GBC Funded Video Says Ritvik Is Spiritual

1. Introduction

When the GBC member H. H.Giridhara Swami paid ten thousand dollars to ITV’s Nrsimanada das, he surely hoped he would redeem himself in the eyes of ISKCON’s embattled leaders. Since Giridhari Maharaja helped arrange for ‘The Final Order’ to be commissioned, and was subsequently unable to defeat it, he has probably been getting the cold shoulder from his hapless GBC cohorts. Just imagine how he must have felt when watching Nrsimhananda’s cheerful conclusion to the new ITV video- ‘Disciple of My Disciple’. Having just spent thousands of dollars on propaganda trying to convince everyone that ritvik was a load of bogus concocted nonsense, on a par with mayavada, there is Nrsimhananda arguing that ritvik proponents were actually on the spiritual platform! As a snapshot of the out and out bewilderment of ISKCON’S leaders and senior followers at the end of the second millennium, ‘Disciple of My Disciple’ is required viewing. Future historians will no doubt study it as a text book case of a small religious sect in the grip of a pernicious group delusion. As we hope to show, the video brilliantly (though unwittingly) exposes the quagmire of incoherence and self-contradiction that inevitably infects anyone supporting the GBC’s current illegal insubordination over the issue of initiation.

2. Nrsimhananda Contradicts H.H.Giriraja Swami

In a section of the video entitled ‘Dealing with Deviations’ Giriraja Swami sternly reminds us, with his most serious face, how Srila Prabhupada would not tolerate deviant philosophies. He gives the example of some disciples who were preaching that Srila Prabhupada was God, and how Srila Prabhupada completely demolished their philosophy. Apparently the viewer is meant to see ritvik as one such deviation, and its proponents as similarly displeasing to Srila Prabhupada. However, at the end of the video Nrsimhananda contradicts this view: 

"Regarding the present schism that exists in the ISKCON society over the issue of initiations, Srila Prabhupada teaches us how to view such differences of opinion." 
(Nrsimhananda Dasa, 'Disciple Of My Disciple' Video). 

He then quotes the following:

"If there is some disagreement over service, such disagreement is to be taken as spiritual."  
(S. B. 4.30.8 as quoted on ‘Disciple of My Disciple’ video.)

We hope the GBC and their apologists will take note of this point and stop labelling us as ‘demoniac’ ‘word jugglers’ ‘mayavadis’ etc. While they are at it they can also remove their prohibitions against ‘ritvikism’ from ISKCON law too.

3. H.H. Tamal Krishna Goswami Contradicts GBC Minutes Book

No stranger to contradiction, having changed his story regarding ISKCON's guru tattva nine times over the last twenty-two years, this was always going to be Tamal Krishna Goswami’s show. He chooses his words as carefully as a soldier picking steps through a minefield. Even so he still manages to contradict one of the video’s most crucial pieces of evidence; the GBC minutes book. The GBC minutes book allegedly contains, amongst other things, a hand-written record of the May 28th meeting between the GBC and Srila Prabhupada. They state that some devotees were to be appointed by Srila Prabhupada to act as diksa gurus for after his departure: 

"Srila Prabhupada said he will appoint several devotees who shall perform initiation in the future, even after his disappearance."
(GBC minutes book as shown in ‘Disciple of my Disciple’ video).

The people who were specifically appointed by Srila Prabhupada were thus meant to act as initiating gurus after departure, according to the GBC’s official minutes, as presented on the video. On the video Tamal Krishna also recommends we read the minutes as a worthy record of what occurred on May 28th. However, on the same video H.H.Tamal Krishna states:

"Prabhupada did not appoint gurus. He named people who would act as his assistants to give initiation in his presence."
(Tamal Krishna Goswami in ‘Disciple of my Disciple Video’).

Thus H. H. Tamala Krishna and the video promote the GBC minutes book, which presents the old 'Guru appointment' theory; and at the same time the video has H. H. Tamala Krishna emphatically stating that Gurus were not appointed! We do not think H.H.Tamal Krishna Goswami should get all the blame for this contradiction, since the GBC body themselves have also contradicted their own minutes book in one of their recent papers: 

"There is no appointment of gurus or successors, only a recommendation that certain disciples start the natural process."
(The entire GBC, in the position paper 'Disciple of my Disciple' page 4, 1996).

What an incredible state of affairs that there should be no agreement even on such a basic, fundamental issue. Either Srila Prabhupada did appoint gurus for after his departure or he did not. And after more than twenty years we are still presented with nothing but a tangle of conflicting testimony over the very issue that the video was supposed to be shedding light on. In the end Srila Prabhupada only appointed ritviks- and there is certainly no order from him that they were to change function after his physical departure. We know this for a fact since the GBC have not produced any such document even for the court case in Calcutta. Had Nrsimhananda allowed that particular fact to infiltrate, he may well have further jeopardised future GBC patronage. One lesson from all this is that devotees should be extremely wary whenever the GBC or their supporters release anything, and especially anything with the title ‘Disciple of my Disciple’; it is just bound to be self-contradictory and misleading. This is especially so since the phrase itself is taken completely out of context. In the original conversation (May 28th ’77) the passage in which the phrase ‘disciple of my disciple’ appears is prefaced with the conditional ‘When I order’. It is this requisite ‘order’ for diksa gurus that the GBC have never been able to locate. Only if they can find such an order will there be any scope for ‘disciple of my disciple’.

4. H.H. Tamal Krishna Goswami Contradicts Himself

In his cautious explanation of the events surrounding the July 9th letter, Tamal Krishna claims the final order on initiations was only dealing with what was supposed to happen whilst Srila Prabhupada was still present:

"I think in the beginning of the letter I make mention that we’ve already met in May, in other words what will happen in the future is not at issue here, we’re not talking about what will happen after Prabhupada departs, we’re talking about now in Prabhupada’s presence - that was what the whole purpose of the letter was."
(Tamal Krishna Goswami in ‘Disciple of my Disciple Video’).

Yet at the beginning of the letter, under Srila Prabhupada’s approval, Tamal Krishna actually starts the letter thus: 

"Recently when all of the GBC members were with His Divine Grace in Vrndavan, Srila Prabhupada indicated that soon He would appoint some of His senior disciples to act as "rittik" – representative of the acarya, for the purpose of performing initiations, both first and second initiation."
(July 9th letter, opening paragraph)

According to Tamal Krishna, and the entire GBC, this refers to the May 28th conversation, in which the only issue was what was to be done after Srila Prabhupada’s departure.

When we look back at the conversation that Tamal Krishna says he is alluding to, we see Srila Prabhupada said he was appointing ritviks as a direct answer to Satsvarupa Maharaja’s first question concerning what was to be done after he was no longer with them. Thus by starting the letter with reference back to the May 28th conversation the very last thing anyone would assume is that it was only concerned with what to do whilst Srila Prabhupada was still present. Indeed this has to be one of the most preposterous statements ever made by a GBC apologist. The Maharaja is contradicting the very letter he is so proud of typing for Srila Prabhupada. Once more we are being asked to believe that Srila Prabhupada went to all the trouble of issuing a letter to the whole movement on a subject the GBC had not asked him about- namely initiation before departure. And yet on the really important issue, the matter they all went to his room to ask him about- namely initiations after departure, Srila Prabhupada issued nothing, no letter to all the movements leaders, no approved GBC resolution - nothing.

5. HH Tamal Krishna Goswami Contradicts Reality

Tamal Krishna accepts that the letter was approved by Srila Prabhupada with his signature, in other words Srila Prabhupada signed the letter. As Maharaja says:

"... Prabhupada approved it because I thought it would add more weight to it...".
(Tamal Krishna Goswami in ‘Disciple of my Disciple Video’).

Yet Tamal Krishna also contradicts this in the following:

"If Prabhupada himself wanted to change something, first of all he wouldn’t have had someone write a letter for him. He would have written the letter, he would have dictated the letter, and he certainly would have signed it."
(Tamal Krishna Goswami in ‘Disciple of my Disciple Video’).

Srila Prabhupada did sign the letter as Tamal Krishna has admitted above, and as is plain from just looking at it. Thus the strain of twenty years of deviations are finally catching up with the Maharaja; he is now completely losing grip of reality.

6. H.H. Tamal Krishna Goswami Contradicts the English Language

All shall be revealed. Even though there is no mention in the July 9th letter (or any other) that the ritvik system was only stop-gap, temporary or solely for Srila Prabhupada’s presence; the argument now being made is that to understand what the letter meant we must approach the real mastermind and author. Never mind what words are used in the letter, that is now irrelevant. Indeed if we read them we might even become confused. What really matters is what Tamal Krishna Goswami now tells us the words mean. Even if the meaning he ascribes is not hinted at, or is even contradicted within the letter. As he says himself in the video about the way the July 9th letter turned out:

"It’s just a choice of words that I used, if someone looks in a dictionary and finds it has a different meaning, somehow it gives a permanence, it wasn’t, it certainly wasn’t the intention."
(Tamal Krishna Goswami in ‘Disciple of my Disciple Video’).

So even when we read words in the letter like ‘henceforward’, and no words like ‘temporary system’ or ‘stop-gap measure’ or ‘just while Srila Prabhupada is ill’; we must somehow forget the real meaning of language according to every English dictionary on the planet, and simply understand from the humble secretary what the letter actually meant. The underlying reason for this sinister line of argument would seem to be: -since everyone knows that the Acarya is beyond the four defects it is hard to directly deny the validity of the letter’s wording. But by heavily exaggerating Tamal Krishna’s part in the production of the final order, and minimising Srila Prabhupada’s, devotees will not worry so much about exactly what the letter says. In that way the attention is gently and imperceptibly shifted away from the signed directive itself, and onto the wobbly testimony of a man who has changed his story nine times over the last twenty two years.- If this was the plan, then it’s been rumbled. The fact is Srila Prabhupada approved the letter with his signature, so he must have agreed with its contents.
End of story.

7. Contradictory Evidence From The GBC Minutes Book

Other evidence offered that contradicts the picture the GBC and this video try to paint for us, arises in the form of two questions that the GBC formulated prior to their meeting with Srila Prabhupada on May 28th 1977. They read as follows: 

'3) In the absence of Srila Prabhupada what is the procedure for first, second, and sannyasa initiations?

4) What is the relationship of the person who gives this initiation to the person he gives it to?’ 
(Questions from the GBC minutes book, as shown on ITV’s ‘Disciple of My Disciple’)

The reader might like to consider question 3) first. The GBC and their apologists often tell us how the M.A.S.S. (multiple acarya successor system) was automatically 'understood' by every devotee since it was 'what Srila Prabhupada always consistently taught for ten long years, and was our tradition for millions of years before that'. We are often quoted the 'law of disciplic succession' as something that was clearly recognised and mentioned many times by Srila Prabhupada - everyone just becomes a diksa guru on the departure of the acarya - no question about it. Today, if a devotee even questions the above assumptions, he is labelled an offensive deviant, wholly bereft of transcendental insight. So why did the GBC ask this question in May 1977? Note it is not asking about the procedure for creating or selecting these 'inevitable' diksa gurus; nor is it seeking to clarify the implementation of this well known and customary 'law of disciplic succession', but rather how initiations would continue AT ALL. Thus we have the most senior devotees in the entire movement, who within a year were being worshipped as though they were as good as Lord God Almighty, all asking the dumbest question imaginable - (according to the current paradigm of intimidation).  

Other serious doubts arise when we look at question 4). It is just unbelievable that such a question could ever have been conceived of, unless there had been some prior mention of 'ritviks' or 'officiators' by Srila Prabhupada. It would be totally unnecessary, what to speak of plain daft, to ask- 'what will be the relationship between those who are diksa gurus and those who are their disciples'! Thus the very fact that question 4) was even asked forces any rational person to conclude that the one thing the GBCs were not expecting to be appointed was straight forward 'plain vanilla' diksa gurus. The GBC must have had some idea that ritviks, or some similar such entities, were on the cards.

(We raised this issue regarding question 4) on page 8 of 'The Final Order Still Stands' and have never received a response (Hari Sauri’s attempt to respond was answered in ‘Time Out for Hari Sauri’s Minutes’ which can be found on the IRM web-site).

8. Other Contradictory Evidence

The video shows clippings from the same half dozen private letters that the GBC always use. As we know these were only sent to deal with four ambitious individuals, and were only published when someone in the BBT was bribed to release them in the mid-eighties.

Amazingly two of the persons who received such letters (Hamsadutta, and Tusta Krishna who was a follower of Siddhasvarupa) are also mentioned in the section of the video ‘Dealing with Deviations’. Thus how can the letter to Hamsadutta say, be taken as generally applicable when even the video itself makes clear (through Dananjaya das’s testimony) that it was only written as a reaction to inappropriate behaviour. Furthermore, other evidence presented in the video directly contradicts the main point of some of these letters regarding the ‘law of disciplic succession’. For example the letter to Tusta Krishna used in the video mentions the law of disciplic succession, and this directly contradicts the following letter which is also used: 

"By 1975, all of those who have passed all of the above examinations will be specifically empowered to initiate and increase the number of  the Krishna Consciousness population."  
(SP Letter to Kirtanananda, 12/1/69)

If the above referred to Srila Prabhupada’s disciples acting as diksa gurus - (rather than as representatives) then that would entail his disciples initiating their own disciples whilst Srila Prabhupada was still present. Remember, Srila Prabhupada was still on the planet in 1975. But this would violate the ‘law of disciplic succession’ which states that disciples cannot initiate whilst their guru is still physically present. So either GBC apologists must abandon the law of disciplic succession (along with all the letters that mention it), or throw out such evidence as above. They cannot have both. We have lost count how many times we have pointed this out (it was mentioned in ‘The Final Order’ page 13 in 1996). It is disappointing to think ISKCON devotees are being systematically cheated through the deliberate use of such blatantly contradictory evidence.

The other evidence from Srila Prabhupada offered in ‘Disciple of My Disciple’ falls generally into the following two categories:

  1. General calls to become guru or spiritual master that no-one disputes. These calls are often accompanied by the ‘amara ajnaya guru hana’ verse from the C.c., the purports of which explain that it is ‘best not to accept any disciples’. Thus these quotes can only refer to instructing guru- not diksa guru.
  2. Personal letters to ambitious individuals wherein the ‘law of disciplic succession’ is invoked. Since they were only published by default in the mid-eighties they cannot possibly be used to counteract an order given to the whole movement in 1977. Furthermore the law only limits the disciples activities, it does not limit the guru to only initiating whilst physically present. Nor does it limit the use of representatives in initiation to pre-departure only. In any case the GBC also state that it is not a law (in ‘Gurus and Initiations in ISKCON’ 1995) since Srila Bhaktisiddhanta broke it by initiating when his guru was still present. The law is also not mentioned in any of Srila Prabhupada’s books which are the ‘law’ for the next ten thousand years.

All the other quotes from Srila Prabhupada in ‘Disciple of My Disciple’ have been answered in IRM papers, such as our response to ‘Prabhupada’s Order’, that can be found on our web-site.

9. Satsvarupa Maharaja Admits We Follow Deviant Gaudiya Math

Satsvarupa Maharaja is still plainly grappling with what happened for the first ten years after Srila Prabhupada’s departure, when he and his fellow gurus drove out anyone who did not accept their divinity. Strangely they are still doing the same today, only the claims of divinity have been downgraded somewhat. He says on the video: 

"Among the mistakes we made was this exaggerated worship of the ISKCON gurus on the level of Prabhupada with big Vyasasanas…"
(Satsvarupa Maharaja in 'Disciple of My Disciple' Video)

This is a common theme throughout the video. On the one hand we are told that this is a disciplic succession, and that these ISKCON gurus were meant to ‘succeed’ Srila Prabhupada as new links in the chain (the GBC minutes even claiming that Srila Prabhupada had actually appointed his successors). And on the other hand we are told that these gurus are really not like Srila Prabhupada at all. They should not receive anything like the same worship, they should not sit on big Vyasasanas, or have as many servants and opulence etc. On the one hand we are told that Srila Prabhupada ordered his disciples over and over again to take thousands of disciples just like him; and on the other we are told one of the main problems with the zonal acarya system was that the gurus had taken on too many disciples. This schizophrenic approach makes it very difficult for Satsvarupa Maharaja, or others like Nityodita Swami and Hari Sauri, to say anything that approaches coherence. Satsvarupa Maharaja claims he was warned early on not to be a guru like Srila Prabhupada by one of his Godbrothers:

"I was given a letter by Pradyumna, he said this is not the Gaudiya Matha tradition, the guru should not sit on a big seat, he should sit on a low seat like everyone else- but we thought no, we’ll do it the way Prabhupada did it. We don’t want to do it just the way the Gaudiya Matha does it. Our parampara is Prabhupada, so Prabhupada sat on a big Vyasassana so we’ll sit on a big Vyasasanas."
(Satsvarupa Maharaja in ‘Disciple of My Disciple’ video)

- So gurus do not sit on big Vyasasanas like Srila Prabhupada.

Thus in just this short paragraph we see that Satsvarupa Maharaja is completely and utterly bewildered. Earlier in the video he avoids explaining just how, where and why he ever got the idea that he could stop acting as a ritvik. He says that people have studied and analysed The May 28th tape, but for him the issue was very simple; it was just clear to everyone what Srila Prabhupada wanted. However, given that what followed was almost an entire decade of the zonal acarya system, in which many of his Godbrothers and Godsisters were driven out, and which everyone now says was completely bogus; perhaps the Maharaja needs to look again at what Srila Prabhupada actually said. Given the above, it is quite obvious that he is far from clear about anything relating to his current alleged status as a diksa guru.

10. The Value of The GBC Minutes Book As Evidence

Tamal Krishna Maharaja makes a big issue of the fact that the minutes were signed by 17 GBC members. However, earlier Giriraja Maharaja, one of the signatories, admits that he gained his understanding of what Srila Prabhupada said from Satsvarupa Maharaja, who came out to inform them of what transpired in the meeting. Giriraja, and those GBC’s who were with him, then signed the minutes book based only on the second hand testimony of a man  who then went on to lead the zonal acarya deviation for almost an entire decade, and who, as we have just seen, is still extremely confused even today. So the GBC  minutes are signed by two groups of people. 

  1. The handful of GBC’s who had been in the room with Srila Prabhupada and completely misunderstood what he wanted, 
  2. The remaining GBC’s who signed the minutes on the basis of what the first group, led by Satsvarupa Maharaja, told them.  Hardly impressive evidence. The real record of the May 28th conversation is the tape itself. And all four ‘official’ versions of it were analysed fully in ‘The Final Order’ pages 21-28, and in ‘The Final Order Still Stands’.

11. Tamal Krishna - The Secretary Who Thinks He is the Boss

In the video Tamal Krishna admits that it was he who blocked the recommendations for initiation that were still being sent to Srila Prabhupada up to July of 1977. He claims this was to protect Srila Prabhupada from all the bad karma since he was sick. When we look at the July 7th garden conversation we see Srila Prabhupada immediately ordered for the initiations to be resumed under the new ritvik system, once he learned of Tamal Krishna’s independent initiative. The same system he had first mentioned way back on May 28th. Despite this, Tamal Krishna seems to think the whole thing was his idea, and in one passage of unbridled egotism reveals what he really thinks about his relationship with Srila Prabhupada: 

"The letter was written by me, it was not dictated by Srila Prabhupada; it was signed by me - and it’s my letter. It’s not Prabhupada’s letter." 
(HH Tamal Krishna Goswami in 'Disciple of My Disciple' Video)

Above we see Tamal Krishna Maharaja tries to present the whole ritvik system as his idea, and that he simply got Srila Prabhupada to sign it, almost as an after-thought: 

"And it was my suggestion - Prabhupada approved it because I thought it would add more weight to it, so people would know it was authorised." 
(HH Tamal Krishna Goswami in 'Disciple of My Disciple' Video)

How terribly thoughtful of Tamal Krishna to let Srila Prabhupada know how he was directing his movement for him, and how generous to allow Srila Prabhupada to sign his own letter. There is just one small problem. Tamal Krishna admits at the beginning of the letter that the whole thing was really Srila Prabhupada’s idea - not his at all. Please read again the beginning of the July 9th letter above. Notice the words ‘Srila Prabhupada indicated’. Look at the transcript of the May 28th conversation and see how it was Srila Prabhupada who first brought up the idea of using ritviks. Notice how even the great self-styled mastermind was asking how the system would run, just as he was on July 7th in the garden. It is Srila Prabhupada who chose the initial eleven devotees who were to act as ritviks. And it was Srila Prabhupada who signed the finished draft of the letter, typed by his lowly servant and secretary - Tamal Krishna Maharaja. Tamal Krishna Maharaja is fond of writing academic books that candidly expose all his past deviations. We hope this paper will provide a rich source of new material for future volumes in the continuing saga of the man who could not follow a simple order.

12. Hari Sauri’s Diary

We are treated a couple of times to glimpses of Hari Sauri’s immaculately written diary. In one entry on March 7th 1976, it is claimed Srila Prabhupada had told him his disciples: 

"…should all become gurus and each of us make thousands of disciples just as he has…" 
(Hari Sauri das in ‘Disciple of My Disciple' Video).

Elsewhere on the video Hari Sauri tells us what he thinks was wrong with the original guru system that was based on the ‘appointment theory’ (that was itself based on the GBC minutes book which said the 11 were ‘appointed’ to be gurus): 

"We made the position of diksa guru into something very very big in imitation of Srila Prabhupada and it was clearly wrong. Prabhupada did not elaborate on what he wanted there because it was a simple thing, and there was nothing more to say." 
(Hari Sauri das in ‘Disciple of My Disciple' Video)

So we have a few questions:

  1. Does Hari Sauri still believe that Srila Prabhupada wanted his disciples to initiate thousands of their own disciples ‘just as’ he had done?
  2. If yes, then what was wrong with the standard of worship present in the zonal acarya system since the gurus tried very hard to initiate as many people as possible and receive worship as close to Srila Prabhupada’s as they could? In other words they followed the above instruction to do things ‘just as’ Srila Prabhupada did. Furthermore, according to the GBC’s own minutes, they were specifically appointed by Srila Prabhupada to do just that.
  3. Given the above why was the zonal acarya system ‘wrong’? And if it was so clearly’ wrong, why did he support it so avidly and enthusiastically for nearly ten years?
  4. If it is correct that they were all supposed to accept thousands of disciples just like Srila Prabhupada, why does Satsvarupa Maharaja state that that was the very thing the original gurus did wrong?
  5. If Srila Prabhupada did not elaborate on exactly how his disciples were to be worshipped, then are we not forced to come to one of the following conclusions: 

a) They were simply to do things exactly as he had done them. 


b) They were never meant to be worshipped as diksa gurus at all?

(Hari Sauri rejects a) so that only leaves b))

  1. Since Hari Sauri admits that there are no instructions from Srila Prabhupada on exactly how his disciples should act as diksa gurus, does he agree that what they are doing now must be based purely on the GBC’s own mental speculation?
    Is that why they are always changing things?
    We look forward to some answers, but shall not be holding our breath. 

13. Straw Man Arguments

In their eagerness to distract attention away from the final order on initiations, Tamal Krishna and Dravida das present the customary arguments on the July 9th directive, which they falsely claim have originated from the IRM. They focus on the word ‘henceforward' as being our basis for stating that the July 9th directive was intended to continue permanently in ISKCON. However the 'Final Order' actually states the opposite, making it clear that you could remove that word from the letter and still the system must run: 

"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."  
(The Final Order (1996) page 3).

The fact is, nowhere in the letter does it even hint that the system was only temporary. This is the GBC’s, and Tamal Krishna’s, main problem. It is the final institutional directive ever issued by Srila Prabhupada on the matter of initiation, with no countermanding order for it to ever stop, or the role of the ritviks to ever change. And as we have seen the letter is the direct result of a conversation where the GBC asked Srila Prabhupada what they were to do about initiations ‘particularly’ when he was no longer with them. Once Srila Prabhupada left, that was then a ‘permanent’ state of affairs. Therefore any order relevant to that time frame and circumstance must also be ‘permanent’. At least until the institution in which it was to operate ceased to exist. Tamal Krishna and Dravida das can argue as much as they like about the word ‘henceforward’, they can contradict the English language to their heart’s content, but still the system must run unless they can find authorisation to stop it. The order of the guru is always ‘permanent’ unless there is some other counter instruction, or the order has been completed or has become impossible to follow. In this case none of these is applicable. The order does not depend on the word 'henceforward'. Tamal Krishna also states: 

"And I can assure you he would not have done something that would have changed everything that he ever wrote in his books."
(HH Tamal Krishna Goswami in 'Disciple of My Disciple' Video) 

We quite agree with the above. As we have said, the GBC have never located any injunction in Srila Prabhupada’s books that would prohibit the deployment of representatives to initiate on behalf of a physically absent guru.

14. Dravida Recycles Jayadvaita Maharaja’s Defeated Argument

To be fair the argument put forward by Dravida das concerning the absurdity of following the final order ‘to the letter’ was first invented by H. H. Jayadvaita Maharaja. As arguments go it is quite a clever one, so we felt credit should go where credit was due. Nevertheless it was refuted in ‘The Final Order’ in 1996, so clearly there is some element of desperation that second-hand defeated arguments have been simply recycled. No attempt has ever been made by anyone on the GBC side to refute our counter-argument, so they still stand within the context of this debate. In essence Jayadvaita Maharaja’s argument is as follows (though we are not quoting him verbatim here): ‘Since the ritvik’s absurdly ultra-literalist interpretation of the July 9th order clearly violates all Srila Prabhupada’s teachings and instructions on the matter of initiation after his departure, we will play them at their own game. According to their own narrow approach only the eleven people mentioned in the letter can ever be ritviks. Since they would all be dead within forty or fifty years, then we were correct to stop the ritvik system on Srila Prabhupada’s departure.’ Of course the basic assumption that ritvik violates all, or indeed any, of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings has never been substantiated by the GBC. Aside from that this whole argument has already been refuted in the ‘ Final Order’ (pages 47-48). For convenience we will reproduce the refutation below:

1) In the Topanga Canyon transcript Tamal Krishna Goswami relates the following question he asked whilst preparing to type the list of selected ritviks: 

Tamal Krishna: "Srila Prabhupada, is this all or do you want to add more?"

Srila Prabhupada: "As necessary, others may be added." 
(Pyramid House confessions, 3/12/80) 

Certainly if some or all of the ritviks died or seriously deviated that could be deemed a 'necessary' circumstance for more ritviks to be 'added'.

2) The July 9th letter defines ritvik as: 'representative of the acarya'. It is perfectly within the remit of the GBC to select or decommission anyone to represent Srila Prabhupada, be they sannyasis, Temple Presidents or indeed GBC members themselves. At present they approve diksa gurus, who are supposedly direct representatives of the Supreme Lord Himself. Thus it should be easily within their capacity to select a few name-giving priests to act responsibly on Srila Prabhupada's behalf.

3) The July 9th letter shows Srila Prabhupada's intention was to run a ritvik system 'henceforward'. Srila Prabhupada made the GBC the ultimate managing authority in order that they could maintain and regulate all the systems he put in place. The ritvik system was his system for managing initiations. It is the job of the GBC to maintain that system, adding or subtracting personnel as they can do in all other areas over which they are authorised to preside.

4) Letters issued on July 9th, 11th, and 21st all indicate that the list could be added to, with the use of such phrases as 'thus far', 'so far', 'initial list', etc. So a mechanism for adding more ritviks must have been put in place, even though it has yet to be exercised.

5) When trying to understand an instruction one will naturally consider the purpose behind it. The letter states that Srila Prabhupada appointed 'some of his senior disciples to act as "rittik" - representative of the acarya, for the purpose of performing initiations ...', and that at that time Srila Prabhupada had 'so far' given eleven names. The aim of an obedient disciple is to understand and satisfy the purpose of the system. The purpose of the final order was not to exclusively bind all future initiations to an 'elite' group of individuals ('some [...] so far') who must eventually die, and in so doing end the process of initiation within ISKCON. Rather the purpose was to ensure that initiations could practically continue from that time on. Therefore this system must remain in place as long as there is a need for initiation. Thus the addition of more 'senior disciples' to act as 'representatives of the acarya', as and when they are required, would ensure that the purpose of the system continued to be satisfied.

6) Taken together with Srila Prabhupada's will (which indicates all future directors for permanent properties in India could only be selected from amongst his initiated disciples), it is quite clear Srila Prabhupada's intention was for the system to run indefinitely, with the GBC simply managing the whole thing.

15. Other Testimonies Add Nothing

Having dealt with the main ‘witnesses’, we shall now go quickly through most of the other contributions that appear in ‘Disciple of my Disciple’. The video starts with Bala Gopal devi dasi relating something she had allegedly heard Upendra say. According to her testimony Upendra came out of Srila Prabhupada’s rooms in an agitated state saying he had just announced that in the future their children would have to take initiation from somebody else. Given that Bala Gopal is recounting something that occurred over twenty two years ago, and that even then she is only relating what someone else claimed they heard Srila Prabhupada say, this is hardly strong evidence. We have a signed institutional directive from Srila Prabhupada- buttressed by a legal signed Will; and the first item on the video is a second hand piece of anecdotal evidence over twenty years old from someone who unquestioningly supported the bogus zonal acarya system for nearly ten years. Nevertheless let us be generous and examine her paraphrase of what Srila Prabhupada allegedly said: 

"in the future your children will have to take initiation from someone else".
(Bala Gopal Dasi claiming what Upendra claimed Srila Prabhupada had told him, in 'Disciple of My Disciple' video).

If Srila Prabhupada really did say this it was amazingly prophetic. This is exactly the situation today within ISKCON. Hopefully we can reverse this bogus state of affairs so that Srila Prabhupada - the authorised member of the disciplic succession - can initiate those more fortunate children of the future.

Dr. Thomas Hopkins talks about how there was a lot of confusion after the departure of the prophet Mohamed over the issue of succession. This point was quite out of kilter with the rest of the video, whose sole purpose was to demonstrate how Srila Prabhupada’s wishes were extremely clear, and that only ‘deviants’ would not understand them. Dr. Hopkins also points out that since so much of what Srila Prabhupada said was taped, you could prove practically anything. He also stressed the importance of looking at the full context of a particular instruction. Whilst we do not go along fully with the first point -(try proving Srila Prabhupada wanted his disciples to engage in gambling or illicit sex for example) - his second point was most pertinent to the current debate. We fully agree that one needs to look at any instruction’s context. As we know, the July 9th letter was the final institutional directive on the issue of initiations, with no countermanding order for it to be terminated. That is the context of what we are currently debating. He was obviously not made fully aware of this by Nrisimhananda prabhu.

The next contributor, Ranjit from the BBT, said that Srila Prabhupada was totally philosophically consistent in everything he said. We agree, especially on issues of guru tattva and generally applicable instructions relating to the future of initiation within ISKCON. On the latter he only issued one directive to the society.

Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja admitted he is not an empowered acarya like Srila Prabhupada. We agree.

Sivarama Swami said conditioned souls need to take diksa; we agree. He said that a devotee should be able to trace back his lineage through a bona fide succession; we agree (though we feel his disciples are not currently able to do this). He admitted that there has been, and still is, a great deal of mistreatment and abuse within ISKCON over the guru issue (he should know since he is one of the worst perpetrators); we agree. He also confirmed a point we make, that when we say the word ‘guru’, everyone always automatically thinks of diksa guru, but that there is an important role for siksa gurus also within ISKCON. Unfortunately Sivarama Swami has made the same mistake by assuming, without supporting evidence, that when Srila Prabhupada ordered all his disciples, men women and children, to become ‘guru’ he meant diksa guru.

Amita das said he was originally struck by the fact that we have a disciplic succession of teachers passing down pure spiritual knowledge. We agree, and we also maintain that Srila Prabhupada is the current representative of that succession. Amita must also agree with us since he has sold hundreds of thousands of Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad Gita’s which state this very fact on the dust jacket.

Bhaktividya Purna Swami claims, without quoting any reference, that pancaratrika diksa initiation requires the physical presence of the guru. We challenge him to support his bold claim with quotes from Srila Prabhupada’s books. If it is a fact, then Srila Prabhupada himself violated sastra since he was not physically present at thousands of his disciple’s initiations.

Several devotees made the same point as Dr.Hopkins about a general lack of maturity amongst the original leaders at the time of Srila Prabhupada’s departure. This video proves that these same leaders have improved little with age. Indeed they seem to be more confused than ever.

16. Conclusion

Clearly there was never any intention to ‘shed light’ on the guru issue as is promised on the video’s jacket, but merely to assist the current regime in holding onto power for as long as possible. Nrisimhananda das did not quote or refer to any IRM literature, nor give us any opportunity to answer any of the ‘evidence’. He carefully selected individuals with vested interests who he believed would best reflect the current party line (apart from Dr. Hopkins and possibly a Bhaktin). In this he has acted most unfairly and irresponsibly. But as we have demonstrated, in spite of this the video has value in that it effectively exposes the fact that:

  1. The GBC's position on the Guru is nothing but a mass of contradiction and confusion.
  2. And the ritvik position is actually 'spiritual'. Thus we wish to thank Nrsimhananda prabhu for having rendered a valuable service in graphically demonstrating how ludicrous the GBC's position is, and in convincing even more people to take shelter of the IRM's position.
    And we did not need to pay him a cent!

All glories to Srila Prabhupada!