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January 21, 1999   VNN2893   See Related VNN Stories

Sridhara Maharaj Did Not Support Ritvik Doctrine


EDITORIAL, Jan 21 (VNN) — It has recently come to my attention that certain proponents of the Ritvik doctrine in Iskcon have been trying to use statements made by Sri Srimad Bhaktiraksaka Sridhara Maharaja as indicative of his support of their misconceived ideas. I would like to state unequivocally that this is an example of taking something out of context, or looking to find something to support one's view while ignoring other overwhelming evidence. This is not particularly surprising, as this is exactly what the Ritviks do in relation to Prabhupada's desire.
"Here are the exact quotes from His Holiness Sridhara Maharaja: "With this I transfer these beads; from now he [Govinda Maharaja] will do so on my behalf as ritvik. The ritvik system is already involved both here and in the foreign land. The ritvik is the representative, so if you want to take [initiation] from me and you take from his hand then it will be as well and as good as taking from me."
Here Sridhara Maharaja makes Govinda Maharaja the official ritvik for himself for all initiations at the Math. Previous to this, some of us were acting as ritviks in other places, initiating on behalf of Sridhara Maharaja. At the Math however, he did all initiations directly himself. During this period, we were also initiating our own disciples. Sridhara Maharaja's policy was that we initiate, some with his order to do so, others with his blessing but still all "at our own risk." Those persons whose faith we could not secure were to be brought directly to Sridhara Maharaja, or we were to initiate them on his behalf in foreign lands. Several initiations of new disciples by ourselves took place at the Math. Sagara Maharaja initiated some disciples there, as did Narasingha Maharaja. Sometimes new devotees chose to be initiated by ourselves even after being in the presence of Sridhara Maharaja. Not that we were more qualified, rather the parampara was in place with his blessing and they felt that. During all of this, Govinda Maharaja was not acting as ritvik, much less initiating his own disciples, as per the etiquette. So the above was a new development, done with the intention of establishing Govinda Maharaja as Sridhara Maharaja's successor for Sri Caitanya Saraswat Math and all of its branches. At that time the official branches were Puri, Hapaniya, and London. Other missions such as those of Paramadvaiti Maharaj, B. S. Goswami, B.K. Giri, B.A. Sagara, etc., and my own were independent of Sridhara Maharaja's institution by his express desire.
"In the maha mandal [earth] Sagar Maharaja [formerly Akshayananda Swami] and many others, they are also ritviks of Swami Maharaja [Srila Prabhupada] and also myself and they may do so. But in this Math he, Govinda Maharaja will be the representative. Henceforth he will represent me in this affair beginning from today's function."
Here Sridhara Maharaja uses the word ritvik as representative of himself. While speaking he remembers Prabhupada and wants to assert that those of us who were initiating on Sridhara Maharaja's behalf already in certain instances as detailed above were also representing Prabhupada, and not just himself, as we were Prabhupada's disciples. So he has humbly mentioned Swami Maharaja, as if to say that it was due to his influence as well that people were coming to him for initiation.
"Now I shall go from here, [depart the material world] he will do the necessary on my behalf. He will give Hari Nama, diksa, sannyasa and everything."
After this Sridhara Maharaja remained for some time and initiations took place at his Math through Govinda Maharaja. All of these disciples were considered to be Govinda Maharaja's disciples. In the meantime we continued the approved policy of initiating our own disciples as well as on behalf of Sridhara Maharaja at our own discretion. Sridhara Maharaja made it clear that Govinda Maharaja was to succeed him as the acarya of his institution, and after his departure all new initiates did indeed become Govinda Maharaja's disciples. This is the status today.

Other than this, in Gaudiya Math most gurus considered themselves to be humbly representing Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur. They did not consider themselves to be fully liberated souls, yet they humbly took up the task of initiating in the spirit of strictly following the instructions of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur. Thus they "kept Prabhupada in the center." At the same time they were aware that responsibility for delivering their disciples was their own. This is a distinct characteristic of all branches of Gaudiya Math other than ISKCON. Hence the criticism from members of Gaudiya Math when a new Prabhupada appeared and seemed to be claiming to be fully liberated, etc., while "changing" many of the established policies of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur.

Actually Prabhupada also felt himself to be merely carrying out the orders of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur and that his qualification for initiating was only that he followed his liberated guru strictly. Due to unique circumstances abroad, Prabhupada's own physical distance from Gaudiya Math due to his household life, and his personal spiritual power, his branch came out apparently different even while being substantially the same. Unfortunately much of this was misunderstood by members of Gaudiya Math, as it was by Prabhupada's own disciples. While Gaudiya Math sometimes took Prabhupada to be overshadowing Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur and inappropriately making himself out to be a fully liberated soul, ISKCON has made him the Sampradaya Founder Acarya and more, even going so far as to displace Sri Rupa and Mahaprabhu Himself.

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