The Ritvik System is Authorised


by Krishnakant



Sri Nandanandana Das (Stephen Knapp) has attacked Srila Prabhupada’s authorised ritvik (initiation) system in a talk which he gave at the Detroit temple on 13/8/2006. The talk was titled “The Guru and the Power of the Parampara”. Sri Nandanandana Prabhu’s (henceforward to be called the author) talk will be analysed below, with his comments enclosed in speech marks thus “”.


The author opens his attack on Srila Prabhupada’s ritvik system with a classic straw-man argument:


“Therefore, the so-called ritvik system that some people proclaim to follow, by which it is assumed that a person can become initiated and still be Srila Prabhupada’s direct disciple, is nothing but conjecture.”


The ‘so-called ritvik system’ was actually established by Srila Prabhupada  and it gave full authority to ‘ritviks’ to initiate persons on behalf of Srila Prabhupada, without reference to Srila Prabhupada:


Tamala Krishna: So there’s no need for devotees to write to you for first and second initiation. They can write to the man nearest them. But all these persons are still your disciples. Anybody who gives initiation is doing so on your behalf.
Prabhupada: Yes. [Ritviks are named by Srila Prabhupada]
Prabhupada: So without waiting for me, wherever you consider it is right... That will depend on discretion.
Tamala Krishna: On discretion.
Prabhupada: Yes.
Tamala Krishna: That’s for first and second initiations.
Prabhupada: Hm. (July 7th, 1977, Room Conversation)


 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.

(July 9th, 1977, Directive to all GBCs and Temple Presidents)


So clearly the ritvik system does not ‘assume’ one is initiated as Srila Prabhupada’s disciple. Rather the initiation was supposed to be given on Srila Prabhupada’s behalf via a system he authorised, and therefore Srila Prabhupada already approved all those who would be initiated via the ritviks.


The author himself states the following:


“Herein we can see that in every aspect of this purport it indicates an ongoing personal relationship between the spiritual master and the disciple. […]In this way, the guru asks and overseas in a personal way the progress of the disciple and makes sure he or she is understanding things properly. If there are any doubts, or illusions or remaining ignorance, it is the duty of the guru to sweep such illusions away from the disciple so the disciple can continue progressing appropriately. But the guru takes the interest to see how the disciple is progressing. And the disciple also is able to express any such doubts to the guru for clarification. This is the essential relationship between the guru and disciple as illustrated by Lord Krishna Himself and explained here by Srila Prabhupada.”


So pray tell us, WHO has been ‘overseeing in a personal way’ the ‘ongoing’ relationship between Srila Prabhupada and the author for the last 30 years? To WHOM has the author been expressing his doubts for clarification for the last 30 years? If the answer is Srila Prabhupada, then there is nothing to prevent anyone else having the same personal relationship with Srila Prabhupada, since he too can become connected to Srila Prabhupada formally via the ritvik initiation system which Srila Prabhupada himself authorised.


“So as in the case with Srila Prabhupada, he was a pure devotee and was certainly powerful enough to make other pure devotees. Some of these devotees may take the position of spiritual master and take disciples while others may not. But we should understand that through sincerely following Srila Prabhupada and repeating his instructions, we become empowered by the whole line of previous acharyas. So those who take the position of spiritual master will certainly be able to give the potency of the whole sampradaya by sincerely following the instructions and giving the teachings that have come down through the sampradaya.”


But in order for a Diksa guru to be able to follow Srila Prabhupada’s instructions, he first needs an instruction for himself to become a Diksa guru successor to Srila Prabhupada. But WHERE is this instruction from Srila Prabhupada authorising Diksa guru successors to himself? It has been 30 years and the GBC still are unable to present the instruction from Srila Prabhupada which states that:


a)     He will stop being the Diksa Guru for ISKCON on his departure, and therefore the 11 ritviks he appointed to act on his behalf will stop acting as such on his departure.

b)     The 11 ritviks will transmogrify into diksa guru successors to Srila Prabhupada upon Srila Prabhupada’s departure.


Indeed not only have the GBC not been able to present such an instruction, but they have continually changed what they claim Srila Prabhupada did supposedly instruct. The GBC first assumed that Srila Prabhupada was to be removed as the Diksa guru for ISKCON on his departure. They then further assumed that only the 11 persons he appointed as ritviks were to become ‘successor zonal acharyas’ to Srila Prabhupada. They then later assumed that actually anyone who gets a majority vote from the GBC can become a successor acharya.


Thus what is ACTUALLY ‘assumed’ and ‘conjectured’ is the GBC program that any Srila Prabhupada disciple can ‘assume’ himself to be the successor Diksa guru to Srila Prabhupada, without any order from Srila Prabhupada to do so.


So it is the ritvik system which has been authorised by Srila Prabhupada, and the current ‘anyone except Srila Prabhupada can be Diksa guru’ GBC system which has been concocted out of thin air.