Response to Ritvik Istaghosti, held by HH Sivarama Swami, 17/7/2008, Budapest


On the 17th July, 2008, in the Budapest ISKCON temple, His Holiness Sivarama Swami Maharaja held an istaghosti where he discusses the contents of ‘Back To Prabhupada’ magazine. We respond here to the statements made by Maharaja in this Istaghosti, categorized by the subjects that Maharaja covered. Statements made by Maharaja will be enclosed in speech marks thus “ “, with our responses following underneath in bold. The statements quoted from Maharaja are a simultaneous translation provided in English at the Istaghosti as Maharaja speaks in Hungarian.

False Accusations

“So on the fifth page of this magazine there are pictures of personalities who Srila Prabhupada originally empowered to act as ritviks when he was physically present. And then Prabhupada left. They were the people who first acted as spiritual masters. Amongst them here it says that they all fell down, but this is not a fact”

What is not a fact is that the magazine claims “that they all fell down”. On the fifth page, if the devotees were allowed to read the magazine, they would see it accurately states that 2 of the ritviks who acted as spiritual masters are “still acting as guru”.

“I could say that there are men here who fell down, then only women should be initiating gurus (gentle laughter), but the fact that they had problems, it’s not that you have to come up with a million other philosophies.”

This is another false argument, since the magazine does not state anywhere that BECAUSE gurus have fallen down therefore Srila Prabhupada should be the Guru. Rather the magazine simply presents evidence demonstrating that Srila Prabhupada established himself as the Diksa Guru for ISKCON.

Did Srila Prabhupada Appoint Gurus?

“First one, ‘the above 11 have established a false guru system’. This hasn’t been proved. It’s not that they established it, this is what they are trying to prove.”

Again this is another false accusation, which Maharaja can make since he is forbidding his disciples from reading the magazine, so they will never be able to see that what he is saying is false, and therefore he can say anything and get away with it. The magazine proves that the system was false, by presenting the evidence that the 11 were only appointed as ritviks by Srila Prabhupada, and not as gurus. This has even been admitted by Maharaja’s mentor, His Holiness Tamal Krishna Maharaja who states:

“Actually, Prabhupada never appointed any gurus. He didn’t appoint eleven gurus. He appointed eleven ritviks. He never appointed them gurus. Myself and the other GBC have done the greatest disservice to this movement the last three years because we interpreted the appointment of ritviks as the appointment of gurus. […] So it stands to reason that after Prabhupada’s departure, they would go on, if they so desired, to initiate.”
(HH Tamala Krishna Goswami, 3/12/80)

His Holiness Tamal Krishna Maharaja admits that these ritviks became gurus without being appointed by Srila Prabhupada to do this, and consequently the false guru system they established was the ‘greatest disservice to this movement’.

“We’re saying this is the proper guru system, but they’ve accepted too much worship.”

See again the quote from His Holiness Tamal Krishna Maharaja just quoted. His Holiness Tamal Krishna Maharaja does not say that what was wrong was that they “accepted too much worship.” Rather he says the system was wrong, leading to the “greatest disservice to this movement”, because they “interpreted the appointed of ritviks as the appointment of gurus”.

“They’re trying to prove that they weren’t appointed, but they were appointed.”

Again we may call upon His Holiness Tamal Krishna Goswami Maharaja to directly contradict what His Holiness Svarama Swami is claiming here:

“Actually, Prabhupada never appointed any gurus. He didn’t appoint eleven gurus. He appointed eleven ritviks. He never appointed them gurus.”
(HH Tamala Krishna Goswami, 3/12/80)

The May 28th Conversation

“When there was a discussion between Prabhupada and his disciples in 1977, 28th of May, Prabhupada was asked the question ‘What happens after you leave, who will initiate the devotees and when you are not with us?’. […] So to ask, ‘What will be when you’re not here’, and Prabhupada gave a very simple reply. He said, ‘When I give the order, you will become guru. There will be regular gurus. And they will be the disciples of my disciples.’ So these are Prabhupada’s direct words.”

This is a complete fabrication, as anyone can see by reading the transcript of the conversation concerned:

Satsvarüpa Das Goswami: Then our next question concerns initiations in the future, particularly at that time when you’re no longer with us. We want to know how first and second initiation would be conducted.
Srila Prabhupäda: Yes. I shall recommend some of you. After this is settled up, I shall recommend some of you to act as officiating äcäryas.
Tamäla Krsña: Is that called rtvik-äcärya?
Srila Prabhupäda: rtvik, yes.
(Room Conversation, May 28th, 1977)

As can be seen, Srila Prabhupada did indeed give a ‘very simple reply’ – there will be ritviks to initiate the devotees after Srila Prabhupada leaves – but not what Maharaja has claimed. What Maharaja has claimed is stated much later in the conversation, and simply repeats something Srila Prabhupada had said frequently previously – that for guruship to pass to his disciples it requires that an order for the same is given – and we know such an order was not given as attested to by His Holiness Tamal Krishna Maharaja, in the quote given earlier.

The Law

“– Prabhupada says, in 1975, ‘It is expected that every disciple becomes an acarya. Acarya means one who knows the scriptures and follows it in his practical life and teaches it to his disciples. Be very strict and then you’re an official spiritual master, and you can accept spiritual masters (sic – means to say ‘disciples?) on the basis of this principle. But the etiquette is that during the life of the spiritual master, you bring the prospective disciples to your spiritual master. And when he leaves this world, then you can accept disciples without limits. This is the law of the disciplic succession.’
This is everywhere, this is in Prabhupada’s books, this is Prabhupada’s instruction, this is what we’ve learned. We haven’t heard anything else.”

1) Srila Prabhupada acting as the Guru of his own society does not change any laws of disciplic succession, since the quote in question does not prohibit a Guru from acting after his disappearance. It only prohibits a DISCIPLE from acting in his spiritual master’s physical presence. This is accepted by His Holiness Jayadvaita Swami, whose papers His Holiness Sivarama Maharaja has said we should all read to understand the facts, and who has stated about the quote in question that:

“I accept that this quotation doesn’t “prove” that a departed acarya can’t initiate. I never said it does.”
(HH Jayadvaita Swami, June 4th, 2004)

2) The person who has broken this law is actually His Holiness Sivarama Swami, who was the first person to break this law of disciplic succession, by allowing his disciple HH Maha Visnu Swami, to become diksa guru in his presence, as the following GBC resolutions states:

“It is hereby resolved that an exception to the present ISKCON law regarding disciples initiating in the presence of their guru has been made in the case of HH MahaVisnu Goswami.”
(GBC Resolution, 2001)

3) In another part of the Istaghosti His Holiness Sivarama Swami Maharaja accepts that Srila Prabhupada must give a specific order for someone to become a Diksa Guru:

“Prabhupada says, ‘when I say, then he will become guru’.

But the ‘law of disciplic succession’ is not Srila Prabhupada saying to anyone that they should become Diksa Guru. The law is only a statement of the time period in which a person can become a diksa guru – i.e. after the disappearance of their spiritual master - but they still need Srila Prabhupada to give them the order to become Diksa Guru. The statement of a time period when Diksa guruship is permissible obviously cannot itself also be a direct order to any individual or individuals to become diksa gurus.

“and if somebody says, some impudent people come and they say that Prabhupada changed the law of the sampradaya …Prabhupada said this is the law of the sampradaya, and now Prabhupada changes it. So they’re saying “Back to Prabhupada”, but this is an aparadha, this is an offense. The main thing that Prabhupada was proud of was that he did not change anything. And now they say ‘yes, the law of the sampradaya, Prabhupada went against the law’.”

As we just documented, we are not saying Srila Prabhupada went against the ‘law of disciplic succession’. But HH Sivarama Swami DID goes against this law which he is claiming cannot be changed!

The Qualification

“every disciple can become guru when his spiritual master passes away. What one needs to do, one has to be a strict follower, he may be an uttama, a madhyama, a kanistha; the best is if one is uttama, but if not then there are dangers.”

Srila Prabhupada actually states that unless one is an uttama, one should not become a spiritual master at all:

"One should not become a spiritual master unless he has attained the platform of uttama-adhikari ."
(The Nectar of Instruction, text 5, purport )

Is Srila Prabhupada the Only Diksa Guru?

“On the 9th of July Prabhupada gave an order and he said, as long as he’s physically present he didn’t want devotees to approach him for initiation, choose names. He will not go through the system of accepting them, he asked others to do it on his behalf. And he gave the list of 11 people around the world that they should be ritviks. Prabhupada said they should be ritviks, but why should they be ritviks? So that as long as he’s present in the world, they are approached, they give the names, they chant on the beads, and these people will be Prabhupada’s disciples, the initiates, as long as Prabhupada is present, not eternally.”

The only lie, is the one repeated three times here by Maharaja, when he says:

“Prabhupada gave an order and he said, as long as he’s physically present […] So that as long as he’s present in the world, […] as long as Prabhupada is present,”

Nowhere has Srila Prabhupada said, “as long as he’s physically present”. Again you do not need to take our word for it. Please read the July 9th directive yourself, and you will see that Srila Prabhupada does not states these words that Maharaja claims he said.

“Prabhupada never said that ‘I will be the only initiating guru’. They don’t quote such a thing. He didn’t say ‘I’m the only guru, I’m the only initiating guru, no one else initiates, they will only initiate on my behalf, and as long as ISKCON exists, I am the initiator’. He never said such things.”

Srila Prabhupada established himself at the outset, in 1966 when he founded ISKCON, as the only Diksa Guru for ISKCON, and thus will remain so, unless he appoints successor Diksa Gurus. And as confirmed by His Holiness Tamal Krishna Maharaja, Srila Prabhupada never authorized successor Diksa gurus. Hence there is no requirement for Srila Prabhupada to go on and state he will be the ‘only’ Diksa Guru, since the question of ‘other’ diksa gurus does not arise.

Siksa or Diksa?

“And I think there are more than 70 gurus, and Prabhupada said that he wants millions, he said we need millions and millions of people who will take responsibility. Why? Because by accident Caitanya Mahaprabhu said that ‘this is My order that you become guru’. And maybe He wanted just siksa guru? No, He didn’t say ‘become a siksa guru’. He said ‘become a guru’.”

1) In the purports to Lord Caitanya’s order to ‘become guru’, Srila Prabhupada states:

“It is best not to accept any disciples”

(CC, Madhya Lila, 7:130)

making it clear that this is not an order for anyone to become Diksa Guru.

2) Again we can also call upon Maharaja’s mentor, His Holiness Tamal Krishna Maharaja, who stated emphatically that the instruction from Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Srila Prabhupada for everyone to become guru, does NOT refer to Diksa Gurus:

"There is a second definition of acarya and that is 'one who teaches by his example'. It is with this meaning in mind that Srila Prabhupada stated very often that all of his disciples should be qualified acaryas. It is also this meaning in which Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's instruction to the householder brahmin was given on his tour of South India:

"Instruct everyone to follow the orders of Lord Krishna as they are given in Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam. In this way, become a spiritual master and try to liberate everyone in this land." (Madhya Lila, 7:128).

These statements by Srila Prabhupada and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu certainly cannot be applied to the first meaning of acarya as given above. NEITHER CAN IT BE APPLIED TO THE THIRD MEANING (one who INITIATES), …”
(Letter from His Holiness Tamal Krishna Maharaja to Upananda Das, 13/12/78, emphasis added)


“But it is true that when Prabhupada was lying in his bed in October, he never said it ‘I will not initiate any more. You should be the gurus’. He gave us the direction when he was asked, the law of the sampradaya is there, his books are full of it, so on that basis we are continuing.”

His Holiness Sivarama Swami admits here that Srila Prabhupada never stated he will cease acting as the Diksa Guru of ISKCON or that he ordered anyone else to become Diksa Guru. Rather his evidence that there should be Diksa Guru successors is based on:

  1. When he was asked – but we have already covered that when Srila Prabhupada was asked on May 28th, 1977, what will happen after his departure, his reply was that ritviks will initiate.

  2. The ‘law of disciplic succession’ - we have seen this does law not lead to Srila Prabhupada being succeeded as the Diksa Guru. Rather it is only the statement of a permissible time period in which diksa guruship can be taken up – not the order itself to anyone to take up that diksa guruship.

  3. His books – But Maharaja does not quote ONE statement from Srila Prabhupada’s books ordering any of his disciples to succeed him as Diksa Gurus for ISKCON.

So Maharaja has offered zero evidence for the basis on which they are continuing.

“In England they’ve been around for 20 years. No one takes them seriously. Media is not interested. It’s a philosophical deviation. And devotees who seriously understand Srila Prabhupada’s instructions don’t take this seriously. There’s no effect.”

Why then is Maharaja taking it so seriously, and why is he so petrified of a magazine that will have no effect, that he forbids devotees to read it, and instead is trying to have it collected from everyone? Why not let the devotees read it, since if they seriously understand Srila Prabhupada’s instructions, they will not take the magazine seriously anyway? Why such a ‘red alert’ against such an impotent and useless magazine which will have no effect?

Thank you for reading.

The Publishers,
Back To Prabhupada,
London, England 


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