THE POSITIVE ALTERNATIVE

"Human reason fails to understand how by serving the devotee bhagavat or the book bhagavat one gets gradual promotion on the path of devotion. But, actually, these are facts . . ."

Srimad-Bhagavatam, 1.2.18, purport

" . . . read and study my books deeply, and, in this way, be enthusiastic about going back to Godhead in this life."

Letter (75-5-50/May 22, 1975)

In the absence of a manifest diksa guru, bhagavad-vidhi initiation through the book bhagavat is a genuine alternative to link a sincere and serious devotee to the disciplic succession of Srila Prabhupada. It is especially a positive alternative when compared to faulty links to the sampradaya, such as "initiation" via imitation mahabhagavats, imitation madhyams, and the rittvik concoction.

Surrender to the book bhagavat never precludes the chance for a future appearance of either a genuine uttama or madhyam to fill the post of diksa guru. Such an advanced devotee can then take up the bona fide activities of initiation. Any bhakti-yogi who has accepted the book bhagavat link to the Gaudiya sampradaya can still receive pancaratriki-vidhi initiation from a genuine guru if and/or when he manifests.

Srila Prabhupada is the SIKSA GURU for every devotee of the Krishna consciousness movement in his line, but he is only the diksa guru for disciples whom he directly initiated during his manifest appearance. Connection to the sampradaya cannot exclude the mysteries of disciplic succession. These mysteries are viable whether they are understood, misunderstood, preached against, or totally neglected by conditioned souls. There can never be institutionalized initiation from a non-manifest spiritual master. Rare examples (of very advanced souls receiving initiation from a non-manifest spiritual master) are emphasized by some rittvik leaders. Those examples are often misused, and every new devotee who becomes attracted to such rittvik logic is misled by this deception.

Pancaratriki-vidhi initiation is not mandatory for either connection to the sampradaya or ultimate devotional realization. It is preferable, but only when it can be genuinely attained. The best way to receive this pancaratriki-vidhi is from the mahabhagavat on the highest platform of Krishna consciousness.

However, a devotee who IN FACT attains to the madhyam adhikari platform is qualified to give pancaratriki-vidhi initiation and connect uninitiated disciples to the sampradaya. The postman and peon analogies often employed by Prabhupada refer to initiations given by madhyama adhikaris.

The book bhagavat is the literary incarnation of God, and service to the book bhagavat by any devotee provides that devotee (whether he has received pancaratriki-vidhi initiation or not) with the opportunity to attain every level of devotional progress in our disciplic succession—up to and including the ultimate devotional realization.

"Actually, anyone who tries to understand these books will become a great realized devotee of Lord Krishna gradually. The original potency of the shastra remains in these books, because I have not added or opinionated anything of my own."

Letter (75-3-32/Mar. 19, 1975)

Even at the time of first initiation, the genuine guru gives both pancaratriki-vidhi and bhagavat-marga (bhagavat-vidhi) to his disciple. This, of course, enters the devotee officially onto the bhajana-kriya level, as per the spiritually scientific stages given us by the Gosvamis (adau sraddha, sadhu-sanga, bhajana-kriya, etc.).

Let us look at this stage, as well as the sanskrit word bhajana-kriya. First, let us consider bhajan at the harer- nama stage of initiation from a bona fide guru. Bhajan refers to pancaratriki: the bhajan and access to the Deity, which is only given in full at the time of brahminical initiation.

Although, ideally, brahminical initiation is given by the spiritual master at the stage of nistha (higher than bhajana-kriya), we do not live in an ideal age. In this Age of Kali, the guru generally gives brahminical initiation to his disciples while they are still in the bhajana-kriya stage (previous to anartha-nivritti) as an incentive to attain anartha-nivritti—and then go on to BECOME brahma-realized.

The second half of the sanskrit is kriya. It refers to the bhagavat-marga (bhagavad-vidhi). This bhagavad-vidhi is non-different from SERVICE TO THE BOOK BHAGAVAT AND THE DEVOTEE BHAGAVAT. This service opportunity is activated at the time of BONA FIDE initiation. The devotee practices bhagavad-vidhi before receiving it at initiation from the physically manifest spiritual master. At that time, the acharya takes the devotee’s karma (or the vast majority of it).

Of course, the initiation ceremony itself is a formality whenever a devotee is very sincere and serious. Even before the formal initiation ceremony, the very dedicated bhakta or bhaktin has been given entrance onto the stage of bhajana-kriya—the initiation ceremony simply verifies his or her passage on the manifest plane.

"The spiritual master, by his words, can penetrate into the heart of the suffering person and inject knowledge transcendental, which alone can extinguish the fire of material existence."

Srimad-Bhagavatam, 1.7.22, purport

The devotee bhagavat, the bona fide guru, authorizes a particular service for his initiated disciple, and this is kriya. While he is still physically manifest, service to his vapu (manifest body) by the disciple is also part of this kriya. Book distribution, incense sales, managing, preaching, writing, etc., are all kriya, the ACTIVITIES of bhagavad-vidhi. They all become fully channeled to Lord Krishna through the chain of pure devotees (the sampradaya) VIA THE TRANSPARENT MEDIUM OF THE BONA FIDE SPIRITUAL MASTER. The book bhagavat—its worship through the intelligence of its study—is the most important part of this kriya.

"I have written many books already which are full of the different aspects of this deep philosophy of Krishna consciousness. I request that you study them carefully, and you will find a treasure house of scientific information."

Letter (75-1-57/Jan. 16, 1975)

The opportunity to take advantage of this part of the kriya remains fully operational whether the guru is manifest or has entered into nitya-lila-pravistha. It remains available even when the devotional process has become warped, polluted, or broken down and lost after the disappearance of the genuine guru.

"You have taken the right view of the importance of my books. Books will always remain ... I started my movement with my books ... and if there are no more temples, then the books shall remain."

Letter (73-1-9/Nov. 8, 1973)

 

IS THE PROCESS NOW CLOSED?

We all know the last sampradaya-acharya was and remains His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. He is no longer physically manifest. There has been a change.

He can no longer be the final arbiter in disputes. He can no longer be written to for advice and direction. He can no longer sit on the vyasasan and give a lecture about current events. He can no longer chastise a disciple publicly when that follower is engaged in misleading other devotees and making the whole thing bungled.

Prabhupada has the power, of course, to manifest his physical body again. But that would almost certainly produce very difficult reactions. As such, this kind of a miracle should not be expected of him.

Now, in the event there is no manifest guru, is the whole process completely closed? Some would declare that it is. Some would say that one cannot attain beyond the stages of sraddha and sadhu-sanga (through tapes and writings) if there is no manifest, realized devotee to initiate.

This conclusion is only true in a partial sense. As far as the pancaratriki-vidhi part of initiation is concerned, one cannot avoid this conclusion. For pancaratriki, a devotee must receive initiation from a manifest guru. The new initiate then becomes recognized by the guru on the manifest plane and can take advantage of the means of production within the society of the guru’s devotees. He or she can utilize the facilities of the spiritual institution while it is linked with its founder.

Sometimes, spiritual masters may not create institutional facilities, but Prabhupada did choose to create such transcendental amenities. An organized society of devotees will allow the newly initiated (genuinely initiated) bhaktas or bhaktins to engage in temple activities, because they need to know that they have been accepted and vice-versa.

The Deity worship (on the public temple scale) will be under the management of the guru’s society of devotees. Advancement via the institutional means of production—specifically in relation to Deity worship—requires a devotee to receive pancaratriki-vidhi initiation from a manifest guru, a genuine spiritual MASTER. Even if Prabhupada greatly appreciated the service of a particular follower, if that devotee had not received diksa, he was still not allowed to perform the Deity worship up on the altar.

Neophytes and sahajiyas DO NOT QUALIFY AS MASTERS OF ANYTHING SPIRITUAL OR DEVOTIONAL, and "initiation" from them is not authorized—and never encouraged at all—in our disciplic succession. When the pancaratriki-vidhi stage is pervertedly activated, some really nasty warpings will make their influence felt throughout the movement. We’ve gone through over two decades of that. The so-called initiated devotees bear some of the reactions for jumping the gun. Obviously, the so-called guru will also have to share in those reactions.

 

A COMPETENT REMEDY

But the Bhagavatam itself clearly states that the bhagavad-vidhi side of the equation is still available to everyone, even during the time of devotional perversion on an international scale. In this connection, let us quote both the verse and some of the purport. Before doing so, it should be noted that A VERY KEY WORD of the translation has been changed from the ORIGINAL Bhagavatam (which Srila Prabhupada first brought to America and also distributed in India).

Although we are going to use the current translation, in relation to that key conjunction, we are going to use the ORIGINAL WORD. There is certainly no contradiction here, because the purport clearly verifies that the original conjuction remains the CORRECT word:

nasta-prayesv-abhadresu nityam bhagavata-sevaya
bhagavaty-uttama-sloke bhaktir bhavati naisthiki

"By regular attendance in classes on the Bhagavatam

OR

by rendering of service to the pure devotee, all that is troublesome to the heart is almost completely destroyed, and loving service unto the Personality of Godhead, who is praised with transcendental songs, is established as an irrevocable fact."

Srimad Bhagavatam, 1.2.18

Obviously, the sanskrit does not limit bhagavat-sevaya (as far as the book bhagavat is concerned) to "classes on" the Bhagavatam. ANY STUDY OF THE BHAGAVATAM IS BOOK BHAGAVAT, i.e., BHAGAVAD-VIDHI.

The establishment of loving service to the Lord (referred to in this text) is the brahma-bhuta stage. The word naisthiki (the stage of nistha) indicates this.

In context to both its previous and subsequent verses, the above-mentioned Bhagavatam sloka clearly refers to the brahma-bhuta platform. That nistha stage, the stage of becoming FIXED in devotional philosophy, is the stage of madhyama-adhikari. It is beyond anartha, it is beyond the neophyte stage, and it is above and beyond the bhajana-kriya stage.

And it CAN be attained by service to the book bhagavat, even when there is no genuine Vaishnava guru in manifest form to explain it. We still have Prabhupada’s purports even though he has physically left us:

"Let the movement go forward more and more ... And, even if I go, where is the harm? . . . I have given my ideas and direction in my books. People appreciate. I think from my side I have done everything. Is it not?"

Room conversation, Apr. 29, 1977

The Bhagavatam purport says: "Here is the remedy...." The book bhagavat IS the remedy for so many spiritual ills now confronting the Hare Krishna movement.

"Both the bhagavatas are competent remedies, and both of them OR EITHER OF THEM can be good enough to eliminate the obstacles."

The purport to this well-known Bhagavatam verse (chanted every morning before Bhagavatam class in the temples) is not at all ambiguous. The book bhagavat ALONE can take any devotee to the stage of anartha-nivritti, the elimination of the obstacles (anarthas). And it is "good enough" to do so. It is a "competent remedy". It ALONE ("or EITHER" of them) is a competent remedy and can give any sincere and serious devotee this result at any time in any place.

"Human reason fails to understand how by serving the devotee bhagavata OR THE BOOK BHAGAVAT one gets gradual promotion on the path of devotion. But, actually, these are facts."

Srimad-Bhagavatam, 1.2.18, purport

Indeed. Human reason may also get in the way due to such failure to understand. The purport continues: "...by such sincere association of the bhagavatas, one is sure to receive transcendental knowledge very easily, with the result that one becomes fixed in the devotional service of the Lord (nistha)."

"Be sure and read my books very carefully...You should read every day without fail and become FIXED in our philosophy."

Letter (75-7-60/July 25, 1975) emphasis added

You will not get this result by "surrendering" yourself at the so-called lotus feet of an alleged mahabhagavata, who has had the audacity to imitate Srila Prabhupada. You will not get this result by "cooperating" with the neophyte propaganda of a warped institution certifying so-called madhyams as genuine diksa gurus.

 

HE IS YOUR SIKSA GURU

You will also not get this result by falsely claiming that Prabhupada has become your diksa guru—when, in actuality, all his blessings can only flow if and when you recognize that HE IS YOUR SIKSA GURU.

You get in the way of his mercy by falling for the unauthorized rittvik concoction. If there are any sincere and serious rittviks (either the so-called rittviks or their so-called initiated disciples), those devotees should see the wisdom of the book bhagavat. They should accept it as it is. They should abandon all of the "diksa" nonsense.

Then they would see that it fully and completely accomplishes all of the BONA FIDE devotional desires in their hearts. They would, with illuminated gratitude, preach the book bhagavat at that time, because it is clearly authorized—whereas the rittvik concoction is speculative. Rittvik gets many of its followers because, without authority, it caters to the newcomers’ unjustified and undeserved demand for pancaratriki-vidhi.

You can only receive pancaratriki-vidhi when the spiritual master is manifest. This is always the preferred alternative, the most positive alternative. The book bhagavat is also a positive alternative, but it no longer need be applied when there is a genuine spiritual master physically manifest. The Lord wants an uninitiated devotee to seek out and find a genuine spiritual master in physical form. This is His universal arrangement for conditioned souls.

"Therefore, God is called caitya-guru, the spiritual master within the heart. And the physical spiritual master is God’s mercy. If God sees that you are sincere, He will give you a spiritual master who can give you protection. He will help you from within and without—without in the physical form of spiritual master, and within as the spiritual master within the heart."

Room conversation, May 23, 1974

As such, if there is a desire for pancaratriki-vidhi, that opportunity must be given by a bona fide guru who is physically present. And, just as importantly, the guru—previous to his disappearance—recognizes the neophyte devotee via the STANDARD process of initiation.

In this way, if devotees are not sincere and serious enough to seek out and find a manifest spiritual master—or if Lord Krishna withholds that opportunity for reasons that no conditioned soul can fully comprehend—there is still a positive alternative: the book bhagavat. Prabhupada gave this to us like no other guru in the history of the world.

" ...the Srimad-Bhagavatam ...will be our lasting contribution to the world."

Letter (76-05-45/May 19, 1976)

Prabhupada’s books have the potency to create devotees. They are non-different from the Absolute Truth. Reading and studying them gives the devotee direct personal association with His Divine Grace.

Rittvik, on the other hand, is no genuine alternative whatsoever; it is a SHADOW of the positive alternative. Rittvik is also a major deviation from the standard process of the bhakti-sampradaya, despite its current upsurge of popularity within a restricted milieu.

Of course, so are the forerunners that spawned it, viz., corporate ISKCON’s bogus mahabhagavats and today’s institutionalized gurus falsely purporting to be free from anartha and fixed in brahman realization.

Now, opponents may argue that "bhagavatas" is in the plural in the Bhagavatam purport. Indeed, this kind of mentality was likely behind the change of the conjunction in the translation itself. However, the answer to this challenge is quite simple: Prabhupada’s extensive and enlightening purports are both non-different from the book bhagavat AND the devotee bhagavat. Reading them is worship of BOTH the book bhagavat AND the devotee bhagavat. Full and complete facility is thus clearly offered by him in his books—and THAT is why he so stressed book distribution.

Is a person who follows the book bhagavat system of realization actually initiated? The purport says a devotee following this system can attain self-realization. If and when he attains brahman realization and the stage of madhyam-adhikari, he will certainly be able to make further progress to God realization. So, he has to be initiated, because initiation takes place in the neophyte stage.

Obviously, the book bhagavat initiation is not FORMAL initiation, so the advantages of formal pancaratriki—in a society of devotees who HAVE received pancaratriki—is not applicable. The new devotee should try to give up his envy of those who did receive pancaratriki-vidhi during the spiritual master’s manifest presence.

But lack of pancaratriki is not the end of the world! Such a devotee can still worship guru-gauranga at home. Or Lord Jagannatha. He can take part in congregational chanting in genuine temples or in the streets. He can still chant on his beads. He can partake in kirtans. These are all part of the bhajana process. The Holy Name does not require pancaratriki for fructification, and this is clearly verified in the Chaitanya-caritamrita (purports: Madhya 15.108, Madhya 15.110). Prabhupada was prescient in giving us that information.

In the conditioned stage, we cannot fully comprehend who (or Who) is the initiator when a devotee applies this authorized and competent remedy—initiation through the mercy of the book bhagavat. We simply have to accept the shastra of Prabhupada’s purport authorizing this process.

 "I cannot go beyond what shastra says."

Letter (75-1-65/Jan. 16, 1975)

Human reason, by itself, cannot understand how or by whom such a devotee is initiated. Limited human reason will fail in any endeavor to fully comprehend this mystery. The initiation may be made directly by the Supreme Personality of Godhead—it is certainly not impossible for Him.

Can one then go on to receive formal pancaratriki-vidhi if he later contacts a manifest bona fide guru? Of course.

Does this constitute the forbidden acceptance of two diksa gurus? Certainly not, because the bhagavad-vidhi initiation will not be replaced. The manifest guru’s initiation does not knock out what was already there (and developed). The external manifestation of Godhead is simply giving Krishna, and the acceptance of two diksa gurus refers to the acceptance of two different men, two diksa gurus on the manifest plane. It is Krishna Who is the ultimate initiator for all of us. The guru simply initiates on behalf of the Lord.

Human reason also fails to fully comprehend how and why the initiating guru (the pancharatriki-vidhi guru) must be physically manifest, despite the fact that this is the Vaishnava tradition, system, and injunction. Human reason fails to fully comprehend how all bones are untouchable except for the conchshell.

If any devotee attains to a stage of advancement beyond bhajana-kriya, that devotee has automatically attained the stage of bhajan-kriya as a previous prerequisite. He is initiated into the sampradaya of the book bhagavata: in this case, that would be the Gaudiya Vaisnava parampara. Srila Prabhupada is the current sampradaya-acharya for that line.

 

PRABHUPADA IS THE SOURCE

As the reader can probably surmise, neither those involved in institutional delusion nor those who advocate initiation by a non-manifest guru will be very favorable toward initiation via the book bhagavat. There are many reasons for this, and we shall be presenting most of those in an upcoming article. We shall mention one possible reason for now: they may claim that this idea is coming from the Sikh-sampradaya.

But this book bhagavat proposal has nothing to do with the Sikhs. In their teachings, Guru Gobind Singh declared himself the last manifest guru for the age in relation to that line. He similarly is said to have declared that, for all of the foreseeable future, the only real guru was to be nothing more than the guru-grantha-sahib, their sacred book.

But we do not say this. We simply present what Prabhupada says in the above-mentioned purport. Prabhupada is the source. We quote the verse and purport (S.B. 1.2.18). The statements are self-evident. They come from Prabhupada, not the Sikh sampradaya. And nowhere do his statements say that there will not be any manifest spiritual masters in the future. Neither do we make such a crazy assertion.

The book bhagavat proposal is not based upon the Sikh system, has not sprung from its teachings, and has no connection whatsoever with them.

Corporate ISKCON, or the neo-Gaudiya matha for that matter, may claim that we are presenting a schismatic semi-rittvik proposal. The rittviks, on the other hand, might claim that formal initiation (supposedly granted in a fire sacrifice by a rittvik on behalf of a non-manifest guru) affords recognition within a society of devotees. All these factions may say that such recognition is a must before a devotee can advance to the higher levels of devotional consciousness.

Prabhupada’s books belie these contentions. His books will stand as the law-books of mankind for ninety-five more centuries. All of the above-mentioned factions will have very little (if any) influence during most of the Lord Caitanya’s Golden Age. Indeed, all of them may have been merged into oblivion within a century or less. The book bhagavat could catch on at the beginning of the 21st century. Then again, this may not transpire; it is completely dependent upon transcendental fortune and the free will of the devotees. If many devotees start to see its wisdom and feel its spiritual effect, opposing camps may claim that this system is impractical, iconoclastic, and too individualistic.

Despite these and other doubts and failures (of limited human reason working through the false ego), Prabhupada’s purport establishes the book bhagavata’s authenticity. It is not simply theoretically true—it’s an authorized and practical avenue in the event that no manifest and realized gurus are currently available to aspiring neophytes.

Rittvik is not verified in those law-books of the Golden Age. It will not stand, despite its current momentum. A high-powered neophyte does not change his status simply by becoming a "responsible rittvik." That’s just another upadhi. Such upadhis (distinctions) can sway the less intelligent, of course, but in essence they are just material profiles.

"Responsible rittviks" won’t be taking their movement anywhere near the audacity levels reached just after Prabhupada’s disappearance, of course. Nevertheless, whether someone steals a cucumber or a diamond, stealing falls into the same category for both. Similarly, the essence of non-realized anartha remains the same: "I’m no longer a neophyte, because I have taken so much responsibility in accepting all of these new people." ‘

The madhyam status is based upon qualification and realization—not the illusion of deeds. Those who have manipulated themselves into high positions of institutional religion always go to "deeds" and challenge: "But what has he done for Prabhupada?" This unscrupulous device is nothing more than a diversion.

Devotees, previous to self-realization, should identify themselves as siksa gurus—but only when they act as peons and PROPERLY deliver the devotional message as it is. When one gives good instruction, good advice, when one repeats properly, and when one interprets correctly, then guru and gauranga are working through that person. After all, the siksa is always coming from either fully realized souls or directly from God Himself. While acting as viable instruments, even if one has not yet transcended the neophyte plane, the devotee is still acting like a siksa guru, a representative of caitya-guru.

The diksa issue must be confronted and has to be understood in truth. Many disciples of Srila Prabhupada have surcharged the atmosphere with so much opposition and faithlessness by the misuse of the diksa guru principle.

Nevertheless, Prabhupada said: "Regular guru. That’s all." He didn’t order anyone to become big. The uttama adhikari is the big diksa guru; not the madhyam. The madhyam is a regular guru, that’s all. However, even he is glorious, special, and rare in this age. He will not cheat you. All bogus gurus, as well as all modern-day rittviks, WILL cheat you. But anyone who is ACTUALLY free from anartha like the madhyam is special.

Accepting initiation from a genuine madhyam adhikari is a higher positive alternative. This alternative may not be viable at the current time. The madhyama’s consciousness is free from anartha, but it is not yet free of abhadra. Even though his consciousness still has some abhadra in it (and this is why he is still subject to falldown), as long as he remains nistha, fixed up, he never speaks or acts according to that abhadra. His motivation is never polluted by that abhadra. In effect, the abhadra has no real influence. He’s got control, he’s dhira, he’s authorized to initiate—to make disciples anywhere and everywhere (Upadesamrita, 1).

In the absence of such a devotee, we can still carry out the mission to some degree. We can set the stage. We can still preach and teach. We can create shelters and help devotees of lesser realization. We can create associations and corporations in order to do so. We can even institutionalize our arrangement. The preaching, as siksa, can go on—and should go on.

However, this book bhagavat emphasizes the inquiry, the discovery, the logic and reason, the interfacing, the removal of contradictions, the establishment of the siddhanta, etc. during an awkward stage where no nistha bhakta (what to speak of an uttama) has as yet emerged.

"This beautiful Bhagavatam, compiled by the great sage Vyasadeva [in his maturity], is sufficient in itself for God realization. What is the need of any other scripture? As soon as one attentively and submissively hears the message of Bhagavatam, by this culture of knowledge the Supreme Lord is established within his heart."

Srimad Bhagavatam, 1.1.2

"By reading my books and chanting Hare Krishna, your life will be perfect."

Letter (75-3-13/Mar. 14, 1975)

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