|To Expose the New Theory
Prabhupada: No, they say
"You drink this, drink this, drink this."
(a minute or so later)
Prabhupada: So I think
Jayapataka can do that if he likes. I have already deputed. Tell
There is another new insidious theory in town, and it may end up spreading like wildfire. Just like the last new theory spread in the same way, this one is based upon very weak “evidence” that has nothing of substance to buttress it; it falls far short of being solid, conclusive truth.
Interestingly—and with no small touch of irony—the new theory is very destructive to the rittvik cause. In case you haven’t already guessed it, the last new theory (referenced above) was rittvikvada, which took off like anything in the early Nineties. It was only based upon two words or phrases, viz., “henceforward” and “initiated disciples” (as property trustees).
The new theory of today is based upon some of what I have quoted in the above passages from a room conversation with His Divine Grace. This discussion was in the third week of October, 1977. A Bengali gentleman of the name Sukamal Roy Chowdury had just arrived from New York. Apparently, he was requesting that Srila Prabhupada perform, there in Vrindavan, an initiation ceremony for him, i.e., he wanted to have this done by His Divine Grace in order to become his initiated disciple. Unlike most of Prabhupada’s Western devotees, some Indians or Hindus attach a very great import to having the ceremony conducted directly by their diksha guru. This appears to be the context; granted, there is room for a different interpretation here. Nevertheless, this is what I gleaned.
His Divine Grace asks about this Indian, and Srila Prabhupada is told that the man has arrived. Then, Srila Prabhupada says, “So, I have deputed some of you to initiate.” Notice the past tense. He is referring to something that he has already done. What could it be? That was a softball I just lobbed your way; you should have all hit it right out of the park.
Prabhupada was, of course, referring to the re-installment of his rittvik arrangement for initiations. He says, “I have deputed.” The eleven deputies selected to perform the function were well known by this time. The formal letter of July 9th—and everybody knows about that letter now—lists these eleven rittviks (deputies). This is what Prabhupada was clearly referring to—or, to put it another way, this is the overall context of the room conversation or discussion on 10-18-77.
To reiterate, when His Divine Grace re-installed the new rittvik system (just a few months prior to this room conversation), there was but one new element put into it. What was that? Actually, most of you already know: The deputies (rittviks) did not have to consult Prabhupada first before accepting someone as an initiated disciple of His Divine Grace. They could simply make the determination and then the arrangements.
Otherwise, there was nothing at all new about it. It had been done before for many years and had only recently been suspended. Please keep in mind this context, because, if you lose sight of it, then everything becomes muddled. The dull-witted must be cheated, and bewilderment of memory leads directly to loss of intelligence. The new theory is most unintelligent.
Although there should be no need to do so, for the historical record let us quote directly from the July 9th directive: “The newly initiated devotees are disciples of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad, the above eleven senior devotees acting as His representative.” Whether you would prefer to use the word “representative” or “deputy” or “rittvik,” it really makes no material or spiritual difference; the terms are all self-referencing in relation to the priest conducting the initiation ceremony on behalf of the Sampradaya Acharya, Srila Prabhupada.
Two questions were asked of the shaktyavesh-avatar Srila Prabhupada in the oft-quoted (and generally misunderstood) room conversation of May, 1977 (the so-called appointment tape). Both of these queries were in connection to newcomers who wanted to become initiated disciples in the line of disciplic succession. There had not been initiations for some time, due to Srila Prabhupada’s illness. One question was what should be done now that he was still with us. The other question was what should be done (regarding initiation) when he was no longer with us.
Srila Prabhupada answered the first question in the following way:
HDG: I shall recommend some of you to act as
This is the overall context for the very brief discussion that His Divine Grace had, on October 18th , 1977, in connection with the request of Mr. Chowdury for initiation. There is no new theory to be read into the terse and almost cryptic dialogue. It is all straightforward--and quite incidental.
Nobody is called a diksha-guru in this discussion. Instead, they are called just what they had been since that summer: Deputies. They are still deputed to conduct the initiation ceremonies in their various zones. What are they deputies for? It is all related to “that list,” which—and there can be no controversy here—is the list of the rittviks on the July 9th directive.
There is no order to become diksha-guru. There is no new order at all in it. Simply, His Divine Grace describes his condition, and he says that “It is not good” to initiate in such a condition. Of course, so many crazy and lunatic devotees are fanatically and spontaneously inclined to become thunderstruck by anything new. On a related tangent, let us return to the rittvik history, in particular the theory that says Prabhupada is diksha-guru for the remainder of the Iron Age of Hypocrisy and Quarrel.
Do you all remember how that idea came down the pike? Or, rather should I ask how many of you even know the historical facts in connection to the emergence of that fabulous concoction?
Here are, in summary, those facts. In the summer of 1988, Swami B. R. Sridhar left his body. He had left a Will. In it, he had said that Prabhupada (our Srila Prabhupada) had created a rittvik system of initiation upon his departure, and that he (Swami B. R. Sridhar) wanted this same arrangement in relation to his appointed successor.
Oh, oh. Gotta expect that something inauspicious was going to come out of that! And, of course, it did. A personal servant of the Machiavellian Manipulator (a leading secretary) emerged from Washington state in 1989 and joined three disgruntled brahmins in Mississippi. This personal servant said that he overhead His Divine Grace talk about setting up some kind of rittvik system with the sannyasi he (the personal servant) was assisting at the time. Now that’s what you call conclusive evidence!
The three brahmins bought it—root, trunk, and branch. They were soon joined by another (former) sannyasi, who claimed that the Leading Secretary had once mentioned something like this to him in Vrindavan—and he had jotted down a small note about it in his diary. More overwhelming evidence. As an aside, I was closely cooperating with this devotee for seven months in 1978. He never once mentioned this to me, although we talked about the “new guru” arrangement from every angle of consideration for countless hours during that heady epoch of time.
Some Johnny-Come-Latelies then joined this band of southern brothers (although some of them now claim that they were original promulgators of the rittvik system). The rittvik concoction grew. I immediately wrote a position paper against it; some of the predictions I made in that paper have been validated over the years. Rittvik philosophy appeared to be full of hope, but the fabricated so-called “ISKCON” didn’t buy it.
The original rittvik proposal (by the Mississippi crew) claimed that rittviks had to be special and advanced devotees, authorized by the G.B.C. to conduct the initiations on Prabhupada’s behalf after his departure. Well, if that’s the so-called system, then it has never functioned for a minute. All these other rittvik systems are nothing more than warpings of the (alleged) actual system Prabhupada supposedly authorized.
Of course, I am being facetious here. Nevertheless, rittvik was a complete nonsense theory. It had no substance whatsoever. It was thoroughly anti-Vedic and anti-Vaishnava. The sampradaya system of disciplic succession has never approved of any such thing. It was based on evidence so flimsy that you can hardly even call any of those things evidences. The so-called appointment tape gave it no traction at all, but, due to the power of delusion, the rittviks scream to the heavens that the tape does give them concrete fodder for their scam.
I could go on at great length, obviously, concerning how ridiculous is the rittvik claim. However, that would be tangential. My purpose (in this brief journey down memory lane) is to remind you all how these theories get launched on the tiniest shred of so-called evidence and then explode into a whole new movement—with negative repercussions for (to quote Guru Kripa prabhu here) The Real Hare Krishna Movement.
As mentioned above, there’s a new kid on the block, a new theory. A very insidious theory. This one is claiming that, as per a strained interpretation of the October 18th room conversation (quoted above), Srila Prabhupada aborted the rittvik arrangement (re-established just a few months prior) and converted eleven rittviks into eleven diksha-gurus.
I call this The Seamless Conversion Theory. They were made into rittviks with one new power (not all that consequential, really) and then, in an off-the-cuff and covert manner, as no more than an after-thought, they were upgraded to the status of full-blown diksha-gurus. In one room conversation. In a few sentences. With no explanation. With no new marching orders. With no clarification.
And the rittvik system was terminated at the same time, also.
Let us take a look at the counter-evidence; it is very substantial. It is even present in the room conversation itself. First of all, as already mentioned, Prabhupada began the whole discussion: “So, I have deputed some of you to initiate.” He is putting the whole thing into the matrix of the appointment of rittviks to conduct the initiation ceremonies in various zones throughout the world. Jayapataka Swami was the rittvik representative for India. Mr. Chowdury had just arrived from N.Y.C. He wants Prabhupada to initiate him. Prabhupada understands the essence of Mr. Chowdury’s desire, and we can pick up an implication of what that might mean by the very substance of the conversation; I have already explained to you my take on it.
Would not it make complete sense that His Divine Grace would then ask his Leading Secretary to explain to Mr. Chowdury that one of the rittviks for this zone would conduct the ceremony of initiation (on Srila Prabhupada’s behalf) from Mayapur? This will no doubt inconvenience Mr. Chowdury, and he might become a bit despondent, as well. But, this is what had been set up, and Srila Prabhupada was in no condition to go through all that is required to perform the ceremony himself.
This is why I have inserted the first part of that room conversation. Notice, even drinking water is a botheration for Srila Prabhupada at this stage. He would leave us less than a month later. From the physical perspective, he was in very bad shape. From the photographic perspective, he looked completely emaciated. He has no strength—the discussion directly states this—but it requires physical strength to conduct fire sacrifices, especially in the public. He hardly even has the stamina to take medicine or food.
In other words, you can explain or understand the whole interlude here in terms of the initiation ceremony—in terms of the performance of the yajna—rather than the initiation itself. Prabhupada was already initiating new disciples; the arrangement had been made. His Divine Grace wanted his disciples to explain it all to Mr. Chowdury, quite possibly in order to keep him from becoming despondent and leaving.
This interpretation makes total sense. It completely fits into the overall context of the discussion. Granted, it requires a figurative interpretation of one word, but that is not sacrilegious. We must be prepared to do just that every now and then. It comes with the spiritual territory. When the direct interpretation is nonsensical, then you have to go with the indirect interpretation. Where is the difficulty?
Did any of the eleven consider themselves diksha-gurus on October 18th? I could go into a great historical delineation, but, suffice it to say that, on the whole, they did not. One of them started to initiate for himself (he also accepted uttama-adhikari worship from everyone, including his godbrothers and godsisters), but that was a few days after Prabhupada departed. Nobody was doing anything like this in October and the first half of November in 1977. They did not know what they were. They did not even really know what they were to do (remember “What Now?” in the BTG).
In other words, there were no directives circulated throughout the movement in October of 1977 that Prabhupada had terminated rittvik and recognized the eleven rittvik-acharyas as full-blown diksha-gurus. Didn’t happen, and it couldn’t happen. Nothing happened—and nothing really important transpired in that October 18th room conversation, either.
There was an interregnum between mid-November, 1977 and the holocaust of the spring of 1978; that is a fact. Everybody was in a state of shock. But nobody considered any of the eleven rittviks to be diksha-gurus prior to Prabhupada’s disappearance from manifest existence. The Seamless Conversion Theory--based on the bare phrase: I may not be pressed in this condition to initiate--should not be allowed to develop any momentum and thus spin out of control. Rittvikvada got its concoction off the ground in just that kind of way, and it is now centrifugally out of control with new variations popping up all of the time. Those eleven men were never legitimate initiating spiritual masters. The limited powers of those eleven rittviks, prior to Prabhupada’s leaving us, should be clearly understood for just what they were. Those powers were restricted, because none of the men possessing them were exalted, realized individuals.
For the saner section of devotees, allow me to summarize:
1) In the room conversation of 10-18-77, Srila Prabhupada did not order anyone, including any of the eleven rittviks (eventual pretender mahabhagavats), to be diksha-guru;
2) Srila Prabhupada did not terminate the previous rittvik arrangement during this room conversation;
3) Srila Prabhupada referenced the appointment of his rittviks in this room conversation, establishing that as the overall context for the discussion;
4) A genuine spiritual master does not recognize disciples as genuine gurus in their own right in this kind of dismissive and indirect manner;
5) Indirect (gauna or lakshana-vritti) interpretations of statements are sometimes required, especially when the direct interpretation may lead to all kinds of nonsense ramifications. That principle is fully activated in this instance, in relation to what Srila Prabhupada meant when he said that to initiate in his condition is not good;
6) Mr. Chowdury may have been hoping that Prabhupada would perform an initiation ceremony for him; such a desire on his part would not have been an inconsistency. Mr. Chowdury may have had a hard time understanding why he would be dispatched to Mayapur for a ceremony to be performed by someone he did not know. Understanding the discussion from that perspective is logical, realistic, and sane;
7) Prabhupada did not have the stamina to perform a fire yajna;
8) It is historical revisionism to now claim that Prabhupada, in this off-the-cuff and dismissive manner, made eleven rittviks into diksha-gurus on October 18th, 1977;
9) No one in the movement, including the eleven, was thinking like this; very few devotees even knew of this October 18th room conversation;
10) Phalena-pariciyate. The results indicate that none of these men were gurus in either 1977 or 1978 or after that.
There is exoteric religion, and then there is esoteric religion. Genuine dharma is always esoteric; the masses cannot comprehend it. It can remain pure, at least in part, because of this quality. The exoteric factions of religion are always coming up with unauthorized changes and historical revisions. Resist them. Do not join them. Understand the subtle truth here in this room conversation. You have been warned.
To close, let me convey a personal anecdote. I was in Florida in September of 1977. There was an uninitiated black devotee from Detroit there at that time. He was a good salesman and had a vehicle. He really wanted to be initiated by Srila Prabhupada.
He had some sentimental attachment to the governing commissioner of the Detroit yatra—one of the eleven representatives—and that rittvik-acharya was encouraging him to wait. The implication was obvious to me. I encouraged this new man not to wait.
We traveled together to New Orleans, and the Temple President conducted the initiation fire yajna one day before His Divine Grace departed the manifest plane. The governing body commissioner had given his reluctant sanction. This new man never considered himself to be an initiated disciple of the commissioner of the New Orleans zone where the sacrifice took place. He never thought that he was the initiated disciple of the aforementioned representative of the Detroit zone; as a matter of fact, he considered that he had avoided that by taking the initiation when he did.
There are alot of whacking theories out there these days. I strongly advise you not to get caught up in any of them. Rupanuga prabhu has done tremendous service for the cause of the Supreme Lord, especially in his Buffalo preaching from back in the day. He has recently performed yeoman’s work in bringing out the negative ramifications and repercussions of all of the unauthorized book changes.
He has brought to our attention the conversation from October 18th primarily to cast doubt upon the validity of the rittvik movement; the headline of his article indicated just that. Do not dishonor Rupanuga prabhu by pushing some kind of unauthorized malinterpretation of what he has highlighted. His reasoning, that a certain section of the room conversation shows rittvik to be nothing more than a stop-gap measure, is strong. The interpretation (can’t call it reasoning) that this section of the conversation proves rittvik to have been terminated on 10-18-77--and eleven officiating acharyas as having been upgraded to diksha-gurus--is wacky.
Quotes from the books of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada are copyright by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust