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Srila Prabhupada, His Movement & You

by Hansadutta das

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Last Minute Thoughts

The guru parampara is broken not by following the acharya's order, but by disobeying and neglecting it. Having totally disregarded Srila Prabhupada's express wishes, ISKCON GBCs and guru-acharyas have effectively cut off ISKCON from its Founder-Acharya, Srila Prabhupada.

These are some last minute thoughts in continuing the first edition of Srila Prabhupada, His Movement and You.

During Tamal's conversation at Topanga Canyon, Tamal Krishna Goswami admitted that "you cannot show me anywhere where Srila Prabhupada appointed gurus. He only appointed rittviks.... This appointment is a myth...."

Certainly Prabhupada made gurus! But seeing their immaturity, he qualified them as rittvik representatives of the Acharya. One certainly must have a guru, but to understand the calibre of one's guru, the standard for judgment of measure is there in the person of the Acharya, Srila Prabhupada. Otherwise, why did Prabhupada say, "Ramanuja Acharya is there, Madhva Acharya is there, and their commentaries are there. You follow the Acharya; don't follow any rascal"?

Tamal then said the rittvik-vadis (his phrase in the ISKCON Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1) throw aside volumes of evidence on the bona fide order of the disciplic succession in the Vaishnava Sampradaya and take to the Christian's blind faith in direct communication with the Founder-Acharya throughout all history, thinking that anyone "who believes" will be personally accepted by Srila Prabhupada and therefore the regular system of guru parampara after Srila Prabhupada should be abandoned.

First of all, neither Srila Prabhupada nor we say guru parampara should be abandoned. Rather, Srila Prabhupada has given specific instructions how it should be continued and its integrity preserved.

Secondly, should we think that Srila Prabhupada has thrown aside volumes of evidence to contradict his spiritual master and the disciplic succession? Tamal's argument in ISKCON Journal (Vol. 1, No. 1) leads to that logical conclusion. It is Srila Prabhupada himself who has given the directive "Act as rittvik representative of the Acharya." Not anyone else has concocted this system of rittvik representation. Certainly Srila Prabhupada did not leave it to anyone to concoct or speculate what should be done. He gave the clear, specific order in his letter of July 9, 1977. Those who have concocted are the very persons who have set his order aside and gone ahead to become guru-acharyas.

The guru parampara is broken not by following the acharya's order, but by disobeying and neglecting it. Having totally disregarded Srila Prabhupada's express wishes, ISKCON GBCs and guru-acharyas have effectively cut off ISKCON from its Founder-Acharya, Srila Prabhupada.

Srila Prabhupada pointed out in a lecture in Seattle, "One who follows the instructions of Jesus Christ under the guidance of some priest--he is a disciple of Jesus Christ." Direct communication is possible with the Acharya by following the guidance of his empowered representative, the rittvik acharya (he is the link to the disciplic succession) or simply by reading Srila Prabhupada's books. In the Bhagavatam Srila Prabhupada writes:

There are two types of Bhagavatas, namely the book Bhagavata and the devotee Bhagavata. Both the Bhagavatas are competent remedies, and both or them or either of them can be good enough to eliminate the obstacles.

Rittvik does not mean abandonment of guru parampara; it means continuance, but under his specific prescription--not under our erroneous, ambitious assumption.

Disciple's Role to Support the Order of the Acharya

Srila Prabhupada said:
I don't say I am liberated. I am conditioned. But because I am following the instructions of Bhaktisiddhanta, I am liberated. This is the distinction between conditioned and liberated: when one is under the direction of a liberated person.
So Srila Prabhupada's direction was: "Act as representative of the Acharya, act as rittvik ." We should follow that order and be liberated and thus continue the disciplic succession. The rittvik is also a living guru .

In fact, every quote ISKCON brings forth to support their claim to full guru-acharya or to deny the rittvik system we also quote to support the rittvik system and to deny their full guru-acharya system. So what is the difference? Srila Prabhupada named eleven devotees to act as rittviks of the Acharya. They (ISKCON gurus) brush this aside and present quotations from shastras to contradict the order given by Prabhupada, saying it was never done before and if that is what Srila Prabhupada intended (for these 11 rittviks to continue after his departure), then "WHY DID HE NOT SAY SO?" By this challenging remark, they imply that he either forgot to say and therefore is depending on them to correct him or ad-lib for him or that he left it to all the neophytes to speculate and interpret his intentions. But we say that he made it clear and in writing, because he designated these 11 men to act as rittviks and did not indicate that after his departure they would be immediately empowered guru-acharyas. It must be accepted that rittvik representative was all the authority he saw them fit to handle. Discipline means if the guru forgets to ask the disciple to take food, the disciple should fast and not take food. That is disciplic succession.

By quoting endless shastric injunctions (often out of context), ISKCON gurus impudently suggest that Srila Prabhupada forgot or left it open to speculation and interpretation of all his neophyte disciples. Yasya deve para bhaktir yatha deve tatha gurau, tasyaite kathita hy arthah prakasante mahatmanah: "One who has unflinching faith in the words of the spiritual master and Krishna--to him all the imports of Vedic knowledge are revealed." His last written words were: "Act as rittvik representatives of the Acharya." That is his order, his arrangement for the continuance of the disciplic succession. Even if it was never done before, he did it, and it will work. Those who have, without authority, taken the post of guru-acharya have failed. Six out of 11 have fallen, and the remaining five are in serious doubt, having supported and institutionalised major philosophical deviations and deviant behaviours.

"Ours is not to reason why! Ours is but to do or die!" Just follow the order, and become guru. Although Shankaracharya taught so many things, his last instruction was "Bhaja Govindam! Bhaja Govindam! Just worship Govinda!" But because it was not in line with what he taught before, his followers neglected it and continued to be Mayavadis.

Srila Prabhupada said he wanted all his students to become qualified gurus and often said it was simple: all one had to do was repeat what he had heard from his guru. When Srila Prabhupada was preparing to leave this world, he said, "Act as rittvik representative of the Acharya." But no one follows this; therefore, how are they guru?! They do not repeat or follow this last important directive, but attempt to discredit Srila Prabhupada's own order, saying, "There is no precedent. It was never done before." They quote Srila Prabhupada to contradict Srila Prabhupada. They quote His Holiness Narayana Maharaja to contradict Srila Prabhupada. Why? A disciple's duty is to find evidence to support his guru's order--not to be over intelligent, quoting authorities to contradict his spiritual master's orders.

Better to be Safe

Without being ordered, no one can become guru, just as a military officer cannot assume the rank of general or commander unless ordered to do so by higher authority (commander-in-chief). In time of emergency, one may assume the responsibility of commander, if one's own commander is absent or killed. But still the official rank is conferred by higher authority. Only in the complete absence of authority can one assume the rank without sanction. Srila Prabhupada's situation was like that. He simply had to assume the post, because there was no one to confer the acharya post on him. It was conferred by the Divine Authority, Krishna and the disciplic succession. But we should not EQUATE ourselves with him. That would be presumptuous and offensive. Better to be safe, remain as humble rittvik representatives of His Divine Grace, the Sampradaya Acharya.

Srila Prabhupada cautioned:

If one remains always a servant everlastingly of guru, then he is liberated. And as soon as he thinks that he is liberated, he's a rascal. That is the teaching of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.... You must be ready always to be chastised by guru. Then he's liberated. And as soon as he thinks that "I am beyond this chastisement, I am liberated," he's a rascal.... Why this Gaudiya Math failed? Because they tried to become more than guru. He [Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura], before passing away, he gave them all direction and never said that "This man should be the next acharya ." But these people, just after his passing away, they began to fight, who shall be acharya . That is the failure. They never thought, "Why Guru Maharaja gave us instruction so many things, why he did not say that this man should be acharya? " They wanted to create artificially somebody acharya, and everything failed. They did not consider even with common sense that if Guru Maharaja wanted to appoint somebody as acharya, why did he not say? He said so many things, and this point he missed? The real point? And they insist upon it. They declared some unfit person to become acharya . Then another man came, then another, acharya, another acharya . So better remain a foolish person perpetually to be directed by Guru Maharaja. That is perfection. --Srila Prabhupada, August 16, 1976, Bombay ( Conversations with Srila Prabhupada, Vol. 26, p. 59-60)

We always hear "rittvik is not in our tradition." But we reply it is Srila Prabhupada's order, and to assume he forgot to elaborate on it is impudence on the part of the disciple. So is the attempt to contradict Srila Prabhupada's order by searching out quotations from Srila Prabhupada's books, others' books or other gurus. We have seen the result of neglecting Srila Prabhupada's directive "Act as rittvik representative of the Acharya." Six fell, five are under serious suspicion. There can be no harm in admitting that we do not know what is the tradition. All we know is the July 9th, 1977 letter is the last instruction Srila Prabhupada gave regarding initiations. We accept it literally, without question. So what harm can there be in that? What do we lose by accepting the order of the spiritual master verbatim, without addition, without subtraction? We tried the way of speculation, interpretation and concoction. What have we to lose at this point? Practically everything is already lost.

Even if we accept that Srila Prabhupada's order breaks the tradition, are we so high that we can risk questioning Srila Prabhupada's arrangement? Should we think Srila Prabhupada was unaware of the tradition? He needs us to correct him? And then again, is this apparent break of tradition all so important in consideration of his underlying intention? Should we think Srila Prabhupada's discernment and intention were ill-motivated? Or under the influence of illusion, imperfect senses or cheating propensity or a mistake on his part?

If we accept Srila Prabhupada as the Sampradaya Acharya, then whatever he does becomes the law or becomes the standard. Why should we presume to know his intention? All these questions must be addressed.

Judging by the Result

Narayana Maharaja says there is no need to write a letter to give appointment. So why Srila Prabhupada wrote a letter? Interpretation is necessary when something is unclear. They assume/suggest Srila Prabhupada forgot to elaborate! Srila Prabhupada's direction in the July 9th, 1977 letter was very clear. "Act as rittvik" was his order. That cannot be denied. ISKCON neglected this and took an alternative route. That has proved to be disaster. Now they want to concoct another alternative. Why not just follow the order?

Some say Srila Prabhupada intended rittvik only for the time being. Suppose we accept that premise, what was his intention for after his departure? And what did ISKCON actually do in the immediate aftermath of his physical departure? What was the result? And what are we doing now?

We tried to pull on as guru-acharyas. Six out of 11 failed. Five remaining are under serious suspicion. All other gurus are the creation of these original eleven, six of whom are fallen and five about to fall. If the root is rotten, how will the tree grow?

Everyone uses Srila Prabhupada's translations and commentaries for preaching, but does not act as his representative. They utilise his ASSETS and LEGACY for personal PRESTIGE. Why Govinda's camp, Tripurari's camp? Gour Govinda, Tamal--all are competing for the post of the Acharya. NONE SUBMIT as menial servant of the Sampradaya Acharya. DISCORD, CHAOS.

If everyone just initiates, then there will be only a contradictory result. --Srila Prabhupada, Phalgun Krishna Panchami

Now there are 70 gurus. Srila Prabhupada was one guru. We know what he has done. In 16 years, what have all these 70 new gurus done? Have they done 70 times as much as Prabhupada? Have they done 10 times as much? Have they done twice as much? Have they done anything?!!!

What is the definition of guru? Monitor in the class? Is he perfect or imperfect?

Why did Srila Prabhupada appoint rittviks? Because he saw his disciples unfit, immature. So like a master may give an apprentice some limited responsibility, Srila Prabhupada made some gurus (rittviks ) with limited responsibility. In due course, the apprentice may become a master himself by obediently acting under his guidance.

The order is there: "Act as rittvik." We are either obedient, or we are disobedient. Discipline means do not add, do not subtract. We should surrender to Srila Prabhupada's order, act as rittviks . Do not try to figure out, "How will it work?" Just do it. Srila Prabhupada wanted to go to Govardhana Hill. Tamal and others argued with Prabhupada, as if he were feeble and in need of their guidance. We are either obedient--DISCIPLINED, or disobedient--UNDISCIPLINED.

One who has accepted the spiritual master has NOTHING LEFT TO THINK ABOUT. --Srila Prabhupada
MASTER and DISCIPLE--he orders, we follow. Adjustment, speculation and concoction are the cause of FAILURE.

Acharya Creates the Tradition

If Srila Prabhupada is shaktavesha avatar (which we do recognise that he factually is), he can do anything, and it becomes LAW. Because the fully liberated soul is always in touch with Krishna, whatever he does or says is shastra, law, absolute, non-different from Krishna. Because we do not understand does not mean it is incorrect.

"Except for God, no one can establish the principles of religion. Either He or a suitable person empowered by Him can dictate the codes of religion."—purport, Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.3.43

Many things were never done before. Ramanujacharya engaged dacoits for collection, then had them killed. Madhvacharya pummeled his opponents. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu sang and danced in public--never done before by sannyasis . Buddha rejected the Vedas. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhupada created a GBC to manage his preaching mission, leaving no successor acharya , as was traditionally done. Srila Prabhupada made the same arrangement. In both instances, the order was disobeyed, and in both instances the result was the same--chaos, confusion and disintegration of the Acharya's mission. Great acharyas like Srila Prabhupada do establish the principles of religion according to time, place and circumstances.

In Ravindra Svarupa's "Cleaning House and Cleaning Hearts, Reform and Renewal in ISKCON," Ravindra Svarupa admits that both Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur and Srila Prabhupada broke the Vedic tradition of appointing a successor acharya to take charge of their missions after their disappearance in favour of a modern institution of management known as the GBC (Governing Body Commission), a term and concept borrowed directly from the British management of the Indian railway system. Ravindra writes, "With its corporate form of organisation, ISKCON thus represents a modernisation of a religious tradition." Ravindra then writes:

Upon the demise of his predecessor, the successor acharya would take the seat at the head of the institute. That successor acharya would be ritually elevated over all other disciples of his guru (his god-brothers), and all of them would bring new members to him for initiation.

ISKCON, however, represents a departure from this archaic form of organisation. Srila Prabhupada repeatedly stressed his intention that ISKCON would not, after his departure, be managed by a single acharya, but rather by the board of directors, the Governing Body Commission that he formed and began to train in 1970. Srila Prabhupada's intention and his departure from the tradition of the institutional acharya is shown in a striking way in his will. Traditionally, it was in the first article of his will that an acharya named his successor, passing on his institution to his heir, as if it were his personal property. The first article of Srila Prabhupada's will reads: "The Governing Body Commission (GBC) will be the ultimate managing authority for the entire International Society for Krishna Consciousness."

Ravindra next writes the various suggestions and proposals for "Guru Reform" made in 1986. By that time it had become abundantly clear that the guru-acharyas and GBCs simply could not resolve the two conflicting concepts of absolute authority to which each felt they were entitled. The GBC, as ultimate managing authority of ISKCON, felt they should be the authority, and the guru-acharyas felt they were the absolute, divine authorities over not only their own disciples, but even over the god-brothers, including the GBC. The institution was disintegrating over the clash of absolute power each group claimed as its right.

Ravindra writes:

It was my conviction that we could retain in ISKCON the full-fledged position of guru, as delineated by the scriptures, a position that did not essentially involve being the autonomous, autocratic head of an institution, did not essentially disallow discussion, consultation, revision and adjustment and did not forbid collegial decision-making as a kind of lese majeste . [ Note: Does anyone know what lese majeste means? My guess is it means "to have your cake and eat it too." I'm open for reader response. ]

The zonal acharya position had asserted it was intrinsic to the position of guru to be absolute, and it professed that the gurus would voluntarily sacrifice that position for the sake of the movement. This implied that by working with a GBC the gurus were doing something unnatural or artificial, and of course their "voluntary sacrifice" seemed increasingly pro forma. To counter this conception of the guru, I argued that there was a significant way in which it was essential for the bona fide guru to be relative. After all, that there was a significant way in which it was the essential qualifying characteristic of a guru is that he strictly follow the order of Srila Prabhupada, who had decreed that all of us must serve co-operatively under the authority of the GBC. Accepting the authority of the GBC board was not a voluntary option. Because it was Srila Prabhupada's order, it was necessary to guru-hood itself. [Note: What is guru-hood? Is it something like Robin Hood? Steal from the rich and give to the poor? Reader response requested. Help! ]

If Srila Prabhupada broke the traditional arrangement of appointing a successor acharya (as Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu has so clearly pointed out) by establishing a board of management (GBC) as the ultimate management authority of ISKCON, then it just stands to reason and is plain common sense that Srila Prabhupada would not create a competitive authority to clash with his ultimate managerial authority, the GBC, by appointing eleven guru-acharyas. If he did not want a single acharya, why would he appoint eleven acharyas? Rather, he again broke with tradition and appointed eleven rittvik representatives of the Acharya, who would continue initiating new disciples after his departure under the authority of the GBC (ultimate managing authority of ISKCON), just as they did for years in the presence of Srila Prabhupada and the GBC. Instead of accepting this completely self-evident, logical and authorised arrangement, Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu and other ambitious devotees continue to juggle words like reform and renewal in an attempt to maintain their mistakenly assumed postures and prestigious titles of "guru-hood".

In other words, the fact that Srila Prabhupada so strongly stressed the GBC as the ultimate managing authority of ISKCON proves that Srila Prabhupada intended his rittvik arrangement to continue functioning after his departure exactly as it functioned so successfully under himself and the GBC while he was present.

This formula--Srila Prabhupada as the Sampradaya Acharya, the GBC as the ultimate managing authority of ISKCON and the rittvik representatives as initiators on behalf of Srila Prabhupada (Sampradaya Acharya)--is clear and perfect. It can be confusing only to those who have mistakenly assumed that after Srila Prabhupada's disappearance ISKCON leaders must automatically become guru-acharyas in imitation of Srila Prabhupada (which is exactly what happened). Seventeen years later, everyone admits that this assumption was a colossal mistake. Instead of seeing the simple truth in Srila Prabhupada's personal letter of July 9th, 1977, wherein he appoints eleven rittviks to initiate on his behalf, Ravindra Svarupa et al are still trying to find a way to "have their cake and eat it too".

Ravindra Svarupa plainly admits Srila Prabhupada departed from the Vedic tradition. Why not simply surrender to the order of the spiritual master and stop all this wrangling, speculation, reform and renewal, which aims at nothing more than maintaining the mistakenly assumed posture of guru-acharya by men whom Srila Prabhupada authorised to act as rittvik acharyas? The Vedic tradition is created by the acharyas, and therefore Srila Prabhupada's (the Sampradaya Acharya's) arrangement for the GBC to act as head of the institution and consequently rittvik representatives of the Acharya for continuing the disciplic succession is perfectly in keeping with Vedic tradition. It is the acharyas who set the precedents which become the tradition, or it is the acharya who creates the Sampradaya; not the Sampradaya which creates the acharya. Just as the king creates the kingdom; not the kingdom creates the king. And the king can do no wrong.

The conclusion is if we accept Srila Prabhupada as the Sampradaya Acharya, pure devotee, shakti-avesha avatar and his writings as the law books for the next 10,000 years, then we should have no difficulty in accepting his arrangement of rittvik representatives, initiating on behalf of the Acharya, Srila Prabhupada.

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Srila Prabhupada, His Movement & You - Last Minute Thoughts/Inside Nam Hatta
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