“The Sastric Basis for Srila Prabhupada’s Continued Diksa Status” By Krishnakant.
Iskcon Revival Movement
‘Guru, Sadhu and Sastra’ 1
Ritvik ‘Philosophy’ is not in Srila Prabhupada’s Books. 1
Aspect b) 2
What Initiation System Does Srila Prabhupada’s Books Support? 4
Stage 1 6
The Diksa Guru Cannot Change. 7
That the devotee is initiated by that diksa guru. 7
One common objection to keeping Srila Prabhupada as ISKCON’s diksa guru, through the
use of representatives as outlined in the July 9th letter, is that it is not supported by guru,
sadhu and sastra’. There are two forms to this objection:
A) It is argued that the July 9th letter alone, whilst admittedly issued by a guru, is not in
and of itself sufficient evidence to substantiate the pro-ritvik position since it is not
supported by sadhu and sastra.
B) It is also argued that the July 9th letter could not possibly be endorsing the ritvik
system for after Srila Prabhupada’s departure, since to do so would be out of line with
‘guru, sadhu, sastra’.
Iskcon Revival Movement
In this paper we shall look closely at a number of objections raised against Srila Prabhupada remaining the diksa guru for ISKCON
in relation to the eternal principles of guru, sadhu and sastra. We shall show that the continuance of Srila Prabhupada as the
diksa guru for ISKCON is in total harmony with these principles, and that specifically with regards Srila Prabhupada’s books, it is
an unavoidable natural consequence of our theology. We shall demonstrate that Srila Prabhupada’s position as the diksa guru
for ISKCON cannot but prevail if our preaching is properly in line with Srila Prabhupada’s teachings.
‘Guru, Sadhu and Sastra’
One common objection to keeping Srila Prabhupada as ISKCON’s diksa guru, through the use of representatives as outlined in
the July 9th letter, is that it is not supported by ‘guru, sadhu and sastra’. There are two forms to this objection:
A) It is argued that the July 9th letter alone, whilst admittedly issued by a guru, is not in and of itself sufficient evidence to
substantiate the pro-ritvik position since it is not supported by sadhu and sastra.
B) It is also argued that the July 9th letter could not possibly be endorsing the ritvik system for after Srila Prabhupada’s departure,
since to do so would be out of line with ‘guru, sadhu, sastra’.
One point which is often missed by those who quote this ‘guru, sadhu, sastra’ principle, is that if the guru is bona fide, then his
teachings and instructions will automatically be in line with sadhu and sastra:
“Sadhu sastra guru-vakya, tinete kariya aikya. Sastra is never changed. And the sadhu… sadhu means who follows
the sastras. He is sadhu. He also does not change. Sadhu, sastra and guru? Guru means who follows the sastra and
sadhu. So there are three, the same.”
(S.P. Lecture 30/11/76,Vrindavana).”
Since Prabhupada, of course, is such a bona fide guru, a fact that is not disputed by anyone in ISKCON. Thus we know that when
we follow the orders of Srila Prabhupada, the bona fide guru, sastra and sadhu will automatically be satisfied.
If we accept any generally applicable teaching or instruction issued by Srila Prabhupada we are automatically, by definition,
situated in line with sadhu and sastra. Such teachings and instructions, when issued by a bona fide guru, are all ‘vedic version’,
sastric or as good as scriptural evidence (as long as we only accept a ‘mukhya vritti’, or face-meaning interpretation of them) and
are thus accepted by all genuine sadhus as proper and sublime. It is thus not necessary to try and satisfy each of these three elements
separately. To argue, as some have done, that we must check Srila Prabhupada’s teachings against the opinions of other
sadhus, or with some lesser mortal’s limited understanding of sastra, is tantamount to arguing that Srila Prabhupada is not actually
a bona fide guru. After all, only a bogus guru would propose something which was not in line with sadhu and sastra.
Having established this point, let us now return to (A) and (B) above.
Since the July 9th letter is an order issued by our bona fide guru, objection (A) can immediately be seen to be false. We know that
whatever Srila Prabhupada ordered us to do in the July 9th letter would automatically be in line with guru, sadhu and sastra.
Furthermore, we can know if a teaching is against sadhu and sastra simply by testing if it violates the teachings of the guru.
Since, thus far, no one has been able to locate a single teaching or general instruction from Srila Prabhupada that the continued
application of the ritvik system would contravene, the ritvik system cannot be against ‘guru, sadhu and sastra’. Thus objection
(B) is also shown to be false..
Ritvik ‘Philosophy’ is not in Srila Prabhupada’s Books.
The above is a common objection to the arguments that have been put forward in favour of re-instituting the ritvik system.
These arguments are sometimes presented by the GBC and their apologists as some sort of alien ‘philosophy’, or ‘vada’, which is
nowhere to be found in Srila Prabhupada’s books, and is therefore bogus. Although this is just a variation on objection (a) above,
since an institutional directive is still the word of the guru, let us nevertheless explore what IS stated in Srila Prabhupada’s books.
(Please note that in doing this one could also argue that we are satisfying the ‘sastra’ part of the ‘guru-sadhu-sastra’ equation,
since Srila Prabhupada’s books are of course sastra.)
Before we can discuss the lack of reference to the so-called ‘ritvik philosophy’, we must first define exactly what the ‘ritvik system’
involves. There are two principal aspects:
Aspect a) Initiations are performed through the use of representatives with no external involvement from the guru.
Aspect b) The guru gives initiation even though he is not on the same planet as the disciple.
We know for a fact that aspect a) was implemented and directly approved by Srila Prabhupada before he left the planet, and
that this system is not specifically mentioned anywhere in his books. So immediately the argument that the ritvik system must
be rejected, simply because it is not specifically described in the books, is proven to be false, since its bona fide operation ‘presamadhi’
is not mentioned either.
To get around this, the GBC would need to locate the following sastric rule:
‘Only post-samadhi activities need to be mentioned in the books. Pre-samadhi activities can be bona-fide even if they are not mentioned in Srila Prabhupada’s
Leaving aside the fact that this rule is clearly a concoction, with no authority from Srila Prabhupada, we can immediately point
to bona fide ‘post-samadhi’ activities that are also not mentioned in his books, such as managerial details surrounding the functioning
of the BBT and the GBC.
To overcome this anomaly the GBC would need to locate the following sastric rule:
‘Only post-samadhi activities that the GBC decide are not managerial need to be specifically mentioned in Srila Prabhupada’s books to be deemed bona
The following rule would then logically follow:
‘All post-samadhi activities that the GBC decide do fall under the category of management can be considered bona-fide, even if they are not mentioned
in Srila Prabhupada’s books.’
Again leaving aside the fact that the above rules are concocted out of thin air, we also now have the added complication that
the GBC’s classification of what constitutes management may also be inaccurate.
Even accepting this two-level arbitrary system of rules, we know for a fact that the ‘method of initiation’ employed within ISKCON
has in the past fallen under the umbrella of management since the GBC, the ultimate managing authority for ISKCON,
passed related resolutions when Srila Prabhupada was still on the planet:
“Method of initiating Sannyasis.” (Resolution No. 2, March 27th, 1975)
The use of representatives for the ‘purpose of performing initiations’ within the ritvik system is clearly another ‘method’ which
was to be employed within the institution. As shown above, such methodologies were all part and parcel of ISKCON management.
This is not in dispute since even to this day ISKCON accept that the issue of when and how initiations can take place is a
management issue, to be controlled and voted on by the GBC.
Being that all the above rules are concocted, the GBC’s position suffers from self-referential incoherence; since, in claiming to
enforce Srila Prabhupada’s real instructions on initiation the GBC would need to invent all kinds of intellectual structures which
were never once ‘instructed’ by Srila Prabhupada! So from every angle of vision, there is no legitimate objection to aspect a) of
the ritvik system.
Let us look once more at aspect b) of the ritvik system.
The guru gives initiation even though he is not on the same planet as the disciple.
To object to the ritvik system in relation to Aspect b) is to assume that the distance between the guru and disciple, at the time
of diksa initiation, is somehow profoundly significant. Now, in proposing that aspect b) must be explicitly mentioned in Srila
Prabhupada’s books in order for such initiations to be bona-fide, the GBC are proposing yet another concocted sastric rule which
would go something like:
‘In order for any initiation to be bona-fide the distance between the Guru and disciple, at the time of initiation, must be stated in Srila Prabhupada’s
By studying Srila Prabhupada’s books we find there is no mention of all these possible distances between gurus and disciples
at which initiation can legitimately take place. Distance is never an issue as far as diksa transmission is concerned. As far as we
know no previous acarya ever used sophisticated measuring equipment to ensure he was within the correct radius of his prospective
disciple’s ceremonial fire pit. Again to get around this problem, the GBC would need to come up with the following
‘There is no need for specific sastric references to all the possible distances between gurus and disciples at which bona fide initiation can be performed,
just as long as they are both on the same planet when the ceremony is performed.’
As before, the above inclusive sastric allowance for all possible earth bound distances has no mention in Srila Prabhupada’s
books. Such a rule does not exist in bhagavat philosophy.
In fact in the most famous example of diksa transmission in Srila Prabhupada’s books we have evidence of inter-planetary diksataking
“The Blessed Lord said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed
it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Iksvaku.”
(Bhagavad Gita, 4:1)
“So there was no difficulty in communicating with Manu or Manu’s son Iksvaku. The communication was there, or 2: the radio system was so nice that communication could 3: be transferred from one planet to another.”
(BG lecture 1968)
The GBC would then be forced to concoct the following sastric rule:
‘Only if the guru and disciple are on different planets at the time of initiation, does there need to be any mention in Srila Prabhupada’s books in order for
it to be bona fide.’
The above rule is also absent from Srila Prabhupada’s books, and hence does not exist in our philosophy. As mentioned previously,
the GBC’s proclivity to invoke non-existent sastric rules is itself an example of self-referential incoherence, and thus
renders their position philosophically untenable.
Perhaps the biggest flaw in such an approach, at least as far as clear thinking is concerned, is that the GBC has decided in
advance what the truth must be, regardless of what Srila Prabhupada’s books actually state. They determine what the books
should or should not contain based on what they have already decided is the truth. A vigorous knowledge filter is thus in place,
whereby devotees are only seeing in Srila Prabhupada’s books the things they are told they should see. For example, many times
we have heard the most senior ‘gurus’ in the movement stating categorically that one must have a ‘living guru’; and yet this is
never once stated anywhere by Srila Prabhupada. Not only does no-one challenge such statements, but more frighteningly,
devotees have actually come to believe that these statements are truth, and that the truth is a lie!
Ultimately we are dealing with institutionalised circular thinking:
In order for X to be correct it must be – or not be in the books.
Then regardless of what is in the books a conclusion is reached:
Since X is – or is not in the books it must be correct.
For our own sanity let us see what is actually stated in Srila Prabhupada’s books with regards aspect b). When we do we see that
the only consideration for taking initiation is that the spiritual master must be agreeable to the arrangement, and be the current
bona fide link in the chain of disciplic succession:
“Unless one is initiated by a bona fide spiritual master, all his devotional activities are useless. A person who is
not properly initiated can descend again into the animal species.”
(Madhya 15:108 (p), quoting Hari Bhakti Vilasa, 2.6)
“…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. After being initiated by the proper spiritual master in that chain of
succession, one should engage himself in the discharge of tapasya in the execution of devotional service”
(S.B. 2.9.7, purport)
There is certainly no mention that the above stated principles must be modified by a consideration of the distance between the
guru and disciple at the time of initiation. On the contrary the desire of the guru is the paramount factor:
“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)
Thus the real sastric rule is to get initiated by the bona-fide spiritual master who is the current link. This is the actual principle.
This is what Srila Prabhupada taught.
The ritvik system was set up personally by Srila Prabhupada in order for future devotees to take initiation from him as their bonafide
spiritual master. It is the GBC who have proposed a MODIFYING RESTRICTION to this general principle of taking initiation
from the bona-fide spiritual master. Their sastric rule in this regards appears to be along the lines of:
‘Initiation can only be bona-fide if the distance between the guru and the disciple, at the time of initiation, falls within whatever diameter the planet
inhabited by the disciple happens to measure.’
Thus it is this MODIFYING RESTRICTION that needs to have specific mention in Srila Prabhupada’s books, not the so-called ritvik
system, which is simply following the general process of initiation mentioned throughout the books and perpetuated by an
explicit final order.
When we look at the curious features of this RESTRICTION, we wonder how anyone could possibly take it seriously:
Notice how the RESTRICTION is so specific – not only in terms of distance – but also in terms of time – only at the exact moment
of initiation does IT apply. After the initiation yajna takes place, this over-riding need to be within this arbitrary distance, is for
some reason no longer relevant.
Notice also how the restriction serves no discernible purpose. The Guru does not need to: perform pariksa, accept the disciple,
4: chant on the beads, give the spiritual name, give the gayatri mantra or perform the fire yajna. He must simply be existing on the
same planet!! And even then ONLY for the exact moment the initiation takes place. Thus the RESTRICTION appears to exist just
for the sake of existing – it serves no practical purpose whatsoever.
Further the whole non-material spiritual nature of the Guru-disciple relationship, as described in Srila Prabhupada’s books, in
any case renders this RESTRICTION absurdly obsolete, as the following quotes will demonstrate:
“So we should associate by vibration, and not by the physical presence. That is real association.”
(Lectures SB, 68/08/18)
“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
“Reception of spiritual knowledge is never checked by any material condition.”
(S.B. (1987 Ed.) 7.7.1.)
“The potency of transcendental sound is never minimised because the vibrator is apparently absent.”
“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.”
(S.B. (1987 Ed) 1.7.22)
“He lives forever by his divine instructions, and the follower lives with him.”
(S.B. (1962 Ed) Preface)
“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 Ed.), p146)
“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)
“These are not ordinary books. It is recorded chanting. Anyone who reads, he is hearing.”
(Letter to Rupanuga Das, 19/10/74)
“Eternal bond between disciple and Spiritual Master begins from the day he hears.”
(Letter to Jadurani, 4/9/72)
Since the elements of initiation, or diksa, are not in any way related to physical considerations, we thus have clear evidence from
Srila Prabhupada’s books that physical distance is not a consideration to the successful transmission of diksa. Also, by his own
practical example, Srila Prabhupada demonstrated that diksa could occur without any physical contact either before or after the
initiation. So from every angle of vision there is no legitimate objection to aspect b).
To summarise this section, we have shown that any instruction from Srila Prabhupada must automatically be in line with guru,
sadhu and sastra since he is a bona fide spiritual master. We have also shown that the two principal aspects of the ritvik system
do not in any case violate anything in Srila Prabhupada’s books, indeed the system is fully supported by the basic principles of
guru tattva elucidated therein.
What Initiation System Does Srila Prabhupada’s Books Support?
In their attempt to denigrate the ritvik system devotees often claim that only the M.A.S.S., is fully sanctioned in Srila Prabhupada’s
books. In this section we shall look closely at precisely what system, if any, is alluded to in Srila Prabhupada’s teachings,
and see if it is compatible or not with the continued application of the ritvik system. When one studies Srila Prabhupada’s books
the following points become apparent:
The procedures surrounding initiation in ISKCON are only specifically mentioned 3 times in Srila Prabhupada’s books. This is of
course excluding the numerous references to general principles of guru-disciple relationships, the meaning of initiation, or the
5: rules and regulations required to be followed. We are only including references that give the specific method for applying and implementing these principles to execute INITIATIONS in ISKCON – in other words the topic at hand. Here are the three occasions:
“Thus in the beginning the students of our Krsna consciousness movement agree to live with devotees, and gradually, having given up four prohibited activities-illicit sex, gambling, meat-eating and intoxication-they become advanced in the activities of spiritual life. When one is found to be regularly following these principles, he is given the first initiation (Hari-nama), and he regularly chants at least sixteen rounds a day. Then, after six months or a year, he is initiated for the second time and given the sacred thread with the regular sacrifice and ritual.” (C.c., Adi 17:265)
“Due to the necessity of these activities, we do not immediately initiate disciples in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. For six months, a candidate for initiation must first attend arati and classes in the sastras, practice the regulative principles and associate with other devotees. When one is actually advanced in
the purascarya-vidhi, he is recommended by the local temple president for initiation. It is not that anyone can be suddenly initiated without meeting the requirements. When one is further advanced by chanting the Hare Krsna mantra sixteen rounds daily, following the regulative principles and attending classes, he receives the sacred thread (brahminical recognition) after the second six months.”
(C.c., Madhya 15:108)
“In our Krsna consciousness movement, the requirement is that one must be prepared to give up the four pillars of sinful life-illicit sex, meat-eating, intoxication and gambling. In Western countries especially, we first observe whether a potential disciple is prepared to follow the regulative principles. Then he is given the name of a Vaisnava servant and initiated to chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, at least sixteen rounds daily. In this way the disciple renders devotional service under the guidance of the spiritual master or his representative for at least six months to a Year. He is then recommended for a second initiation, during which a sacred thread is offered and the disciple is accepted as a bona fide brahmana.”
On each occasion the following identical arrangement is described: The candidate must follow 4 regulative principles and chant 16 rounds for 6 months.
If these requirements are met, he is automatically recommended for initiation by the Temple President.
Then the candidate will automatically become initiated by Srila Prabhupada.
Interestingly the above arrangement is identical to the ritvik system.
Step c) above follows from the fact that the books are describing the exact system that was in place when Srila Prabhupada was on the planet – the system in which he was the sole initiator. Thus if we are to properly follow the books we would have to reconstruct the same system that was in place when they were written. That system had Srila Prabhupada as the ONLY INITIATOR. This is identical to the ritvik system.
It maybe argued that Srila Prabhupada was only describing the system as it was then, not necessarily the system that was to continue long into the future.
This proposition suffers from the following problems:
There is no mention of this relevancy restriction in the books themselves.
The instructions are given in a generic sense, and not restricted in applicability to any limiting time frame, i.e. – “In our Krsna Consciousness movement”. There is no reason why someone receiving and reading this book now would not conclude that this system was still operative within the “Krsna Consciousness movement” TODAY. The only time limit implied in Srila Prabhupada’s books is the duration of the “Krsna Consciousness Movement” itself.
Why would Srila Prabhupada describe a system that would only have relevance for 2 years, in books which were to remain the standard law for up to ten thousand years? (The Caitanya Caritamrta was only fully published in 1975).
It is quite clear Srila Prabhupada never said that the system of initiation, as described in his books, should be restricted to only when he was on the planet. Nor would we expect him to since, as mentioned above, his books were meant to guide the movement and humanity at large for up to the next ten thousand years. Significantly the GBC have never argued- either -that these
initiation instructions were only applicable for whilst Srila Prabhupada was on the planet (unlike the July 9th order); indeed they
themselves have borrowed some of the details of it for their own concocted M.A.S.S. system.
Thus the initiation system mentioned in Srila Prabhupada’s books, was intended to be continued for the duration of ISKCON.
This same system was also, of course, outlined in the July 9th letter, with the elaboration of an extra detail not specified in the
books – namely the use of priestly representatives to accept the initiates by giving them their spiritual names ON SRILA PRABHUPADA’S BEHALF. Controversy has thus engulfed a very simple issue, purely because this last detail involves the entities who 5 perform this ceremonial function being given the unusual title – ‘ritviks’.
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