Wishing They could be Disciples of Prabhupada
From Prataparudra das
15 October 1994
Dear Hansadutta Prabhu:
Please accept my most humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
I have been talking to you quite a bit on the phone lately, so I risk repeating myself a lot. The most pertinent point of interest is the Nama Hatta. As I told you, the concepts presented in it are not very popular with Sevananda, formerly Dharmaraja, and it appears that he speaks for the Tripurari Swami’s
whole math, if not for the Gaudiya Vaishnava Society in general.
From what I have read in the Nama Hatta and what you have told me, it doesn’t seem that the rittvik concept is very popular in ISKCON, either. Your realization is that Prabhupada intended all of you (“guru-acharyas“) to be merely rittvik priests, initiating devotees on his behalf, but never replacing him in any way. This sounds fair to me, and I certainly know of no evidence to the contrary.
If all existing Vaishnava “gurus” were to step down to the level of merely initiating devotees on Prabhupada’s behalf, and if that act of humility were sufficient to skyrocket Lord Chaitanya’s movement to immense world popularity, I would say that your entire realisation was not only well-intentioned, but highly effective. What actually will happen remains to be seen.
As I told you, many devotees may take the position that, “Well, now that Hansadutta has disgraced himself and has no standing, he simply wants to drag all his god-brothers down with him.” I don’t believe that this is the case. I support you, Hansadutta, in your effort to clarify Prabhupada’s desires for his movement and his devotees. “Purity is the force.” Therefore, to the extent that all living Vaishnavas understand Prabhupada’s desires, Lord Chaitanya’s Sankirtan movement will flourish accordingly, to the betterment of all living entities on earth.
You have always been a revolutionary, and I support you in your efforts to further transcendental realization for all beings. Please call me when you expect to visit this area. It will be a great blessing to share your association for the first time in many years. Please also give my blessings to your wonderful wife, Lakshmi devi dasi, and to all your children, whose names I don’t even know. Hare Krishna, Hare Rama!
Your humble and worthless servant,
From Nitai Gouranga das
15 November 1994
Dear Hansadutta Prabhu:
Please accept my humble obeisances, kindly forgive my offenses, and yes, all glories to Srila Prabhupada!
I just read the latest Nama Hatta newsletter, which I received as a gift from Yashodanandan Prabhu a few days ago while I enjoyed his generous hospitality. He was interested to hear about my visit to six temples in Europe this fall, and he mentioned how he would not be able to do this, as he is “too well known,” like yourself.
Although I look very young, I joined Srila Prabhupada’s movement twenty years ago, when Bhakta das was president at the San Francisco temple. I haven’t always been able to associate with ISKCON devotees, so am not well known at all outside California.
When I arrived at the European temples in September, I was able to perform experiments in how devotees are treated, based upon their “initiation status.”
First, in Paris I said I was a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, but never met His Divine Grace in person. [Of course, I was initiated in December, 1979, not January, 1980, as your list reports, with yourself officiating. You may recall I could not even remember your name during the ceremony, as I had been praying to Srila Prabhupada for six years—1974-79—already up to that moment.] Since all Californians consider me a Hansadutta disciple, I’ve never been respected by ISKCON rank and file. Well, introducing myself as a Prabhupada disciple, the sudden honour and respect I was given amazed me. I have never been treated so well! The bhaktas looked up to me, the disciples of ISKCON gurus envied me, and my “god-brothers” (rare) were kind.
When directly asked by a god-brother about the details of my initiation, I did lie to him about the date, and he could tell I was lying, so the experiment had to stop in Paris.
Next, in London, Soho Street, I presented myself as Prabhupada’s disciple, initiated under the rittvik system while Prabhupada was still visible to the material eye. It was painful to see the envy in the eyes of those initiated after Prabhupada’s disappearance, and they would say things to me like, “You are so fortunate to be connected with Prabhupada” and “It is so wonderful that you can serve Prabhupada directly.” I would say to them that they were already more directly serving Prabhupada than I ever did, but still they seemed to me to be despairing. I also refused to say who conducted the ceremonial fire sacrifice, “because it doesn’t matter; it was approved.”
Then, in the Bhaktivedanta Manor, where, as everywhere I resided full time for three days or more, I introduced myself as what I actually am: a disciple of Srila Prabhupada who never ostensibly met His Divine Grace and was initiated soon after his disappearance by a GBC-approved person, whose name I would only reveal to confidants, so as not to cause trouble or alarm. The result was a mixture of respect and suspicion. Neither the bhaktas nor the initiates knew what to do, but the old-time Prabhupada disciples not in positions of importance were very kind to me.
At the Dublin temple, I introduced myself as a “disciple of Srila Prabhupada, but I never met him. If you want to know the details, just ask.” Here I was treated at first with cold suspicion (although provided for kindly, as an uninvited guest), and I soon found out I had been labeled a dangerous “rittvik“, who should not be spoken to! When I challenged the authority who called me “that” and told him my true story, he admitted that yes, I was Prabhupada’s disciple. I told him I wasn’t going to talk about it to the bhaktas—which is true. I never took sides, although I would correct erroneous and exaggerated stories if I heard them. Believe me, the rittvik question was hanging over every temple like an ominous, dark cloud, dark with rain.
At the Hare Krishna Island I was treated just like a long-lost relative. I introduced myself as a Prabhupada disciple initiated after his disappearance, and was encouraged especially by a gentle old-time Prabhupada disciple who oversees the repairs to great damage caused by an ISKCON guru still in power, whose activities were insane.
After a short visit to the Belfast temple, I returned to Soho Street, London for a week, during which gentle Radha Madhava Brahmachari engaged me in service and treated me as his own brother. But then, he knew me in California.
In conclusion, I was treated differently by those concerned with politics than those concerned with Prabhupada. That is just my opinion, and I must also add that I was fed, housed and clothed for more than 33 days and nights at six ISKCON temples, though I arrived dirty, poor and unknown. Certainly I am in debt to all the devotees who supported my existence in Europe, no matter where they stand on the issues.
It was simply sad to see plenty of bhaktas and new initiates looking upon me as having something they could never be allowed to grab onto: PRABHUPADA’S MERCY DIRECTLY.
Therefore, with this letter, let me publicly take a stand in support of the rittvik system of becoming disciples of Srila Prabhupada simply because it provides relief to those really thirsty for Prabhupada’s mercy. Those against it all have, it seems, something to lose. Those for it, something to share. I hope this letter finds you well.
One fallen, conditioned soul,
Nitai Gouranga das