statement that the ritviks must
cease their duties once Srila Prabhupada departs. In other words that they can
only operate in his presence.
On reading lines 11-13
we see that all that is stated is that the ritviks must operate in his
presence because in his presence they can not be guru. Thus Srila Prabhupada is
simply re-stating a principle he occasionally invoked in his dealings with ambitious
disciples: that in the presence of the guru one must act only on his behalf.
However what Srila Prabhupada does not say is that this 'acting on his behalf'
must cease once he leaves the planet. He also does not say that 'acting on his
behalf' can only happen whilst he is present. Indeed nowhere thus far has
he directly linked his physical presence in any way with the concept of
acting on his behalf, but rather simply states it as a reason that prevents
his disciples from being guru, and it is this 'not being guru' which is linked
to acting as a ritvik.
In other words, at the time of
this conversation, one of the reasons they could not be diksa guru was
Srila Prabhupada's physical presence. But this is not the only hurdle preventing
his disciples from taking on the diksa guru mantle, as we learn on the
very next line.
On line 12 we see that
being guru also depends on receiving a specific order from Srila Prabhupada -
'On my order'. He repeats this condition on line 13 -
'But by my order', and once more on line 25 - 'When
I order'. It is quite clear then that this cannot be the order proper,
otherwise why say 'When I order'? If this was the actual
order to become guru after his departure, as the GBC maintains, then surely he
would have said something like: 'I am now ordering you, that as soon as I leave,
you stop being ritviks and become diksa gurus'. Such a statement
would certainly lend some credibility to the current GBC position and the M.A.S.S.
doctrine. However, as can be seen, nothing even remotely resembling such a statement
can be found anywhere in the May 28th conversation. It is further argued
that the use of the 'amara ajanya' verse at this point means that the order
to be diksa guru had already been given, since this order
from Lord Caitanya had been repeated many times by Srila Prabhupada. However the
'amara ajnaya' order, as we have seen, refers only to siksa guru;
we know that the order to become diksa guru had not yet been given since
Srila Prabhupada states 'When I order I order
I order'. Therefore Srila Prabhupada's use of the verse at this point is simply
to convey the notion of an order needing to be given before guruship, of whatever
type, is taken up.
There is certainly nothing on
lines 11-13 which in any way modifies Srila Prabhupada's clear reply to
Satsvarupa's original question - (lines 1-7) Thus our understanding
of lines 1-7 remains intact. Srila Prabhupada did not contradict himself,
the July 9th order stands so far unmodified
What lines 11-13 do establish
is that the ritvik system was to operate whilst Srila Prabhupada was still
present., but not that it can only operate whilst he is present. The July
9th letter makes this clear anyway by the use of the word 'henceforward'.
The word 'henceforward' encompasses all time frames from that day onwards, regardless
of Srila Prabhupada's physical proximity. Let
us read on:
Lines 14-15: Interestingly
at this point Satsvarupa dasa Goswami asks a question in the first person: 'So
then they'll also be considered your disciples?' Srila Prabhupada answers
'Yes, they are disciples...' Once more confirming the ownership of any future
disciples. Although it is not clear what Srila Prabhupada is going on to say,
his initial answer is quite definite. He is asked a direct question, in the first
person, and he answers 'Yes'.
If the GBC had any hope of upholding
modifications a) & b)
Srila Prabhupada would have had to answer this question something along the
lines of: 'No, they are not my disciples' Whatever Srila Prabhupada was
going on to say is irrelevant since no-one can ever know. We only know that when
asked whether future initiates were to be his disciples, he answered 'Yes'.
Again not a good sign for the modifications a)
Tamal Krsna Goswami seems to sense some confusion here and interrupts Srila Prabhupada.
He further clarifies Satsvarupa dasa Goswami's question by asking Srila Prabhupada
whose disciples are those who are being given diksa by the ritviks.
Once again Srila Prabhupada answers in the third person (having been asked the
question in the third person): 'They are his disciples'. As we have
discussed he can only be referring to himself since ritviks do not, by
definition, possess their own disciples. Furthermore we know that he was definitely
referring to himself since he answers the question in the singular ('his disciples...who
is initiating'), having been asked the question about the ritviks in the
plural ( 'these ritvik-acaryas').
One idea, which is sometimes
put forward, is that at this point in the conversation Tamal Krsna Goswami is
asking the question in some vaguely futuristic sense, about an unspecified time
frame in which the ritviks have somehow transformed themselves into diksa
gurus. According to this theory when Srila Prabhupada, who is now presumably
mystically attuned to Tamal Krsna Goswami's mind set, answers that future initiates
are 'his disciples', what he actually means is that they are disciples
of the ritviks, who are now not ritviks at all, but diksa gurus.
Leaving aside the fact that this fanciful 'meeting of minds' is both unlikely
and highly speculative, there is at least one other problem with this hypothesis:
Up till this point Srila Prabhupada
has not stated that the ritviks, which he has yet to appoint, will ever
act in any capacity other than as ritviks. So why would Tamal Krsna Goswami
have assumed their status was to change?
Tamal Krsna Goswami repeats the answer, and then Srila Prabhupada continues; 'who
is initiating ... his grand-disciple.' We have chosen the transcript version
'his grand-disciple' over the version 'he is grand-disciple' since
it most closely resembles the tape, and seems to flow best with the sense of the
conversation. (Otherwise the person initiating would simultaneously become a grand-disciple!
- 'who is initiating ... he is grand-disciple.')
The argument that when speaking
here in the third person, Srila Prabhupada must be referring to the ritviks
and not himself, can be tested by modifying the conversation in accordance with
this view, replacing third person with first person statements (shown in brackets),
for lines 17-20 :
TKG: Whose disciples
They are (the ritvik's) disciples.
TKG: They are
(the ritvik's) disciples.
(The ritvik) is initiating ... (The ritvik's) grand-disciple ...
Given the premise that ritviks
are only officiating, and that their role is only representational,
it should be self-evident to the reader that this interpretation of lines 17-20
is nonsense. It is a contradiction in terms for a ritvik to have their
own disciples, what to speak of grand-disciples.
The accusation has been made
that we are in some way twisting Srila Prabhupada's words by taking third person
to be first person statements. However we feel our interpretation is consistent
with the function Srila Prabhupada assigned to his ritviks. There appears
to be just two possible options for interpretation in considering this conversation:
1) Future new disciples were
to belong to ritvik priests, who by definition are not diksa gurus,
but officiators who have been set up specifically to act as proxies.
2) Future new disciples were
to belong to the diksa guru, Srila Prabhupada.
Option 1) is just absurd. Therefore
we have gone for option 2) as the only rational choice, and have thus interpreted
the tape accordingly.
Lines 25-26: Srila
Prabhupada concludes with the unequivocal stipulation that only when he
orders will anyone become guru. At such a juncture new initiates would be 'disciple
of my disciple'.
A great deal is made of the use
of the term 'grand-disciple'. For many, the use of this phrase by Srila Prabhupada
acts as a clincher, since you can only have grand-disciples if there are diksa
gurus. This is true. Unfortunately the words following the term 'his grand-disciple'
are usually ignored. Srila Prabhupada goes on to state that a grand-disciple and
hence a diksa guru will only exist when Srila Prabhupada
orders his disciple to become a diksa guru. In other words Srila Prabhupada
is simply saying that when a guru orders his disciple to become a diksa
guru, he will have grand-disciples ('his grand- disciple'), since the new diksa
guru will then be initiating in his own right ('he becomes disciple
of my disciple').
This seems straightforward enough,
a point nobody could dispute. But where is the order for this guruship to occur?
Certainly not on lines 25-26, nor for that matter anywhere else in the
In actuality the May 28th
conversation is not ordering any specific person to do anything at all. Srila
Prabhupada is simply making known his intention to appoint ritviks at some
point in the future. He then goes on to answer slightly muddled questions about
guru-disciple relationships within the ritvik system. He then concludes
with a statement about what would happen should he ever decide to give the relevant
order to someone to become a diksa guru. It is clear though that
the specific order naming specific people to perform specific functions was first
made on July 7th (please see Appendices), and then confirmed
in the signed letter of July 9th. But as can be seen from reading the
July 9th letter, there is no mention whatsoever of the eleven appointed
ritviks ever becoming diksa gurus; or for the ritvik system to ever
After our exhaustive analysis
of the May 28th conversation, it is clear that what the GBC is presenting
is a classic circular argument:
In order to support modifications
a) and b),,,
which are absolutely vital to the current position on gurus within ISKCON, we
are told we must modify the July 9th letter using an 'order'
which Srila Prabhupada gave in the May 28th transcript. However, having
read the transcript carefully we see that Srila Prabhupada says they can only
be gurus 'When I order'. So how can it be asserted that this 'When I
order' was the same 'order' that was finally put in place on July 7th
and 9th, since this 'order' is purely for the creation of ritviks,
and is the very same 'order' which was required by the GBC to be modified
in the first place in order to support their crucial a)
and b) modifications?
Unfortunately, in adopting
the line of reasoning championed in GII, we find ourselves drawn inexorably towards
the above absurd dialectical impasse.
As an aid to understanding
the above impasse please see the flow chart in 'Diagrams'. (in book only)
Ultimately, the biggest problem
with the whole 'modification' theory, apart from the obvious absence of
any supportive evidence, is that you cannot
legitimately modify an instruction with information which was not available to
the very people who were supposed to carry out the instruction.
If it was indeed the case that
the May 28th conversation had contained clear instructions supporting
and b) , then surely the final letter should
have contained at least some hint of them. Indeed the main purpose of the meeting
on May 28th was to clearly establish what was to be done about initiations
after Srila Prabhupada left the planet. And yet it is being proposed that
when Srila Prabhupada finally releases his last written directive on initiation,
he somehow only addressed what was to be done before he left the planet.
In other words the subject Srila
Prabhupada was not being asked about he supposedly gave clear and emphatic
directives on; whilst the really important matter, the one which everyone did
want to know about, i.e. the future of initiations for up to ten thousand years,
he entirely omitted to address in his last signed instruction on the issue.
We can find no example of Srila
Prabhupada ever directing his Society in the following manner:
1) Issuing important directives which fail to
even address the main purpose of their being issued.
2) Deliberately withholding vital information
pertaining to an important new system of management.
3) Expecting the recipients of his instructions
to be mystic mind readers in order to correctly follow an instruction.
The common defence: that Srila
Prabhupada did not need to spell out in the final letter what was to be done about
future initiations, since he had already clearly explained in his books and lectures
how he wanted everyone to become a diksa guru, has already been disproved
in objection 7 above (p.9 in book).
There is one further attempt
made in GII to extract something from the May 28th conversation in
support of a) and b)
when it points to Srila Prabhupada's use of the verse 'amara ajnaya guru
hana' on line 12. The verse is also repeated further along
in the May 28th conversation after discussion relating to the translation
of his books. According to this view the ritvik order is identical
to the order to be a diksa guru, simply by merit of Srila Prabhupada mentioning
this famous instruction of Lord Caitanya for 'everyone to become guru' in the
same conversation as he discusses ritviks. But all Srila Prabhupada states
"...one who understands his
guru's order, the same parampara, he can become guru. And therefore I shall select
some of you."
(May 28th Conversation)
The essential points to consider
- What was the 'guru's order' they had to understand?
- To act as ritviks. ( "I shall recommend some of you to act as officiating
- What are they eventually selected to do? - To
act as ritviks. (please see the July
9th letter in Appendices)
- And by following the order of the guru, what
sort of guru do they become? - As was seen earlier from the analysis of Lord Caitanya's
order to 'become guru', anyone who faithfully
executes this order is automatically qualified as a siksa guru.
G11 presents the contradictory
proposition that in following the guru's order to act as ritvik only (not
as a diksa guru) , one should automatically act as a diksa guru.
By this logic anyone who follows
any order given by the guru, has also somehow automatically received a specific
order to become a diksa guru! Unfortunately GII does not offer any evidence
to support this thesis. As shown previously, the use of the 'amara ajnaya'
verse is simply an order for everyone to become a siksa guru only
("It is best not to accept any disciples.").
In conclusion :
- On July 9th 1977 Srila Prabhupada
appointed 11 ritviks to carry out first and second initiations 'henceforward'.
- There is no evidence in the May 28th
conversation, which can be used to modify the July 9th order, such
that the appointed ritviks must cease their duties on Srila Prabhupada's
- There is also nothing in the May 28th
conversation, which can be used to modify the July 9th order such that
the ritviks were to metamorphose into diksa gurus as soon as Srila
Prabhupada left the planet.
- The one thing clearly established in the May
28th conversation is that the ritviks were to operate after
Srila Prabhupada's departure.
It should be noted that there
are at least four different transcripts, and four differing 'official' GBC interpretations
of this very same conversation. Many devotees feel that for this reason alone
the conversation cannot be considered as conclusive evidence. Should this be the
readers conclusion then he will have no choice but to return once more to the
July 9th letter as the final order, since it is a signed letter, clearly written
and sent to the entire Movement. This would certainly be the conclusion in a court
of law; signed written evidence always takes precedence over tape recordings.
The only reason we have examined the May 28th conversation so carefully here is
because the GBC have put forward as the only piece of evidence in support
of modifications a)
We are forced then to reject
totally modifications a)
the very foundations of the GBC's current position on initiation within ISKCON,
since there is no evidence to support them. Consequently, the instructions given
in the July 9th policy document do indeed constitute Srila Prabhupada's
final order on initiation.
There follows some related objections
which we thought it would be helpful to address.
1) "Srila Prabhupada has not mentioned the use
of ritviks in his books."
1) The word 'ritvik' (meaning
priest) and its derivatives actually have 32 separate references in
Srila Prabhupada's books, only slightly less than the word diksa and its
derivatives, which has 41 separate references in Srila Prabhupada books.
Certainly, the use of ritvik priests to assist in ceremonies is a concept
fully sanctioned in Srila Prabhupada's books:
: 4.6.1 / 4.7.16 / 5.3.2 / 5.3.3 / 5.4.17 / 7.3.20 / 8.20.22 / 9.1.15 .
: 4.5.7 / 4.5.18 / 4.7.27 / 4.7.45 / 4.13.26 / 4.19.27 / 4.19.29 / 5.3.4 / 5.3.15
/ 5.3.18 / 5.7.5 8.16.53 / 8.18.21 /8.18.22 / 9.4.23 / 9.6.3 .
: 4.6.52 / 4.21.5 / 8.23.13 / 9.13.1 .
: 8.16.55 .
: 4.7.56 /
9.13.3 .(all these references are from the Srimad-Bhagavatam)
2) Although spiritual principles
were covered extensively by Srila Prabhupada in his books, the specifics
concerning those principles would often not be given (for example in the area
of Deity worship). These specific details would usually be communicated by other
means such as letters, and practical demonstration. Thus, one needs to distinguish
between the principle of diksa or initiation, and the details
of its formalisation. Srila Prabhupada never defined diksa in terms of
any ritualistic ceremony, but as the receipt of trancendental knowledge that leads
"In other words, the spiritual
master awakens the sleeping living entity to his original consciousness so that
he can worship Lord Visnu. This is the purpose of diksa, or initiation.
Initiation means receiving the pure knowledge of spiritual consciousness."
(C.c. Madhya, 9.61, purport)
"Diksa actually means
initiating a disciple with transcendental knowledge by which he becomes freed
from all material contamination."
(C.c. Madhya, 4.111, purport)
"Diksa is the process
by which one can awaken his transcendental knowledge and vanquish all reactions
caused by sinful activity. A person expert in the study of the revealed scriptures
knows this process as diksa."
(C.c. Madhya, 15.108, purport)
normally involves a ceremony, but it is not absolutely essential, more a formality:
"So anyway, from 1922 to 1933
practically I was not initiated, but I got the impression of preaching Caitanya
Mahaprabhu's cult. That I was thinking. And that was the initiation by
my Guru Maharaja."
(SP Lecture, 10/12/76, Hyderabad)
"Initiation is a formality.
If you are serious, that is real initiation. My touch is simply a formality.
It is your determination, that is initiation."
(BTG, Search for the Divine)
"...disciplic succession does
not always mean that one has to be initiated officially. Disciplic succession
means to accept the disciplic conclusion."
(SP Letter to Dinesh, 31/10/69)
"The chanting of Hare Krsna
is our main business, that is real initiation. And as you are all following my
instruction, in that matter, the initiator is already there."
(SP Letter to Tamal Krsna, 19/8/68)
"Well, initiation or no initiation,
first thing is knowledge... knowledge. Initiation is formality. Just like you
go to a school for knowledge, and admission is formality. That is not very important
(SP Interview, 16/10/76, Chandigarh)
Who is my disciple? First of all let
him follow strictly the disciplined rules.
long as they are following, then he is...
Then he is all right.
(SP Morning walk, 13/6/76, Detroit)
"...unless there is
discipline, there is no question of disciple. Disciple means one who follows the
(SP Morning walk, 8/3/76, Mayapur)
"If one does not observe
the discipline, then he is not disciple."
(SP S.B. Lecture, 21/1/74)
Thus the ceremonial initiation is a formality
performed to solidify in the mind of the disciple the serious commitments he has
made to the process of diksa. Such commitments include:
• Receiving transcendental knowledge
which will purify him of all contamination.
• Maintaining the determination to always follow
the order of the diksa guru.
• To begin enthusiastically executing the spiritual
Srila Prabhupada has clearly
stated that the formality of the ceremony is just that, a formality, not an essential.
Furthermore, this formalisation of initiation through a ceremony, itself involves
a number of elements:
1) Recommendation by an official of the institution,
usually the Temple President.
2) Acceptance by acting ritvik.
3) The participation in a fire yajna.
4) The taking of a spiritual name.
It is only points two and four which necessarily
involves a ritvik priest. The other two are usually carried out by the
Temple President or some other qualified brahman.
previously, nowhere is it ever stated that the guru and disciple must co-exist
on the same planet in order for the disciple to receive any element of diksa,
such as transcendental knowledge, annihilation of sinful reactions, a fire yajna
ceremony and a spiritual name. On the other hand, every element of diksa
(knowledge transmission, the yajna, etc.), can be given quite easily without
the guru's physical presence. This was demonstrated practically by Srila Prabhupada,
as he gave all the elements of diksa through intermediaries such as his
disciples and books. Thus, no spiritual principles are changed through
the use of ritviks. Only a change of detail is involved.
Thus, to put into perspective
the use of ritviks, it has been shown that we are dealing with the details
of a formalisation ceremony; a ceremony which itself constitutes but one element,
and an unnecessary element at that, of the transcendental process of diksa.
(please see 'Diksa' diagram)
We note that Srila Prabhupada
dealt with all these elements in a manner proportional to their importance:
EXPLAINED IN BOOKS?
MAJOR CHANGES TO TRADITION?
CHANGES TO TRADITION EXPLAINED
Knowledge given primarily through
vani and not physical contact
Personal pariksa little
New initiation standards
Initiation ceremony process
Use of deputies to chant on initiates
Giving gayatri mantra by
Name giving process
Name given at time of
The use of deputies to give the
Thus the lack of specific mention in Srila Prabhupada's
books, or previous historical application, regarding the use of ritviks in
initiation procedures, is consistent with Srila Prabhupada's general approach
to matters surrounding initiation; specific mention in his books being directly
proportional to the significance of the innovations involved.
2) "How can pariksa (mutual examination between disciple
and guru), an essential element of diksa, be achieved without physical contact?"
This question arises from the stated requirement
that a disciple must 'approach', 'inquire from' and 'render service to' a guru
(Bg. 4.34), and that the guru must 'observe' the disciple (C.c. 24.330).
If we examine these verses carefully the following points become apparent:
- There is no mention that this 'inquiring', 'rendering
service to' and 'observing' necessitates direct physical contact.
- The purport speaks of these activities as being
essential for a disciple. Thus, if these activities absolutely require
the guru to be on the same planet, then no one has been Srila Prabhupada's
disciple since November 14th, 1977.
- The 'inquiring' is done so the 'spiritual master'
can 'impart knowledge'. However, to 'impart knowledge' is also the definition
of siksa, and it is already accepted that in order to impart siksa,
or to accept inquiries pertaining to siksa, the guru does not need to be
on the planet - (please see Appendices). And as explained above, by the
logic of this proposition no one had had any 'knowledge imparted' to them
since November 14th 1977.
- The 'observing' is simply the agreement by the
prospective disciple to follow the regulative principles and can be monitored
by representatives of the guru:
"In our Krsna Consciousness
Movement the requirement is that one must be prepared to give up the four pillars
of sinful life [...] In western countries especially we first observe whether
a potential disciple is prepared to follow the regulative principles."
(C.c. Madhya, 24.330, purport)
This facility to use representatives
is again repeated a few lines later when discussing the observation required for
prospective second initiation candidates:
"In this way the disciple
renders devotional service under the guidance of the spiritual master or his representatives
for at least six months to a year."
(C.c. Madhya, 24.330, purport)
A few lines later we see how
vital the use of representatives really is:
"The spiritual master should
study the disciple's inquisitiveness for no less then six months or a year."
(C.c. Madhya, 24.330, purport)
- Bearing in mind the way in which Srila Prabhupada
had set up the society, the above stipulation would have been impossible
to follow. He could not possibly have observed every one of his thousands of disciples
for a full 6 months. Thus, the use of representatives was not just a matter of
choice, but totally unavoidable if the above requirement was to have been
fulfilled by Srila Prabhupada. If personal (as in him being physically
involved) pariksa by the guru was an inviolable sastric principle,
why would Srila Prabhupada have purposely set up a preaching mission (with disciples
and centres all around the world) that rendered such personal examination
impossible? One is, in effect, arguing that Srila Prabhupada only achieved his
preaching success at the expense of violating sastra, an argument commonly
used by other 'Gaudiya Vaisnava' groups in India.
- All the above points are further substantiated
by the strongest evidence possible - extensive practical example from the acarya
himself: Srila Prabhupada initiated the majority of his disciples without any
personal pariksa. Thus, Srila Prabhupada instituted a system whereby approaching
his representatives for diksa was the same as approaching him directly.
It may be argued that the elimination
of personal pariksa was justified because the guru was still present on
the planet. Thus, at least personal pariksa could theoretically
have occurred. However this argument has no basis since:
- There is no mention of this special get-out
clause for personal pariksa in any scripture. It would simply be an invention
to fit the circumstances after the fact
- When describing the use of representatives for
personal pariksa, Srila Prabhupada never states that they can only exist
if he is on the planet. What hitherto unmentioned sastric principle forces
a limitation on the use of representatives in certain circumstances?
- As demonstrated, the need for personal
pariksa is not a sastric requirement. The use of representatives, such
as his disciples and books, as a substitute for personal pariksa is supported
by Srila Prabhupada. So the question of when personal pariksa may or may
not be eliminated does not even arise
- That diksa was given without physical
contact is itself proof that diksa can be achieved without personal pariksa.
- The very fact that personal pariksa was
not always undertaken, even when it was possible to do so, proves that it can
not be necessary to the process of diksa.
Srila Prabhupada made it very
clear what standards he expected in a disciple; the Temple Presidents and ritviks
were meant to see them continued. The standards for initiation today are identical
to those established by Srila Prabhupada whilst he was present. So if he requested
not to be consulted whilst he was present, what makes us think he would urgently
want to intervene now? The only concern for us is to ensure that the standards
are rigidly maintained without change or speculation.
3) "We may accept Srila Prabhupada, but how do we know
he has accepted us as his disciple even in his physical absence?"
On July 7th, when setting up the ritvik
system, Srila Prabhupada states that the ritviks could accept devotees
as his disciples without consulting him. Thus, Srila Prabhupada was not involved
in the process of screening, or approving new disciples. The ritviks had
full authority and discretion. Srila Prabhupada's physical involvement was not
So without waiting for me, wherever you consider it is right. That will depend
Tamal Krsna Goswami:
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
(SP Room conversation, 7/7/77, Vrindavan)
Furthermore, the names given
by the ritviks would be entered by Tamal Krsna Goswami into the 'initiated
disciples' book. Thus, externally at least, Srila Prabhupada would not even have
been aware of the disciple's existence. Consequently, the process now would be
the same as it was then, since the ritvik has full power of attorney.
4) "Only if diksa initiation has occurred
before the guru leaves the planet is it possible to carry on approaching , enquiring
and serving him in his physical absence."
At least the above assertion concedes the point
that it is possible to approach, enquire from and serve a physically absent
spiritual master. The injunction that this is only possible - 'if the
diksa link is made before the guru leaves the planet' - is pure invention,
with no reference in Srila Prabhupada`s books, and thus can be ignored. Diksa
does not even require a formal initiation ceremony to make it function; it is
the transmission of transcendental knowledge from guru to receptive disciple (along
with the annihilation of sinful reactions):
"...disciplic succession does
not always mean that one has to be initiated officially. Disciplic succession
means to accept the disciplic conclusion."
(SP Letter to Dinesh, 31/10/69 )
"Well, initiation or no initiation,
first thing is knowledge... knowledge. Initiation is formality. Just like you
go to a school for knowledge, and admission is formality. That is not very important
(SP Interview, 16/10/76, Chandigarh)
It is irrational to assert that
the transcendental process of diksa cannot work properly if the guru is
not physically present during a non-essential fire yajna; particularly
- Srila Prabhupada was often not physically present
during initiation ceremonies. They were frequently carried out by his representatives,
i.e. Temple Presidents, senior sannyasis and ritviks.
- It is accepted that many thousands of Srila
Prabhupada's disciples are still benefiting from the process of diksa
(even though their guru has been physically absent for nearly two decades).
It might be argued that although
Srila Prabhupada was not present at these initiations, still he was physically
present on the same planet at the time they took place. So is the guru's physical
presence on the planet during initiation essential to diksa? In order to lend
weight to this argument we would need to find an injunction in Srila Prabhupada's
books to the effect that:
'Diksa can only take
place if the guru is within a distance, not greater than the earth's diameter,
of his disciple during a formal initiation ceremony.'
To date no one has been able
to locate such an injunction. Rather as the quote below shows, a well-known example
of diksa in our philosophy actually contradicts the above proposition:
"So there was no difficulty
in communicating with Manu or Manu's son, Iksvaku. The communication was there,
or the radio system was so nice that communication could be transferred from
one planet to another."
(SP Bg. Lecture, 24/8/68)
It would appear that diksa
is not affected by the physical distances between gurus and disciples.
5) "What you are proposing sounds suspiciously
are not proposing the ritvik
system, Srila Prabhupada is - in the final order. Thus even if it is like
Christianity, we still have to follow it, since it is the order of the guru.
- Srila Prabhupada clearly sanctioned the idea
of the Christians continuing to follow the departed Jesus Christ as their guru.
He taught that anyone who followed Christ's teachings was a disciple, and would
achieve the level of liberation that was being offered by Jesus Christ:
there any way for a Christian to, without the help of a Spiritual Master, to reach
the spiritual sky through believing the words of Jesus Christ and trying to follow
I don't follow.
Tamal Krsna Goswami: Can
a Christian in this age, without a Spiritual Master, but by reading the Bible,
and following Jesus's words, reach the...
When you read the Bible, you follow Spiritual Master. How
can you say without? As soon as you read the Bible, that means you are following
the instruction of Lord Jesus Christ, that means that you are following Spiritual
Master. So where is the opportunity of being without Spiritual Master?
was referring to a living Spiritual Master.
Spiritual Master is not question of...Spiritual Master
is eternal. Spiritual Master is eternal...So
your question is 'without Spiritual Master'. Without Spiritual Master you cannot
be at any stage of your life. You may accept this Spiritual Master or that Spiritual
Master. That is a different thing. But you have to accept. As you say that "by
reading Bible", when you read Bible that means you are following the Spiritual
Master represented by some priest or some clergyman in the line of Lord Jesus
(SP Morning walk, 2/10/68, Seattle)
"Regarding the end of
devotees of Lord Jesus Christ, they can go to heaven, that is all. That
is a planet in the material world. A devotee of Lord Jesus Christ is one who
is strictly following the ten commandments. [...] Therefore the conclusion
is that the devotees of Lord Jesus Christ are promoted to the heavenly planets
which are within this material world."
(SP Letter to Bhagavan, 2/3/70)
"Actually, one who is
guided by Jesus Christ will certainly get liberation." (Perfect
Questions Perfect Answers, chapter 9)
"...Or the Christians
are following Christ, a great personality. mahajano yena gatah sa panthah. You
follow some mahajana, great personality [...] You follow one acarya,
like Christians , they follow Christ, acarya. The Mohammedans, they follow
acarya, Mohammed. That is good. You must follow some acarya [...] evam
parampara-praptam." (SP Room
conversation, 20/5/75, Melbourne)
- This objection to being 'Christian' is ironic,
since the current guru system in ISKCON has itself adopted certain Christian procedures:
- The theology behind the GBC voting in gurus
is similar to the system of the College of Cardinals voting in Popes in the Catholic
procedures [...] for guru candidate [...] who will be established by the voting
members [...] voting for guru process [...] by a two third vote of the GBC [...]
all GBCs are candidates for appointment as guru." (GBC
- Similarly the GBC calls itself "the highest
ecclesiastical body guiding ISKCON" (Back To Godhead 1990-1991):
again 'Christian' terminology.
These particular 'Christian'
practices were never taught by Jesus, and were totally condemned by
"Mundane votes have no jurisdiction
to elect a Vaisnava acarya. A Vaisnava acarya is self effulgent, and there is
no need for any court judgement."
(C.c. Madhya, 1.220, purport)
"Srila Jiva Gosvami advises
that one not accept a spiritual master in terms of hereditary or customary social,
and ecclesiastical conventions."
(C.c. Adi, 1.35, purport)
6) "The ritviks give a type of diksa. Srila Prabhupada
is only our siksa guru."
- The function of the ritvik is distinct
from that of the diksa guru. His only purpose is to assist the diksa
guru in initiating disciples, not take them for himself.
- The ritvik only oversees the initiation
procedure, gives a spiritual name, but he does not even necessarily perform the
fire yajna. This was normally done by the Temple President - and he
is certainly not the diksa guru.
- Why not allow Srila Prabhupada to be what he
wants to be? He is certainly our siksa guru, but as he clearly indicated
on July 9th, he was also to be our diksa guru.
- Since Srila Prabhupada is our predominant
siksa guru, he is our de facto diksa guru anyway, since:
• He gives the
divya jnana or transcendental knowledge - definition of
• He plants the bhakti lata
bija - definition of diksa.
Devotees can also assist in the
above two activities (by preaching, book distribution etc.), but they are vartma-pradasaka
gurus, not diksa gurus.
- The predominant siksa guru
usually becomes the diksa guru anyway:
is the foundational siksa guru for all ISKCON devotees [...] Srila Prabhupada's
instructions are the essential teachings for every ISKCON devotee."
(GBC Resolutions, No. 35, 1994)
"Generally a spiritual
master who constantly instructs a disciple in spiritual science becomes his initiating
spiritual master later on." (C.c.
Adi, 1.35, purport)
"It is the duty of the siksa
guru or diksa guru to instruct the disciple in the right way, and it depends
on the disciple to execute the process. According to sastric injunctions, there
is no difference between siksa guru and diksa guru, and generally
the siksa guru later on becomes the diksa guru."
(S.B. 4.12.32, purport)
7) "If Srila Prabhupada is everyones siksa guru,
then how can he be diksa guru too?
The confusion between diksa and siksa
gurus occurs because their titles are confused with their functions. Thus
it is sometimes assumed that only the siksa guru can give siksa,
not the diksa guru. However, as the last verse just quoted demonstrates,
the diksa guru also instructs. This should be obvious, otherwise how else
will he transmit divya jnana?:
"First one must take shelter of the lotus feet of a spiritual master." Tasmat
Krsna-diksadi-siksanam. Tasmat, "from him", Krsna-diksadi-siksanam, "one should
take Krsna-Diksa, initiation, and Siksa."
Diksa means divya-jnanam ksapayati iti diksa. Which explains
the divya-jnana, transcendental, that is Diksa. Di, divya, diksanam.
Diksa. So divya-jnana, transcendental knowledge... If you don't accept
a spiritual master, how you'll get transcen... You'll be taught here and there,
here and there, and waste time. Waste time for the teacher and waste your valuable
time. Therefore you have to be guided by an expert spiritual master. Read it.
Siksanam. We have to learn. If you don't learn, how you'll make progress?
(SP Room conversation, 27/1/77, Bhubaneswar)
That transcendental siksa
is the essence of diksa, is evident from the most well known verse on the
guru-disciple relationship (Bg. 4.34). In this verse the word 'upadeksyanti'
is translated in the word for word as meaning 'initiate'. The verse however states
that this 'initiation' requires the guru to 'impart knowledge', and that this
is assisted through the disciple 'inquiring'. Consequently the 'Prabhupada
is siksa not diksa' advocates are caught in a logistical trap of
their own making. If Srila Prabhupada is capable of 'imparting knowledge' when
he is not on the planet - then he must, by definition be giving divya jnana
- transcendental knowledge. Thus, if Srila Prabhupada can be a siksa guru
without the need for physical interaction, then why not diksa also? It
is ludicrous to argue that Srila Prabhupada can give siksa when not on
the planet if acting as a siksa guru, but he can not give siksa if
we change his title. The very fact
that he can be a siksa Guru whilst not on the planet, is itself evidence
that he simultaneously can give diksa.
Some individuals have gone the
next step; arguing that Srila Prabhupada can not even give transcendental siksa
without a physical body. If this were the case, one wonders why Srila Prabhupada
went to such effort to write so many books and set up a trust with the sole purpose
of propagating them for the next ten thousand years? If it is no longer possible
to receive transcendental instruction from Srila Prabhupada's books, why are we
distributing them, and why are people still surrendering purely on the strength
8) "Are you saying that Srila Prabhupada created no
No, all we are stating is that Srila Prabhupada
did set up the ritvik system to allow initiations to continue. Whether
or not Srila Prabhupada created pure devotees is not relevant to his clear and
unequivocal final order. As disciples our duty is simply to follow the instructions
of the guru. It is inappropriate to abandon the guru's instruction and instead
speculate as to how many pure devotees there are now, or will be in the future.
Even taking a worst case scenario,
that there are in fact no pure devotees at present, one should consider the situation
that existed after the departure of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. After almost
40 years, Srila Prabhupada indicated that there was only one authorised initiating
acarya produced from the Gaudiya Matha:
"Actually amongst my Godbrothers
no one is qualified to become acarya*. [...] instead of inspiring
our students and disciple they may sometimes pollute them. [...] they are
very competent to harm our natural progress."
(SP Letter to Rupanuga, 28/4/74)
(Srila Prabhupada used the terms
'acarya' and 'guru' interchangeably):
"I shall produce some gurus.
I shall say who is guru, 'Now you become acarya.' [...] You can
cheat, but it will not be effective. Just see our Gaudiya Matha. Everyone wanted
to be guru. A small temple and 'guru'. What kind of guru?"
(SP Morning walk, 22/4/77
This could be seen as a damning indictment of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's preaching
work. However, it would be extremely unwise to argue that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta
was a 'failure'. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta is known to have said that if his mission
only produced one pure devotee he would have considered it a success.
In any case, the implementation
of a ritvik system does not rule out, a priori, the possible existence
of pure devotees. There are various scenarios that could easily accommodate both
ritviks and pure devotees, e.g.:
- Srila Prabhupada may have created many pure
devotees who have no desire to become diksa gurus. There is no evidence
to suggest that the most advanced devotees in ISKCON must necessarily be those
individuals who put themselves up for election each year. These pure devotees
may simply wish to humbly assist Srila Prabhupada's mission. It is nowhere stated
that it is mandatory for a pure devotee to become a diksa guru.
Such persons would be delighted to work within the ritvik system if that
was their guru's order.
- Srila Prabhupada's desire may be for large numbers
of instructing gurus, but not necessarily for more initiating ones. This would
be consistent with the earlier quoted instruction for everyone to become a siksa
guru, and Srila Prabhupada's caution not to take disciples. It would also
be consistent with the fact that Srila Prabhupada had single-handedly already
put in place the success of his mission:
you planning to choose a successor?
It is already successful.
there must be somebody you know, needed to handle the thing.
Yes. That we are creating. We are creating these devotees who will handle.
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
"After 80 years, no
one can be expected to live long. My life is almost ended. So you have to carry
on, and these books will do everything."
(SP Room conversation, 18/2/76)
"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 endeavour. Whether I am present or
not present it doesn't matter."
(SP Arrival conversation, 17/5/77,
What will happen to
the movement in the United States when you die?
I will never die
Jaya! Haribol! (laughter)
I will live from my books and you will utilise.
(SP Press Conference, 16/7/75, San
you training a successor?
Yes, my Guru Maharaja is there.
(SP Press conference, 16/7/75, San
"Only Lord Caitanya
can take my place. He will take care of the Movement."
(SP Room conversation, 2/11/77)
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 the world.
(SP Interview, 10/6/76, Los Angeles)
you expect to name one person as your successor or have you already?
That I am not contemplating now. But there is no need of one person.
(SP Interview, 4/6/76, Los Angeles)
was wondering if he had a successor to do...Do you have a successor to take your
place when you die?
Not yet settled up. Not yet settled up.
So what process? Would the Hare Krsnas...
We have got secretaries. They are managing.
(SP Interview, 14/7/76, New York)
The fact that Srila Prabhupada
did not authorise any of his disciples to act as diksa guru does not necessarily
mean that none of them were pure devotees. It could just be that Krsna's plan
did not require them to take up such a role. Nevertheless followers of Srila Prabhupada
do have an important role to play, just as when he was physically present on the
planet. That is to act as his assistants, not successor acaryas:
"The GBC should all be the
instructor gurus. I am the initiator guru, and you should be the instructor guru
by teaching what I am teaching and doing what I am doing."
(SP Letter to Madhudvisa, 4/8/75)
"Sometimes a diksa guru is
not present always. Therefore one can take learning, instruction, from an advanced
devotee. That is called the siksa guru."
(SP Bg. Lecture, 4/7/74, Honolulu)
Thus the issue is not whether
Srila Prabhupada created any pure devotees, but the fact that he did set
up the ritvik system. Although the diksa guru at this time is not
physically present, that does not mean he is not the diksa guru. In his
absence we are expected to take instruction from bona fide siksa gurus,
of which there may eventually be millions.
9) "As long as a guru is following strictly it does
not matter how advanced he is, he will eventually become qualified and take his
disciples back to Godhead."
As discussed previously, in order to act as a
diksa guru one must first attain the highest platform of devotional service
namely maha-bhagavata, and then be authorised to initiate by one`s predecessor
acarya. The above post-dated cheque guru-philosophy is an offensive speculation
as the following quote illustrates:
"Although Prthu Maharaja was
factually an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he rejected those
praises because the qualities of the Supreme Person were not yet manifest in him.
He wanted to stress that one who does not actually possess these qualities should
not try to engage his followers and devotees in offering him glory for them, even
though these qualities might be manifest in the future. If a man who does
not factually possess the attributes of a great personality engages his followers
in praising him with the expectation that such attributes will develop in the
future, that sort of praise is actually an insult."
(S.B. 4.15.23, purport)
Just as it would be an insult
to address a blind man as `lotus eyed one', to address partially conditioned souls
as being 'as good as God' (GII, p.15, point 8) is similarly offensive;
not only to the person being falsely flattered, but also to the pure disciplic
succession of factually realised souls, on up to the Supreme Lord Himself.
To 'strictly follow' is the process
by which a disciple advances, not a qualification in and of itself. Devotees often
confuse the process with the qualification, sometimes even preaching
that they are one and the same. Just because someone is following strictly does
not mean he is a maha-bhagavata, or that he has been asked to initiate
by his own spiritual master; and if a disciple does start initiating before
he is properly qualified and authorised , he is certainly not 'strictly following'
Sometimes, devotees quote text
5 of The Nectar of Instruction (purport) to prove that 'a neophyte Vaisnava
or a Vaisnava on the intermediate platform can also accept disciples...'
For some reason they do not notice that the rest of the sentence warns disciples
of such gurus that 'they cannot advance very well towards the ultimate goal
of life under his insufficient guidance.' It then states:
"Therefore a disciple should
be careful to accept an uttama-adhikari as a spiritual master."
Unqualified gurus are also warned:
"One should not become a spiritual
master unless he has attained the platform of uttama-adhikari."
(The Nectar of Instruction, text
If a guru is only offering 'insufficient
guidance' he cannot, by definition, be a diksa guru, since this requires
the transmission of full divya-jnana. 'Insufficient' means - not
enough. It is self-evident that initiating gurus who cannot help one 'advance
very well' are probably best avoided altogether.
10) "The ritvik system by definition means
the end of the disciplic succession."
The disciplic succession, or guru parampara,
is eternal; there is no question of it stopping. According to Srila Prabhupada,
the Sankirtan Movement, (and hence ISKCON), will only exist for the next
9,500 years. Compared with eternity 9,500 years is nothing, a mere blip in cosmic
time. This would appear to be the time period during which Srila Prabhupada shall
remain the 'current link' within ISKCON, unless he or Krsna countermands the July
9th order, or some external circumstance renders the order impossible
to follow (such as total thermo-nuclear annihilation). Previous acaryas
have remained current for long periods of time, thousands (Srila Vyasadeva) or
even millions of years (see quote below). We see no reason why the duration
of Srila Prabhupada's reign as 'current link', even if it extends right till the
end of the Sankirtan Movement, should pose any particular problem.
"Regarding parampara system:
there is nothing to wonder for big gaps [...] we find in the Bhagavad-gita
that the Gita was taught to the sungod, some millions of years ago,
but Krsna has mentioned only three names in this parampara system
- namely, Vivasvan, Manu, and Iksvaku; and so these gaps do not hamper from understanding
the parampara system. We have to pick up the prominent acaryas,
and follow from him [...] We have to pick up from the authority of the acarya
in whatever sampradaya we belong to."
(SP Letter to Dayananda, 12/4/68)
The July 9th
order is significant since it means that Srila Prabhupada shall be the prominent
acarya, at least for members of ISKCON, for as long as the Society exists.
Only the direct intervention of Srila Prabhupada or Krsna can revoke the final
order (such intervention needing to be at least as clear and unequivocal as a
signed directive sent to the entire Society). Thus until some counter-instruction
is given, the science of devotional service shall continue to be transmitted directly
by Srila Prabhupada to successive generations of his disciples. Since this is
a common phenomenon in our disciplic succession, there is no cause for alarm.
The succession can only be considered 'ended' if this science of devotional service
is lost. On such occasions, Lord Krsna Himself usually descends to re-establish
the principles of religion. As long as Srila Prabhupada's books are in circulation,
this 'science' shall remain vigorously intact, and perfectly accessible.
11) "The ritvik system means an end to the guru-disciple
relationship which has been the tradition for thousands of years."
The ritvik system involves linking potentially
unlimited numbers of sincere disciples with the greatest acarya who ever
blessed the earth, namely Srila Prabhupada. These disciples will have a relationship
with Srila Prabhupada based on studying his books and serving him within his Society
wherein there is ample opportunity for unlimited numbers of siksa guru-disciple
relationships to exist. How is this ending the tradition of guru disciple relationships?
The details of how diksa
guru-disciple relationships are formally bonded may be adapted by an acarya,
according to time place and circumstance, but the principle remains the same:
"Srimad 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)
Similarly this principle of accepting
initiation from a bona fide spiritual master is in no way diminished or compromised
by the ritvik system.
Some people point to traditional
gurus living in villages in India as a model for ISKCON. Each guru has a few disciples
who he personally trains. However cosy this may sound it has nothing remotely
to do with the worldwide mission Lord Caitanya predicted, and Srila Prabhupada
established. Within that mission Srila Prabhupada is the world acarya with
thousands, and potentially millions, of disciples. Srila Prabhupada set up a world
Movement through which anyone can 'approach', 'serve' and 'inquire from' him anywhere
in the world. Why should we want to introduce a village guru system into ISKCON,
when it was not what Srila Prabhupada ordered or set up?
If everyone is meditating on
hundreds of different gurus of differing viewpoints, opinions and levels of realisation,
how can there be unity? Rather than this lucky-dip approach to spiritual life,
as we have demonstrated, Srila Prabhupada gave us a tried and tested system that
facilitated surrender directly to himself, who is one hundred percent guaranteed.
We know he shall never let us down, and in this way ISKCON will remain united,
not just in name, but in consciousness.
Some devotees feel that without
a succession of living, physically present, initiating diksa gurus, the
science of devotional service will be lost. However, this principle is never once
stated by Srila Prabhupada, and thus cannot exist in our philosophy. As long as
the ritvik system remains in force (once it is re-instituted of course),
there will be a succession of living siksa gurus acting on behalf of a
living, though not physically present, maha-bhagavata. As long as these
siksa gurus do not change anything, invent philosophy, disobey important
orders, and unauthorisedly pose themselves as diksa gurus, the science
of devotional service shall remain perfectly intact. If such misbehaviour were
to obstruct the imperishable science of bhakti, then Krsna would certainly
intervene in some way, perhaps by sending again a resident of Goloka to establish
a new bona fide Society. Let us work together to make sure this will not be necessary.
12) "Ritvik is not the regular way of conducting the
disciplic succession. The proper way to do it is for the guru to teach the disciple
everything he needs to know about Krsna while he is physically present. Once the
guru leaves the planet it is the duty of all his strict disciples to immediately
start initiating their own disciples, thus carrying on the disciplic succession.
That is the 'regular' way of doing things."
Leaving aside the two important pre-conditions
to anyone initiating, it is clear that diksa activity within our parampara
is enormously diverse. We have observed that violations of the so-called 'regular'
system fall into five basic categories, though we do not deny there could be many
a) Gaps :
These are all the occasions when
an acarya in the parampara leaves, and there is no next link to
immediately start initiating. Or the person who is to become the next link does
not immediately receive authorisation from his spiritual master to initiate on,
or directly after, his departure. For example, there was a gap of some twenty
years between the departure of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and the next bona fide initiation
in our sampradaya. Gaps of more than one hundred years are not uncommon
between members of the disciplic succession.
b) Reverse gaps :
These are all the occasions where
an acarya has not yet left his body before his disciples start initiating.
Lord Brahma, for example, has not yet left his body, and yet generations of successor
gurus have initiated millions upon millions of disciples. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta
initiated when both Srila Bhaktivinoda and Srila Gaura Kisora were still physically
present. According to GII (p. 23) this is a common phenomenon in our
c) Siksa / diksa links
There are instances of a disciple
accepting an acarya as his principal spiritual master after he has left
the planet. Whether the departed acarya is a siksa or a diksa guru
to the disciple is often difficult to discern. Srila Prabhupada does not generally
specify the precise nature of these spiritual interactions. For example, the exact
nature of the relationship between Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura and Narottama
dasa Thakura who lived over a hundred years apart, is not detailed by Srila Prabhupada.
We may wish to call it a siksa relationship, but that is speculation, since
Srila Prabhupada simply says :
"Srila Narottama dasa Thakura
who accepted Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti as his servitor."
Thakura. He accepted his guru, Narottama dasa Thakura."
(SP S.B. Lecture 17/4/76, Bombay)
Although such disciples
normally go through some sort of ceremony with someone who is physically
present, that still may not preclude the departed acarya from being his
diksa guru ; just as a ritvik ceremony does not mean that the ritvik
or Temple President is the eternal diksa guru. Also such disciples normally
obtained permission from an authority who was physically present, to accept a
sad-guru who was not. In a similar way, were the ritvik system re-instated,
new disciples of Srila Prabhupada would first gain the approval of the Temple
President and the ritvik before they were initiated.
d) Mode of initiation
These are anomalous forms of
initiation where unique, or inconceivable forms of diksa transmission take
place. For example, Lord Krsna to Lord Brahma; or Lord Caitanya whispering into
a Buddhist's ear. Interplanetary diksa might also come under this category.
This is where personalities initiate, or transmit diksa to a disciple who
resides on a different planet, for example Manu to Iksvaku in Bhagavad-gita
e) Successor systems
This refers to differing successor
acarya systems within our sampradaya. For example Srila Bhaktivinoda
adopted a 'powerful Vaisnava son' successor system. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta
envisioned a 'self-effulgent acarya' successor system. As far as we can
determine, Srila Prabhupada left in place a "ritvik - representative of the
acarya, for the purpose of performing initiations" system, whereby "the newly
initiated devotees are disciples of Hid Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
Prabhupada." The present system favoured by the GBC is a 'multiple acarya
It is clear that the approach
of each acarya is fairly unique; so to talk about a 'regular' system for
continuing the parampara is practically meaningless.
13) "If we adopted the ritvik system, what
would stop us taking initiation from any previous acarya, such as Srila Bhaktisiddhanta?"
Two things prevent this from being a bona fide
a. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, and other previous
acaryas, did not authorise a ritvik system to run 'henceforward'.
b. We must approach the current
"...in order to receive the
real message of Srimad-Bhagavatam one should approach the current link,
or spiritual master, in the chain of disciplic succession."
(S.B. 2.9.7, purport)
It is self-evident that Srila
Prabhupada is the sampradaya acarya who succeeded Srila Bhaktisiddhanta.
Srila Prabhupada is therefore our current link, and is thus the correct person
to approach for initiation.
14) "In order to be the current link you must be physically
Srila Prabhupada never states the above
So let us consider: Can
a spiritual master be 'current' if he is physically absent?
- The term 'current link' is only used in one
passage in all of Srila Prabhupada's books; there is no reference to physical
presence adjacent to the term. Were physical presence essential it would certainly
have been mentioned.
- The dictionary definitions of the word 'current'
do not refer to physical presence.
- Dictionary definitions of the word 'current'
can be readily applied to a physically absent spiritual master and his books:
'commonly known, practised or accepted', 'widespread', 'circulating and valid
(Collins English Dictionary)
As far as we can see all the
above definitions can be applied to Srila Prabhupada and his books.
- The very purpose of approaching a 'current link'
can be fully satisfied by reading Srila Prabhupada's books:
"...in order to receive the
real message of Srimad-Bhagavatam one should approach the current link,
or spiritual master, in the chain of disciplic succession."
(S.B. 2.9.7, purport)
- Srila Prabhupada also uses the term 'immediate
acarya' as synonymous with 'current link'. The word 'immediate' means:
intervening medium', 'closest or most direct in effect or relationship'.
(Collins English Dictionary)
These definitions lend validity
to a direct relationship with Srila Prabhupada without the need for intermediaries,
again all regardless of physical presence/absence.
- Since there are examples of disciples initiating
when their guru was still on the planet, there would appear to be no direct relationship
between current link status and physical presence/absence. In other words if it
is possible to be the next current link even whilst your own guru is physically
present, why should it not be possible for a departed acarya to remain the current
In conclusion, we see no evidence
to suggest that the emergence of a current link is based on physical or non-physical
15) "Srila Prabhupada's Godbrothers all became initiating
acaryas after the disappearance of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, so what is wrong with
Srila Prabhupada's disciples doing the same?"
In posing as initiating acaryas, Srila
Bhaktisiddhanta's disciples acted in direct defiance of their spiritual master's
final order (to form a GBC and await a self-effulgent acarya). Srila Prabhupada
roundly condemned his Godbrothers for their insubordination, describing them as
useless for preaching, what to speak of initiating:
"Amongst my Godbrothers no
one is qualified to become acarya."
(SP Letter to Rupanuga, 28/4/74)
"On the whole you may know
that he (Bon Maharaja) is not a liberated person, and therefore he cannot initiate
any person to Krsna Consciousness. It requires special benediction from higher
(SP Letter to Janardana, 26/4/68)
"If everyone just initiates
there will be contradictory result. As long as it goes on, there will be only
(SP Phalgun Krishnan Pancami, verse 23)
We can see from recent experience
what havoc just one of these personalities can cause to Srila Prabhupada's mission.
We would suggest respect from as great a distance as possible. Certainly we cannot
afford to use them as role models for how a disciple should carry on their spiritual
master's mission. They destroyed their spiritual master's mission, and
are more than capable of doing the same to ISKCON if we were to allow them.
to the Gaudiya Matha's guru system, this may be the only historical precedent
the M.A.S.S. can lay claim to, i.e. that it was also set up in direct defiance
of clear orders from the Founder-acarya.
16) "When Srila Prabhupada said they should not be
acaryas, he meant acarya with a big 'A'. That is, an acarya who heads up an institution."
Where does Srila Prabhupada ever
differentiate between big 'A' and small 'a' initiating acaryas?
Where does he ever talk about a specific breed of initiating acarya who
can head up institutions, and indicate that there is an inferior species who,
through some disablement, cannot?
17) "It is just common knowledge that there are three
types of acarya. Everyone in ISKCON accepts that."
But this idea was never
taught by Srila Prabhupada, it was
introduced by Pradyumna dasa in a letter to Satsvarupa dasa Goswami dated
7/8/78. This letter was later re-printed in the paper Under My Order,
and was used as one of the corner stones of that paper's thesis on how the
guru system within ISKCON should be reformed. In turn it is this paper 'Understood',
that forms the basis of GII's doctrine on initiation (as mentioned in the
Introduction). This paper led to the transformation of the zonal acarya system
into the present day M.A.S.S.:
have taken this definition of acarya from the letter of August 7th
1978, from Pradyumna to Satsvarupa dasa Goswami. The reader should now turn to
this letter (which I have appended) for careful study."
(Under My Order, Ravindra Svarupa dasa, August 1985)
In his letter, Pradyumna explains
that the word acarya may be taken in three senses:
who practices what he preaches.
One who grants initiation to a disciple.
The spiritual head of an institution who has been specifically declared by the
previous acarya to be his successor.
We accept definition 1, since it was used
by Srila Prabhupada. This definition would automatically apply to any effective
preacher, be he siksa or diksa guru.
Moving on to definition
2: Pradyumna explains that this type of acarya can initiate disciples
and be referred to as acaryadeva, but only by his disciples:
who grants initiation or is a guru may be called as "acaryadeva", etc - by his
disciples only. Whoever has accepted him as guru must give all respects to him
in every way, but this does not apply to those who are not his disciples."
This is a concoction.
Nowhere does Srila Prabhupada ever describe an initiating guru whose absolute
nature must only be recognised by his disciples, but not by the
world at large, or even other Vaisnavas in the same line. Let us see how
Srila Prabhupada defines the word acaryadeva... The
following are excerpts from Srila Prabhupada's Vyasa-Puja offering printed
in The Science of Self Realisation (chapter 2) where he uses the term in
relation to his own spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta:
"The guru, or acaryadeva,
as we learn from bona fide scriptures, delivers the message of the absolute world,..."
"...when we speak of
the fundamental principle of gurudeva, or acaryadeva, we speak of
something that is of universal application."
"The acaryadeva for
whom we have assembled tonight to offer our humble homage is not the guru of a
sectarian institution or one out of many differing exponents of the truth. On
the contrary, he is the Jagad-Guru, or the guru of all of us..."
Srila Prabhupada's use
and definition of the word acaryadeva is diametrically opposed to that
of Pradyumna. Implicit in what Pradyumna says is that the term acaryadeva
can be falsely applied to persons who are not actually on that highly elevated
platform. Thus, he relativises the absolute position of the diksa guru.
The term acaryadeva can
only be applied to someone who is factually 'the guru of all of us'; someone
who should be worshipped by the entire world:
"...he is known to be the
direct manifestation of the Lord and a genuine representative of Sri Nityananda
Prabhu. Such a spiritual master is known as acaryadeva."
(C.c. Adi, 1.46)
3, Pradyumna explains that the word acarya indicates the head of an
institution, and that this meaning is very specific:
not mean just anyone. It means only one who has been specifically declared by
the previous acarya to be his successor above all others to the seat of the spiritual
institution which he heads. [...] This is the strict tradition in all of the Gaudiya
Sampradaya." (Pradyumna's letter
to Satsvarupa dasa Goswami, 7/8/78)
We certainly agree that to initiate
one must first be authorised by the predecessor acarya (a point which is
not even mentioned in the elaboration of definition 2) :
"One should take initiation
from a bona fide spiritual master coming in the disciplic succession, who is authorised
by his predecessor spiritual master."
(S.B. 4.8.54, purport)
However, what this has
got to do with taking over the 'seat of the spiritual institution' is rather baffling,
since Srila Prabhupada is the Acarya of an entirely separate institution
from that of his Guru Maharaja. According to Pradyumna's philosophy therefore,
Srila Prabhupada might only come in as a definition 2 acarya. Whatever
'strict tradition' Pradyumna is referring to, it was certainly never mentioned
by Srila Prabhupada, and thus we can safely discard it. Further down the page,
we see exactly from where Pradyumna's insidious ideas originated:
in the different Gaudiya Mathas, even if one Godbrother is in the position
of acarya, he usually, out of humility, takes only a thin cloth asana, not
None of Srila Prabhupada's Godbrothers
were authorised acaryas. One would think that genuine humility should translate
into giving up one's unauthorised activity, whatever it may be, recognising Srila
Prabhupada's pre-eminent position, and then surrendering to the true Jagad-Guru.
Unfortunately, few members of the Gaudiya Matha have ever done this. The fact
that Pradyumna cites these personalities as bona fide examples means he is once
more denigrating the position of the true acaryadeva.
"Regarding Bhakti Puri, Tirtha
Maharaja, they are my Godbrothers and should be shown respect. But you should
not have any intimate connection with them as they have gone against the orders
of my Guru Maharaja."
(SP Letter to Pradyumna, 17/2/68)
It is a shame Pradyumna
prabhu ignored this direct instruction from his Guru Maharaja, and quite remarkable
that his deviant views were allowed to shape ISKCON's current guru 'siddhanta'.
Thus, when Srila Prabhupada said
none of his Godbrothers were qualified to be become acarya, whether he
meant definitions 1 or 3 acarya is irrelevant. If they were
not qualified for definition 1 then that meant they did not teach by example,
which would automatically disqualify them from definition 3, and hence
from initiating altogether. And if they were not qualified as per definition
3, then they were not authorised, and hence once more they could not initiate.
- All preachers should aspire to become a definition
1 acarya, or siksa guru.
- The elaboration of Definition 2 by Pradyumna
Dasa is completely bogus. It is forbidden for anyone, disciple or not, to regard
the bona fide guru, or acaryadeva, as an ordinary man. And if he is, in
fact, an ordinary man then he cannot initiate anyone and be referred to as acaryadeva.
Furthermore there is no mention of the need to receive specific authorisation
from the predecessor acarya in disciplic succession, without which no one
- Definition 3
is the only type of acarya who may initiate; i.e. one who has been authorised
by his own sampradaya acarya- spiritual master. Having been so authorised
he may or may not head up an institution, that is irrelevant.
Within ISKCON all devotees are
instructed to become definition 1 acaryas, teaching through example,
or siksa gurus. A good start on the path to becoming this type of
acarya is to begin strictly following the orders of the spiritual master.
18) "It seems a small point, so how could these ideas
regarding the acarya have had any noticeable adverse effect on ISKCON?"
In fact, the relativisation of
the initiating diksa guru has led to all kinds of confusion within ISKCON.
Some ISKCON gurus claim they are taking their disciples back to Godhead by acting
as current links to Srila Prabhupada who is the Founder-acarya; and some
say they are simply introducing disciples to Srila Prabhupada who is the actual
current link who is taking them back to Godhead (almost ritvik philosophy).
Some gurus say Srila Prabhupada is still the current acarya, others say
that he is not; whilst a couple have claimed themselves to be the sole successor
acarya to Srila Prabhupada. Some ISKCON gurus still believe Srila Prabhupada
appointed 11 successor acaryas (a myth which was recently reported as fact
in the LA Times); others that he appointed 11 ritviks who were to turn
into small 'a' acaryas immediately on his departure; others that
it was not just the 11 who should have turned into small 'a' acaryas
on departure, but all Srila Prabhupada's disciples (except the women it seems).
If we return once more to
GII, we can see that the GBC is highly ambivalent towards the gurus it
Whilst acknowledging the rubber-stamping
of sampradaya acaryas is bogus (GII, p.15, point 6), the GBC nevertheless,
in effect, performs precisely this function every Gaura-Purnima at Mayapur,
year after year. We now have close to a hundred initiating gurus, all anointed
with the 'no objection' stamp of approval. All these gurus are being worshipped
as saksad hari (as good as God) in accordance with the GBC's own
directives for disciples (GII, p.15, point 8). These initiating acaryas
are heralded as current links to a disciplic succession of maha-bhagavatas stretching
back thousands of years to the Supreme lord Himself:
should take shelter of the representatives of Srila Prabhupada who are the 'current
link' in the disciplic succession." (GII,
At the same time however the
aspiring disciple is sternly warned that ISKCON approval...
not automatically to be taken as a statement about the degree of God-realisation
of the approved guru." (GII,
p.9, section 2.2)
Elsewhere we are further cautioned:
a devotee is allowed to carry out the "order" of Srila Prabhupada to expand the
disciplic succession by initiating new disciples it is not to be taken as a certification
or endorsement of his being an "uttama adhikari", "pure devotee", or to having
achieved any specific state of realisation." (GII,
are not to be worshipped by everyone in the temple, but only by their own disciples
in a separate place. (GII, p.7) - (Pradyumna's
We have shown that the only type
of bona fide diksa guru is an authorised maha-bhagavata; (we have
also shown that the actual "order" was for ritviks and siksa
gurus). Thus, to describe anyone as a current link or initiator
guru, is synonymous with claiming he is a large 'A' or definition
3 acarya, an 'uttama adhikari' or a 'pure devotee'.
We would venture that it is infelicitous
to approve, or 'not object' to, the creation of diksa gurus, and simultaneously
disavow any blame or responsibility should they deviate. This is what's termed
'living in denial' according to modern psychological parlance. We are sure Srila
Prabhupada did not intend ISKCON to be a type of lottery, or Russian roulette,
where the stake is someone's spiritual life. Perhaps the GBC should refrain from
further rubber stamping until they can stand one hundred percent behind those
they approve. After all, every one of us stands one hundred percent behind Srila
Prabhupada as a bona fide spiritual master; so such consensual recognition of
personal qualification is not impossible.
GBC guru ambivalence was recently
summed up quite succinctly by Jayadvaita Swami:
appointed is never used. But there are "candidates for initiating guru", votes
are taken, and those who make it through the procedures become "ISKCON-APPROVED"
or "ISKCON-authorised" gurus. To boost your confidence: On one hand the GBC encourages
you to be initiated by a bona fide, authorised ISKCON guru and worship him like
God. On the other, it has an elaborate system of laws to invoke from time to time
when your ISKCON-authorised guru falls down. One might perhaps be forgiven
for thinking that for all the laws and resolutions the role of guru is still a
perplexity even for the GBC."
('Where the Ritvik People
are Right', Jayadvaita Swami, 1996)
When we look at the appalling
track record of gurus in ISKCON it is hardly surprising that such mistrust should
exist. To quote once more from Jayadvaita Swami's paper:
gurus have opposed, oppressed and driven out many sincere Godbrothers and Godsisters.
ISKCON gurus have usurped and misused money, and diverted other ISKCON resources
for their own personal prestige and sense gratification.
ISKCON gurus have had illicit sexual intercourse with both women and men, and
possibly children as well.
..... (...etc, etc... )
('Where the Ritvik People are Right,
Jayadvaita Swami, 1996)
Newcomers to ISKCON are told
that the onus is on them to carefully examine ISKCON gurus on the basis of Srila
Prabhupada's books and instructions, to make sure for themselves that they
are qualified to initiate. However, should such a prospective disciple come to
the conclusion that none of the 'physically present' gurus on offer are up to
standard, and that he wishes instead to repose his faith in Srila Prabhupada as
his diksa guru, he is ruthlessly hounded from the Society. Is this really
fair? After all, he is only doing what the GBC has told him to do. Should he be
punished for not coming to the 'right' conclusion, especially since there is such
clear and unequivocal evidence that this choice is precisely what Srila Prabhupada
wanted all along?
Is it reasonable to expect
someone to have unflinching faith in a current ISKCON guru, when he sees that
the GBC themselves have felt it necessary to construct a rigorous penal system
just to keep them in line? A penal system which itself is never once mentioned
in the very books and instructions the prospective disciple is being asked to
base his decision on. A clearer case of self-referential incoherence it would
be hard to find.
Rather, let us follow Srila Prabhupada's
clear order to keep him as the only initiator within ISKCON. Who could object
19) "According to the ISKCON Journal 1990, some
of Srila Prabhupada's Godbrothers were actually acaryas."
Who said this?
- The same person who said there was no such word
as ritvik in the Vaisnava dictionary (ISKCON Journal 1990, p.23),
even though the term is used repeatedly in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, and in
the July 9th letter which Srila Prabhupada personally signed.
- The same person who implied that Srila Prabhupada
was not specifically authorised to initiate:
has not said or given any document that Swamiji (Srila Prabhupada) will be guru."
(ISKCON Journal 1990, p.23)
- The same person who said that Tirtha, Madhava
and Sridhar Maharaja were bona fide acaryas, even though Srila Prabhupada
had said none of them were qualified:
"But there is a system in
our sampradaya. So Tirtha Maharaja, Madhava Maharaja, Sridhar Maharaja, our Gurudev,
Swamiji - Swamiji Bhaktivedanta Swami - they all became acaryas." (ISKCON Journal
Contrast the above with what
Srila Prabhupada thought of one of the these 'acaryas':
"Bhakti Vilas Tirtha is very
much antagonistic to our Society and he has no clear conception of devotional
service. He is contaminated."
(SP Letter to Sukadeva, 14/11/73)
and with what he said of the
"Amongst my Godbrothers
no one is qualified to become acarya."
(SP Letter to Rupanuga, 28/4/74)
- The same person who recently claimed that Srila
Prabhupada had not given everything, and that it was time for a rasika guru
to gain higher knowledge.
20) "Srila Prabhupada spoke well of his Godbrothers
It is true that on occasion Srila Prabhupada
dealt with his Godbrothers diplomatically, referring to Sridhar Maharaja as his
siksa guru etc. Srila Prabhupada was also a warm person who had genuine
care and affection for his Godbrothers, always trying to find ways of engaging
them in the Sankirtan Movement. We must realise however that had these
been genuine acaryadevas, Srila Prabhupada would never have spoken
ill of them, not even once. To speak of bona fide diksa gurus as disobedient,
envious snakes, dogs, pigs, wasps etc., would itself have been a serious offence,
and thus not something Srila Prabhupada would have done. To illustrate the way
in which Srila Prabhupada viewed his Godbrothers, we shall offer excerpts below
from a room conversation in which Bhavananda is reading a pamphlet put out by
Tirtha Maharaja's matha:
' It starts
off in big print, "Acaryadeva Tridandi Swami Srila Bhaktivilasa Tirtha Maharaja.
All learned men are aware that in the dark ages of India when the Hindu religion
was in great danger..."
(laughs)...This is nonsense.
It is obvious what type of 'acaryadeva'
Srila Prabhupada considers Tirtha Maharaja (the same Tirtha who is hailed as a
bona fide acarya in the 1990 ISKCON Journal mentioned earlier).
Later on the pamphlet describes how Srila Bhaktisiddhanta was so fortunate to
have a wonderful personality to carry on the mission.
proper time, he (Srila Bhaktisiddhanta) got a great personality who readily shouldered
see now. "He got a great personality". He is that personality. He'll also
prove that.(later)...No one accepts him...Where is his greatness? Who knows him?
Just see. So he is making a plan to declare himself a great personality...(Tirtha
Maharaja) is very envious about us...These rascals they may create some trouble.'
(SP Conversation, 19/1/76, Mayapur)
Bona fide acaryas can
never be described as envious rascals who just want to cause trouble. Sadly, even
to this day, some members of the Gaudiya Matha are still causing trouble. Respect
from a distance has to be the safest policy.
21) "We know that bona
fide acaryas do not have to be so advanced because sometimes they fall
Srila Prabhupada states the precise opposite:
"A bona fide spiritual master
is in the disciplic succession from time eternal and he does not deviate
at all from the instructions of the Supreme Lord."
(Bg. 4.42, purport)
22) "But previous acaryas even describe what
one should do when one's spiritual master deviates."
Those deviant gurus being described could never,
by definition, have been members of the eternal disciplic succession. Rather,
they were non-liberated, self-authorised family priests posing as initiating acaryas.
Bona fide members of the disciplic succession never deviate:
"God is always God, Guru is
always Guru." (The
Science of Self Realisation, chapter 2)
"Well if he is bad,
how can he become a guru?" (The
Science of Self Realisation, chapter 2)
"The pure devotee is
always free from the clutches of Maya and her influence."
"There is no possibility
that a first class devotee will fall down." (C.c.
"A spiritual master is always
Letter to Tamal Krsna, 21/6/70)
There is not a single example
in Srila Prabhupada's books of a formally authorised diksa guru, in our
disciplic succession, ever deviating from the path of devotional service.
The rejection of Sukracarya is sometimes used to validate the view that acaryas
fall down, or can be rejected, but this example is highly misleading since he
was never an authorised member of our disciplic succession. Lord Brahma's pastimes
with his daughter are sometimes mentioned. Yet it is clearly stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam
that these incidents occurred before Lord Brahma became the head of our
sampradaya. Indeed, when the disciple Nitai referred to the pastime as
an example of an acarya falling down, Srila Prabhupada became most displeased.
According to Srila Prabhupada only unauthorised gurus can be carried away
by opulence and women
Despite a total absence from
Srila Prabhupada's books of bona fide gurus deviating, the GBC's book GII has
a whole section on what a disciple should do when his previously bona fide guru
deviates! The chapter begins by asserting the importance of approaching a current
link, and not 'jumping over' (GII, p. 27). However, the authors proceed
to do precisely this by quoting numerous previous acaryas in an attempt
to establish principles never taught by Srila Prabhupada.
The gurus described by these
previous acaryas could never have been bona fide members of the
"Narada Muni, Haridasa Thakura and
similar acaryas especially empowered to broadcast the glories of the Lord cannot
be brought down to the material platform."
( S.B. 7.7.14, purport)
The danger of 'jumping over'
in the manner prevalent in GII is clearly demonstrated in the chapter on
're-initiation', (itself a term never once used by Srila Prabhupada, nor any previous
acarya). In the question and answer section (GII, p.35, question 4)
the conditions under which one may reject a guru and take 're-initiation' are
described. The 'explanation' follows:
the crux of this issue has been clarified for us by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura
in his Jaiva Dharma and by Srila Jiva Gosvami in his Bhakti Sandarbha."
The word 'fortunately' rather
unfortunately implies that since 'Srila Prabhupada neglected to tell us
what to do when a guru deviates, it's just as well we can jump over him to all
these previous acaryas'. But Srila Prabhupada told us that everything
we needed to know about spiritual life was in his books. Why are we introducing
systems never mentioned by our acarya?
23) "But what is wrong
in consulting previous acaryas?"
Nothing, as long as we do attempt
to use them to add new principles which were not mentioned by our own acarya.
The idea that a bona fide guru can deviate is totally alien to anything Srila
Prabhupada taught. The problems over the 'origin of the jiva' issue, all
stem from this propensity to jump over:
must see the previous acaryas through Prabhupada. We cannot jump over Prabhupada
and then look back at him through the eyes of previous acaryas."
(Our Original Position, p. 163, GBC
How is adopting entirely new
philosophical principles, never mentioned by Srila Prabhupada, seeing 'the
previous acaryas through Prabhupada'?
Even if the interpretation the
GBC in GII has placed on these previous acaryas writings were correct,
we still could not use them to modify or add to Srila Prabhupada's teachings.
This is clearly explained in two verses in the book Sri Krsna Bhajanamrta
by Srila Narahari Sarakara. GII
should have mentioned these verses
by way of caution , since it supported its thesis with other verses from the very
may hear some instruction from another advanced Vaisnava, but after gaining that
good instruction he must bring it and present it to his own spiritual master.
After presenting them he should hear the same teachings again from his spiritual
master with appropriate instructions."
who listens to the words of other Vaisnavas, even if their instructions are proper
and true, but does not re-confirm those teachings with his own spiritual master
and instead directly personally accepts these instructions, is considered a bad
disciple and a sinner."
We would humbly suggest that
in the interest of the spiritual lives of all the members of ISKCON, the GII
book be revised in a manner congruous with the above injunction.
24) "Why did Srila Prabhupada
not explain what to do when a guru deviates?"
According to Srila Prabhupada's final order he
was to be the initiator long into the future, and as an authorised link in the
disciplic succession, there was no question of his deviating from the path of
pure devotional service for even one second:
"The bona fide spiritual master
always engages in unalloyed devotional service to the Supreme Personality
of Godhead." (C.c.
Srila Prabhupada taught that
a guru will only fall down if he is not properly authorised to initiate:
"...sometimes a spiritual
master is not properly authorised to initiate and only on his own initiative becomes
a spiritual master, he may be carried away by an accumulation of wealth and a
large number of disciples." (NOD
When a guru falls down it is
conclusive proof that he was never properly authorised by his predecessor acarya.
Even if no ISKCON guru had ever fallen down one could still legitimately question
where their authorisation came from to initiate.
The problem for the GBC is that
in accepting the stark truth of quotes such as the one above, various unpleasant
ramifications loom menacingly before them. Since all of ISKCON's gurus claim to
be authorised to the same degree as part of the same package, (the alleged order
from Srila Prabhupada being equally applicable to all of them), the very fact
that many of them have visibly fallen down is proof positive that the 'order'
was misunderstood. Had they actually been given proper authorisation there would
be no question of any of them falling down. Indeed they would all be maha-bhagavatas.
master is always liberated." (SP
25) "As soon as one of
Srila Prabhupada's disciples reaches perfection, the ritvik system will have become
Sometimes referred to as 'soft ritvik',
the above injunction rests on the premise that the ritvik system was only
put in place because at the time prior to Srila Prabhupada's passing there
were no qualified disciples.
However, this premise is speculation
since it was never articulated by Srila Prabhupada. There is no evidence that
the ritvik system was set up only as a reaction to a dearth of qualified
people, and that once there is a qualified person we should stop following it.
This notion has the unfortunate side effect of making the ritvik system
seem only second best, or makeshift, when actually it is Krsna's perfect plan.
It also makes it possible for some future unscrupulous charismatic personality
to stop the system through some false show of devotion.
In theory, even if there were
qualified uttama adhikari disciples present now, they would still have
to follow the ritvik system if they wanted to remain in ISKCON. There is
no reason why a qualified person would not be more than happy to follow the order
of Srila Prabhupada, as we have already stated.
One possible source of this misconception
could be the instructions Srila Bhaktisiddhanta left the Gaudiya Matha. Srila
Prabhupada told us that his Guru Maharaja had asked for there to be a GBC, and
that in due course a self-effulgent acarya would emerge. As we know the
Gaudiya Matha did not follow this, to catastrophic effect. Some devotees believe
we must also be on the look out for a self-effulgent acarya; and that since
he could come at any time the ritvik system is only a stop-gap measure.
The difficulty with this theory
is that the instructions Srila Bhaktisiddhanta left his disciples, and the ones
Srila Prabhupada left us, are different. Srila Prabhupada certainly left instructions
that the GBC should continue managing his Society, but he said nothing anywhere
about the emergence of a future self-effulgent acarya for ISKCON. Instead
he set up a ritvik system whereby he would remain the acarya 'henceforward'.
Obviously as disciples we cannot jump over Srila Prabhupada and start following
If Srila Prabhupada had been
given some dictation from Krsna that his Society was shortly to be helmed by a
new acarya, then he would have made some provision for this in his final
instructions. Instead he ordered that only his books were to be distributed,
and that they would be law for the next ten thousand years. What would a future
acarya have left to do? Srila Prabhupada has already put in place the Movement
that will fulfill every prophecy and purport of our disciplic succession for the
remainder of the Sankirtan Movement.
How will it
be possible for a new self-effulgent diksa guru to emerge within ISKCON,
when the only person allowed to give diksa is Srila Prabhupada?
Some have argued that acaryas
have the power to change things, and thus a new one could alter the ritvik
system within ISKCON. But would an authorised acarya ever contradict the
direct orders left by a previous acarya to his followers? To do so would
surely undermine the authority of the previous acarya. It would certainly
cause confusion and bewilderment for those followers faced with the tortuous choice
of whose order to follow.
All such concerns melt away once
we read the final order. There is simply no mention of the 'soft' ritvik
injunction. The letter just says 'henceforward'. Thus to say it will end with
the emergence of a new acarya, or perfected disciple, is superimposing
one's own speculation over a perfectly clear request. The letter only supports
a 'hard' ritvik understanding, i.e. that:
will be the initiator within ISKCON for as long as the Society is extant.'
This understanding is consistent
with the idea that Srila Prabhupada had already single-handedly put into place
the success of his mission (please see related objection 8: "Are
you saying that Srila Prabhupada created no pure devotees?")
It is sometimes claimed
that since the July 9th letter only authorises the original 11 appointed
ritviks, the system must stop once the 11 persons nominated die or deviate.
This is rather an extreme argument.
After all the July 9th letter does not state that only Srila
Prabhupada can chose ritviks, or that the list of acting ritviks
may never be added to. There are other systems of management put in place
by Srila Prabhupada, such as the GBC, where new members are freely added or subtracted
whenever it is felt necessary. It is illogical to single out one system of management,
and treat it entirely differently from other equally important ones. This is particularly
so since Srila Prabhupada never even hinted that the approach to maintaining the
ritvik system should differ in any way from the upkeep of other systems
he personally put in place.
This argument has become popular, so we invite
the reader to consider the following points:
In the Topanga Canyon transcript Tamal Krsna Goswami relates
the following question he asked whilst preparing to type the list of selected
"Srila Prabhupada, is this all or do you want
to add more?"
necessary, others may be added."
(Pyramid House confessions,
Certainly if some or all of the
ritviks died or seriously deviated that could be deemed a 'necessary' circumstance
for more ritviks to be 'added'.
The July 9th letter defines ritvik as: 'representative of the
acarya'. It is perfectly within the remit of the GBC to select or decommission
anyone to represent Srila Prabhupada, be they sannyasis, Temple Presidents or
indeed GBC members themselves. At present they approve diksa gurus, who
are supposedly direct representatives of the Supreme Lord Himself. Thus it should
be easily within their capacity to select a few name-giving priests to act responsibly
on Srila Prabhupada's behalf.
The July 9th letter shows Srila Prabhupada's intention was to run a
ritvik system 'henceforward'. Srila Prabhupada made the GBC the ultimate
managing authority in order that they could maintain and regulate all the systems
he put in place. The ritvik system was his system for managing initiations.
It is the job of the GBC to maintain that system, adding or subtracting personnel
as they can do in all other areas over which they are authorised to preside.
Letters issued on July 9th, 11th, and 21st all
indicate that the list could be added to, with the use of such phrases as 'thus
far', 'so far', 'initial list', etc. So a mechanism for adding more ritviks
must have been put in place, even though it has yet to be exercised.
When trying to understand an instruction one will naturally consider the purpose
behind it. The letter states that Srila Prabhupada appointed 'some of his
senior disciples to act as "rittik" - representative of the acarya, for
the purpose of performing initiations ...', and that at that
time Srila Prabhupada had 'so far' given eleven names. The aim of an obedient
disciple is to understand and satisfy the purpose of the system. The purpose
of the final order was clearly not to exclusively bind all future initiations
to an 'elite' group of individuals ('some [...] so far') who must eventually die,
and in so doing end the process of initiation within ISKCON. Rather the purpose
was to ensure that initiations could practically continue from that time on. Therefore
this system must remain in place as long as there is a need for initiation. Thus
the addition of more 'senior disciples' to act as 'representatives of the acarya',
as and when they are required, would ensure that the purpose of the system continued
to be satisfied.
Taken together with Srila Prabhupada's will (which indicates all future directors
for permanent properties in India could only be selected from amongst his initiated
disciples), it is quite clear Srila Prabhupada's intention was for the system
to run indefinitely, with the GBC simply managing the whole thing.
Having said this it is always
possible that Srila Prabhupada could revoke the order if he wanted to. As stated
previously the counter instruction would need to be at least as clear and unequivocal
as the personally signed letter which put the ritvik system in place in
the first place. With Krsna and his pure devotees anything is possible:
Newsday Reporter: You
are now the leader and the Spiritual Master. Who will take your place?
That Krsna will dictate, who will take my place.
(SP Interview, 14/7/76, New York)
However, we feel it is safer
to follow the orders we did receive from our acarya, rather than speculate
about ones that may or may not come in the future, or worse still invent our own.
26) "Proponents of ritvik
just don't want to surrender to a Guru."
This accusation is based
on the misconception that in order to surrender to a Spiritual Master he must
be physically present. If this were the case then none of Srila Prabhupada's original
disciples could currently be surrendering to him. Surrender to the Spiritual Master
means following his instructions, and this can be done whether he is physically
present or not. The purpose of ISKCON is to provide proper guidance and encouragement
to all comers through potentially unlimited siksa relationships. Once the
current GBC itself surrenders to the 'order' of Srila Prabhupada this system will
naturally inspire more and more surrender from others, eventually perhaps even
attracting die hard ritvik activists to do the same.
Even if all ritvik proponents
were actually stubbornly unwilling to surrender to a Guru, that still does not
invalidate the July 9th order. The fact that ritviks are allegedly
so unsurrendered should make the GBC even more anxious to follow Srila Prabhupada's
final order, if for no other reason than to prove a contrast.
27) "But who will offer
guidance and give service to devotees if there are to be no Diksa Gurus."
There will be a Diksa
Guru, Srila Prabhupada; and guidance and service will be given in exactly the
same way as it was when he was present, through reading his books and through
Siksa Guru relationships with other devotees. Before 1977, when someone
joined the temple, they would be instructed by the Bhakta Leader, the Sankirtan
Leader, visiting Sannyasis, the Cook, the Pujari, the Temple President,
etc. It would be extremely rare to be given personal guidance directly from Srila
Prabhupada; in fact he constantly discouraged such interaction so that he could
concentrate on his writing. We suggest things should go on just as Srila Prabhupada
set them up.
28) "On three occasions Srila Prabhupada states that
you need a physical guru, and yet your whole position rests on the idea
that you do not."
"Therefore, as soon as we
become a little inclined towards Krsna, then from within our heart he gives us
favourable instruction so that we can gradually make progress, gradually. Krsna
is the first spiritual master, and when we become more interested then we have
to go to a physical spiritual master."
(SP Bg. Lecture, 14/8/66, New York)
"Because Krsna is situated
in everyone's heart. Actually, he is the spiritual master, Caitya-Guru.
So in order to help us, he comes out as physical spiritual master."
(SP S.B. Lecture, 28/5/74, Rome)
"Therefore God is called Caitya-Guru,
the spiritual master within the heart. And the physical spiritual master is God's
mercy [...] He will help you from within and without, without in the physical
form of the spiritual master, and within as the spiritual master within the heart."
(SP Room conversation, 23/5/74)
Srila Prabhupada used the term
physical guru when explaining that in the conditioned stage we cannot rely
purely on the Caitya-Guru or Supersoul for guidance. It is imperative that
we surrender to the external manifestation of the Supersoul. This is the Diksa
Guru. Such a Spiritual Master, who is considered a resident of the spiritual
world, and an intimate associate of Lord Krsna, makes his physical appearance
just to guide the fallen conditioned souls. Often such a Spiritual Master will
write physical books; he will give lectures which can be heard with
physical ears and be recorded on physical tape machines; he may leave
physical murtis and even a physical GBC to continue managing everything
once he has physically departed.
However what Srila Prabhupada
never taught was that this physical guru must also be
physically present in order to act as guru. As we have pointed out,
were this the case, then currently no-one could be considered his disciple. If
the guru must always be physically present in order for transcendental
knowledge to be imparted, then once Srila Prabhupada left the planet all his disciples
should have taken 're-initiation'. Furthermore thousands of Srila Prabhupada's
disciples were initiated having had no contact with the physical body of
Srila Prabhupada. Yet it is accepted that they approached, enquired from, surrendered
to, served and took initiation from the physical spiritual master. No one is arguing
that their initiations were null and void by dint of the above three quotes.
29) "Can not the Diksa Guru be a conditioned
As we have already mentioned
there is only one place in all of Srila Prabhupada's teachings where the qualification
of a Diksa guru is specifically mentioned (C.c. Madhya, 24.330).
That is in the section of the Caitanya-Caritamrta which deals specifically
with diksa. The quote clearly establishes that the Diksa guru must
be a maha-bhagavata. The pertinent point to note is Srila Prabhupada's
use of the words 'must', 'must', and 'only'. It is not possible to be more emphatic.
There are no quotes that state that the Diksa guru can be
a conditioned soul. This is not surprising otherwise Srila Prabhupada would be
preaching a contradiction in guru-tattva. There are quotes which may give
the impression that they are supporting the idea of a non-liberated guru, but
they usually fall into two categories:
Quotes dealing with the qualification for a siksa
These quotes will stress how
easy it is to act as a guru, how even children can do it, and is usually linked
to Lord Caitanya's amara ajnaya verse.
Quotes describing the process of achieving guruhood:
These quotes will usually always
have the word 'become' in them. This is because by following the process
outlined, one will advance and qualify oneself for guruhood. In this way one will
'become' guru. The quotes will never say that the qualification of the resultant
guru will be less than maha-bhagavata. They will usually just describe
We have kept this brief since
it is a subject on which another paper could be written; more importantly it is
a topic that is not directly relevant to the issue in hand - namely what Srila
Prabhupada actually ordered. Just because the Diksa guru must be a maha-bhagavata
does not mean we have to have a ritvik system, or that Srila Prabhupada
set up such a system. Conversely even if the qualification of a Diksa guru
was simple, that does not mean Srila Prabhupada did not order a ritvik
system. We simply need to examine what Srila Prabhupada did and follow that; not
what Srila Prabhupada may or should have done. This paper has dealt exclusively
with Srila Prabhupada's actual final instructions. We have also touched on this
subject on pages 9 and 36.
30) "Srila Prabhupada put
the GBC at the head of the Society to manage everything and this is the way they
have chosen to run initiations."
Srila Prabhupada never authorised the GBC to
change any of the systems of management he personally put in place:
The GBC (Governing Body Commission) has been established by His Divine Grace A.C.
Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada to represent Him in carrying out the responsibility
of managing the International Society for Krishna Consciousness of which He
is the Founder-Acarya and supreme authority. The GBC accepts as its life and
soul His divine instructions and recognises that it is completely dependent
on His mercy in all respects. The GBC has no other function or purpose other
than to execute the instructions so kindly given by His Divine Grace and preserve
and spread His Teachings to the world in their pure form." (Definition
of GBC, Resolution 1, GBC minutes 1975)
system of management will continue as it is now and there is no need of any
(Srila Prabhupada's Declaration of Will, 4th June, 1977)
The ritvik system was
his chosen way of managing initiations within ISKCON. The job of the GBC is to
ensure it runs smoothly, not disband it and start their own system, and in the
process develop their own philosophy:
"The standards I have already
given you, now try to maintain them at all times under standard procedure. Do
not try to innovate or create anything or manufacture anything, that will ruin
(SP Letter to Bali Mardan and Pusta
"Now I have invested the GBC for maintaining the
standard of our Krsna Consciousness Society, so keep the GBC very vigilant. I
have already given you full directions in my books."
(SP Letter to Satsvarupa, 13/9/70)
"I have appointed originally 12 GBC members and
I have given them 12 zones for their administration and management, but simply
by agreement you have changed everything, so what is this, I don't know."
(SP Letter to Rupanuga, 4/4/72)
"What will happen
when I am not here, shall everything be spoiled by GBC?"
Letter to Hansadutta, 11/4/72)
The GBC body should act solely within the parameters
it was set by Srila Prabhupada. It pains us to see Srila Prabhupada's representative
body in any way compromised, since it was his desire that everyone cooperate under
Let us all cooperate under
the direction of Srila Prabhupada's final order.
We hope the reader has now gained
a deeper appreciation for Srila Prabhupada's momentous final order on the future
of initiation within ISKCON. We apologise if any part of our presentation has
offended anyone; that was not our intention, so please forgive our inadequacies.
We started this paper stressing
how we are sure that if any mistakes have been made, they were not deliberate,
and it should therefore not be felt necessary to witch-hunt or spend unnecessary
energy blaming anyone. It is a fact that when the Acarya leaves, there
is automatically some confusion. When one considers that the Movement is destined
to run for at least another 9,500 years, nineteen years of confusion is very little
indeed. It is time now to digest what has gone wrong, learn from our mistakes
and then put the past behind us and work together to build a better ISKCON.
It may be considered necessary
to ease the ritvik system in gently, in phases perhaps. Maybe it can even
run concurrently with the M.A.S.S. for a short, pre-specified time period, in
order not to create undue tension and disturbance. Such points will need careful
consideration and discussion. As long as our goal is to re-establish Srila Prabhupada's
final order, then within that there should be scope to deal gently with everyone's
feelings. We must treat devotees with care and consideration, allowing them time
to adjust. If an extensive program can be introduced whereby Srila Prabhupada's
teachings and instructions on the guru and initiation are presented systematically,
we are confident the whole thing can be turned round quite quickly, and with a
minimum of disturbance and ill feeling.
Once it is agreed that the ritvik
system is the way forward, there will need to be a cooling off period where the
enmity which has built on both sides of the issue can be allowed to dissipate.
Retreats should be organised where both sides can come together and make friends.
Unfortunately there is considerable immaturity at present, as much from ritvik
proponents as from anyone else. Certainly for ourselves, we do not believe that
had we been senior disciples at the time of Srila Prabhupada's passing, we would
necessarily have acted any differently, or any better. More likely we would have
made matters worse.
In our experience many devotees
in ISKCON, even more senior ones, have never really had the chance to closely
examine the ritvik issue in detail. Unfortunately the form of much ritvik
literature is enough to put anybody off, filled as it is with personal attacks
and very little philosophy. The best solution, as far as we can see, is for the
GBC themselves to resolve this issue. With the correct information before them
we are confident everything will be adjusted correctly in time. This would certainly
be more desirable than being constantly pressured into change by a band of disgruntled
and embittered devotees, some of whom may also have their own agendas not entirely
in line with Srila Prabhupada's final order.
Of course we are also subject
to the four defects and thus we warmly welcome any comments or criticism. Our
main hope in writing this booklet is that the discussion it may inspire might
go some ways towards resolving one of the most protracted and difficult controversies
ISKCON has faced since the departure of His Divine Grace. Please forgive our offences.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
Only Srila Prabhupada can unite
are often defined in one of two incorrect ways:
1) As insignificant priests, mere functionaries,
who simply dish out spiritual names robotically.
2) As apprentice diksa
gurus who are acting as ritviks only until they are fully qualified, at
which point they will initiate on their own behalf.
We shall now compare these definitions
with the role of a ritvik as given by Srila Prabhupada.
Looking first at definition
1). The post of ritvik is a very responsible position. This should
be obvious since Srila Prabhupada specifically chose 11 devotees who already had
a proven track record of taking senior responsibility within his mission. He did
not simply pull the names out of a hat. Thus, although for the most part their
function would be fairly routine, they would also be the first to spot deviations
from the strict standards necessary for initiation. Rather as a policeman's job
is mostly routine, since most citizens are law abiding, yet he will often be the
first person to know when some misdemeanor is being committed. Srila Prabhupada
would often express concern that initiation should only take place when a student
has proven, for at least six months, that he can chant 16 rounds a day, follow
the four regulative principles, read his books etc. Should a Temple President
start sending recommendations to a ritvik for students who were failing
in one of these essential areas, the ritvik would have the power to refuse
initiation. In this way the ritvik would ensure that the standards within
ISKCON remained the same as the day Srila Prabhupada left the planet.
Certainly a ritvik would
himself have to be following strictly, and would hence be a qualified siksa
guru. Whether the ritvik would have a siksa or instructing relationship
with the persons being initiated is a separate issue. He may or may not. For a
devotee who takes on this position, his ritvik portfolio is separate and
distinct from his siksa guru portfolio, though the two may sometimes over-lap.
Whilst Srila Prabhupada was present new initiates would not necessarily even meet
the acting ritvik for his zone. Very often the initiation ceremony would
be carried out by the Temple President, the initiates name arriving by post from
his designated ritvik. At the same time we can see no reason why a ritvik
should not meet new initiates, and even perform the ceremony, if such an arrangement
is agreeable at the local Temple level.
We shall now examine definition
2). As we have several times mentioned, in order to take disciples one must
be a fully authorised maha-bhagavata. Before Srila Prabhupada left, he
put in place a system which made it illegal for anyone other than himself to initiate
within ISKCON. Thus there is no authorisation for anyone, at any time in the future
of ISKCON, to initiate on their own behalf, apart from Srila Prabhupada. Thus
even if a ritvik, or anyone else for that matter, were to attain the level
of maha-bhagavata, he would still need to follow the ritvik system
if he wished to stay within ISKCON. We were given an order on July 9th
1977, and it says nothing about the ritviks ever becoming diksa gurus.
What they do and how they are selected.
a) The ritvik accepts the disciple, issues
new initiates with a spiritual name, chants on beads, and for second initiation
gives the gayatri mantra - all on Srila Prabhupada's behalf (please
see the July 9th letter in Appendices). This was Srila Prabhupada's
chosen method for having responsible devotees overseeing initiation procedures
and standards within ISKCON. The ritvik will examine all recommendations
sent by the Temple Presidents to ensure prospective disciples have met the requisite
standard of devotional practice.
b) A ritvik is a priest
and thus must be a qualified Brahmin. When selecting the ritviks, Srila
Prabhupada first suggested 'senior sannyasis' though he also selected persons
who were not Sannyasis (please see July 8th conversation
in Appendices). The ritviks chosen were senior responsible
men to ensure that the process of initiation went on smoothly throughout the whole
c) Future ritviks can
be selected by the GBC. The way in which ritviks would be selected, reprimanded
or decommissioned, would be practically identical to the way in which diksa
gurus are currently managed by the GBC within ISKCON. This is definitely within
the scope of the powers granted to the GBC by Srila Prabhupada, as they had the
authority to select and review much senior personnel such as Sannyasis, Trustees,
Zonal Secretaries etc. That more ritviks could be added by the GBC was also admitted
by Tamal Krsna Goswami at the 'Topanga Canyon' talks in 1981. (please
So in summary the system would
work exactly as it did when Srila Prabhupada was still on the planet. The mood,
attitude, relationship between the various parties etc. will continue unchanged
from the way it was for a brief four month period in 1977. As Srila Prabhupada
emphatically stated in the second paragraph of his Will:
of management will continue as it is now and there is no need of any change."
July 9th, 1977
INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY FOR KRISHNA CONSCIOUSNESS
Founder-Acharya: His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta
July 9th, 1977
To All G.B.C., and Temple Presidents
Dear Maharajas and Prabhus,
Please accept my humble obeisances
at your feet. Recently when all of the GBC members were with His Divine Grace
in Vrndavana, Srila Prabhupada indicated that soon He would appoint some of His
senior disciples to act as "rittik"-representative of the acarya, for the purpose
of performing initiations, both first initiation and second initiation. His Divine
Grace has so far given a list of eleven disciples who will act in that capacity:
His Holiness Kirtanananda Swami
His Holiness Satsvarupa dasa Gosvami
His Holiness Jayapataka Swami
His Holiness Tamala Krsna Gosvami
His Holiness Hrdayananda Gosvami
His Holiness Bhavananda Gosvami
His Holiness Hamsaduta Swami
His Holiness Ramesvara Swami
His Holiness Harikesa Swami
His Grace Bhagavan dasa Adhikari
His Grace Jayatirtha dasa Adhikari
In the past Temple Presidents
have written to Srila Prabhupada recommending a particular devotee's initiation.
Now that Srila Prabhupada has named these representatives, Temple Presidents may
henceforward send recommendation for first and second initiation to whichever
of these eleven representatives are nearest their temple. After considering the
recommendation, these representatives may accept the devotee as an initiated disciple
of Srila Prabhupada by giving a spiritual name, or in the case of second initiation,
by chanting on the Gayatri thread, just as Srila Prabhupada has done. The newly
initiated devotees are disciples of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
Prabhupad, the above eleven senior devotees acting as His representative. After
the Temple President receives a letter from these representatives giving the spiritual
name or the thread, he can perform the fire yajna in the temple as was being done
before. The name of a newly initiated disciple should be sent by the representative
who has accepted him or her to Srila Prabhupada, to be included in His Divine
Grace's "Initiated Disciples" book.
Hoping this finds you all well.
Tamala Krsna Gosvami
Secretary to Srila Prabhupada
Approved: A.C. Bhaktivedanta
Prabhupada's signature appears on the original]
The following is a transcript
of an actual page of Yasodanandana Swami's (as he was then) diary. It is an entry
listed under the page for 10th July 1977, recording an exchange between
Yasodanandana Swami and Tamala Krsna Goswami.
10th July9.25 a.m.
Tamala Krsna Maharaja comes out of Prabhupada's room (I'm coming from the gurukula)
near the garden.
Tamala Krsna Goswami:
Haribol. Yasoda, did you see this?
No, what is it?
Krsna Goswami: This is signed by Prabhupada. (He pointed to Srila Prabhupada's
signature in the left hand bottom corner. I read the entire letter and then asked
What does all this mean?
Krsna Goswami: Devotees have been writing to Prabhupada asking for initiation,
and now Prabhupada has named eleven ritviks who can initiate on his behalf. Prabhupada
said that others can be added.
And when Prabhupada departs?
Tamala Krsna Goswami:
They'll be Ritviks. That's what Prabhupada said. It's all on tape. Haribol.
I had returned to the Gurukula deeply thinking
of the meaning of the conversation with Maharaja.
(Emphasis added. Original
Diary still available for examination.)
INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY FOR KRISHNA CONSCIOUSNESS
Founder-Acharya His Divine Grace A.C.Bhaktivedanta
July 11th 1977
My dear Kirtanananda
Please accept my most humble
obeisances at your feet. His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada has just received the
latest issue of Brijabasi Spirit, Vol.IV,No.4, which brought Him great joy. As
He looked at the cover showing Kaladri performing a fire ceremony, He said, "Just
see his face how devotee he is, so expert in everything". When Srila Prabhupada
opened the first page, His eyes fixed on the picture of Radha- Vrindavana Chandra,
and He said, "Vrindavana Bihari - so beautiful. There is no danger wherever Vrindavana
Chandra is." After enjoying the whole magazine throughly Srila Prabhupada said,
"It is printed on their own press. It is very good progress." His Divine Grace
very much appreciated the article "How I Was Deprogrammed" by the young devotee
boy. Prabhupada was feeling great sympathy when he heard his story and said, "If
one man is turned like this boy then this movement is successful. There is good
prospect, good hope. You all combine together and push this movement on and on.
Now I am assured that it will go on." While going through the magazine, Srila
Prabhupada also saw your good photo on the page "Istagosthi" and Srila Prabhupada
bestowed a long loving look upon your good self expressing his deep appreciation
for how you have understood this Krishna Consciousness.
A letter has been sent to
all the Temple Presidents and GBC which you should be receiving soon describing
the process for initiation to be followed in the future. Srila Prabhupada has
appointed thus far eleven representitives who will initiate new devotees on His
behalf. You can wait for this letter to arrive (the original has been sent to
Ramesvara Maharaja for duplicating) and then all of the persons whom you recommened
in your previous letters can be initiated.
His Divine Grace has been
maintaining His health on an even course and most amazingly has doubled His translation
work keeping pace with the doubling of book distribution. Hoping this meets you
Tamala Krsna Goswami
Secretary to Srila Prabhupada
(signature appears on original)
His Holiness Kirtanananda
c/o ISKCON New Vrndavana
ROOM CONVERSATION Vrindavana,
July 19th, 1977
Krsna Maharaja: "Upendra and I
could see it far last...(break)."
Prabhupada: "And nobody is going to disturb you there. Make your own field
and continue to become ritvik and act on my charge. People are becoming sympathetic
there. The place is very nice."
Krsna Maharaja: "Yeah. He says:
'The introduction of Bhagavad Gita has been translated into Tamil, and I will
have the second chapter due next, then publish a small booklet for distribution'".
(Letter from Tamala Krsna
Goswami (on Srila Prabhupada's behalf) to Hansadutta).
July 31st 1977
Dear Hansadutta Maharaja,
Please accept my most humble
obeisances at your feet. I have been instructed by His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada
to thank you for your letter dated July 25th 1977.
You have written to Srila
Prabhupada saying you do not know why Srila Prabhupada has chosen you to be a
recipient of his mercy. His Divine Grace immediately replied, 'It is because you
are my sincere servant. You have given up attachment for a beautiful and qualified
wife and that is a great benidiction. You are a real preacher. Therefore I like
you. (Then laughing) Sometimes you become obstinate, but that is true of any intelligent
man. Now you have a very good field. Now organize it and it will be a great credit.
No one will disturb you there. Make your own field and continue to become ritvik
and act on my behalf.'
Srila Prabhupada listened
with great enthusiasm as I read to him the newspaper article. His Divine Grace
was very pleased: 'This article will increase your prestige. It is very nice article.
Therfore the newspaper has spared so much space to print it. It is very nice.
It must be published in Back to Godhead. Now there is a column in Back to Godhead
called 'Prabhupada Speaks Out'. Your article may be entitled 'Prabhupada's Disciple
Speaks Out'. Yes, we shall publish this article certainly. Let this rascal be
fool before the public. I have enjoyed this article very much. I want my disciples
to speak out...backed by complete reasoning. 'Brahma sutra sunisthita', this is
preaching. Be blessed. All my disciples go forward. You have given the challenge.
They cannot answer. This Dr. Kovoor should be invited...For Dr. Svarupa Damodara's
convention on 'Life comes from Life'. He can learn something at this scientific
Yes, you should certainly
get some ISKCON Food Relief money. For your program American money collected and
sent for food distribution. That is my proposal. Three hundred people coming is
no joke. You mentioned so many nice preperations. I would like to eat but I cannot.
At simply hearing these names (of preperations) it is satisfying. Just thinking
this morning of you, and now you have written me.
(last paragraph illegible)
Tamala Krsna Goswami
Secretary to Srila Prabhupada
(signature appears on the
ROOM CONVERSATION Vrindavana, October 22nd
Prabhupada "Hare Krishna. One Bengali gentleman has come from New York?"
(One man had travelled from New York to be initiated by Srila Prabhupada).
Krsna Maharaja: "Yes, Srila Prabhupada.
Mr Sukamoy Roy Choudry."
Prabhupada: "So I have deputied some of you to initiate?"
Krsna Maharaja: "Yes."
Prabhupada: "So, I think Jayapataka can do that. If you like, I have already
deputed. Tell him, some deputies, that Jayapataka's name was there? So, I depute
him to do this at Mayapur and he may go with him. I have stopped for the time
being. Is that alright?"
Krsna Maharaja: "What Srila Prabhupada?"
Prabhupada: "This initiation I have deputed my disciples, is that clear
Krsna Maharaja: "It is clear"
Prabhupada: "You have got a list of names? And if by Krsna's grace I recover
from this condition then I shall begin or I may not but in this condition to initiate
is not good".
ROOM CONVERSATION Vrindavana, November 2nd,
(Srila Prabhupada is explaining
what was discussed with the guests)
Prabhupada: "...So after you, who will take the leadership, and (I said)
everyone will take. All my disciples. If you want you can take also. (Laughter)
But if you follow. They are prepared to sacrifice everything. They'll take the
leadership. I may, one, go away. But there will be hundreds. Hundreds will preach.
If you want you can also be leader. We have no such thing that here is leader.
Anyone who follows the previous leadership. He's leader.
Krsna Maharaja: "Hmm"
Prabhupada: "Indian! We have no such distinction. Indian. European.
"They wanted an Indian to be leader".
Prabhupada: "Yes. Everyone. All my disciples they're leaders. As purely
as they follow, they'll become leaders. If you want to follow, you can become
leader. But you don't follow. I told that. (pause)
Krsna Maharaja: "Yeah. They probably
wanted to propose someone who would take over our movement."
Prabhupada: "Yes. Hmm. (pause) 'Leader'...all nonesense. (pause) Leader
means one who has become first-class disciple. He's leader, 'evam parampara praptam',
one who is perfectly following our intsructions, he's leader. Hmm. To become leader
is not very difficult, provided one is prepared to follow the instructions of
a bona fide guru.
ROOM CONVERSATION Vrindavana, May 28th,
Maharaja: "Then our next question
concerns initiations in the future, particularly at that time when you are no
longer with us. We want to know how first and second initiations will be conducted."
Prabhupada: "Yes. I shall recommend some of you. After this is settled
up. I shall recommend some of you to act as officiating acarya."
"Is that called ritvik-acarya?"
Prabhupada: "Ritvik. Yes."
Maharaja: "What is the relationship
of that person who gives the initiation and..."
Prabhupada: "He's guru. He's guru."
Maharaja: "But he does it on your
Prabhupada: "Yes. That is formality. Because in my presence one should
not become guru, so on my behalf. On my order, amara ajnaya guru hana, be actually
guru. But on my order."
Maharaja: "So they maybe considered
Prabhupada: "Yes, they are disciples but consider... who..."
Krsna Maharaja: "No. He is asking
that these ritvik-acaryas, they are officiating, giving diksa, their - the people
who they give diksa to - whose disciples are they?"
Prabhupada: "They are his disciples."
Krsna Maharaja: "They are his
Prabhupada: "Who is initiating...His grand-disciple..."
Maharaja: "Then we have a question
Prabhupada: "When I order you become guru, he becomes regular guru. That's
all. He becomes disciple of my disciple. Just see."
ROOM CONVERSATION Vrindavana,
July 7th, 1977.
Krsna Maharaja: Srila Prabhupada,
we are receiving a number of letters now. These are people who want to get initiated.
So, up until now, since you're becoming ill, we asked them to wait.
Prabhupada: The local senior sannyasis can do.
Krsna Maharaja: That's what we
were doing. I mean, formally we were...the local GBC sannyasis were chanting on
their beads, and they were writing to Your Divine Grace. And you were giving a
spiritual name. So should that process be resumed, or should we...I mean, one
thing is that it is said the spiritual master takes on the...he takes on the...he
has to cleanse the disciple by...so we don't want that you should have to uh...your
health is not so good, so that should not be...that's why we've been asking everybody
to wait. I just want to know if we should continue to wait some more time.
Prabhupada: No. Senior sannyasais.
Krsna Maharaja: So they should
Prabhupada: You can give me a list of sannyasis. I'll mark them.
Krsna Maharaja: OK.
Prabhupada: You can do. Kirtanananda can do. Satsvarupa can do. So these
three can do.
Krsna Maharaja: So suppose someone
is in America. Should they simply write to Kirtanananda or Satsvarupa?
Prabhupada: Nearby. Jayatirtha can do.
Krsna Maharaja: Jayatirtha.
Prabhupada: Bhagavan. And he can do also...Harikesa.
Krsna Maharaja: Harikesa Maharaja.
Prabhupada: Five, six men they divide, who is nearest.
Krsna Maharaja: Who is nearest.
So persons wouldn't have to write to Your Divine Grace. They could write directly
to that person. Actually they are initiating that person on Your Divine Grace's
behalf. The persons who are initiated are still your...
Prabhupada: Second initiation. We shall think. Second.
Krsna Maharaja: This is for the
first initiation. OK. And for second initiation, for the time being they should...
Prabhupada: Again have to wait. Second initiation, that should be.
Krsna Maharaja: Some devotees
are writing you now for second initiation. And I am writing to them to wait a
while, because you are not well. So can I continue to tell them that?
Prabhupada: They can be second initiated.
Krsna Maharaja: By writing to
Prabhupada: No. These men.
Krsna Maharaja: These men. They
can also do second initiation. So there's no need for devotees to write to you
for first and second initiation. they can write to the man nearest them. But all
these persons are still your disciples. Anybody who would give initiations is
doing so on your behalf.
Krsna Maharaja: You know that
book that I'm maintaining of all your disciple's names? Should I continue that?
Krsna Maharaja: So if someone
gives initiations like Harikesa Maharaja, he should send the persons name to us
here, and I'll enter it into the book. OK. Is there someone else in India that
you want to do this?
Prabhupada: India? I am here. We shall see. In India - Jayapataka.
Krsna Maharaja: Jayapataka Maharaja?.
Prabhupada: You are also in India. You can note down these names.
Krsna Maharaja: Yes I have them.
Prabhupada: Who are they?
Krsna Maharaja: Kirtanananda Maharaja,
Satsvarupa Maharaja, Jayatirtha Prabhu, Bhagavan Prabhu, Harikesa Maharaja, Jayapataka
Maharaja and Tamal Krsna Maharaja.
Prabhupada: That's alright. Now distribute.
Krsna Maharaja: Seven. There's
Prabhupada: For the time being, seven names. Sufficient. (A little time
passes) You can write, Ramesvara Maharaja.
Krsna Maharaja: Ramesvara Maharaja.
Prabhupada: And Hrdayananda.
Krsna Maharaja: Oh, South America.
Prabhupada: So without waiting for me, whoever you consider deserves. That
will depend on discretion.
Krsna Maharaja: On discretion.
Krsna Maharaja: That's the first
and second initiations.
Krsna Maharaja: Should I send a kirtana party, Srila Prabhupada?
ROOM CONVERSATION - APRIL 22, 1977, BOMBAY
Prabhupada: "I told him that 'You cannot do so independent. You are doing
nice, but not to do in the magazine.' (Pause) People complained against Hansadutta.
Did you know that?"
Krsna: "I'm not sure of the particular
incidences, but I've heard general..."
Prabhupada: "In Germany. In Germany."
Krsna: "The devotees there."
Prabhupada: "So many complaints."
Krsna: "Therefore, change is good."
Prabhupada: "You become guru, but you must be qualified first of all. Then
Krsna: "Oh, that kind of complaint
Prabhupada: "Did you know that?"
Krsna: "Yeah, I heard that, yeah."
Prabhupada: "What is the use of producing some rascal guru?"
"Well, I have studied myself and all of your disciples, and it's a clear fact
that we are all conditioned souls, so we cannot be guru. Maybe one day it may
Krsna: "...but not now."
Prabhupada: "Yes. I shall produce some gurus. I shall say who is guru,
'Now you become acarya. You become authorised.' I am waiting for that. You become,
all, acarya. I retire completely. But the training must be complete."
Krsna: "The process of purification
must be there."
Prabhupada: "Oh yes, must be there. Caitanya Mahaprabhu wants. amara ajnaya
guru hana. You become guru. But be qualified. (Laughs) Little thing, strictly
Krsna: "No rubber stamp."
Prabhupada: "Then you'll not be effective. You can cheat, but it will not
be effective. Just see our Gaudiya Math. Everyone wanted to become guru, and a
small temple and guru. What kind of guru? No publication, no preaching, simply
bring some foodstuff...My Guru Maharaja used to say, 'Joint mess, a place for
eating and sleeping."
HOUSE CONFESSIONS, December 3rd, 1980
Krsna Maharaja: "I've had a certain realization a few days ago.(...) There
are obviously so many statements by Srila Prabhupada that his Guru Maharaja did
not appoint any successors.(...) Even in Srila Prabhupada's books he says guru
means by qualification.(...)
The inspiration came because
there was a questioning on my part, so Krishna spoke. Actually Prabhupada never
appointed any gurus. He appointed eleven ritviks. He never appointed them gurus.
Myself and the other GBC have done the greatest disservice to this movement the
last three years because we interpreted the appointment of ritviks as the appointment
What actually happened I'll
explain. I explained it but the interpretation is wrong. What actually happened
was that Prabhupada mentioned he might be appointing some ritviks, so the GBC
met for various reasons, and they went to Prabhupada, five or six of us. (This
refers to the meeting of May 1977,). We asked him, 'Srila Prabhupada, after your
departure, if we accept disciples, whose disciples will they be, your disciples
Later on there was a piled
up list of people to get initiated, and it was jammed up. I said, 'Srila Prabhupada,
you once mentioned about ritviks. I don't know what to do. We don't want to approach
you, but there's hundreds of devotees named, and I'm just holding all the letters.
I don't know what you want to do'.
Srila Prabhupada said, 'All
right, I will appoint so many...' and he started to name them. He made it very
clear that they are his disciples. At that point it was very clear in my mind
that they were his disciples. Later on I asked him two questions, one: 'What about
Brahmananda Swami?'. I asked him this because I happened to have an affection
for Brahmananda Swami.(...) So Srila Prabhupada said, 'No, not unless he is qualified'.
Before I got ready to type the letter, I asked him, two: 'Srila Prabhupada is
this all or do you want to add more?'. He said, 'As is necessary, others may be
Now I understand that what
he did was very clear. He was physically incapable of performing the function
of initiation; therefore he appointed officiating priests to initiate on his behalf.
He appointed eleven, and he said very clearly, 'Whoever is nearest can initiate'.
This is very important because when it comes to initiating, it isn't whoever is
nearest, it's wherever your heart goes. Who (you) repose your faith on, you take
initiation from him. But when it's officiating, it's whoever is nearest, and he
was very clear. He named them. They were spread out all over the world, and he
said, 'Whoever your'e nearest, you just approach that person, and they'll check
you out. Then, on my behalf, they'll initiate.' It is not a question that you
repose your faith in that person - nothing. That's a function for the guru.
'In order for me to manage
this movement', Prabhupada said, 'i have to form a GBC and I will appoint the
following people. In order to continue the process of people joining our movement
and getting initiated, I have to appoint some priests to help me because(...)
I cannot physically manage everyone myself.'
And that's all it was, and
it was never any more than that, you can bet your bottom dollar that Prabhupada
would have spoken for days and hours and weeks on end about how to set up this
thing with the gurus, because he had already said it a million times. He said:
My Guru Maharaja did not appoint anyone. It's by qualification.' We made a great
mistake. After Prabhupada's departure what is the position of these eleven people?(...)
Prabhupada showed that it
is not just sannyasis. He named two people who were grihastas, who could at least
be ritviks, showing that they were equal to any sannyasi. So anyone who is spiritually
qualified - it's always been understood that you cannot accept disciples in the
presence of your guru, but when the guru disappears, you can accept disciples
if you are qualified and someone can repose their faith. Of course, they (prospective
disciples) should be fully appraised at how to distinguish who is a proper guru.
But if you are a proper guru, and your guru is no longer present, that is your
right. It's like a man can procreate(...) Unfortunately the GBC did not recognise
this point. They immediately (assumed, decided) that these eleven people are the
selected gurus. I can definitely say for myself, and for which I humbly beg forgiveness
from everybody, that there was definitely some degree of trying to control(...)
This is the conditioned nature, and it came out in the highest position of all,
'Guru, oh wonderful! Now I am guru, and there is only eleven of us'(...).
I feel that this realization
or this understanding is essential if we are to avoid further things from happening,
because, believe me, it's going to repeat. It's just a question of time until
things have a little bit faded out and again another incident is going to happen,
whether it's here in L.A. or somewhere else. It's going to continuously happen
until you allow the actual spiritual force of Krishna to be exhibited without
restriction.(...) I feel that the GBC body, if they don't adopt this point very
quickly, if they don't realize this truth. You cannot show me anything on tape
or in writing where Prabhupada says: 'I appoint these eleven as gurus'. It does
not exist because he never appointed any gurus. This is a myth.(...) The day you
got initiated you get the right to be come a father when your father disappears,
if you are qualified. No appointment. It doesn't require an appointment, because
there isn't one.
Declaration of Will
Society for Krishna Conciousness
CENTER: Krsna-Balarama Mandir
Bhaktivedanta Swami Marg
Ramanareti, Vrndavana, U.F.
DATE; 5th June 1977.
I, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada,
founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna consciousness, Settlor
of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, and disciple of Om Visnupada 108 Sri Srimad Bhaktsiddhanta
Sarasvati Gosvama Maharaja Prabhupada, presently residing at Sri Krsna-Balarama
Mandir in Vrndavana, make this my last will:
- The Governing Body Commission (GBC) will be
the ultimate managing authority of the entire International Society for Krishna
- Each temple will be an ISKCON property and will
be managed by three executive directors. The system of management will continue
as it is now and there is no need of any change.
- Properties in India will be managed by the following
- Properties at Sri Mayapur Dhama, Panihati, Haridaspur
and Calcutta: Gurukrpa Swami, Jayapataka Swami, Bhavananda Gosvami and Gopal Krsna
- Properties at Vrndavana: Gurukrpa Swami, Akahoyananda
Swami, and Gopal Krsna das Adhikari.
- Properties at Bombay: Tamala Krsna Gosvami,
Giriraj das Brahmahary, and Gopal Krsna das Adhikari.
- Properties at Bhubaneswar: Gour Govinda Swami,
Jayapataka Swami, and Bhagawat das Brahmachary.
- Properties at Hyderbad: Mahamsa Swami, Sridhar
Swami, Gopal Krsna das Adhikari and Bali Mardan das Adhikari.
The executive directors who have
herein been designated are appointed for life. In the event of death or failure
to act for any reason of any of the said directors, a successor director or directors
may be appointed by the remaining directors, provided the new director is my initiated
disciple following strictly all the rules and regulations of the International
Society for Krishna Consciousness as detailed in my books, and provided that there
are never less than three (3) or more than five (5) exeutive directors acting
at one time.
- I have created, developed and organized the
International Society for Krishna Consiousness, and as such I hereby will that
none of the immovable properties standing in the name of ISKCON in India shall
ever be mortgaged, borrowed against, sold, transferred, or in any way encumbered,
disposed of, or alionated. This direction is irrevoable.
- Properties outside of India in principle should
never be mortgaged, borrowed against, sold, transferred or in any way enumbered,
disposed of, or alionated, but if the need arrises, they may be mortgaged, borrowed
against, sold, etc., with the consent of the GBC committee members associated
with the particular property.
- The properties outside of India and their associated
GBC committee members are as follows:
- Properties in Chicago, Detroit and Ann Arbor:
Jayatirtha das Adhikari, Harikesh Swami, and Balavanta das Adhikari
- Properties in Hawii, Tokyo, Hong Kong: Guru
Krpa Swami, Ramesvara Swami and Tamal Krishna Gosvami.
- Properties in Melbourne, Sydney, Australia Farm,
(unreadable): Guru Krpa Swami, Hari Sauri, and Atreya Rsi.
- Properties in England (London Radlett), France,
Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland and Sweeden: Jayatirtha das Adhikari, Bhagavan
das Adhikari, Harikesa Swami.
- Properties in Kenya, Mauritius, South Africa:
Jayatirtha das Adhikari, Brahmananda Swami and Atreya Rsi)
- Properties in Mexico, Venezuala, Brazil, Costa
Rica, Peru, Ecquador, Colombia, Chile: Hrdayananda Gosvami, Panca Dravida Swami,
- Properties in Georgetown, Guyana, Santo Domingo,
St. Augustine: Adi Kesava Swami, Hrdayananda Gosvami, Panca Dravida Swami.
- Properties in Vanouver, Seattle, Berkeley, Dallas:
Satsvarupa Gosvami, Jagidisa das Adikari, Jayatirtha das Adikari.
- Properties in Los Angeles, Denver, San Diego,
Laguna Beach: Rameswara Swami, Satsvarupa Swami, Adi Kesava Swami.
- Properties in New York, Boston, Puerto Rio,
Port Royal, St. Louis, St Louis Farm: Tamal Krishna Gosvami, Adi Kesava Swami,
- Properties in Iran: Atreya Rsi, Bhagavan das
Adhikari, Brahmanananda Swami.
- Properties in Washington D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia,
Montreal and (unreadable): Rupanuga das Adhikari, Gopal Krishna das Adhikari,
Jagadisa das Adhikari.
- Properties in Pittsburg, New Vrndavana, Toronto,
Cleveland, Buffalo: Kirtanananda Swami, Atreya Rsi, Balavanta das Adhikari.
- Properties in Atlanta, Tennessee Farm, Gainsville,
Miami, New Orleans, Mississippi Farm, Houston: Balavanta das Adhikari, Adi Kesava
Swami, Rupanuga das Adhikari.
- Properties in Fiji: Hari Sauri, Atreya Rsi,
- I declare, say and confirm that all the properties,
both movable and immovable which stand in my name, including current accounts,
savings accounts and fixed deposits in various banks, are the properties and assets
of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, and the heirs and successors
of my previous life, or anyone claiming through them, have no right, claim or
interest in these properties whatsoever, save and except as provided hereafter.
- Although the money which is in my personal name
in different banks is beiing spent for ISKCON and belongs to ISKCON, I have kept
a few deposits specifically marked for allocating a monthly allowance of Rs. 1,000/-
(unreadable addition) to the members of my former family, these specific deposits
(corpus, interest, and savings) will become the property of ISKCON for the corpus
of the trust, and the descendants of my former family or anybody claiming through
them shall not be allowed any further allowance.
- I hereby appoint Guru Krpa Swami, Hrdayananda
Gosvami, Tamal Krishna Gosvami, Rameswara Swami, Gopal Krsna das Adhikari, Jayatirtha
das Adhikari and Giriraj das Brahmachary to act as executors of this will. I have
made this will this 4th day of June, 1977, in possession of full senses
and sound mind, without any persuasion, force or compulsion from anybody.
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
The above will was signed by
Srila Prabhupada and sealed and witnesses by the following,
Tamal Krsna Goswami
Bhagavan das Adhikari
and several other witnesses.
(signatures on original document)
5th November 1977
I, A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada,
a sannyasi and Founder- Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness,
Settlor of Bhaktivedanta Book Trust and disciple of Om Visnupada 108 Sri Srimad
Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Maharaja Prabhupada, presently residing at Sri
Krsna-Balarama Mandir in Vrindavana do hereby make this last will and codocil
to give vent to my intention, and to clarify certain things which are to a certain
extent a liitle vague in my previous Will dated 4th June, 1977, as
I had made a Will on 4th
June, 1977, and had made certain provisions therein. One of them being a provision
of maintainance allowance to Sri M.M. De, Brindaban Chandra de, Miss Bhakti Lata
De and Smt. Sulurmana Dey, who were born of me during my grhastha ashram, and
Smt. Radharani De, who was my wife in the grhastha ashrama for their lives as
per para.8 of the said Will. Since on careful consideration I feel that the said
paragraph does not truly depict my intentions, I hereby direct that as regards
Smt. Radharani De, she will get Rs. 1,000/- per month for her life out of interest
to be earned from a fixed deposit of Rs. One Lakh Twenty Thousand to be made by
ISKCON in any bank that the authorities of the said society think proper for a
period of seven years in the name of ISKCON, which amount shall not be available
to any of her heirs and after her death the said amount be appropiated by ISKCON
in any way the authorities of ISKCON think proper looking to the objects of this
As regards Sri M.M. De, Sri Brindaban
Chandra De, Smt. Sulurmana Dey and Miss Bhakti Lata De, the ISKCON will deposit
Rs. One Lakh Twenty Thousand under 4 seperate Fixed Deposit receipts, each for
Rs. 1,20,000/- for seven years in a bank to earn interest at least Rs. 1,000/-
a month under each receipt. Out of the said sum of Rs. 1,000/-, only Rs. 250/-
will be paid to each of them from the interest of their Fixed Deposit receipts.
The remaining interset of Rs. 750/- will be deposited again under new fixed Deposit
receipts in their respective names for seven years. On the maturity of these Fixed
Deposit receipts created from Rs. 750/- monthly interest for the first seven years,
the said sums shall be invested by the above named persons in some Govt. Bonds,
Fixed Deposit recepits or under any Govt. Deposit scheme or shall be used to purchase
some immovable property so that the amount may remain safe and may not be dissipated.
In case, however, the aboved named persons or any of them violate these conditions
and use the said sum in purpose or puposes other than those described above, the
ISKCON authorities will be free to stop the payment of the monthly maintainance
of such person or persons from the original Fixed Deposits of Rs. 1,20,000/- and
they shall instead give the amount of interest of Rs. 1,000/- per month to Bhaktivedanta
Swami Charity Trust. It is made clear that the heirs of the said persons will
have no right to anything out of the said sums and that these sums are only for
the personal use of the said persons of my previous life during their respective
I have appointed some executors
of my said Will. I now hereby add the name of Sri. Jayapataka Swami, my disciple,
residing at Sri Mayapur Chandrodoya Mandir, Dist. Nadia, West Bengal, as an executor
of my said Will along with the previous already named in the said Will dated 4th
June, 1977. I hereby further direct that my executors will be entitled to act
together or individually to fulfill their obligations under my said Will.
I therefore hereby extend, modify
and alter my said Will dated 4th June, 1977, in the manner mentioned
above. In all other respects the said Will continues to hold good and shall always
I hereby make this Will codocil
this 5th day of November, 1977, in my full conscience and with sound
mind without any persuasion, force or compulsion from anybody.
Witnesses: (signatures on original
Quotes from Srila Prabhupada's Teachings
the Guru have to be physically present?
Physical presence is immaterial.
Presence of the transcendental sound received from the Spiritual Master should
be the guidance of life. That will make our spiritual life successful. If you
feel very strongly about my absence you may place my pictures on my sitting places
and this will be source of inspiration for you.
(Letter to Brahmananda
and other students, 19/1/67)
But always remember that I am
always with you. As you are always thinking of me, I am always thinking of you
also. Although physically we are not together, we are not separated spiritually.
So we should be concerned only with this spiritual connection.
(Letter to Gaurasundara,
So we should associate by vibration,
and not by the physical presence. That is real association.
(Lectures SB, 68/08/18)
There are two conceptions, the
physical conception and the vibrational conception. The physical conception is
temporary. The vibrational conception is eternal.[...] When we feel separation
from Krsna or the Spirirual Master, we should just try to remember their words
or instructions, and we will no longer feel that separation. Such association
with Krsna and the Spiritual Master should be association by vibration not
physical presence. That is real association.
(Elevation to Krsna Consciousness,(BBT
1973), Page 57)
Although according to material
vision His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarsavati Thakura Prabhupada passed
away from this material world on the last day of December 1936, I still consider
his Divine Grace to be always present with me by his vani, his words. There are
two ways of association - by vani and by vapuh. Vani means words and vapuh means
physical presence. Physical presence is sometimes appreciable and sometimes not,
but Vani continues to exist eternally. Therefore, one must take advantage
of the Vani, not the physical presence.
(CC, Antya 5 Conclusion)
Therefore we should take advantage
of the Vani, not the physical presence.
(Letter to Suci Devi Dasi,
I shall remain your
personal guidance, physically present
or not physically present, as I am getting guidance from my Guru
(Room Conversation, Vrindavan,
It is sometimes misunderstood
that if one has to associate with persons engaged in devotional service, he will
not be able to solve the economic problem. To answer this argument, it is described
here that one has to associate with liberated persons not directly, physically,
but by understanding, through philosophy and logic, the problems of life.
I am always with you. Never mind
if I am physically absent.
(Letter to Jayananda, 16/9/67)
We're always feeling your presence very
strongly, Srila Prabhupada, simply by your teachings and your instructions. We're
always meditating on your instructions.
Thank you. That is the real presence. Physical presence is not important.
(Room Conversation, Vrndavana,
You write that you have desire
to avail of my association again, but why do you forget that you are always in
association with me? When you are helping my missionary activities I am always
thinking of you, and you are always thinking of me . That is real association.
Just like I am always thinking of my Guru Maharaja at every moment, although he
is not physically present, and because I am trying to serve him to my best capacity,
I am sure he is helping me by his spiritual blessings. So there are two kinds
of association: physical and preceptorial. Physical association is not so important
as preceptorial association.
(Letter to Govinda Dasi,
As far as my blessing is concerned,
it does not require my physical presence. If you are chanting Hare Krsna there,
and following my instructions, reading the books, taking only Krsna prasadam etc.,
then there is no question of your not receiving the blessings of Lord Caitanya,
whose mission I am humbly trying to push on.
(Letter to Bala Krsna,
'Anyone who has developed unflinching
faith in the Lord and the Spiritual Master can understand the revealed scripture
unfolding before him'. So continue your present aptitude and you will be successful
in your spiritual progress. I am sure that even if I am not physically
present before you, still you will be able to execute all spiritual duties
in the matter of Krsna Consciousness, if you follow the above principles.
(Letter to Subala, 29/9/67)
So although a physical body is
not present, the vibration should be accepted as the presence of the Spiritual
Master, vibration. What we have heard from the Spiritual Master,
that is living.
(General lectures, 69/01/13)
sometimes the Spiritual Master is far away. He may be in Los Angeles. Somebody
is coming to Hamburg Temple. He thinks 'How will the Spiritual Master be pleased?'
Just follow his order, Spiritual Master is along
with you by his words. Just like my Spiritual Master is not physically
present, but I am associating with him by his words.
(SB Lectures, 71/08/18)
Just like I am working, so my
Guru Maharaja is there, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. Physically he may not be,
but in every action he is there. To serve master's word is more important than
to serve physically.
(Room Conversation, Vrindavan,
So that is called Prakata, physically
present. But that does not mean, Krsna is dead or God is dead. That does not mean,
Prakata or Aprakata, physically present or not present, it does not matter.
(Lectures SB 73/12/11)
So, spiritually, there is no
question of separation, even physically we may be in far distant place.
(Letter to Syama Dasi,
I went to your country for spreading
this information of Krsna Consciousness and you are helping me in my mission,
although I am not physically present there but spiritually I am
always with you.
(Letter to Nandarani, Krsna
Devi and Subala, 3/10/67)
We are not separated actually.
There are two - Vani or Vapuh - so Vapu is physical presence and Vani is presence
by the vibration, but they are all the same.
(Letter to Hamsadutta,
So in the absence of physical
presentation of the spiritual master, the Vaniseva is more important. My Spiritual
Master Sarsavati Goswami, may appear to be physically not present, but
still because I try to serve his instruction, I never feel separated from him.
(Letter to Karandhara,
I also do not feel separation
from my Guru Maharaja. When I am engaged in his service, his pictures give me
sufficient strength. To serve master's word is more important than to serve him
(Letter to Syamasundara,
the instruction, not the body.
So far as personal association
with Guru is concerned, I was only with Guru Maharaj 4 or 5 times, but I have
never left his association, not even for a moment. Because I am following his
instruction, I have never felt any separation. There are some of my Godbrothers
here in India, who had constant personal association with Guru Maharaja, but who
are neglecting his orders. This is just like the bug who is sitting on the lap
of the king. He may be very puffed up by his position but all he can succeed in
doing is biting the king. Personal association is not so important as association
(Letter to Satyadhana,
So spiritually appearance and
disappearance, there is no difference ... spiritually there is no such difference,
appearance or disappearance. Although this is the disappearance day of Om Visnupada
Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, there is nothing to be lamented,
although we feel separation.
(Lecture, Los Angeles 13/12/73)
So my Guru Maharaja will be very,
very much pleased with you ... it is not that he is dead and gone. That is not
spiritual understanding ... he is seeing. I never feel that I am alone.
Vani is more important than vapuh.
(Letter to Tusta Krishna
Yes I am glad that your centre
is doing so well and all the devotees are now appreciating the presence of their
spiritual master by following his instructions, although he is no longer present.
This is the right spirit.
(Letter to Karandhara,
The spiritual master by his
words, can penetrate into the heart of the suffering person and inject knowledge
transcendental which alone can extinguish the fire of material existence.
(SB(1987 Ed) 1.7.22)
There are two words, vani and
vapuh. Vani means words, and vapuh means the physical body. Vapuh will be finished.
This material body it will be finished, that is the nature. But if we keep to
the vani, to the words of the spiritual master, then we remain very fixed up...if
you always keep intact, in link with the words and instructions of the higher
instructions, then you are always fresh. This is spiritual understanding.
(General lectures, 75/03/02)
So we should give more stress
on the sound vibration, either of Krsna or Spiritual Master. Never think that
I am absent from you, presence by message(or hearing) is the real touch.
(Letter to students, August
Reception of spiritual knowledge
is never checked by any material condition.
(SB (1987)Ed) 7.7.1.)
The potency of transcendental
sound is never minimised because the vibrator is apparently absent.
The disciple and Spiritual Master
are never separated because the Spiritual Master always keeps company with the
disciple as long as the disciple follows strictly the instructions of the Spiritual
Master. This is called the association of Vani. Physical presence is called Vapuh.
As long as the Spiritual Master is physically present, the disciple should serve
the physical body of the Spiritual Master, and when the Spiritual Master is no
longer physically existing, the disciple should serve the instructions of the
If there is no chance to serve
the spiritual master directly, a devotee should serve him by remembering his instructions.
There is no difference between the spiritual masters instructions and the spiritual
master himself. In the absence therefore, his words of direction should be pride
of the disciple.
(CC(1975 Ed) Adi 1.35)
He lives forever by his divine
instructions, and the follower lives with him.
(SB(1962 Ed) Preface)
He reasons ill who tells that
Vaisnavas die, when thou art still living in sound.
Yes, the ecstacy of separation
of Spiritual Master is even greater ecstasy than meeting with him.
(Letter to Jadurani, 13/1/68)
Krsna and his representative
are the same. Similarly, the spiritual master can be present wherever the disciple
wants. A spiritual master is the principle, not the body. Just like a television
can be seen in thousands of place by the principle of relay monitoring.
(Letter to Malati, 28/5/68)
It is better service to Krsna
and Spiritual Master in a feeling of separation; sometimes there is a risk in
the matter of direct service.
(Letter to Madhusudana,
Books are Enough
Srila Prabhupada when you're not
present with us, how is it possible to receive instructions? For example in
questions that may arise...
Prabhupada: Well the questions
are answ...answers are there in my books.
(Morning Walk, Los Angeles,
So utilise whatever time you
find to make a thorough study of my books. Then all your questions
will be answered.
(Letter to Upendra, 7/1/76)
If it is possible to go to the
temple, then take advantage of the temple. A temple is a place where by one is
given the opportunity to render direct devotional service to the Supreme Lord
Sri Krishna. In conjunction with this you should always read my books daily and
all your questions will be answered and you will have a firm basis of Krishna
Consciousness. In this way your life will be perfect.
(Letter to Hugo Salemon,
Every one of you must regularly
read our books at least twice, in the morning and evening, and automatically
all questions will be answered.
( Letter to Randhira, 24/01/70)
In my books the philosophy of
Krsna Consciousness is explained fully so if there is anything you do not
understand, then you simply have to read again and again. By reading daily the
knowledge will be revealed to you and by this process your spiritual
life will develop.
(Letter to Brahmarupa Dasa,
Prabhupada: Even a moments association
with a pure devotee - all success!
Does that apply to reading the words
of a pure devotee?
Even a little association with your
books has the same effect?
Prabhupada: Effect. Of course
it requires both things. One must be very eager to take it.
(Room Conversation, 13/12/70)
After 80 years, no one can be
expected to live long. My life is almost ended. So you have to carry on, and these
books will do everything.
(Room Conversation, 18/2/76)
My question is, a pure
devotee, when he comments on Bhagavad Gita, someone who never sees him physically,
but he just comes in contact with the commentary, explanation, is this the same
Prabhupada: Yes. You can associate
with Krsna by reading Bhagavad-Gita. And these saintly persons, they have given
their explanations, comments. So where is the difficulty?
(Morning Walk, Paris 11/6/74)
There is nothing new to
be said. Whatever I had to say, I have already said in my books.
Now you must try to understand it and continue with your endeavours. Whether I
am present or not does not matter.
If I depart there is no cause
for lamentation. I will always be with you through my books and orders. I will
always remain with you in that way.
(BTG 13:1-2, December 1977)
Prabhupada is our Eternal Guru
Who will succeed you when you die?
Prabhupada: I will never
Prabhupada: I will live
forever from my books and you will utilise.
(Interview, Berkley, 17/7/75)
Lady: ... is
that spiritual master still guiding after death?
Prabhupada: Yes, yes.
Just like Krsna is guiding us, similarly spiritual master will guide us.
(General lectures, 69/09/23)
Eternal bond between disciple
and Spiritual Master begins from the day he hears.
(Letter to Jadurani, 4/9/72)
The influence of the pure devotee
is such that if someone comes to associate with him with a little faith, he gets
the chance of hearing about the Lord from authoritative scriptures
like Srimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavad Gita. This is the first stage of association
with the pure devotee.
(Nectar of Devotion, (1982
These are not ordinary books.
It is recorded chanting. Anyone who reads, he is hearing.
(Letter to Rupanuga Das,
Regarding parampara system, there
is nothing to wonder for big gaps. We have to pick up the prominent acarya
and follow from him.
(Letter to Dayananda, 12/4/68)
These great souls(members of
the disciplic succession) were not mere luminaries like comets appearing in the
firmament for a while and disappearing as soon as their mission is done. They
are like so many suns shining all along to give light and heat to succeeding generations.
Long time yet to roll on when they will be succeeded by others of sublime mind,
beauty and calibre.
So those disciples who don't
have the opportunity to see you or speak with you...
Prabhupada: That he was
speaking, vani and vapuh. Even if you don't see his body, you take his words,
But how do they know that
they're pleasing you?
Prabhupada: If you actually
follow the words of Guru, that means he is pleased. And if you do not follow,
how can he be pleased?
Not only that, but your mercy
is spread everywhere, and if we take advantage, you told us once, then we will
feel the result.
And if we have faith in what
the Guru says, then automatically we'll do that.
Prabhupada: Yes. My Guru
Maharaja passed away in 1936, and I started this movement in 1965, 30 years after.
Then? I am getting mercy of Guru. This is vani. Even
if Guru is not physically present, if you follow the vani, then you are getting
So there is no question of
ever separation as long as the disciple follows the instructions of Guru.
Prabhupada: No. Cakhu-dano-dilo-jei.
What is the next one?
janme janme prabhu sei.
Prabhupada: Janme janme
prabhu sei. So where there is separation? Who
has opened your eyes, he is birth after birth your prabhu.
(Room conversation, 21/7/75)
Is there any way for a Christian
to do without the help of a Spiritual Master. To reach the spiritual sky through
believing the words of Jesus Christ and trying to follow his teachings?
I don't follow.
Krishna Goswami: Can
a Christian in this age, without a Spiritual Master, but by reading the Bible,
and following Jesus's words, reach the ...
Prabhupada: When you
read the Bible, you follow the Spiritual Master. How can you say without. As soon
as you read the Bible, that means you are following the instruction of Lord Jesus
Christ. That means that you are following the Spiritual Master. So where is the
opportunity of being without Spiritual Master.
I was referring to a living
Master is not question of ... Spiritual Master is eternal...so your question
is 'without Spiritual Master'. Without Spiritual Master you cannot be at any stage
of your life. You may accept this Spiritual master or that Spiritual master. That
is a different thing. But you have to accept. As you say that "by reading Bible",
when you read Bible that means you are
following the Spiritual Master represented by some priest or some clergyman in
the line of Lord Jesus Christ.
(Morning Walk, Seattle,
You have asked if it is true
that the spiritual master remains in the universe until all his disciples are
transferred to the spiritual sky. The answer is yes, this is the rule.
(Letter to Jayapataka,
All glories to His Divine Grace
A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada!