Why Iskcon Leaders Reject Ritvik Initiations
By Narasimha das
This discussion often arises: Why do many of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples reject his clear and common-sense order for ritvik initiations? Some devotees suggest it is due to ignorance or a misunderstanding caused by deliberate false propaganda. Others suggest it is simply because they are falsely ambitious. Others say it is due to jealousy or envy. Any or all these things may be true, but the primary reason is best described by Srila Prabhupada himself in many places, including the following letter:
“I have got this personal experience in my Guru Maharaj’s institution. Different Godbrothers took the words of Guru Maharaj in different interpretations for sense gratification and the whole mission [was] disrupted. This is still going on for the last 40 years without any proper settlement. I am always afraid of this crack, but I am sure if our aim is to serve Krishna sincerely and the Spiritual Master simultaneously, that will be our success. That means serve Krishna and the Spiritual Master simultaneously with equal faith and serious vow, and then success is sure. ” (Letter, Oct.18, 1969)
Srila Prabhupada often warned that personal motives among His disciples could ruin His mission. Due to personal motives for sense gratification people lose their intelligence by becoming lusty and greedy. There are no limits for those possessed by greed and false ambitions. They may commit any abominable action for their ambitions. They may even kill their own children, parents, brothers, or spiritual master. This verdict of shastra is confirmed throughout history[NS1] .
For sincere, non-envious devotees, it is easy to conclude that Srila Prabhupada is the real acharya and diksa-guru for this age. He is self-effulgent. For devotees not polluted by bad association, this conclusion will be the natural result of hearing from Him, reading His books, and following His instructions without personal ambitions. Such devotees easily understand the beauty and bliss of Srila Prabhupada’s instructions for ritvik initiations.
Some points to consider:
A.) Throughout Srila Prabhupada’s books, he clearly teaches that only a fully self-realized pure devotee specifically appointed by Krishna or the maha-bhagavata acharya can become the bona fide spiritual master and impart diksha to new devotees. This is proven by innumerable scriptural quotes, and by the personal examples of many great devotees, such as Sri Gadadhara Pandit and Srila Gaura Kishora das Babaji, who did not agree to initiate their own disciples without a direct order from Lord Chaitanya or Lord Krishna.
B.) When specifically asked how initiations would be continued after his disappearance, Srila Prabhupada replied, “I shall appoint some of you to act as representatives of the Acharya… Ritvik. Yes.” (Conv. May 28th, 1977)
C.) Srila Prabhupada gave many follow-up instructions, including an official signed document (July 9th, 1977) stating the same thing: ritvik initiations “henceforward.”
D.) The ritvik system was already functioning in ISKCON for many years prior. He simply sanctioned the GBC to manage it without his personal oversight. (Note: “Ritvik” is not a “vada” or philosophy. It is in fact an authorized Vedic system of management and sadhana by which priests conduct rituals under the auspices of a self-realized Acharya.)
E.) Srila Prabhupada repeatedly insisted that nothing in ISKCON management or sadhana be changed.
F.) Srila Prabhupada often explained that the guru-parampara is continued by bona fide disciples of the Acharya. The bona fide spiritual master is never bound by external Vedic traditions. His mission is not dependent on ecclesiastical conventions, nominations of followers, popularity, the Acharya’s physical presence, or the voting and decisions of clerics.
Srila Prabhupda: “The question may be raised that since the Lord is supposed to be worshiped by great demigods like Lord Brahmā, Lord Śiva and others, how can an ordinary human being on this planet serve Him? This is clearly explained by Pṛithu Mahārāja by the use of the word yathādhikāra, “according to one’s ability.” If one sincerely executes his occupational duty, that will be sufficient. One does not need to become like Lord Brahmā, Lord Śiva, Indra, Lord Chaitanya or Rāmānujācārya, whose capabilities are certainly far above ours. Even a śūdra, who is in the lowest stage of life according to the material qualities, can achieve the same success. Anyone can become successful in devotional service provided he displays no duplicity. It is explained here that one must be very frank and open-minded (amāyinaḥ). To be situated in a lower status of life is not a disqualification for success in devotional service. The only qualification is that whether one is a brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya or śūdra, he must be open, frank and free from reservations.” (SB 4.21.33, Purport)
Unfortunately, just prior to (and immediately after) Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance in November of 1977, polluted members of the GBC made illicit plans for artificially posting themselves as acharyas through duplicity and deceit. They avoided conducting “open-minded and frank” discussions with senior Godbrothers conversant with Srila Prabhupada’s books. They acted duplicitously and avoided consulting Srila Prabhupada through His books and instructions. They decided to defy Srila Prabhupada’s many direct instructions and warnings for the sake of consulting a Gaudiya Matha sannyasi whom Srila Prabhupada had explained played a major role promoting unqualified diksa-gurus, causing severe disruptions in the Gaudiya Matha.
“A first-class leader does not make a decision without consulting, with open mind, wise experienced ministers, friends who have been faithful throughout life, and family members who have proven their love. And after taking that council and seriously considering every word of it, he depends upon the higher power of God or providence for right direction. A second-class leader, with his own intelligence, searches his own heart what’s best to do, and then after considering everything takes full responsibility. A third-class leader is one who hastily attacks or does something serious without due consideration of the pros and cons.” (The Demon Ravana, quoting the Vedas.)
Unlike the first-class leaders described here, gbc men defied Srila Prabhuapda’s orders and avoided consulting Prabhupada’s books and senior disciples. Had the gbc followed the advice of their hero, the Rakshasha Ravana, they would have done the right thing. And, had Ravana followed his own advice, he would have heard the pleas of Vibhishana, his brother and well-wisher, and returned Sita to Rama.
Fortunately, despite the gbc’s deceit and false propaganda, many sincere new devotees have understood that Srila Prabhupada is the real initiator and teacher for all sincere devotees in this age. For them, Srila Prabhupada’s order for the continuation of ritvik initiations is common sense. Had Srila Prabhupada’s instructions been followed by the GBC, ISKCON likely would not have devolved into various factions of hodge-podge, quasi-Hindu organizations but would have remained a powerful spiritual movement.
January 16, 2022