Original Letter Of July 9, 1977
9 July, 1977
To All G.B.C., and Temple Presidents
Dear Maharajas and Prabhus,Please accept my humble obeisances at your feet. Recently when all of the GBC members were with His Divine Grace in Vrndavana, Srila Prabhupada indicated that soon He would appoint some of His senior disciples to act as ritvik - representative of the acarya, for the purpose of performing initiations, both first initiation and second initiation. His Divine Grace has so far given a list of eleven disciples who will act in that capacity:
His Holiness Kirtanananda Swami His Holiness Satsvarupa dasa Gosvami His Holiness Jayapataka Swami His Holiness Tamala Krsna Gosvami His Holiness Hrdayananda Gosvami His Holiness Bhavananda Gosvami His Holiness Hamsaduta Swami His Holiness Ramesvara Swami His Holiness Harikesa Swami His Grace Bhagavan dasa Adhikari His Grace Jayatirtha dasa AdhikariIn the past Temple Presidents have written to Srila Prabhupada recommending a particular devotee's initiation. Now that Srila Prabhupada has named these representatives, Temple Presidents may henceforward send recommendation for first and second initiation to whichever of these eleven representatives are nearest their temple. After considering the recommendation, these representatives may accept the devotee as an initiated disciple of Srila Prabhupada by giving a spiritual name, or in the case of second initiation, by chanting on the Gayatri thread, just as Srila Prabhupada has done.
Tamala Krsna Gosvami
Secretary to Srila Prabhupada
Approved:(signed) A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
(Prabhupada signature appears on the original)
Prabhupada's original scanned letter here
This is the conclusory communique to all temples presidents and GBC's on the subject of future initiations/gurus in ISKCON after Prabhupada leaves his body. These instructions were sent after several GBC meetings during the previous month specifically on this subject.
The specific word "henceforward" has only one meaning, viz. "from now onwards" or "from this time forward". This is both according to Srila Prabhupada’s own previous usage of the word and the meaning ascribed to it by the English Language. Unlike other words, the word henceforward is unambiguous since it only possesses one dictionary definition.
Because the ritvik system initiates new Prabhupada disciples without he being bodiy present, the word "henceforward" does not mean "from now onwards until I depart". It simply means "from now onwards". There is no mention in the letter that the system should stop on Srila Prabhupada’s departure, neither does it state that the system was to only be operational during his presence.
Furthermore the argument that the whole ritvik system "hangs" on one word - henceforward - is untenable, since even if we take the word out of the letter, nothing has changed. One still has a system set up by Srila Prabhupada four months before his departure, with no subsequent instruction to terminate it. Without such a counter instruction, this letter would still remain intact as Srila Prabhupada’s final instruction on initiation.
This legal ISKCON document states ISKCON initiation policy from that time (July 9, 1977) onward. The recording of names cannot refer to the chronological validity of this document because there is no all-important time limitation stated nor is there mention of any time limitation in any of Prabhupada's other written or recorded statements on ritvik initiations. Therefore the word "henceforward" can only mean "from this time onwards" or until this document is specifically countermanded by him. This of course never took place. Therefore, the appointed successor diksa-guru system in ISKCON today is not authorized by the founder acarya.
Even the May 28, 1977 GBC meeting confirms ritviks were to be continued post samadhi.
There were also witnesses to these instructions from Gauridas Pandit dasa and Yasodanandana Swami.
Also, Tamal Krishna, then Prabhupada's secretary, admited to the deviation from post samadhi ritvik in 1980. (See Topanga Canyon Meeting)
There were other statements made by Srila Prabhupada, and his secretary, in the days following the July 9th letter, which clearly indicate that the ritvik system was intended to continue without cessation:
"...the process for initiation to be followed in the future." (July 11th)
"...continue to become ritvik and act on my charge." (July 19th)
"...continue to become ritvik and act on my behalf." (July 31th)
In these documents we find words such as "continue" and "future" which along with the word "henceforward" all point to the permanancy of the ritvik system. There is no statement from Srila Prabhupada that even hints that this system was to terminate on his departure.
JUST A FEW PLACES WHERE RITVIKS IN VEDIC SOCIETY PERFORMED CEREMONIES. SO CALLED GURUS PERFORM INITIATION CEREMONIES TODAY ALSO-- ONLY DIFFERENCE IS THEY DO NOT WANT TO BE CALLED RITVIKS. ALTHOUGH THEY CANNOT COMMUNICATE WITH KRSNA THEY PREFER TO BE CALLED DIKSA GURUS.
SB 9.1.15 adhvaryuna--by the rtvik priest;
SB 4.5.7 rtvijah--the priests;
SB 4.5.18 rtvijah--the priests
SB 4.6.52 rtvijam--of the priests;
SB 4.7.16 rtvik--the priests;
SB 4.7.27 rtvijah--the priests;
SB 4.7.45 rtvijah--the priests;
SB 4.7.56 rtvigbhih--with the priests;
SB 4.13.26 rtvijah--the priests;
SRILA PRABHUPADA GIVES A PERFECT PLAN (KEEPING THE ACARYA AT THE CENTRE):
THEY PREFER TO BE IMMEDIATELY HIS DIVINE GRACES-----WITHOUT COMMUNICATION WITH
The following sets out the facts of the issue,
which are straight-forward and indisputable:
1) Srila Prabhupada's final, signed, legally binding directives conclusively established that he would remain as the sole initiating Guru for ISKCON.
2) Just after his departure his leading disciples disobeyed these directives, preferring instead to unauthorisedly replace him with themselves as initiating gurus for ISKCON.
3) As early as 1970 Srila Prabhupada established a Governing Body Commission, or GBC, as the means by which the ISKCON society was to be governed. In 1975, he approved the following definition for the GBC, which set out the exact parameters within which the GBC could act:
"The GBC has been established by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada to represent Him in carrying out the responsibility of managing the International Society for Krishna Consciousness of which He is the Founder-Acharya and supreme authority. The GBC accepts as its life and soul His divine instructions and recognises that it is completely dependent on His mercy in all respects. The GBC has no other function or purpose other than to execute the instructions so kindly given by His Divine Grace and preserve and spread His Teachings to the world in their pure form." (Definition of GBC, GBC Resolutions 1975)
Thus far from being a law unto themselves, this governing body was set strict parameters within which it could act.
4) The above resolution makes it clear that:
a) The GBC can ONLY execute instructions given by Srila Prabhupada
b) The GBC must maintain without change these instructions
"The GBC has no other function or purpose other than to execute the instructions so kindly given by His Divine Grace and preserve and spread His Teachings to the world in their pure form."
This letter will show that not only did the GBC fail to execute the instructions that Srila Prabhupada gave in regards to his position as Guru, but that it also executed a whole host of instructions that were never issued by Srila Prabhupada.
5) In 1977, in his Last Will and Testament, Srila Prabhupada confirmed that this method of managing the society via the use of the GBC, as described above, would remain the standard for ISKCON:
"The Governing Body Commission (GBC) will be the ultimate managing authority of the entire International Society for Krishna Consciousness." (Srila Prabhupada's Last Will and Testament, Registered 7/6/77, Paragraph 1)
Thus it is clear that the GBC are legally bound to continue to act as we have outlined above in paragraph 3, and only implement and preserve those systems and teachings given by Srila Prabhupada, even in Srila Prabhupada's absence.
6) Just before his physical departure from this world, on July 9th 1977, Srila
Prabhupada signed the above directive that he requested his secretary to issue
to the GBC, and all temple presidents (branch managers), giving specific details
for how he would continue to give diksa initiation from that time onwards. This
directive, known as the letter of July 9th, 1977, clearly states:
a) He would appoint some of His senior disciples to act as ritvik - representative of the acarya,
b) the above eleven senior devotees acting as His (Prabhupadas) representative.
c) The newly initiated devotees are disciples of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad,
d) The name of a newly initiated disciple should be included in His Divine Grace's "Initiated Disciples" book.
In the past Temple Presidents have written to Srila Prabhupada recommending a particular devotee's initiation. Now that Srila Prabhupada has named these representatives, Temple Presidents may henceforward send recommendation for first and second initiation to whichever of these eleven representatives are nearest their temple. After considering the recommendation, these representatives may accept the devotee as an initiated disciple of Srila Prabhupada by giving a spiritual name, or in the case of second initiation, by chanting on the Gayatri thread, just as Srila Prabhupada has done. The newly initiated devotees are disciples of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad, the above eleven senior devotees acting as His representative. After the Temple President receives a letter from these representatives giving the spiritual name or the thread, he can perform the fire yajna in the temple as was being done before. The name of a newly initiated disciple should be sent by the representative who has acceted him or her to Srila Prabhupada, to be included in His Divine Grace's "Initiated Disciples" book.
7) The above directive makes it clear that Srila Prabhupada was to remain as the Guru for ISKCON. This fact is stated 3 times in what is itself a short directive. It is clear from this directive that his disciples were simply to act as 'representatives' who would facilitate this process by issuing names to the prospective disciples on behalf of Srila Prabhupada. This directive had specifically been sent to the GBC for it to implement within ISKCON.
8) However on November 15th, 1977, the day after Srila Prabhupada's departure from this world, without any countermanding instruction from Srila Prabhupada, the GBC took it upon themselves to stop the execution of this directive. Thus they were immediately guilty of acting outside their remit as we have set out in their defining parameters as given above in paragraphs 3 and 4, which make it clear they must continue to only execute the instructions given by Srila Prabhupada, even after his departure. By suspending the system of managing initiations that was set out in the directive, whereby all initiates became Srila Prabhupada's disciples, the GBC was also guilty of acting in direct violation of paragraph 2 of his Last Will and Testament, which states:
'The system of management will continue as it is now and there is no need of any change' (Srila Prabhupada's Last Will and Testament, Registered 7/6/77, Paragraph 2)
That Srila Prabhupada was expecting to continue to act as the sole initiator in ISKCON is further evidenced in the Will under paragraph 3. This deals with how new directors of the society's permanent properties such as Mayapur and Vrindavana (which were expected to remain for thousands of years) were to be selected:
'...a successor director or directors may be appointed by the remaining directors, provided the new director is my initiated disciple...' (Srila Prabhupada's Last Will and Testament, Registered 7/6/77, Paragraph 3)
This makes it clear that future directors for properties in ISKCON for thousands of years to come could only be selected from Srila Prabhupada's initiated disciples. Clearly such a provision could only be enacted if Srila Prabhupada had also made a provision for himself to continue initiating new disciples in ISKCON. Otherwise the pool of potential directors would quickly dry up.
9) Instead the 11 disciples who had been appointed in the directive as representatives, issuing names on behalf of Srila Prabhupada, suddenly declared themselves as having being appointed as new successor Gurus:
(GBC Resolutions, 9.30 am, March , 19th, 1978) "The GBC will consider each year at Gour Poornima the appointment of new Spiritual Masters to be approved by a 3/4 vote. However for 1978 no new Spiritual Masters shall be appointed other than the 11 selected by Srila Prabhupada".
Thus with this disobedience to Srila Prabhupada's final orders on who should be the Guru for ISKCON enacted, his replacement as the Guru for ISKCON by his many disciples was effected, with the subsequent seizure of Srila Prabhupada's society and assets by these men. This deviation was expanded in 1985 when it was declared that anyone who is a disciple, and who got the necessary number of votes, could be admitted as a diksa Guru:
(GBC Resolutions, February 27th, 1985) "A GBC vote on adding an initiating guru requires a quorum of 3/4 members of the GBC Body to be present. To be approved,a candidate must receive a vote of 2/3rds of the members present at that meeting."
10). Thus more Gurus were added so that today we have at least 70, with a continuous flow of new gurus being 'voted in' as others leave due to falling down into moral impropriety. This Guru expansion in the mid-80's was led by Ravindra Svarupa Das, who just happens to be the ISKCON Chairman right now, and who also made himself a Guru directly as a result of the changes he instituted. In this way the problems just went from bad to worse, and has merely expanded the deviation and degradation of our societies reputation even further.
11) The GBC have never been able to justify terminating the system of initiation Srila Prabhupada personally put in place with his last institutional directive on this matter. They simply say that the directive must terminate automatically on the departure of Srila Prabhupada from this world, for when Srila Prabhupada departed, the directive died with him. However this reasoning is based on a faulty assumption - that the directive is tied to the physical presence of Srila Prabhupada. However the circumstances of the July 9th directive are that it is issued for, and to be implemented within, and by, an institution. Thus the applicability of the directive is tied to the institution, and therefore only the demise of the INSTITUTION can terminate its applicability. The physical presence of the Founder who authorised the instruction has no relevance to terminating the directive. Thus the directive must remain in force for as long as the institution remains. Arguments based on considerations of 'tradition', the practice of other institutions, etc. have no applicability in determining how Srila Prabhupada intended his institution to be run. We can only decide that from his own institutional directives on the subject. Just like Srila Prabhupada also issued so many other directives to the movement stating that we must read his books, follow his teachings etc. None of these directives became invalidated just because Srila Prabhupada departed - and neither does this one. Srila Prabhupada's position as Guru is not dependent on his physical presence, juts as he taught:
"He lives forever by his divine instructions, and the follower lives with him." (Bhagavata Purana, Preface)
Seven of the original 11 disciples selected as Ritviks in the above-mentioned directive who unauthorisedly took on the role of Diksa Gurus subsequently left the movement in scandalous circumstances, falling down into gross moral debauchery. This is itself testament to the fact that the original replacement of Srila Prabhupada by these new Gurus could not have been correct. And many of the dozens of Gurus who were later added have not fared any better, with a resultant huge loss in manpower, properties and prestige for ISKCON. All this trauma, disruption and embarrassment is clear proof that the society could not possibly have been executing the instructions of the infallible Acarya, Srila Prabhupada. Even though not all the gurus have acted outrageously, still even the best of them are not actually following Srila Prabhupada's instructions on this most fundamental issue. Thus much of the bad news we hear in the press is due only to this original disobedience to Srila Prabhupada. Our success in spiritual life, and in particular ISKCON's success, can only come through strict adherence to the order of the Spiritual Master.
As we start to stand up to the gurus they and their supporters are going to increasingly desperate lengths to cling to power. Most recently one of the gurus was named in setting up a false rape case to discredit the IRM which led to an innocent devotee committing suicide. As a result of this the guru in question, Jayapataka, is on the run, being wanted by the Calcutta police. Indeed the Temple President of your own Juhu Temple has stated that he will spend every last penny of the Temple to fight the IRM, even though we are only trying to re-instate Srila Prabhupada as the Guru for ISKCON.
As Temple Presidents we have worked very hard to build and maintain temples
such as Bangalore, Vrindavan, Calcutta, Singapore and are very concerned that
ISKCON be revived as the glorious institution it once was, united under the one
and only original Guru, Srila Prabhupada. Otherwise the disruption and mismanagement
will continue, and the most painful thing for all of us is when people blame Srila
Prabhupada for all the mess, when in reality he set up as near perfect a system
as is possible in the material world. For years we have tried quietly to put things
right, but it has not worked, so regrettably we have had to take our fight to
the movement's supporters and well-wishers. The situation is serious, but can
be rectified quickly as long as we restore Srila Prabhupada as the Guru for ISKCON-
just as he instructed.
Comments by the Prabhupadanuga's Austria: only fools, rascals and demons, such as Isk con gurus and GBC's are deriding and misinterpreting Srila Prabhupada's clear order and instruction for a ritvik-system. (Aruna das)
There is an interesting description in the Caitanya Caritamrita of the initiation of Raghunath das. While he was living at home, he was officially initiated by Yadunandana Acarya, a great devotee in his own right, but then he left home and travelled to Puri where he took shelter of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Srila Prabhupada refers to Yadunandana Acarya as the "official initiator spiritual master" of Raghunath dasa. The comparison can be made in Iskcon to a devotee who is accepted by an officiating acarya, but is taking shelter of Srila Prabhupada.
Srila Prabhupada used to criticize the Christian religion, not because they were praying to Jesus, but because the leaders were not authorized representatives of God. The acarya is the representative of God, and the officiating acarya is the authorized representative of the acarya.
If one is authorized, it means he becomes empowered, just as when Srila Prabhupada initially authorized Revatinandana and Kirtanananda Swamis to chant on beads, he told them he was empowering them to assist him. He made it clear that these were still his disciples. Even when Srila Prabhupada sent out the letter of July 9th, 1977 he made it clear that those being initiated were still his disciples.
One should note that when Srila Prabhupada called the GBC to his side in May, 1977 he was very ill and wanted to give instruction with regard to how Iskcon would be managed after his departure. It was at this time that he mentioned the term "officiating acarya". As stated before, one cannot accept disciples in the presence of one's guru and, similarly, one does not accept the title of acarya while one's guru is living. Therefore, the term "officiating acarya" would only have been introduced after the disappearance of Srila Prabhupada, while the term ritvik - representative could be used in his presence.
During Srila Prabhupada's grave illness in the spring of 1977, no initiations were being performed. When he began to recover he decided that his aspiring disciples should not have to wait any longer to be initiated and it was at that time that he prepared a list of ritvik representatives who would initiate on his behalf. They would accept the disciples on behalf of Srila Prabhupada, chant on their beads, give spiritual names and send those names to be included in the book listing Srila Prabhupada's disciples. This system was especially practical for many reasons. It avoided the need to send beads through the mail, it avoided the duplication of names in the same zone, but mainly it relieved Srila Prabhupada of the burden of handling this responsibility so that he could conserve his strength and utilize his valuable time for writing.
During the months that followed, Srila Prabhupada's health was up and down. Doctors were consulted (as were astrologers) and their conclusion was that Srila Prabhupada might continue to live for six or seven years if he could pass through that difficult period. This is important to know when considering the instructions he gave concerning initiations, because the system of having initiations peformed on his behalf was meant to continue as long as Srila Prabhupada wanted it to under the prevailing conditions, which could have meant several years or even longer.
His Divine Grace departed this world but he lives still in his instructions. The instruction he gave concerning initiations was that the ritvik system would continue with only small changes in formalities. It was his recommendation that the term "officiating acarya" would be applied, and that those initiated would be known as his granddisciples. That the official initiator must be present and identifiable is in keeping with the statements of scripture and has been followed by all previous acaryas in all bonafide sampradayas.
The departed vaisnava acarya is considered to have entered nitya lila pravistha, and the eternal abode of Radha and Krishna. Though he may be transcendentally present to offer his unlimited blessings, he is not considered to be accepting new disciples in the formal sense. Because the process of diksa includes the formalities of initiation, he cannot be properly referred to as the diksa guru of disciples formally initiated after his physical departure. However, and more significantly, Srila Prabhupada is the preceptor of all generations of devotees who follow his teachings and, within Iskcon, the only worshippable guru. Just as Krishna is known throughout the world as the spiritual master of Arjuna, Srila Prabhupada is the spiritual master of all present and future followers of his transcendental teachings. Because initiation is a formality, the official initiator is not as significant as the true deliverer, and that is Srila Prabhupada.
There is no difference between a direct disciple and a granddisciple in the sense that both associate with the founder acarya preceptorially and live according to his rules and regulations. Because the May 28th discussion dealt only with how Iskcon would be perpetuated after the disappearance of the spiritual master, any reference to his granddisciples must apply within Iskcon, not that granddisciples would exist only when his own disciple would initiate outside of Iskcon. Srila Prabhupada's instruction was that we should never be without Iskcon thought even for a moment, so there was no indication that he was advising anyone to leave the society of devotees.
"As I am puppet of my Guru Maharaja, if you become my puppet, then that is success. Our success is there when we become puppet of the predecessor. To live in the society of devotees and to become puppet of the predecessor acarya, that is success. So we are trying to do that. Krishna consciousness society and serve the predecessor. That's all." (Conversation 4-19-73)
The order is to serve the predecessor, to become the puppet of the predecessor. That means to worship the predecessor and to live according to his rules and regulations. No order was given that the official initiator, or officiating acarya, was to become the object of worship.
For an institution to function properly, there must be one head. In the case of a spiritual institution, there can only be one absolute authority. Srila Prabhupada had aleady established a chain of authority, and he made no mention of restructuring it before he ended his pastimes with us. Therefore, any changes he would have approved in terms of initiation procedures could only have been in regard to formalities and not in the spirit of the system which was meant to always keep Srila Prabhupada in the center. Again, this is only the point of view of one conditioned soul, but I hope that this presentation will lead to further realizations that our readers will in turn share with this humble servant.
Yours in the service of Srila Prabhupada,
RE: OFFICIATING ACHARYAS
by Jaya Krsna dasa
Locananda dasa, in his "Officiating Acaryas," writes the following:
"The departed vaisnava acarya...though he may be transcendentally present to offer his unlimited blessings ...is not considered to be accepting new disciples in the formal sense. Because the process of diksa includes the formalities of initiation, he cannot be properly referred to as the diksa guru of disciples formally initiated after his physical departure.
Excuse me, Locanananda prabhu, but I respectfully disagree. The "formalities of initiation" were mostly conducted by priests even when Srila Prabhupada was "physically" present, and BEFORE he "departed" in 1977 Srila Prabhupada established rtviks to perform all the "angas," except, of course, transmitting divya-jnanam.
For Srila Prabhupada (or Lord Jesus Christ) it is COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT whether or not he is "on the planet" when enacting this most essential aspect of initiation. You wrote, "The process of diksa includes the formalities of initiation." Prabhu, do you know what the word "formality" means? Srila Prabhupada says "real" initiation is "accepting the conclusion," "following," "your determination," etc.
How many who underwent the "formalities of initiation" are or were accepting Srila Prabhupada as guru, what to speak of being his disciple? History has borne out that "ulterior motives" propelled many a banana into the fire while "Swaha" was being chanted.
You then attempted to substantiate your theory with the same innapropriate "Vaisnava Tradition" argument routinely employed by those averse to accepting Srila Prabhupada as "The Acarya"--i.e. the "Tradition Setter." Hello? WHATEVER SRILA PRABHUPADA DOES "IS" VAISNAVA TRADITION, prabhu. Why are you trying to "justify" him?
Srila Prabhupada is not just offering "unlimited blessings." He is
DIRECTLY PRESENT, LEADING THE SANKIRTANA MOVEMENT IN A WAR AGAINST MAYA FOR THE
NEXT 10,000 YEARS. We shall NEVER be "The Guru." By accepting this simple
point (and Chanting Hare Krsna) everything becomes crystal clear. Unfortunately,
our disease is that, instead of glorifying the worthy person, we want to be special.
Then Maya tells us, "Oh, the guru is gone, who will lead everyone?"
Then we're finished. Please correct me if I said somewthing wrong.
Your humble servant,
Jaya Krsna dasa