Chakra Discussions

Reconciling Ritvik

by Niscala Prabhus

Posted February 6, 2006

[Editor's note: With the posting of these two articles by Visnurata and Niscala Prabhus, Chakra closes the current discussion of ritvik initiations. Those who are interested in reading more on the topic are encouraged to visit Click Here for many relevant articles, including the 1999 debate between Adridharan and Ajamila Prabhus, or the many cyber discussion forums where this discussion is still ongoing]

I just wanted to let Madhava know that I appreciate his focus on the problems that disciples have with their gurus in ISKCON. This is I feel a greater problem than ritvik. That is why I supported ritvik for a short while, and I still believe it is the lesser of two evils.

The worst thing the ritvik do against Srila Prabhupada is to advertise accidental falldowns across the board as this is very offensive when some of those who fall are actually sincere. That is the only source of anger I have against them. But the damage that so-called gurus can do is worse as it suspends altogether the guru-disciple relationship and substitutes in a farce.

However, the genuine guru-disciple relationship is extremely valuable as it can help the disciple on a day-to-day basis in a way that even Srila Prabhupada's purports may not. The genuine living guru coming in person is the disciple's inspiration, as he sees the effect of the philosophy in the powerful enlightenment and sublime characteristics that his guru embodies . His guru shows him how to go deeper and deeper into the philosophy and understand it from different angles of vision and apply it every moment. Thus one becomes *sastra caksusa*.

The ritviks do a disservice to ISKCON by precluding such genuine relationships wherever they may occur. It would be better to admit that if they do occur in ISKCON that is wonderful; in the meantime anyone can get inspiration from Srila Prabhupada's books and accept him as their guru. They do not need to accept a GBC appointed guru- a guru appointed on the basis of a clean track record and blindly following the GBC's abominable policies of repression, exclusion and assassination. It is better to accept Srila Prabhupada as one's sole guru- even as one's diksa guru- if one is convinced after many years of searching that no one else is taking on the role of true guidance. This would be a good reconciliation of ritvik and ISKCON. Why the ritviks have to resort to character assassination and preclusion of the possibility of genuine diksa-disciple relationships free of the GBC stranglehold? How are these sort of tactics pleasing to Srila Prabhupada? They are GBC policies of course, but under the banner of reform they are taken up anyway and zero progress is made.

How is it pleasing to Srila Prabhupada to demonize the opposition as "against Prabhupada" even when the position of the opposition is based on Srila Prabhupada's own statements? This adhomenim defense is hardly reflective of the vaisnava qualities that we are supposed to cultivate. But as with many religions, atrocities are done without a trace of guilt because it is all for God. So it is OK. Reconciliation rather than demonization, respects the views of the opposition and thus it creates no enemies. And people should be free to accept the reconciled version because it appeals to their intelligence, or not at all. Otherwise we create blind following.

With a humble attempt to present a view that achieves this end, I would like to make a few points which may clarify my earlier statements. In this attempt I consider it a great advantage to have no position or power in ISKCON so that my statements may be accepted or rejected solely on their merit, and no other considerations may be made.

  1. It may be argued that since it was 7 years before his departure that Srila Prabhupada ordered the examinations to qualify his disciples to initiate, he may have meant only in a ritvik sense. But that doesn't make sense, as it takes no Bhaktivedanta title to chant on beads and perform a fire sacrifice. The specific examinations involve the in-depth study and assimilation of scores of volumes- (Bg, SB, CC & NOD). Clearly it was to have his disciples more than ritvik priests. Thus when Srila Prabhupada declared "I want all my spiritual sons and daughters to inherit this title of Bhaktivedanta ...those possessing the title of Bhaktivedanta will be allowed to initiate disciples" he did not mean in a ritvik sense.
  2. It may be argued that one needs to be a mahabhagavat, uttama adhikari or at least liberated soul in order to initiate disciples, which is correct. The assumption here is that there are no uttama adhikaris in ISKCON, only Srila Prabhupada, and therefore the ritviks advance this proposition with this unspoken assumption that since no one is on a level with Srila Prabhupada, no one is an uttama adhikari. There is a problem with this, however. The sastra does not offer any such definition. For example:
    "One who is expert in logic and understanding of revealed scriptures, and who always has firm conviction and deep faith that is not blind, is considered to be a topmost devotee in devotional service" (Cc Mad 22.66)
    Further qualifications are in the Upadesamrta Text 5 purport: "...Out of many such vaisnavas, one may be found to be very seriously engaged in the service of the Lord and strictly following all the regulative principles, chanting the prescribed number of rounds on japa beads and always thinking of how to expand the Krsna Consciousness movement. Such a vaisnava should be accepted as an *uttama adhikari, a highly advanced devotee, and his association should always be sought"
    Srila Prabhupada: "Therefore first of all try to understand Krsna. You will understand in such a way that you can refute all other's argument, all other's opposition. There are so many opposing elements. Then you are guru."

Note that Srila Prabhupada does not say "you'll become guru" but that "you are guru" That means if someone is fulfilling the requirements of guru, he is a guru, automatically. There can be no need of proclamation by the GBC or denial by the ritviks that someone is not guru when he is qualified as described in sastra. That is abuse of power and of leadership. Leaders should rather educate about the qualifications of the guru, and then leave the decision making up to the individual. Whether it is accepting Srila Prabhupada as one's guru due to a lack of another, or accepting a guru outside the GBC's approval list, it is no one else's business but the disciple's, as it is he only who gains enlightenment. This reconciliation of ISKCON and ritvik may have approval of neither camp but it sits well with guru sadhu and sastra:

"If someone brings lamp, om ajnana timirandhasya jnananjana salakaya...the jnana-rupa torchlight, he's guru. So maybe of different degrees, but anyone who opens the spiritual eyes, he's guru." (Srila Prabhupada, Dec 1972)