Comment on Srila Prabhupada’s Ritvik Initiation System

Pandu on 17. December 2008 at 2:41 am said:
Srila Prabhupada’s Ritvik Initiation System

Some time back I was reading and article on the Prabhupadanuga News and I ran across this comment posted by Pandu Prabhu. I thought it relevant today, so I am posting it. It is some good information on the word “ritvik”. Also enclosed at end of post is the link to original article.

Since Srila Prabhupada himself Coined the term “Ritvik”, it is very offensive to Srila Prabhupada, to denounce this term. The attempt of certain persons to degrade the transcendental Vedic term “rtvijah” or “ritvik” to a derogatory word is one more example of offenses that have entered Iskcon due to our neglect of Srila Prabhupada’s advice.

In Vedic culture, a ritvik is an exalted priest. Such priests were often endowed with siddhis and respected as gurus, yet they never pretended to be as good as Lord Hari. By the order of the Acarya, the rtvijah recites the mantras that request the presence of Lord Visnu in the fire of Vedic sacrifice (agni-hotra), and he then makes offerings to the Supreme Lord according to Vedic sastra. The rtvijah performs an exalted function. He is a pure brahmin or Vaisnava who is never concerned about the political correctness or convenience of his stance.

Srila Prabhupada’s Ritvik statements can be found in his Supporting Instructions as well as in the Srimad Bhagavatam:

“…continue to become ritvik and act on my charge.” (July 19th)
“…continue to become ritvik and act on my behalf.” (July 31th)
“…the process for initiation to be followed in the future.” (July 11th)

Srila Prabhupada to Hansadutta: “You are a suitable person and you can give initiation to those who are ready for it. I have selected you among eleven men as “rittvik” or representative of the acharya, to give initiations, both first and second initiation, on my behalf.”
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. I shall recommend some of you. After this is settled up I shall recommend some of you to act as officiating acarya(s).

Tamal Krishna: Is that called ritvik acarya?

Srila Prabhupada: “ritvik. Yes”.

In these documents we find words such as “ritvik”, “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.

SB 9.1.15 adhvaryuna–by the rtvik priest;
SB 4.5.7 rtvijah–the priests;
SB 4.5.18 rtvijah–the priests
SB 4.6.52 rtvijam–of the priests;
SB 4.7.16 rtvik–the priests;
SB 4.7.27 rtvijah–the priests;
SB 4.7.45 rtvijah–the priests;
SB 4.7.56 rtvigbhih–with the priests;
SB 4.13.26 rtvijah–the priests;

In Srimad-Bhagavatam (8.16.53), Srila Prabhupada defines “ritvik” (rtvijah) as “the priests recommended by the spiritual master”. In this instance ritviks are defined as the deputed priests of the spiritual master. They preside over a Vedic ritual meant for the worship of Lord Visnu (visnu-aradhana). The initiation ritual observed in ISKCON is a standard Vedic ceremony, and it may be performed by ritviks, who officiate on behalf of the Acarya.

This understanding and practice was clearly established by Srila Prabhupada personally, and there should be no controversy regarding the definition or function of the ritvik priest. The new initiates offer dakshina and service to the mission of the guru, and the priests may also receive some token honor or reward for their services, according to Vedic custom. (In ISKCON Srila Prabhupada would either receive the guru dakshina personally and use it for a global ISKCON project or for his traveling expenses, or he would give money to the BBT or some other important or needy branch of his preaching mission. He never said that priests representing ISKCON should receive money or expensive gifts for their services. Nor did he say they should assume positions of absolute authority and accept worship as gurus.)

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Bhakta Scott Malek
    Sep 25, 2012 @ 10:21:12

    There is much cloudyness in the matter of Prabhupada”s death. I have listened to many a wonderfull life-changing lecture…but something grabs the back of my throught and it seems as though, these are things forbidden to be spoken about within Iskcon. Why should they not be spoken about? I have difficulty understanding this. If it were all out in the open, these plagues would no longer affect the minds of anyone. I love Krishna Conciousness, and would love nothing better than to flourish in this area. it is life”s #1 business. I am not trying to make a scene, but rather be sure I am headed down the correct path.


    • The Hare Krishna Movement
      Sep 25, 2012 @ 16:30:36

      Dear Bhakta Scott

      Thank you for visiting our site and leaving a comment. Sometime back on another web site there was a similar question posed and answered very nicely by Madhavisa Prabhu. I share with you the Question and His Reply. Also you can follow the link ( to view all the comments.

      Hare Krsna.Please explain to me what does rittvik mean.I have heard that you are seperate from Iskcon and that you follow the rittvik tradition.Haribol — Manfred

      Dear Manfred

      Hare Krishna! All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

      Thank you very much for your letter. We are not separate from ISKCON. We are only following Srila Prabhupada, that is all. ISKCON is supposed to be following Prabhupada. So to the extent that ISKCON is not following Prabhuapda we have nothing to do with that. But here you will find the real ISKCON, the real ISKCON is Prabhupada’s movement, not someone else’s.

      Ritvik means “priest.” Prabhupada established the “ritvik” system in ISKCON in 1970 when he started to appoint devotee “priests” to perform the initiation ceremonies for new devotees on his behalf. Prabhupada extended this system over the years until July 9th, 1977 when he empowered his “Ritvik representatives of the Acharya” (Prabhupada’s words to describe the 11 devotees who later claimed to be Srila Prabhupada’s successors and to be pure devotees on the same level as Srila Prabhupada) to accept new devotees on his behalf, chant on their beads, select a name for them, and enter their name into the book of his disciples without Srila Prabhupada having any physical intervention in the process at all. Prabhupada ordered these 11 devotees to accept disciples on his behalf. So the disciples they accepted would be Prabhupada’s disicples, not their own. From July 9th, 1977 Prabhupada established a system that would enable these “Ritvik representatives of the Acharya” to continue to accept disciple on Srila Prabhupada’s behalf thus Prabhupada could continue to accept disciples without any need for his physical presence. This letter of July 9th was produced as a result of a question to Srila Prabhupada by Satsvarupa who asked Prabhupada, “Can you please tell us what will happen with the initiations in ISKCON, particularly when you are no longer physically present?” And Prabhupada’s reply was the July 9rh letter appointing 11 devotees as “Ritvik representatives of the acharya,” making it very clear [stating it 3 times] that the devotess initiated by these men would be his [Prabhupada’s] disciples not their own disciples.

      On Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance from our material vision these 11 men claimed that Prabhupada had appointed them as his successors and the only way to get to Prabhupada and Krishna was through them, that Prabhupada was dead and gone and could no longer accept disciples. They did not accept disciples on behalf of Prabhupada. They claimed to have the same qualifications as Srila Prabhupada themselves and accepted their own disciples preaching that “Prabhupada is dead, now you have to take shelter of me…”

      However, it is the history now, all these so-called “pure devotees” have fallen down and left ISKCON now except one who does not even chant his rounds on a regular basis. Most have fallen into all sorts of degradation and sinful activities. So the whole thing was a scam. They were not pure devotees, they were not appointed by Srila Prabhuapda as his successors and they have destroyed the whole movement as so many devotees took initiation from them and their spiritual lives were very much devastated on finding out the guru they surrendered to was not actually a pure devotee of Krishna, and not able to take them back home, back to Godhead…

      The whole thing was a huge disaster and if you now travel around the ISKCON temples you will find them deserted, practically no one is living in them and only on Sunday a few devotees come to the temples and in many places this has degenerated into simply a group of Hindus, Indians, who come to the temple more to associate with the other Indians than to serve Krishna and Srila Prabhupada….

      So we, at, are simply followers of Srila Prabhupada and are simply repeating the teachings of Srila Prabhupada. Any differences of opinion ISKCON devotees may have with us are not differences of opinion with us, they are differences of opinion with Prabhupada and unfortunately, in so many ways, today’s ISKCON is disobeying Srila Prabhupada’s orders.

      So, in summary, we are not presenting anything except the teachings of Srila Prabhupada, if someone does not like what we are presenting, they do not like Prabhupada’s teachings. That is the real situation.

      To understand these things you need to hear from Srila Prabhupada. We have all original Prabhupada books plus the Prabhuapda audio recordings in MP3 format plus the Prabhupada DVDs at

      I suggest you get Prabhupada’s original books and read them, get the Prabhupada MP3s and listen to all his classes, conversations, morning walks, interviews, press conferences, etc., and watch the more than 50 hours of film and video we have of Srila Prabhupada on the Prabhupada DVDs.

      So we are providing you with direct access to Srila Prabhupada and we are letting you know that Srila Prabhupada is living still, he is with us, and you can get direct personal association with Srila Prabhupada by reading his original books, by listening to the MP3s and by watching the DVDs. We are providing this direct access to Srila Prabhupada. We are not saying anything. Simply we are giving you access to Prabhupada and letting you know that he is there, he is living and if you take advantage of his vani, his instructions, he can guide you and help you make advancement in Krishna consciousness.

      So my advice is that you take full advantage of this access to Srila Prabhupada by purchasing Prabhupada’s original books, the MP3s and DVDs from and simply hear from Srila Prabhupada yourself. That is all I am asking you to do. Simply hear from Srila Prabhupada, follow the instructions you hear from Srila Prabhupada, that is all we are asking.

      If you want to make advancement in spiritual life you have to become very intelligent. So many have been mislead by ISKCON in the past into believing that Srila Prabhupada is dead and that they have to accept someone else who is not a pure devotee of Krishna as their spiritual master. It is a lie that ISKCON has been preaching since 1977 and a lie that has caused the spiritual death of hundreds of thousands of sincere devotees. So don’t fall into that trap. My simple request to you is that you please read Srila Prabhupada’s original books, listen to his classes on the MP3s and watch him on the DVDs and follow. Chant at least 16 rounds of the Hare Krishna mantra daily, strictly follow the four regulative principles: No illicit sex, no meat eating, no gambling and no intoxication, and you will discover for yourself what Krishna consciousness really is and you will also discover that Srila Prabhupada is not at all dead, but he is living still in sound and quite capable of giving you all the guidance and support you need to make advancement in spiritual life.

      Even the ISKCON devotees will agree that ISKCON is facing so many problems, and why? Because they preach to new people like you that you can not have a direct relationship with Srila Prabhupada, that Srila Prabhuapda can not be your guru, that you need to accept someone else, who is not a pure devotee, as your guru. This is a lie. These are not the teachings of Srila Prabhupada and we do not have anything whatsoever to do with people who preach like this. People who preach like this are not part of ISKCON, they are not Prabhupada’s disicples, they are disciples of Kali. So you have to be careful to find the real ISKCON. The real ISKCON is Prabhupada’s movement, the place you go where they encourage you to hear from Srila Prabhuapda and take shelter of Srila Prabhupada, that is ISKCON. If you go to a place and they tell you you have to take shelter of someone else, not Prabhupada, that place is not ISKCON…

      So the final conclusion is we are not at all seperate from Srila Prabhupada and his ISKCON. The so-called devotees in ISKCON who claim Prabhupada is no longer available and can no longer accept disciples are envous and are seperate from the real ISKCON. The real ISKCON is Prabhupada’s preaching mission.

      You may be happy to know that the vast majority of devotees in ISKCON are very much aware that Srila Prabhuapda is with us, he is living and most of them know it well that Srila Prabhupada is their spiritual master also. Still there are some envious demons who continute to claim, “Prabhupada can no longer accept disciples.” However we should simply neglect them, don’t take them seriously. They will simply burn up in the fire of the reactions to their envy and offences to the followers of Srila Prabhuapda.

      Please write with all your questions and doubts and I will try to answer as best I can.

      Hope you are well.

      Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!

      Madhudvisa dasa

      Letter to: All G.B.C., All Temple Presidents

      9 July, 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 “ritvik–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.

      Your servant,
      Tamala Krsna Gosvami

      Approved: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami

      [Srila Prabhupada’s signature appears on the original]

      for full thread goto;


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