Initiations in ISKCON

SP_initiation
There is an ongoing debate on how initiations were to go on after Srila Prabhupada’s physical disappearance.  Many devotees don’t like to talk about it or think about it, so conditioned are we to accept the status quo.   But I think it is important not to turn a blind eye on the issue of initiation, and how it was meant to go on, as initiation (accepting a spiritual master), is a very important step in progressing in spiritual life. Success in spiritual life is in following the instructions of the spiritual master.  So for the sake of keeping the very important issue alive we present the following post that we saw recently on the Prabhupada News website.

It is widely known that Srila Prabhupada instituted a ritvik or representative (proxy) initiation system throughout ISKCON as early as 1971 in order to meet the growing need to initiate his disciples worldwide. However what is not widely known is that he instructed his disciples to continue initiating new disciples on his behalf even after his physical disappearance.

He called those disciples who performed the initiation ceremonies ritvik representatives of the acharya (officiating acharyas). Below are quotes directly from Srila Prabhupada for the evidence of these instructions as well as explanations, philosophical insights, and historical background.

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Radha Damadara Traveling Sankirtan Party

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…I loved being a devotee.  I would look forward to going to the park or college campus, and putting on a festival.  We set up the stage, brought on our musical instruments and chanted, while others arranged the distribution of prasadam and books.  After the chanting when we went to mingle with the students or guests gathered there, I would enjoy preaching to new people and answering all sorts of questions like “why do you guys shave your head? And why do you put mud on your foreheads, etc., etc.?  But sometimes the preaching was so sweet and people wanted to know who is Krishna? Who is Srila Prabhupada?  And my joy knew no bounds.  I hardly knew the philosophy myself, but when my desire to preach was unmotivated by false ego, Srila Prabhupada would give me the intelligence.  I would be amazed how the words would just flow out of my mouth.  By Srila Prabhupada’s great mercy, to one who has taken to this process of sharing with others, he gives the intelligence.  I was gaining an understanding of the process of Krishna Consciousness, simply by acting in Krishna Consciousness.  It was so sublime.  So simple!

Radha Damadara Traveling Sankirtan Party
by Vyasasan das
 
 
     First let me begin by offering my respectful obesiences to all the vaisnave devotee’s of the Lord, who are so merciful to the fallen conditioned souls that they put themselves in perilous and austere conditions of life voluntarily, in order to help others.  And as always, let me offer my most humble obeisances to my beloved spiritual master A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who is very dear to Lord Krishna, haven taken shelter at his Lotus feet.
 
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Gurukrpa: What Really Happened in 1977-78

This is an older post that originally surfaced on the Sampradaya Sun some years ago, however, for those of you who have not seen this recorded interview, or those of you who like to hear and remember some of the truth that transpired after the departure of Srila Prabhupada in 1977, we again share this important recollection from a senior member of The Hare Krishna Movement.

Gurukrpa: What Really Happened in 1977-78

By Bhakta dasa
Feb 04, INDIA (SUN)

Dear Prabhus: Gurukrpa is here with me and on his behalf I am writing here.

Question: What happened the final months of Srila Prabhupada’s appearance in connection with the process of initiating new devotees?

Gurukrpa: Nothing happened. In the beginning Srila Prabhupada did the diksa, the yajna and the name giving. As the numbers increased, he authorized GBC, and senior sannyasis to pick names and chant on the beads, etc. In 1977 during the months of May, June, July 1977 I was in Vrindaban with Srila Prabhupada, giving him his massage in his bed between 1 AM and mangala aratik. During the day, many letters would arrive. Satsvarupa Swami was the secretary and we decided that only letters that would give joy to Srila Prabhupada would be read. Like numbers of books sold, etc. A maximum of five letters daily were read to Srila Prabhupada.

After some weeks like this, there were stacks and stacks of letters, all relating to initiation. Hundreds of people were panicking that Srila Prabhupada would leave the planet before they were given initiation. At this time, this situation was brought before Srila Prabhupada in his room by Satsvarupa, Tamal, myself, and maybe some others.

Up until this time it was a very simple matter that we were doing the initiations, but we first had to ask permission. Srila Prabhupada NEVER refused any recommendation from his senior men. And personally, I would sometimes argue with some GBC that they were giving it too easily.

At this meeting, Srila Prabhupada basically said, “From here on, if you feel they are ready, then you may give the initiation on my behalf.” I understood this for what it was, simply extending the authority a little further than it had been. Tamal Krsna Swami, began to say, “But who will do it?. Which devotees will do this?” Srila Prabhupada said, “The nearest one will do it. Whoever is closest.” Tamal said, “Can Bhavananda do? Can Jayapataka do?” Thus these eleven names came out.

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Srila Prabhupada is the Only Spiritual Master for ISKCON

Srila Prabhupada is the Only Spiritual Master for ISKCON

Srila Prabhupada created ISKCON for his disciples and it is really only going to work for his disciples. There is no history of a group of gurus living together and having all their disciples together. Even the Goswamis in Vrindavan, they were coming together for kirtans but they all had their own separate temples and disciples.

A short while back I read an interesting article written by Madhuvisa Prabhu, and posted by Rochan Prabhu on his site Sampradaya Sun. The article was entitled Evidence and Clarification. We are posting some of it here.

“…But as far as the facts are concerned it is certainly a fact that Prabhupada established a ritvik initiation system in ISKCON in the early 70’s where he would appoint representatives to perform the fire yajnas for his disciples on his behalf. And it is a fact that he gave these “ritviks” more power as the years went on, and in the July 9th letter, he gave them complete power to accept disciples on his behalf and chant on their beads and give them a name, without having any physical involvement in the matter at all.

It is also a provable fact that Srila Prabhuapda did not consider that any of his disciples were qualified for the position of acharya. And therefore it is very reasonable to say that Srila Prabhupada did not appoint any successor acharyas. I was just listening to one of the 1977 conversation tapes a couple of days ago and Srila Prabhupada told Tamal that the problem is among his disciples there is no strong man. He said they are all like children and among all Ramesvara may be the best. The same thing is there in other places where Prabhupada is clearly stating that his disciples are immature and not qualified for the post of acharya.

So it is a fact that the system Srila Prabhupada used in ISKCON to accept disciples in him physical presence was ritvik, 100% ritvik in the later years. And we can say it is a fact that he did not appoint any successor acharyas. Even Tamal confirms this in his Topanga Canyon talks. He says clearly that Prabhupada only appointed ritviks.

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Tamal Krishna Goswami on Rittvik Initiation

Tamal Krishna Goswami on Rittvik Initiation
In 1979-1980, Tamal Krishna Goswami (GBC guru-acharya ) confessed that Srila Prabhupada never appointed any successor guru-acharyas:

Tamal Krishna Goswami: …Actually, Prabhupada never appointed any gurus. He did not appoint eleven gurus. He appointed eleven rittviks [officiating priests]. He never appointed them as gurus . Myself and the other GBCs have done the greatest disservice to this movement for the last three years, because we interpreted the appointment of rittviks as the appointment of gurus….

[What Srila Prabhupada said was], “All right, I will appoint so many,” and he named them. He made it very clear that they [new members] were still to be his disciples. At that point it was very clear in my mind that they were his disciples….

Now I understand that what he did was very clear. He was physically incapable of performing the function of initiating physically; therefore he appointed officiating priests to initiate on his behalf. He appointed eleven and he said very clearly, “Whoever is nearest, he can initiate.”

This is a very important point, because when it comes to initiating, it is not “whoever is nearest.” It is wherever your heart goes–to whom you can repose your faith in.

But when it is officiating, it’s “whoever is nearest,” and he was very clear… “Whoever is nearest will check you out. Then, on my behalf, they will initiate….”

If it had been more than that [officiating priests], you can bet your bottom dollar that Prabhupada would have spoken for days and hours and weeks on end about how to set up this thing with the gurus…. But he did not, because he already said it a million times. He said, “My Guru Maharaja did not appoint anyone. It is by qualification.” We made a great mistake….

You cannot show me anything on tape or in writing where Prabhupada says, “I appoint these eleven as gurus .” It does not exist, because he never appointed any gurus. This is a myth.–

1979-1980, Topanga Canyon, California, (Spoken in Topanga Canyon and subsequently published in ISKCON Journal, Vol. I, No. 1)

Letter to Hansadutta from Tamal Krishna Goswami, dated 10 July 1977

Letter to Hansadutta from Tamal Krishna Goswami
July 10th, 1977

My Dear Hansadutta Maharaja:

Please accept my humble obeisances at your feet. Srila Prabhupada has received your letters dated July 4th and July 5th, 1977 respectively, and has instructed me to reply them.

Srila Prabhupada was very pleased to hear how you have organized everything in Ceylon, and that so many people are now taking interest seriously is proof of the effectiveness of your preaching. His Divine Grace said, “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.” 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 who you deem fit and initiate in this way, you should send their names to be included in Srila Prabhupada’s “Initiated Disciples” book. In this way the Temple Presidents will send their recommendations for initiation direct to the nearest representative who will give a spiritual name or chant on the Gayatri thread just as Srila Prabhupada has been doing.
Srila Prabhupada smiled very broadly when he heard of the successful program organized by the local people in which 2000 persons attended. When he heard that you have introduced a full feasting program on Sundays, he said, “You are a good cook, so teach others now how to cook just as I taught you.”

Regarding the printing going slowly, His Divine Grace stated, “Never mind. Go surely. It doesn’t matter slowly.” I inquired from Pradyumna Prabhu about the Sinhalese translation which you mentioned. He said that “On Chanting Hare Krishna Mantra” was translated into Sinhalese, and that translation is in his trunk in Bombay. We will try to get it to you as soon as possible. I do not know if Gopal Krishna has any Tamil manuscript, but if he does, when I see him in about ten days, I will tell him to send it to you. You may also write him directly. Pradyumna says it will be faster just to get a new translationÑit is only one page.

Srila Prabhupada was very glad to know that you would try to bring some Ceylonese devotees to Mayapur and said, “Oh, that is very good!” He did not know whether the story about Bhaktisiddhanta’s disciples seeing a man eating a rat was true or not. Regarding the exact position of Sri Lanka, this is the opinion of some people. Srila Prabhupada advised that we not discuss this matter publicly at this time. Prabhupada also recommended that from Hari Sauri you take ghee. He said that you could have one fifth of whatever Hari Sarui sends to India. Regarding whether you should use the name Swami or Goswami, Srila Prabhupada said, “Stick to one. Swami is better.”

Your servant,
Tamal Krishna Goswami
Secretary to Srila Prabhupada

Particularly At That Time When You’re No Longer With Us

Particularly at that time when you’re no longer with us…
Struggle For Truth

It is a matter of undisputed evidence that several of the GBC members approached Srila Prabhupada on May 28th 1977 with a set of questions to be asked to him. One such question was, how first and second initiation would go on particularly when he was no longer with us. Srila Prabhupada’s immediate reply was, “I will appoint some of you to act as Officiating Acharya.” And to this HH Tamal Krishna Maharaj said, “Rtvik Acharya?” and Srila Prabhupada said, “Rtvik, yes”. This is Guru Mukha Padma Vakya.

A great misunderstanding has been perpetrated in ISKCON that the parampara will be lost if we had a rtvik system and in order to maintain parampara we must have living initiating gurus. But Srila Prabhupada says differently on when parampara is lost or stopped:

Devotee: Srila Prabhupada, if the knowledge was handed down by the saintly kings, evam parampara-praptam, how is it that the knowledge was lost?

Prabhupada: “When it was not handed down. Simply understood by speculation. Or if it is not handed down as it is. They might have made some changes. Or they did not hand it down. Suppose I handed it down to you, but if you do not do that, then it is lost. Now the Krishna consciousness movement is going on in my presence. Now after my departure, if you do not do this, then it is lost. If you go on as you are doing now, then it will go on.” (Room conversations, May 9th , 1975, Perth)

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