Role Of The Rittvik Representatives Of The Acharya

Role Of The Rittvik Representatives Of The Acharya
By Sriman Hansadutta Prabhu — January 7, 1999 VNN2806

“You are a suitable person and you can give initiation to those that are ready for it. I have selected you among eleven men as ‘Rittvik representative of the Acharya, to give initiations, both first and second initiation, on my behalf.’ A newsletter is being sent to all temple presidents and GBC in this regard, listing the eleven representatives selected by His Divine Grace. Those who are initiated are the disciples of Srila Prabhupada, and anyone whom you deem fit and initiate in this way, you should send their names to be included in Srila Prabhupada’s ‘Initiated disciples’ book.”

EDITORIAL, Jan 7 (VNN) — The discussions that took place on 28th May 1977 between Srila Prabhupada and some GBC regarding initiations in the future were not known to me till years after his disappearance. Srila Prabhupada would say many things on many subjects, but unless a particular policy was written in letter form, or some other legal document such discussions on different matters were not accepted as final. Prabhupada often said you can say anything, but do not put it in writing; writing makes it legal.

A number of questions come to my mind when the controversy over the Rittvik-Guru issue comes up:

1) The system of rittvik initiations was an ongoing practice for years before Srila Prabhupada named 11 “Rittvik representatives of the Acharya” in his July 9th, 1977 letter. Why would Srila Prabhupada make a special effort to write a letter appointing eleven of his senior disciples as “Rittvik representatives of the Acharya” when such rittvik initiations were already being performed on his behalf not only by the persons named in his July 9th Letter, but by sannyasis, GBCs, Temple presidents, and others who happened to be at hand on the occasion of such initiation ceremonies?

2) Why did Srila Prabhupada decline the suggestion of Tamal Krishna Goswami to include Brahmananda Swami on the rittvik list? He was a leading devotee and sannyasi.

3) Why did Srila Prabhupada not simply say that all sannyasis, GBCs and Temple presidents of ISKCON in good standing everywhere could act as “Rittvik representatives of the Acharya” and initiate new disciples on his behalf whenever the need presented itself ?

4) How would creating “Rittvik representatives of the Acharya” relieve Srila Prabhupada from the burden of taking on the karma of newly initiated disciples if the disciples thus initiated would still be Srila Prabhupada’s disciples?

5) Why did Srila Prabhupada reiterate the July 9th Letter appointing “Rittvik representative of the Acharya” in three separate letters (two to myself, and one to Kirtanananda Swami) and in several conversations, but never once mention anything about appointing Gurus or about rittviks becoming Gurus upon his anticipated disappearance from the world?

I distinctly remember when I received the July 9th, 1977 letter in Sri Lanka that it was clear to me that this letter was Srila Prabhupada’s arrangement for initiations for the future. I also remember feeling some disappointment with the obvious conditional authority that the “Rittvik representative of the Acharya” designation implied, because I actually had a great desire to be a Guru like Srila Prabhupada. I think many of the leaders did have such desires. Still I understood it was a very responsible and authoritative appointment. On July 10th I received another letter from Srila Prabhupada written in response to a letter I had sent him describing the preaching activities in Sri Lanka at that time. In this letter he wrote as follows:

“You are a suitable person and you can give initiation to those that are ready for it. I have selected you among eleven men as ‘Rittvik representative of the Acharya, to give initiations, both first and second initiation, on my behalf.’ A newsletter is being sent to all temple presidents and GBC in this regard, listing the eleven representatives selected by His Divine Grace. Those who are initiated are the disciples of Srila Prabhupada, and anyone whom you deem fit and initiate in this way, you should send their names to be included in Srila Prabhupada’s ‘Initiated disciples’ book.”

I immediately wrote a letter to Srila Prabhupada asking him why he had been so merciful towards me by appointing me as his “Rittvik representative of the Acharya,” which I understood to be a very confidential and responsible position. In other words it was clear to me that this letter appointing “Rittvik Representatives” to initiate new disciples on Srila Prabhupada’s behalf was Srila Prabhupada’s final instructions in anticipation of his disappearance from the world. Srila Prabhupada replied in a letter dated July 31st 1977 by paraphrasing my question and answering as follows:

“You have written to Srila Prabhupada saying you do not know why he 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 to a beautiful and qualified wife and that is a great benediction. 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 got 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 BE RITTVIK AND ACT ON MY BEHALF.'”

It was clear that Srila Prabhupada had officially introduced the concept of “Rittvik representative of the Acharya” as the arrangement for initiations by his disciples for the future of ISKCON. Had there been anything more to clarify certainly Srila Prabhupada would have written another letter to amend what was already so clear. But he never did, other than to reinforce what he had already written: “Continue to act as rittvik representative of the Acharya.”

These eleven men and many others had been initiating devotees on Srila Prabhupada’s behalf for years, so there was no need to make a formal declaration and name disciples who could initiate on Srila Prabhupada’s behalf simply to relieve Srila Prabhupada from the burden of initiating due to his illness. It was already going on all over the world, for years.

However the July 9th letter gave authority and responsibility that was not allowed previously. The eleven men selected as “Rittvik Representatives of the Acharya” were given the freedom to initiate (first and second) and give the spiritual name without first having to consult Srila Prabhupada by letter and have an appropriate name sent by Srila Prabhupada. This was new. This in effect gave these eleven “Rittvik representative of the Acharya” all the responsibilities and authority of a GURU, but at the same time it was clear by their “Job Description” as “Rittvik representative of the Acharya” that their authority was CONDITIONAL-it was not a blank check-and that they were not mature, fully qualified spiritual masters. They were apprentices of the spiritual master, “Rittvik representatives of the Acharya,” and the disciples they would initiate would be the disciples of their spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, the Sampradaya Acharya and Founder of ISKCON.

The emperor or king delegates power to a viceroy who thus has all the power of a king to rule over a colony or state, yet it is understood that the viceroy is not the king, but ruling as the king’s representative. Such a viceroy would not automatically become a king upon the death of the king; rather, he would continue to act as the viceroy until the next emperor or king was installed on the throne. Similarly the “Rittvik representative” does not automatically become a Guru or Acharya (as we assumed when Srila Prabhupada disappeared), but the Rittvik continues to act as the representative of the Acharya, Srila Prabhupada.

Although Srila Prabhupada spoke of all his disciples becoming Gurus, he never once ordered any disciple to be a Guru; rather, he gave conditional authority and responsibility to some leading disciples to “act as Rittvik representatives of the Acharya.” Having failed to carry out this responsibility and having assumed that automatically upon Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance the rittviks would become Gurus, we find everything has gone off track, and the whole ISKCON movement is in shambles. Still it is better late than never. Everything can be brought back into focus if we simply come back to the order of the spiritual master and act as “Rittvik representative of the Acharya.”

I don’t think that my words will make any difference, but for my own clarification, and purification I have written down these thoughts. Perhaps they will be of some help to others.

I have one last concern, and it is this idea I get from Krishna Kant’s paper “The Final Order” that the “Rittvik representative” is nothing more than a priest who performs a ritual initiation, and afterwards is no more significant in the spiritual life of a disciple than a clerk at an army recruiting station. The fact is that Srila Prabhupada was very careful and deliberate about choosing his “Rittvik representatives.” We notice that all of them were distinguished by their enthusiasm and success in the preaching field. So if there is going to be a reform and actual adherence to the order of Srila Prabhupada to act as “Rittvik representatives of the Acharya,” then I think that anyone who is going to be designated as such should first of all go out and show his capacity to represent Srila Prabhupada as his “Rittvik representative” by opening some centers and recruiting 100 or 200 men (or families ) and training them up properly to preach and worship Srila Prabhupada as his disciples. Otherwise what is the meaning of “Rittvik representative of the Acharya”? Without this it will simply be another office job.

Rittvik is not a quick fix.

Just buying a telephone is not enough. One must actually open an account with the telephone company and be connected to the telephone central; otherwise the telephone is nothing but a dead weight. Similarly, to declare or accept the Rittvik conclusions physically, mentally or intellectually is not enough. The Rittvik representative must actually be connected to the Acharya; otherwise, he will be as much of a dead weight as the unconnected telephone.

How do we know that a particular person is actually a qualified representative of the Acharya? This is really the most important question. How do we know if a particular telephone is dead or alive, whether connected to the telephone central or not connected? Anyone can pick it up and by dialing the appropriate number be in communion with anyone else who has a connection with the telephone central, even the President of the United States.

The equation is “Things equal to the same thing are equal to one another.” This is the litmus test. If someone claims to be a Rittvik representative of the Acharya, then “things (Rittvik representative) equal to the same thing (Srila Prabhupada, the Sampradaya Acharya) are equal to one another (Rittvik representative). So there must be actual love and trust amongst the Rittvik representatives and their supporters or followers; otherwise there is something wrong. Love and trust is possible only if there is actual love and trust for the Acharya, Srila Prabhupada, in the center. The spokes of a wheel are not connected to one another directly, but connected to the hub of the wheel. The leaves, flowers and fruits of a tree are all connected through the root of the tree. Similarly, rittvik philosophy without actually being connected to Srila Prabhupada will be nothing more than a mechanical or external adjustment, without the inner spiritual substance which we find lacking in the present ISKCON Guru system.

You can’t make someone love and trust Prabhupada–not by any mechanical or tactical, logical or philosophical arrangement. Therefore, quarreling or fighting with those who are not in agreement with Srila Prabhupada’s order to “act as Rittvik representative of the Acharya” is not the solution. The solution is to act as Rittvik representative of the Acharya, and by demonstrating and by example, the sincere souls will naturally gravitate towards and be truly connected to Srila Prabhupada, leaving the dead connections (dead telephones) aside. If your telephone is connected, people will use it; if your telephone is not connected, how can they use it?

So by quarreling, organizing and having meetings we may get some abstract idea of Rittvik conception, but unless there is actual practical application in the field, we will remain a dead body, like a telephone not actually connected to the telephone central.

Doctors differ, and still they are doctors. Similarly, devotees, rishis, sages, gurus, holy men and Rittviks differ, but in the person of the Sampradaya Acharya, Srila Prabhupada, all differences are resolved. When the sages, sadhus, rishis, etc. were called together by Maharaja Pariksit, who wanted to be instructed in preparation for his impending death, there were differences of opinion as to what the King should do. However, when Sukhadeva arrived there, all the rishis, sadhus, yogis and even his own father, Srila Vyasadeva, stood up to show him respect, and he was accepted as the most perfect devotee, and all deferred to him, and thus the Bhagavatam was spoken. Similarly, in the arena of differing sadhus, yogis, devotees, religionists, Srila Prabhupada appeared in this world. He spoke Srimad Bhagavatam and other essential Vaishnava literatures, and all spiritualists, at least all Vaishnavas, deferred to him, and that is why everyone, regardless of how big or small a devotee, Guru, sadhu, yogi, rishi or Rittvik, must always carry himself very deliberately, keeping Srila Prabhupada, the Sampradaya Acharya, in the center. Then real “unity in diversity” will actually work. Thus the arrangement of Rittvik representative is completely in keeping with the principles of Guru parampara and is in no way a concoction or somehow inferior arrangement for receiving initiation into Krishna consciousness. In fact, we accept Srila Vyasadeva as still living on this plane.

Therefore, every Guru, every Acharya would technically be a Rittvik representative of the Great Acharya Srila Vyasadeva. The Vyasa-puja day is the day the representative of Vyasa is honored by the disciples, and that representative, the Guru Acharya, sits on “the seat of Vyasa.” So under all circumstances, every devotee is a representative of the Acharya, and thus our line is a Rittvik line. Specifically, one who accepts the responsibility of initiating new disciples is therefore referred to as the “Rittvik representative of the Acharya.” He is definitely a guru, but his job description “Rittvik representative of the Acharya” helps us to remember the actual relationship and principle of the Guru parampara. Everything depends on transparency. “Things equal to the same thing are equal to one another.”

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