“ISKCON” Priestcraft,
Rittvik Priestcraft

Different Faces of the Same Avidyä

by Kailäsa Candra däsa

“The caste goswamins, assisted by the other pseudo-transcendentalists, made a clique to check up the universal movement of Lord Chaitanya and made a business of dispatching those foolish followers to the kingdom heaven after having drawing a lump sum amount for this priestcraft hooliganism.”
Back to Godhead, March, 1952
“Paramahaàsa Sree Sreemad Bhakti Siddhänta Saraswati Goswami Mahäräja”

“So that is the pitfall everywhere. In the church, temple, as soon as they get some nice income, then in the name of "priest," "sädhu," "sannyäsé," they do the same thing.”
Room Conversation, 9-19-73

Fanatic faith, once wedded fast to some dear falsehood, hugs it to the last.”
Thomas More

Whether or not you have realized it by now, “ISKCON” and Rittvik are not interested in helping you advance in spiritual knowledge. More or less, both are dominated by strained and biased misinterpretations of the philosophy (siddhänta and tattva), the bhakti process, and the actual history of Çréla Prabhupäda's branch of the Gauòéya sampradäya, which he founded in the mid-Sixties in America. If you are primarily (or only) interested in temple priests, rituals, ceremonies, festivals, and parades, then attending the services offered by “ISKCON” and Rittvik may fulfill your desire. If you are interested in Kåñëa consciousness as it is, there is no need of going there.

The plague of priestcraft has stifled the human race for centuries, especially in the West (but not limited to this area of the world). Priestcraft has wormed its way into paganism, Buddhism, so-called Christianity, Talmudism, as well as Hinduism and Islamicism, but, when it is able to do so in (what only appears to be) Vaiñëavism, it is there that it causes the most harm. Priestcraft is the name of the game now in “ISKCON” and most of Rittvik, and the motive underlying its ascendancy in these unauthorized cults is the same: To exploit unlucky, simple people, those whose knowledge, sincerity, and seriousness are not up to the standard of actually contacting and recognizing bona fide Vaiñëavism.

All emphases added for your edification and realization.

“ISKCON” and Rittvik are ecclesiastical, organized religions, and all members within those paradigms are strongly enjoined not to speak anything negative about their anointed leaders, even if what they say about them is true. This admonishment is always the policy of deviated sects, but it is contrary to real religious principle, especially in connection to the Absolute Truth. The dogma established in these organizations always serves its leaders and ecclesiastical authorities, but such dogmatic doctrine is nevertheless proclaimed to be factual—until those same so-called authorities decide to change it.

There are dark principles underlying such dogmatic religion, and, at this time in Kali-yuga, out of necessity, they generally reek of priestcraft. Accompanied by dogmatic morality and dogmatic philosophy, they do not and cannot inspire genuine intellectual power on the part of those who are duped by them nor can they fan the flames of love of Truth or love of Godhead.

“ISKCON” and Rittvik consider their organizations to possess an indisputable monopoly on Kåñëa consciousness, despite so much evidence to the contrary. The self-proclaimed expertise of each sect's hierarchical elites actually has a kind of incestuous element to it, but, once those mis-leaders become exposed, they close ranks tightly. They are strongly wedded to their dear falsehoods, and whoever writes and works to free people from the chains of that priestcraft is vilified as an enemy of the Kåñëa consciousness movement. It is a pitfall seen practically everywhere now, but its worst manifestation is in what only appears to be Çréla Prabhupäda's movement.

Every Dogma Has Its Day

Satsvarüpa: And then, when science developed, the Bible did not appear very wise anymore, so they overthrew all the dogmatic teachings.
Prabhupäda: They are dogmatic teachings.
Satsvarüpa: So they take us like that too, another religious explanation.
Prabhupäda: No. Our religion is not faith. It is science. That is the fault. Fanaticism of Christianism, Muhammadanism, has created this godlessness.
Room Conversation, 1-27-77

Prabhupäda: Anything which is defective is not to be accepted.
Puñöa Kåñëa: Simply dogma.
Prabhupäda: Yes.
Morning Walk, 5-15-76

Fanaticism means redoubling your efforts after having forgotten your aim.”
George Santayana

The pillar of priestcraft is dogma, and it has been afflicting the West for well over a millenium. In Kåñëa consciousness, we accept knowledge via the descending path of disciplic succession, but this does not mean that what we accept is dogma. We can test that knowledge through logic and reason. When we do so, we come to understand facets of the science of God and godly life philosophically. We are meant to put all the pieces of the puzzle together via this authorized method of attaining knowledge. Our real intelligence is increased and uplifted by doing so, and the understanding that we thus attain is logical, i.e., there is no question of dogma in such a process.

It is the process of theistic science, not sentiment or some kind of foolish faith. It is a process to realize both universal and spiritual laws; when applied by humankind, men and women devoted to the Supreme Controller thus become advanced transcendentalists. Certainly faith is involved before realization of any of these laws can be secured, but that faith is not dogmatic. It is not at all like the blind faith of organized religion so prominent today in the world, searing humanity with its fanaticism.

When different men and their affiliated factions put forth differing dogmatic views about theism, it is not an approach that is either authoritative or universal. Real theistic science must explain everything philosophically, especially since many Westerners have been educated in both science and philosophy. As such, dogmatic views pushed by various factions will not be attractive to the intelligent class of man, but the presentation of those cults will nevertheless still find foolish chelas who buy into it:

“Regarding their dogmatic insistence, everyone thinks like that. So, if one is not prepared to advance more, it is better to avoid them. If one is limited by some formulas only, he is described as an animal which . . . cannot move beyond the length of the chain. So, we are concerned with persons who are not chained by anything.”
Letter to Citsukhänanda, 4-28-70

Such dogmatic fanaticism spawns a peculiar type of Godlessness in the name of Vaiñëavism. Whether it is “ISKCON” insistence as per its particular rationalization or the Rittvik counter-rationalization, both create, in the ultimate issue, psychic chains imprisoning their chelas. These chains are constituted of ritualistic formulas and dogma. Sometimes “ISKCON” appears to be in the ascendant; sometimes Rittvik appears to have greater momentum.

Every dogma has its day. None of this has anything to do with the theistic science that is the Bhägavata religion. The person bhägavata is the pure devotee of the Lord, and the book bhägavat is the Çrémad-Bhägavatam, best understood through the preliminary study of the Bhagavad-gétä.

The real representatives of the Lord do not partake in ecclesiastic hierarchies of concocted ecclesiology, but “ISKCON” and Rittvik specialize in this kind of priestcraft. As such, it behooves us to reject their presentations, their initiations, and their dogma. Their leaders have forgotten the original aim of the Hare Kåñëa movement of Kåñëa consciousness, yet all those mis-leaders fail to acknowledge this fact. The “ISKCON” dogmatic presentation is defective, and Rittvik dogmatism is also defective. We should not at all be concerned about trying to reform either of these defective groups.

“Everything, what is said by Kåñëa or His representative, they are not dogmas. Those who are not representative of Kåñëa, they will say simply dogmas. Just like in every religion there is a dogma. But in Bhägavata religion, Bhägavata-dharma, there is no dogma.”
Platform Lecture, Çrémad-Bhägavatam, 6.2.1, 1-6-71

Regular Guru, That's It”

“. . . a candidate who has successfully followed the first twelve items can also become a spiritual master himself, just as a student becomes a monitor in class with a limited number of disciples.”
Easy Journey to Other Planets

“The second-class devotee accepts disciples from the section of third-class devotees or non-devotees.”
Çrémad-Bhägavatam, 2.3.21, purport

When I order, 'You become guru,' he becomes regular guru, that's all.
He becomes disciple of my disciple. That's it.”
Room Conversation with Leading Secretaries
May 28, 1977 in Våndävan, India

Most of the readers of this article are aware of the so-called appointment tape (which did not contain any appointments on it), a recording of his governing commissioners meeting with Çréla Prabhupäda in May of 1977. In that meeting in Våndävan, they asked him about current initiations as well as about initiations in the future, when he would no longer be on the scene. Only a couple of minutes was spent discussing these two important questions, but the transcript of that discussion is accessible from the Archives. Many of you have read that transcript, which is also available in the Folio. It is the subject of much controversy, although there is really no need for it to be so.

His Divine Grace answered those two questions. We shall discuss his answers subsequently, but first let us set the scene. Let us also not forget that, just one month previously, in a transcript accessible also in the Folio, Çréla Prabhupäda confirms to his personal secretary (in Bombay) that none of his disciples is self-realized, and, therefore, none of them are qualified to be guru. Did this change in the time-frame of a mere month?

“One who will pass this examination (related to four of his books) will be awarded with the title of Bhaktivedänta. I want that all of my spiritual sons and daughters will inherit this title of Bhaktivedänta, so that the family transcendental diploma will continue through the generations. Those possessing the title of Bhaktivedänta will be allowed to initiate disciples. Maybe by 1975, all of my disciples will be allowed to initiate . . .”
Letter to Hansadutta, 1-3-69

“And the next year, we shall hold an examination on Teachings of Lord Caitanya, Nectar of Devotion and Vedänta Sütra, and those who will successfully pass will be awarded with the title of Bhaktivedänta. By 1975, all of those who have passed all of the above examinations will be specifically empowered to initiate . . .”
Letter to Kértanänanda, 1-12-69

Years earlier, as conclusively evidenced from these two excerpts, Çréla Prabhupäda put forth the idea of his disciples initiating new people even while he was physically present, but this was never turned into a plan or enacted. Nevertheless, it could have been, i.e., Prabhupäda was hoping to have awarded one or more of his disciples with the title of Bhaktivedänta, empowering them as dékñä-gurus, but he didn't. We should accept this history at face value and realize that His Divine Grace could have recognized a dékñä-guru previous to his departure, if he had only seen that at least one of his disciples had become learned and pure enough to merit such recognition.

Nor did he ever officially appoint or recognize any of his disciples as an initiating spiritual master during his final months, although he certainly could have done so. Here and there, you may find an earlier reference wherein he writes or says to some disciple, in a letter or room conversation, that the disciple is self-realized or on the spontaneous platform. Yet, he not only never recognized a successor-- he never officially recognized any of his disciples as an initiating guru, either as an uttama or a madhyama-adhikäré.

The posted quotation from Easy Journey to Other Planets verifies that any genuinely initiated disciple of his, previous to having achieved siddha, could have accepted a limited number of disciples, just as a monitor in class who works under the supervision of the professor (in America, these are called Teaching Assistants). Yet, Çréla Prabhupäda never named anyone or authorized any such monitor (or initiating) gurus.

While he was physically manifest, His Divine Grace Çréla Prabhupäda was the sole initiating guru in his branch of the Gauòéya sampradäya. There are a few who claim that he gave them permission to initiate, but there are some problems with these rumored claims. The first problem: Why then did they not do so? Why did they also require sanction from the G.B.C.?

The second problem is that none of these claims was made official; all were allegedly made in some kind of private setting. If they were made official by Prabhupäda, they would have definite potency, but that does not mean that those men could not have fallen from the standard in the interim, especially considering what went down after he departed.

One president of a prominent temple in India claimed, in 1979, that Prabhupäda told him privately that he could initiate. Maybe, maybe not. However, this fellow, in the early Eighties, crossed the river and joined up with the fledgling Neo-Mutt, the Mahä-maëòala; indeed, he was one of its founding members. He was not one of the eleven pretender mahäbhägavats who hijacked the movement in the spring of 1978, but why deviate by linking up with the Mutt? He should simply have made it known that he was given the order to initiate, and he should have thus made disciples. He did not do that, i.e., even if that order was given to him, he fell down from dékñä-guru eligibility.

The important section of the so-called appointment tape was an exchange between two leading secretaries and His Divine Grace. Most of the prominent G.B.C.s (at that time) were in the room, and they had selected those two men to ask the questions, one such question being delicate, obviously. The whole discussion was botched, but we shall not go into those details. However, despite the fact that Prabhupäda was cut off by one of these leading secretaries while answering an important question, the real issues, numbering two, were nonetheless clarified--in a concise way.

That clarity does not reach the polluted consciousness of the leaders of “ISKCON” or the leaders of Rittvik, however. They both misinterpret the meaning of this important section of the taped conversation, and, as could only be expected, they both misinterpret in a way that promotes their own ambitions and self-interest. Çréla Prabhupäda was asked how initiations were now (May, 1977) to be conducted, and he said that they would be conducted by rittviks, which was nothing new. Due to his severe illness, initiations worldwide had been stopped for months. He then authorized that they begin again, and that rittviks conduct initiation ceremonies on his behalf.

The eleven rittviks were selected by him five weeks later, during the second week of July, 1977. The only change made was not monumental, viz., that any ISKCON temple or sankértan authority could recommend a new man or woman for initiation, and such a recommendation no longer required the final approval of His Divine Grace. That was the only innovation, and it was no big deal. The letter authorizing the eleven new rittviks clearly stated that the rittviks were conducting those initiation rituals on his behalf, viz., that the newly-initiated would be disciples of His Divine Grace Çréla Prabhupäda.

As far as the second question was concerned, he also answered it succinctly: “Regular guru, that's all. He becomes disciple of my disciple, that's it.” What is unclear about that? Nothing! The rittviks, through embarrassingly convoluted displays of bad logic, screw out a rittvik misinterpretation from this, but their self-serving bias should be immediately recognized for just what it is and thus be thoroughly rejected.

“ISKCON” leaders—and here we are referring to the vitiated G.B.C. of March,1978—were even more foolish. They were unable to recognize that the word regular means under regulation. That means vidhi-sädhana bhakti. An uttama-adhikäré is never under such regulation, but Prabhupäda said, “Regular guru, that's it.” Just as importantly, he did not name anybody as even having attained this preliminary qualification of being a regular guru, a student of the Äcärya, comparable to a monitor in class working under a professor. Such a second-class or intermediate (madhyam) devotee, when ordered to do so by his spiritual master, can accept disciples from the third-class devotee and/or the non-devotee section. Instead, the vitiated G.B.C. rubber-stamped eleven of its own to create carved fiefdoms as pretender mahäbhägavats.

“Actually, Dhruva Mahäräja's mother, Sunéti, was his patha-pradarçaka-guru. Patha-pradarçaka-guru means 'the guru, or the spiritual master, who shows the way.' Such a guru is sometimes called çikñä-guru. Although Närada Muni was his dékñä-guru (initiating spiritual master), Sunéti, his mother, was the first who gave him instruction on how to achieve the favor of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is the duty of the çikñä-guru or dékñä-guru to instruct the disciple in the right way, and it depends on the disciple to execute the process. According to çästric injunctions, there is no difference between çikñä-guru and dékñä-guru, and generally the çikñä-guru later on becomes the dékñä-guru. . . This incident proves that the çikñä- or dékñä-guru, who has a disciple who strongly executes devotional service like Dhruva Mahäräja, can be carried by the disciple even though the instructor is not as advanced.”
Çrémad-Bhägavatam, 4-12.32-33, purports

An uttama-adhikäré does not need to be carried to Vaikuëöha by anyone, as his entrance into that higher dimension of the spiritual world is already guaranteed by his having attained such an exalted level of devotional consciousness.

The rittviks wrongly argue that the dékñä-guru must be an uttama-adhikäré, but this is quite illogical and nonsensical; it is directly contradicted by Çréla Prabhupäda in the four purports cited above. The “ISKCON” mis-leaders argue that the eleven men named as rittviks were, indirectly, also appointed to the status of initiating spiritual masters by Çréla Prabhupäda in July of 1977, i.e., after he departed, they would be dékñä-gurus. That is a presumption and nothing more; the premise is faulty and self-serving. Over and above that, since the Commission rubber-stamped those eleven rittviks as mahabhagavats—and the disaster that they created is now self-evident to everyone—the premise is also automatically invalidated.

His Divine Grace did not officially order any of his disciples to become either his successor or an initiating spiritual master at any level. His Divine Grace only authorized rittviks to conduct initiation rituals, on his behalf, while he was physically manifest. When he departed manifestation, that was automatically rendered defunct, because he then no longer accepted disciples as dékñä-guru. The Hare Kåñëa movement of Kåñëa consciousness can be carried on by regular gurus, but pretender mahäbhägavats do not qualify as regular gurus nor do rittviks. The “ISKCON” priestcraft did not get it right, and, twelve years later, the ensuing Rittvik concoction also did not interpret the tape correctly.

ISKCON” and Rittvik Dogma

Everywhere, religion has become a business.”
Room Conversation, 7-4-72

“People should come to us to understand. We have literature, we have philosophy—everything. This Kåñëa consciousness movement is not a blind, imposing dogma.”
Interview of Çréla Prabhupäda at Culver City temple
Reprinted in Back to Godhead, Issue #44

A fanatic is a man who consciously overcompensates a secret doubt.”
Aldous Huxley

In a 1957 movie, we find a family that relies on its breadwinner joining cattle drives in order for them to make it on the Texas prairie just after the Civil War. While the father is out on one of these sinful drives, his youngest son is saved from a bear attack by a mongrel mastiff, who this young boy (Travis) then names Old Yeller, which is also the title of this movie. A little later, Old Yeller saves Travis from an attack by a wild boar, as well.

Thus, Old Yeller becomes dear to the remaining family—and especially to the young boy in particular. However, in an encounter with a rabid wolf, Old Yeller, although he saves the family, is bitten and develops rabies. He has to be caged, and Travis undergoes the heartache of watching his penned Old Yeller degrade, snarling at anyone who approaches him, including even Travis, who eventually puts his beloved dog down.

Çréla Prabhupäda's “best men” were supposed to carry on his movement in the right way after his departure, but soon thereafter, they became intoxicated by personal ambition, ecclesiastical power, and many misconceptions regarding how Kåñëa consciousness was to be prosecuted without deviation after the disappearance of the Äcärya. From once or twice (in his letters) being referred to as his “best men,” they soon became anything but, and all of Prabhupäda's disciples and followers have suffered grievously as a result.

The Kåñëa consciousness movement—or what appears to be Prabhupäda's branch of it—has thus devolved into an organized religion, replete with its own hierarchy, ecclesiology, ecclesiastical convention, totems, and dogma. In a number of ways, “ISKCON” is now run like a business. Thus, schisms have inevitably developed, two of the most prominent being that of the initial deviation (“ISKCON”) and the newer Rittvik movement(s). Their dogmas differ, and thus there must be a continuous, pseudo-spiritual clash.

A pecuniary motive (underlying ecclesiastical conventions of organized religion in general) is certainly present in “ISKCON” and is shared by its younger Rittvik brother (they both come from the same father, the Gouòéya Mutt). However, the dogma that pulses through them is exactly the same when it comes to one root misconception, viz., that His Divine Grace left a ready-made arrangement for initiation of newcomers after his departure. There is every reason to doubt this idea, but these two groups refuse to entertain any such doubt.

They obviously propose different interpretations of such a ready-made system, but we must dig deeper than that. Indeed, their mutually-held misconception in this connection is itself a form of fanaticism; it propels their dogmatic insistence in other areas of their conflicting (and conflicted) belief systems. We have no obligation to blindly accept the idea that Prabhupäda had created any prearranged initiation system. If he had seen one of his disciples qualified to be recognized as the next Äcärya, he certainly would have said so.

Instead, he simply enunciated the principle of regular guru, without naming any personalities who fit the bill. Was that principle fulfilled? History, çästric injunction, and logic strongly indicate that it was not. Is that unprecedented? Certainly not. Lines and branches of the disciplic succession become lost over time. Indeed, Lord Kåñëa Himself, in the fourth chapter of Bhagavad-gétä, directly verifies this, and that was thousands of years ago, when gurus were more advanced (and more prevalent) than at this time in Kali-yuga:

“O subduer of the enemy, in this world, the self-realized kings received and understood this sacred knowledge by disciplic succession. That knowledge of the science of yoga, in course of time, was scattered and lost.”
Bhagavad-gétä, 4.2

If the disciplic succession could be broken (and it was) just prior to the start of Kali-yuga, how much more so, after Çréla Prabhupäda left us, could it break down and either be lost or on the verge of being lost? The fanatics in both “ISKCON” and Rittvik never acknowledge the obvious answer to this question. They refuse to even confront it, instead opting for versions of ecclesiology:

“Çré Jéva Gosvämé advises that one not accept a spiritual master in terms of hereditary or customary social and ecclesiastical conventions. One should simply try to find a genuinely qualified spiritual master for actual advancement in spiritual understanding.”
Caitanya-caritämåta, 1.35, purport

“ISKCON” dogma differs from Rittvik dogma in many ways, but there is little value to be gained by going into all of those details. Instead, we can secure far more transcendental merit by understanding the root cause of their dogmatic arrangements. Neo-Mutt, to its (limited) credit, does not engage in ecclesiastical conventions or ecclesiology--at least, not directly. It is comprised of wild-card gurus who run their own shows in different parts of the world, i.e., there is no systematic or compelling hierarchy underpinning their loose confederation, and there is no government body regulating any of them.

“ISKCON” contends that it far more bona fide than the Gouòéya Mutt, because it has maintained an apparently cohesive governing body throughout the whole of its manifestation, whereas the weak governing body of the Mutt split via schism in less than a year after the disappearance of the Äcärya in 1937. What is the value of this contention? Even though technically it may be accurate, the vitiated G.B.C. has created immeasurable havoc to the transcendental cause of Kåñëa consciousness for the last four decades, at least since 1978.

Rittvik tries to form its own G.B.C. or ecclesiastical convention—especially in one of its schismatic branches, the I.R.M.--but such a shadow governing body has no influence whatsoever in or on “ISKCON.” It simply further demonstrates that these two cults specialize in their own forms of priestcraft, in which each tries to out-perform the other based upon superficial measuring sticks. We are advised to avoid both of them and recognize the (somewhat subtle) fact that both have tried to overcompensate for a doubt: They each know (but try to forget) that no viable initiation arrangement or system was made readily available—institutionally or otherwise--after Çréla Prabhupäda left us.

Neither institutional guru nor institutional sannyäsa produce genuine Kåñëa conscious results. Instead, institutionally dependent gurus and sannyäsés create an embarrassing fraud in the name of renunciation, and they are unable to speak out against the reign of priestcraft that dominates their cult. This inability to lodge any kind of effective protest is, in no small part, due to their lack of emphasis on becoming learned men, i.e., simply pushing the sales of books, without knowing what is inside of them, is a farce.

Perfect knowledge is required in order for love of God to emerge within oneself; without perfect knowledge, fanaticism will be the certain result. It is the fanatics who create an atmosphere of continuous conflict, not those devotees who expose all of this inebriation. As false personality defends itself on the individual level, priestcraft does the same thing on the institutional. The only way to control these two dragons of darkness (“ISKCON” and Rittvik) is to shine light upon them, and that is what you are now receiving, hopefully to advantage.

Be strongly encouraged not seek out Kåñëa consciousness in the form of an imitation school (“ISKCON”) or a wrong school (Rittvik). These are apa-sampradäyas, and they cannot help you in spiritual life. Their peculiar brands of priestcraft go with the flow of Western, Kali-yuga “religion,” but that kind of consciousness always remains sunk in the mire of mäyä. There are still real spiritual and devotional groups functioning in this world, and you are invited to search them out, recognize them, and accept an invitation to join with them in order to progress, slowly but surely, on the path of liberation.


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