The Spiritual Master (Part 3)

This is a continuation from our previous posts, The Spiritual Master some time ago, and the further discussion in The Spiritual Master (Part 2) This is a fascinating account by Sriman Locanananda Prabhu revealing his insights into the ‘guru issue’ in our ISKCON society today, from his own personal understanding, and his realizations of the instructions given by Srila Prabhupada shortly before his untimely departure. Our obeisances to him for sharing his personal recollections and realizations. [Note: some of the other comments were edited out so as not to distract from Locanananda Prabhu’s train of thought. You can follow the entire stream of comments by going to Prabhupada News As I stated, this is a fascinating account, however, this does not necessarily reflect our views on the ‘guru issue’. But Locanananda Prabhu makes a very well stated argument, and we are in complete agreement with his assessment that “success in spiritual life, means following the instructions of the spiritual master”.

… the next step is to find a way to convince others of Srila Prabhupada’s actual intention in laying out a ritvik initiation system. It was not to end the parampara with himself as the last guru in our line. It was not to push aside what he himself referred to as the “law of disciplic succession.” It was to introduce a method by which millions of souls throughout the world could be initiated into the society of vaisnavas and attain the mercy of Krishna and the previous acaryas on their journey back to Godhead.

…everyone is taking shelter of Srila Prabhupada and receiving transcendental knowledge, but they are receiving so much more. By his grace, we will be able to enter the spiritual abode and interact with Krishna face to face. Without pleasing Srila Prabhupada, one cannot even make one iota of spiritual advancement.

…Srila Prabhupada had his reasons for introducing the title “officiating acarya” instead of “diksa guru” or “initiating spiritual master,” to designate the giver of diksa when he would no longer be present. Why devotees cannot accept Srila Prabhupada’s terminology is beyond my comprehension. As far as Srila Prabhupada’s present position, we can learn from a letter written to Brahmananda on Nov. 15, 1969 where he said,

“So far as I am concerned, in relationship with my disciples who are so kindly cooperating with me in the matter of my rendering service to my spiritual master, for them I am always ready to come back from Goloka Vrindaban, if they are not delivered along with me.”

The point made here is that one should think that upon his disappearance from our visual perception, the spiritual master has returned to Goloka Vrindaban. What he has left behind is the legacy of the temples he established, the Deities he installed and the body of instructions he imparted. By his inconceivable mercy, Srila Prabhupada, while residing in the abode of Krishna, continues to bestow his blessings upon us. As disciples, we should make every attempt to end the cycle of birth and death by preparing ourselves through the purificatory process of devotional service to go back to Godhead so as not to oblige the spiritual master to come back to this world to deliver us.

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The Spiritual Master (Part 2)

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This is a continuation from our previous post, The Spiritual Master a few days ago. This is a fascinating account by Sriman Locanananda Prabhu revealing his insights into the ‘guru issue’ in our ISKCON society today, from his own personal understanding, and his realizations of the instructions given by Srila Prabhupada shortly before his untimely departure. Our obeisances to him for sharing his personal recollections and realizations. [Note: some of the other comments were edited out so as not to distract from Locanananda Prabhu’s train of thought. You can follow the entire stream of comments by going to Prabhupada News

…Because the focus of every devotee’s efforts is to please Srila Prabhupada knowing him to be Krishna’s pure representative, we can understand that the officiating acarya’s function is to formalize the disciple’s connection with Srila Prabhupada and the disciplic succession by the giving of diksa.

… According to this correct understanding, the officiating acarya is not particularly empowered to take those he initiates back to Godhead. But if he is capable of acting as the transparent via medium to the founder acarya, he is certainly to be honored and shown great respect. However, so that Srila Prabhupada remains the central figure and worshipable spiritual master within the Hare Krishna movement, no other spiritual personality should become his competitor by exacting worship from disciples. It is the responsibility of the GBC to preserve this unique role as exclusively the position of Srila Prabhupada.

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Initiation Protocols

And the most definitive direction on this subject is found in the purport of the Srimad Bhagavatam: “One should take initiation from a bona fide spiritual master coming in the disciplic succession, who is authorized by his predecessor spiritual master. This is called diksha-vidhana.” (SB 4.8.54)

Initiation Protocols
Interview with Sriman Locanananda Prabhu

Interviewer: The issue of initiations in ISKCON has divided devotees for several decades and appears to have evolved into a schism. What is your personal perspective on this issue?

Locanananda dasa: When I was President of the Amsterdam temple in 1977, I received a copy of the Summary Report of the GBC meetings held in Vrndavana that year from the 27th through the 29th of May. In that report, two of the three questions Srila Prabhupada answered on May 28th were included, but the answer to the question about future initiations was not. A few weeks later, I received a copy of the July 9th letter explaining the new initiation protocols. It didn’t seem as if much had changed. Initiations would resume despite Srila Prabhupada’s ongoing illness. The letter also addressed the selection of “rittik” representatives of the acarya and referred to the May 28th meeting with Srila Prabhupada, but there was no detailed explanation as to how the two were connected. We were really left in the dark for years as to what instructions Srila Prabhupada had actually given the GBC as a mandate for future initiations.

Interviewer: Would you say it was a cover-up and hijacking of the movement?

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Ritvik Defined


Ritvik Defined — By Narasimha Das
November 13, 1998 VNN2498

Srila Prabhupada never created any special status for “officiating acaryas.” Their function as ritivks is to assure that Srila Prabhupada requirements are met before a student is formally accepted for initiation in ISKCON. Like all senior initiated disciples, they are meant to be teachers by their practical example. They have accepted an added responsibility, an added burden on behalf of Srila Prabhupada. Their burden is to assure that Srila Prabhupada’s standards for initiation are preserved in ISKCON. (Srila Prabhupada’s July 9th directive sent to every leader in ISKCON mentions three times that all devotees are Srila Prabhupada’s disciples and that the deputed ritviks offer initiation on behalf of Srila Prabhupada. This same instruction was repeated by Srila Prabhupada several times additionally after July 9th in letters, documents, and instructions.) Ritviks are the priests authorized by the spiritual master or his institution to accept students on behalf of ISKCON and Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada made this perfectly clear. This understanding of the procedure Prabhupada prescribed is consistent with references to ritviks mentioned in Srila Prabhupada’s books.

EDITORIAL, Nov 13 (VNN) — Currently the term “ritvik” is used to refer to 1.) devotees of a particular camp, 2.) the ideas and convictions of “ritvik” devotees, and 3.) the “officiating acarya” who initiates on behalf of the spiritual master. I will try to offer guidelines for understanding the word “ritvik” according to Srila Prabhupada and the current usage among devotees.

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