MYTH OF THE "FINAL ORDER"

Utilitarian documents and statements do not constitute the crowning achievements of Prabhupada’s real legacy.

DISCIPLE: One day they say one thing. One day they say something else.

PRABHUPADA: That means rascal.

Room Conversation 2-23-75

The search for some kind of so-called secret of Srila Prabhupada’s final directive or final order is a diversion, an unauthorized exercise in speculative futility. There was no "final order." Instead, we are left with all of his orders. There was no "final set of instructions". Instead, we are left with all of the instructions he ever gave us about everything. There was no secret transmission of ultimate knowledge. Instead, we are left with all of the knowledge in all of his books. His books actually constitute the essential legacy of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. There were no appointments. Instead, he said that all of his disciples would take the legacy.

In this document, we’re going to ponder possible interpretations of an October, 1977 room conversation. We’ll analyze this conversation in relationship to a previous room conversation Prabhupada had just a couple of days before the now controversial letter of July 9th (co-signed by His Divine Grace). This treatise will then consider the "law of disciplic succession" as it applies to the etiquette, viz., a disciple not actually initiating while his guru is still physically present.

This paper will seek the blessings of parampara and paramatma not by offering some flowery preface or wordy invocation. Those are nice, of course, but this article will only help devotees who are eligible for such help, who are receptive to its clarity. Most of those prabhus would be turned off by having to wade through lengthy invocations and the like. Digging through this complex topic is cumbersome enough. As such, let’s proceed straight to the preaching.

Confirmation of one thesis results in the logical exclusion of all others that oppose and contradict it. This exclusion creates spiritual ramifications, and these force dynamic changes in intelligence. When the logic and authority is bona fide, those changes are evolutionary. When something is both sastric and logical, it automatically shatters and constrains anything that has previously covered it.

"INDIA, I AM HERE"

Despite its current opposition to rittvik, corporate ISKCON laid the groundwork for all of the rittvik concoctions. It especially did this when it concocted a so-called understanding of what Prabhupada wanted to have happen after his disappearance. When Srila Prabhupada was addressing the issue of rittvik initiations while he was still present, corporate ISKCON falsely read something more into it. This allowed today’s rittviks facility to do the same bad thing. The rittviks, on a very subtle and mostly subconscious plane, are actually following in the footsteps of their big brother, corporate ISKCON.

On October 18th, 1977, Srila Prabhupada was engaged in but another room conversation with TKG. Generically, the subject was clear. Let’s take a look at the essential part of that transcript and proceed from there:

PRABHUPADA: So, I have deputed some of you to initiate?

TKG: Yes.

PRABHUPADA: So, I think Jayapataka can do that. If you like, I have already deputed. Tell him—some deputies—that Jayapataka’s name was there. So, I depute him to do this at Mayapur, and he may go with him. I have stopped for the time being. Is that alright?

TKG: What, Srila Prabhupada?

PRABHUPADA: This initiation. I have deputed my disciples. Is it clear or not?

TKG: It’s clear.

PRABHUPADA: You have got a list of names? And, if by Krishna’s grace, I recover from this condition, then I shall begin or I may not. But, in this condition, to initiate is not good."

Room Conversation, October 18, 1977

Corporate ISKCON claims that this was an authorization on the part of Prabhupada for his eleven appointed disciples to actually begin initiating, giving diksa, themselves. In other words, it interprets this conversation as verification that, with less than a month of manifestation left, Prabhupada authorized those disciples (as per the July 9th letter) to abandon rittvik initiations and instead give direct diksa themselves. Of course, such an interpretation plays havoc with corporate ISKCON’s stance that the May conversation entailed a "law" of rittvik only (as a formality), i.e., disciples—even if fully qualified—could not initiate while their spiritual master was still manifest. We’ll discuss that contradiction later in this paper. For now, let’s consider "But, in this condition, to initiate is not good."

On the surface, corporate ISKCON’s argument appears to have validity. Prabhupada was obviously very ill and emaciated (although this was his condition in the eyes of conditioned souls on the plane of material life). Why should he take on any more sanchita-vikarma? Why not have his disciples now give diksa themselves?

However, if we lift the initial veil and proceed a little more deeply into this subject, why was Prabhupada using the term "deputies"? In this very short section of the transcript, either "deputies" or "deputed" is used five times. To repeat it so much means to emphasize it.

The counter-argument to that is that a deputy possesses practically the same power as the sheriff. The deputy can make arrests. He can kill an aggressor. He represents the law. A law-breaker cannot say that he refuses to accept the demands of a deputy sheriff when confronted by one. The government backs the authority of the deputy just as much as it backs the sheriff.

Nevertheless, Prabhupada calls them "deputies". He does not call them gurus. He could have said, "I have deputed my disciples, and they are also bona fide gurus"—but he did not say this.

So, we need to understand this conversation in context. We need to understand it in the context of what appears to be the issue instigating it, we need to understand it in the context of what the arrangement had been for the three-plus months previous to it, and we need to understand it in relation to something very similar:

TKG: But all of these persons are still your disciples. Anybody who gives initiation is doing so on your behalf.

PRABHUPADA: Yes.

TKG: You know that book I’m maintaining of all of your disciples’ names? Should I continue that?

PRABHUPADA: Hmmmm . . .

TKG: So, if someone gives initiation, like Harikesh Maharaj, he should send the person’s name to us here, and I’ll enter it in the book. Okay? Is there someone else in India that you want to do this?

PRABHUPADA: India, I am here. We shall see.

Room Conversation, July 7, 1977 

Some writers say that this conversation actually took place on July 8th; others maintain that it was on July 7th. The actual date is not as important as the context of the conversation. Whether it took place on July 7th or on July 8th, it took place just previous to the issuance of the July 9th appointment letter—and it must be understood in that context.

The context of this conversation is clearly rittvik. Anyone who "gives initiation" is doing so only on Prabhupada’s behalf. All such initiated persons are still Prabhupada’s directly initiated disciples. He is their diksa guru. This conversation takes place just two days before the July letter. As such, it holds equal weight of influence (in relation to that letter) as does the May 28th room conversation. In other words, this July 7th conversation again verifies the obvious: the July 9th letter was only an appointment of rittviks.

Nevertheless, Prabhupada says: "India, I am here". What does that mean? He’s asked by TKG if there is someone else who can do the initiating, and he offers himself as that someone else. But he already is established as the guru who is initiating!

It appears to be an irreconcilable contradiction. However, it’s not. The answer to the apparent contradiction is not so difficult to figure out: Prabhupada is saying that he also can perform the fire sacrifices.

In other words, he can also engage in the rittvik activities of these initiations if called upon to do so. He personally performed any number of these initiation ceremonies himself in the Sixties, and he’s verifying that he can do so again—with the qualifier "We shall see".

Someone may counter, with an incredulous undertone (or a blatant one) that Prabhupada certainly cannot be referring to the performance of these ceremonies. He had not directly performed any of them for many years. Now, in such a (materially) emaciated state, we are supposed to believe that he was suggesting the possibility that he could resume these ceremonial functions?

Such a counter-argument is material, not spiritual, in nature. The guru, the God-realized uttama-adhikari, is never under artificial restrictions. He can do what he likes whenever he likes. That is his transcendental prerogative. If a powerful materialist such as Hiranyakashipu can remain alive by keeping his prana in his bones (with all of his flesh and organs already eaten away), then a self-realized and God-realized spiritual master certainly is able perform the fire yajna ceremonials of initiation whenever he so chooses. He can do so even if on the apparent verge of material death. His life does not conform to the limitations of conditioned souls.

If we look at this July 7th conversation, there is only one logical conclusion: when Prabhupada says, "India, I am here", he can only be referring to his availability to directly perform the rittvik ceremonial functions himself, especially for those new disciples to be initiated in India. Any other interpretation is completely contradictory, illogical, and meaningless. He’s already giving the initiations. He’s suggesting the potential that he can also perform the rittvik ceremonials and directly conduct the chanting and the fire yajnas.

This is the example, also, that provides the context to the best interpretation—the one which makes the most sense—of the October 18th room conversation.

"So, I have deputed some of you to initiate?" TKG responds affirmatively. Really, there is no difference in this exchange than in the above-mentioned "Anybody who gives initiation does so on your behalf." Then, Prabhupada says, "So, I think Jayapataka can do that." No difficulty here, either. Jayapataka is one of the appointed (eleven) rittviks. Prabhupada repeats an obvious fact—and he regularly did just that, i.e., repeated obvious facts.

"Tell him—some deputies—that Jayapataka’s name was there." This statement is a little more difficult. Prabhupada is saying, "Tell him". Prabhupada is obviously referring to the person requesting initiation. Then Prabhupada says, "some deputies". This means Prabhupada is wanting that the new person be informed that Prabhupada’s system for initiation is that some deputies will actually perform the rittvik ceremonials on Prabhupada’s behalf. His Divine Grace is speaking in a sutra-like format—and he, also, regularly did just that when he needed to quickly communicate a number of different combined facts.

Then Prabhupada continues by telling TKG that he (TKG) should tell the person desiring initiation that Jayapataka will be the deputy this time for that new disciple’s initiation ceremony. Prabhupada goes on to comment and ask, "I have stopped for the time being. Is that alright?" TKG does not comprehend Prabhupada’s question, and there’s no wonder that TKG was bewildered. The context of Prabhupada’s question is not immediately easy to decipher. So, TKG asks Prabhupada, "What, Srila Prabhupada?"

Prabhupada then says, "This initiation". He is not referring to actually being the diksa guru of this new disciple. He already is going to be the diksa guru for this new disciple, just as he had been for many others (the backlog) since July. He is referring to the performance of the rittvik ceremonials. Prabhupada understandably does not want to have to perform them. So, he says, "I have deputed my disciples. Is that clear?" He wants a rittvik to perform the fire yajna and chant the mantras. Yes, Prabhupada is repeating something we now think would be considered obvious, but His Divine Grace did like that on uncountable occasions. He wants to make it clear: his deputed rittviks are to perform all of these initiation ceremonies.

Prabhupada clarifies: "You have got a list of names?’ This is obviously referring to the eleven disciples appointed to be rittviks in the July 9th letter. It appears to be unnecessary, but Prabhupada chooses to ask it anyway. Then Prabhupada comments, in reference to performing the fire yajnas himself, that "I may begin or I may not".

He has already been initiating since mid-July, but he has not performed any of the ceremonies himself during that period. It makes no sense for him to say that he "may begin" initiating when he has already been doing so for over three months. It does make sense for him to say that he may or may not begin to perform the rittvik activities connected to initiations, because he has not done that for years.

Prabhupada then closes by stating the obvious: ". .. . but, in this condition, to initiate is not good". Yes, the extra physical exertion connected to the performance of initiation ceremonies is not what the doctor would have ordered for Prabhupada in October of 1977. He states an obvious fact.

Prabhupada was referring to the rittvik performance of fire yajnas, etc. in the July 7th conversation. He is referring to the same thing here, but it is not as obvious as it was in the other (previous) room conversation. Another relevant factor which lends credibility to this interpretation: Hindus expect their guru (diksa guru) to perform their initiation ceremonies. The context of this discussion is that someone in India was expecting to be initiated. That this person (very likely a Hindu) was also expecting Prabhupada to be performing the initiation ceremony is very reasonable. In that context, Prabhupada wanted the man to be informed that rittviks were now handling that part of the initiation. Perhaps the new disciple would become a little dejected when informed of this, so Prabhupada wanted TKG to finesse the situation and let this man know why Jayapataka would be performing his fire yajna.

The rittviks, of course, claim that the same system applies after Prabhupada leaves manifest existence. On this, we can never agree. Remember, few if any of Prabhupada’s disciples really believed that he was going to leave. Everyone was hoping and expecting that he would fully recuperate. As such, his wanting not to have to take part in the initiation ceremonies in October lends no credence to the speculation that rittvik was to continue after his departure. Still, in one important, area, we completely agree with an influential rittvik’s assessment of the whole situation during that time:

"From May through November, 1977, he did not utter a single word indicating he would have any successor gurus to initiate for themselves. Nor did he utter a single word that his disciples might appoint or elect themselves to be initiating gurus."

A Prospectus for Scholars, p. 3

We concur completely—and please note that the October 18th room conversation is also part of the time frame being referred to in this excellent point.

THE ETIQUETTE:
IS IT CUSTOM OR LAW?

"So, on the wrong platform you may go—go forward more and more—but it will be dismantled, because it is wrong."

Lecture 6-5-74

The rittviks and corporate ISKCON appear to be at odds, and, in any number of ways, they are in polar opposition to one another. However, if indeed each of these camps is not preaching the Absolute Truth as it is, then they are both ultimately united under Maya. If indeed this is the case, then both sects are engaged in covering Krishna consciousness while apparently spreading it. Here and there we find false points that both camps accept.

The so-called law of the etiquette is one such point.

Both camps apply a quote by Srila Prabhupada referring to this etiquette, and, from that quote, both the rittviks and corporate ISKCON maintain that disciples cannot, under any circumstances, initiate during the physical presence of their own initiating spiritual master. Let’s look at the quote itself and then consider the ramifications:

"But, as a matter of etiquette, it is the custom that during the lifetime of your spiritual master you bring the prospective disciples to him, and, in his absence or disappearance, you can accept disciples without any limitation. This is the law of disciplic succession."

Letter (75-12-5/Dec. 2, 1975)

Again, with a superficial reading, there appears to be legitimacy to such an argument. The corporate ISKCON siddhanta states that Prabhupada actually recognized some of his disciples as legitimate diksa gurus during his presence. Specifically, according to this theory, he is said to have recognized them as such in the May 28th room conversation. He then went on to directly name them (the eleven) in the July 9th letter. For an indepth breakdown of that important room conversation of May 28th, kindly consult our article The Proof of One Tooth. It presents the reasoning for corporate ISKCON’s siddhanta in this connection.

Yet, somewhat surprisingly, the rittviks also back this idea:

"According to Srila Prabhupada (in his ‘law of disciplic succession’) the diksa guru can ONLY act after his spiritual master has left. Thus these ‘many’ instructions cannot be referring to diksa gurus."

Respecting the Guru’s Order, p. 2 (emphasis not added)

Both camps see this interpretation of the quote as benefiting them. The problem here is that their interpretation is not exactly correct. A more careful reading of the quote yields a different interpretation, one which is in harmony with Prabhupada’s stated wish that his disciples be engaged in initiating new people—with him still present—by 1975. This important discussion can also be found in The Proof of One Tooth.

Let’s look more carefully at the quote. "But as a matter of etiquette, it is the custom . . ." We can stop there, because the etiquette is clearly called the custom. Customs do not reach the threshold of spiritual laws. Certainly, there were many customs that His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada did not follow when he spread Krishna consciousness in the West from 1965-1977. The first sentence can be broken down into two parts:

"But, as a matter of etiquette, it is the custom that during the lifetime of your spiritual master you bring the prospective disciples to him . . ."

". . . and, in his absence or disappearance, you can accept disciples without any limitation."

This second part of the sentence is the law of disciplic succession. The first part of the sentence is the custom. The custom can either be maintained or broken, depending upon the decision of the spiritual master in relationship to his disciples. If he chooses, he can tell his disciples: "Do not initiate. Bring the newcomers to me. Observe this custom." In that case, they must observe the custom. It has the power of being the law, because the spiritual master orders its observance.

Actually, that custom allows the spiritual master to also prevent unqualified disciples from prematurely accepting the post of diksa guru in his presence. People who do not even understand the A-B-Cs of spiritual life may be attracted to one of the guru’s disciples. They may request to be initiated by that disciple, but the guru may know it well that the disciple is not at all qualified to be engaged in initiating anyone. In order not to discourage him, however, he may use the custom:

"The first thing, I warn Acyutananda, do not try to initiate. You are not in a proper position now to initiate anyone... Don’t be allured by such Maya. I am training you all to become future Spiritual Masters, but do not be in a hurry... You don’t be attracted by such cheap disciples immediately. One has to rise gradually by service... These services are most important. Don’t be allured by cheap disciples. Go on steadfastly to render service first. If you immediately become Guru, then the service activities will be stopped; and as there are many cheap gurus and cheap disciples, without any substantial knowledge, and manufacturing new sampradayas, and with service activities stopped, and all spiritual progress stopped up."

Letter (68-8-17/Aug. 21, 1968)

The actual law of disciplic succession is that a disciple, who becomes guru either before or after the disappearance of his spiritual master, is entitled to accept disciples without limitation after his guru leaves manifest existence. Before his initiating spiritual master departs, such a disciple is subject to limitation. Of course, his guru can order him to accept disciples without limitation even during his guru’s physical presence. However, unless so ordered, he must observe any limitations his spiritual master decides upon, because that is the prerogative of his guru and that is the custom.

It is not the law, however.

As far as corporate ISKCON’s manipulation of this "law" is concerned, the reasons are obvious. However, the pundits of corporate ISKCON don’t really believe in that law; they simply use it when it suits their purposes. As we have pointed out in the previous chapter, they claim that Prabhupada actually activated them as diksa gurus as of October 18, 1977 in the context of the room conversation of that date. We entirely disagree with their interpretation of that conversation.

Still, they think they are interpreting it rightly. However, if they are interpreting it correctly (they aren’t, but we are speaking theoretically here), then what becomes of the so-called law of disciplic succession? No one is supposed to be able to initiate if the guru is still physically manifest. He was manifest until mid-November of that year. They claim that he actually made them diksa gurus as of mid-October. They claim that they could not be diksa gurus in May or in July (when the eleven were named) because of the law of disciplic succession in relation to the etiquette. However, they say that Prabhupada neglected the law in October of that last year. Very convenient. It’s obvious that they want to have it both ways.

The rittviks want the etiquette to also be a law, because then they can continue with simplistic arguments. If the etiquette is a law, then anything Prabhupada may have said about initiating in the last year had to be about rittvik only—because none of his disciples could have actually acted as genuine diksa gurus during his presence (due to the "law" of the etiquette). Very convenient.

So, as should now be clear, both camps use the same bogus argument, but they employ it for different purposes. The obvious understanding of the etiquette they conveniently ignore. Such arguments are indicative of self-interested people. What must actually be ignored is their bogus preaching:

"One should therefore follow the path of BHAGAVAD-GITA as it is expressed in the GITA itself and beware of self-interested people after personal aggrandizement who deviate from the actual path."

Bhagavad-gita 4.43, purport 

OM TAT SAT. HARE KRISHNA.

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Quotes from the books of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada are copyright by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust