Questions and Answers
QUESTION: Could you please clarify the statement, “When the rittvik matures and understands his everlasting subordination to his spiritual master, then he is seen as a full guru,” taken from Srila Prabhupada, His Movement and You (“Letter to New Initiates”)?
YASODANANDAN: When a devotee “matures,” this means when a devotee fully matures in terms of actual realizing and manifesting the symptoms of love of Godhead (bhava and prema ). These are fully described in the Nectar of Devotion and in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. This is not achieved by some rubber-stamping or some so-called appointment. Neither is this achievement of love of Godhead an automatic push-button process. It is a lifetime of constant surrender to the order of the bona fide acharya (Srila Prabhupada), dedication and service. Then the devotee will be seen in that light, not artificially, but really on account of his devotional accomplishment. The above statement should be understood in the proper context of the other points which have been made in the same letter and in the same magazine.
QUESTION: Hansadutta das is just trying to be a guru. He tried to be a guru in ISKCON; he could not make it. He tried again a few years ago, and now he is just trying to be a guru with a different label, rittvik.
HANSADUTTA: That’s right. I tried to be a guru. I tried to be a guru in ISKCON. Fortunately, I saw the errors of my ways, realizing the only guru and acharya is Srila Prabhupada, and therefore now I am trying to become the servant of the guru, Srila Prabhupada. If this is objectionable, then you have to take up the matter with Srila Prabhupada.
Even if a devotee failed to actually fulfill the order of the spiritual master, as in my case I failed to properly act as a rittvik acharya representative of His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada in the immediate aftermath of his departure in 1977, this does not mean that a devotee is condemned or destined to perpetually fail. One must try again to fulfill the order, because THE ORDER OF SRILA PRABHUPADA STILL STANDS—”Act as rittvik of the acharya.” As such, I am only trying to fulfill his order.
YASODANANDAN: There is a confused and insensitive mentality behind this kind of accusation. If a devotee—whether it be Hansadutta or any kind of “dutta“—is sincerely trying to chant the prescribed number of rounds (which the said Hansadutta does), follow the regulative principles (which he also does), preach Krishna consciousness to the innocent, go out and chant Harinama in public, organize Vaishnava festivals and make devotees, why should anyone object to these activities?
The proponents of the GBC’s “Anyone can become a guru” philosophy object if another devotee sincerely tries to present the message of Krishna consciousness on behalf of the bona fide acharya (Srila Prabhupada) without personal ambition, thus truly fulfillling the real order and duty of a bona fide devotee. They simultaneously criticise another devotee for trying to be a guru, which is not a fact in this case, since Hansadutta has already admitted that he is simply trying to be a humble representative of the acharya, Srila Prabhupada.
QUESTION: But this rittvik idea which you are proposing is against the tradition of Vaishnavism, which clearly stipulates that a living, physically present guru must be there to initiate and guide the prospective candidate.
YASODANANDAN: The rittvik-acharya, or officiating representative, is also a living spiritual guide, whose function is to initiate on behalf of the acharya, Srila Prabhupada and to actually train and teach the devotees.
Do the critics of the original arrangement which Srila Prabhupada made for his society for continuance after his departure (the rittvik-acharya system), know more about the Vaishnava tradition than Srila Prabhupada? From whom have we learned the tradition of Vaishnavism? FROM SRILA PRABHUPADA!
The proponents of “We are all automatically gurus after the physical departure of the acharya” claimed for more than ten years that they had been appointed by Srila Prabhupada. Where is the proof for this claim? There is no record of any appointment or selection of successor acharya or appointed diksha gurus by His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada during the last few months of his manifested presence. There is only one document from Srila Prabhupada’s hand (July 9th, 1977) addressing the question of who and how initiations will continue. It is clear and final. No other document regarding initiations and gurus exists. It is his last will and testament.
It should be mentioned that Srila Prabhupada is the acharya of his movement, and he is (and was) perfectly entitled to make whatever arrangement he saw fit to continue his movement in a united way.
Srila Prabhupada never contradicted shastra. He established the real purports of the shastra.
He took into consideration:
- the relative level of advancement of his disciples. He obviously did not see that they were ready and fit as of 1977 to occupy the full-fledged position of diksha guru and acharya; otherwise, why did he not indicate so directly?
- the grievous mistake of the post-1937 Gaudiya Math acharyas, whom Srila Prabhupada appropriately called “self-appointed acharyas“.
Because in our mission, our Guru Maharaja never appointed anyone as acharya. (Srila Prabhupada, lecture on Chaitanya-charitamrita, New York, 1967)
He was trying to avoid the very same mistake made by the disciples of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur. Why would he repeat the same mistake that he had criticized earlier?
- By 1977, he had already established in his society a system of management with an international GBC to oversee the affairs of the society and keep the teachings of Srila Prabhupada in their pure and original form. The function of initiation was already established by Srila Prabhupada during his manifested presence. He did not change it; he merely adjusted some minor details, such as allowing the new officiating acharyas to ascertain the new candidates’ eligibility on their own, the choice of the names, etc. This system was never changed by Srila Prabhupada. He never indicated in his will (June, 1977), or in his last letter to all the temple presidents, which he signed, that the arrangement should ever be changed upon his physical departure.
- Srila Prabhupada very intelligently arranged so that the system of initiations (rittvik system) would be a perfect plan for keeping his society united. The rittvik-acharyas were meant to emphasize: a) Srila Prabhupada as the worshipable acharya for everyone and b) initiate newcomers on his behalf as humble representatives of his movement and properly train them and teach them Krishna consciousness. Therefore he said, “I wish that each and every center shall remain independent, keeping the acharya in the center.”
QUESTION: But still, would this not contradict the shastras?
YASODANANDAN DAS: There are four distinct possibilities that can be concluded here:
- Srila Prabhupada did not make any kind of arrangement for initiations for after his physical departure. He left it to the speculation of his disciples, or he left it to the GBC to vote in or elect acharyas. However, there is no verifiable evidence for this theory. Srila Prabhupada very carefully established and nurtured a society. All the major programs of deity worship, book publishing, book distribution, gurukula program, devotee training, etc. were very specifically described in his books, letters, etc. Especially on major decisions he made it very clear in writing. The theory that Prabhupada “left us insufficient guidance” is rejected by all sincere disciples of Srila Prabhupada. It is unacceptable.
- Srila Prabhupada made arrangements for his leading disciples to go to Gaudiya Math advisors who were supposed to clarify the statement of Srila Prabhupada. This theory has yet to be supported with appropriate, verifiable evidence. This theory would be a major contradiction of numerous statements by Srila Prabhupada about the Gaudiya Math, its leaders and their role in the disobedience of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati’s order by unauthorisingly “appointing one acharya, who subsequently failed, and by having everyone else artificially occupying the position of acharya and thus breaking down the whole united preaching mission of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur.” This theory is also rejected by the sincere disciples of Srila Prabhupada.
- A third possibility exists. Srila Prabhupada did in fact “appoint or select” diksha gurus or acharyas prior to his departure for Goloka. This choice, regardless of the various slanted interpretations which would be required to establish it, was allegedly done in the last few months prior to Srila Prabhupada’s departure. He allegedly chose eleven acharyas or “his best men,” according to some apologists of the GBC official party line. These men, upon the departure of Srila Prabhupada, then assumed their acharya appointment. This is the gist of the acharya appointment theory of the GBC.
The problem with this interpretation is that there is no written, verifiable proof that Prabhupada appointed or selected the original eleven as diksha gurus or successor acharyas or zonal acharyas, as claimed by them. The only capacity in which these original eleven had been chosen is that of rittvik-acharya, or officiating acharyas, as per the July 9th, 1977 letter. Six of the original “chosen acharyas” have fallen. The integrity of the other five has been called into question after numerous philosophical deviations and openly supporting other deviant persons.
The question comes up: “Did Srila Prabhupada actually know who was qualified and who was unqualified to be acharya? And if he did appoint acharyas, did he make a wrong choice? Did he know how to recognize another pure devotee?” The proponents of this “acharya appointment” theory would have to explain whether or not the fully realized pure devotee makes mistakes or is subject to the four defects of conditional life. DID THE GBC MAKE A MISTAKE? OR DID PRABHUPADA MAKE A MISTAKE? We are firmly convinced that Srila Prabhupada was beyond making mistakes. The true followers of Srila
Prabhupada reject the “acharya appointment” theory, because it contradicts the statements and teachings of Srila Prabhupada.
- The only other possibility, which is now being accepted as the only clear, self-evident, logical choice by almost all of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples and followers, is that Srila Prabhupada rejected the above three theories. That is, he did not want to send his disciples to the Gaudiya Math for inconclusive advice, he did not forget to make a proper arrangement, and he did not make a mistake by appointing unqualified men to the position of acharyas. Instead, he made a very workable arrangement to continue initiations after his departure by selecting rittvik-acharyas whose primary function was to initiate new devotees as they did in his presence for years a) on behalf of Srila Prabhupada and b) on behalf of his glorious movement.
Thus Srila Prabhupada made a most practical arrangement which could have easily carried his society through the difficulties of his eventual physical absence. The new devotees would thus be his students (studying his books and teachings and thus getting initiated into transcendental knowledge by His Divine Grace). The new devotees would simultaneously be his followers (by following the rules and regulations and the discipline laid out by the Sampradaya Acharya, Srila Prabhupada), and thus, in fact, the new students would be his disciples under the care and guidance of senior devotees, who would thus act as guides and representatives of the Sampradaya Acharya, Srila Prabhupada.
Srila Prabhupada did not contradict the tradition. He established a very practical, simple plan by which everything could go on very nicely, despite his physical absence from the scene, which is the duty of the great Sampradaya Acharyas. HE ACTED PERFECTLY ACCORDING TO TIME, PLACE AND CIRCUMSTANCE.