© 1997 VNN


01/19/98 - 1517

On My Behalf

USA (VNN) - Srila Prabhupada's Initiation System
by Gauridasa Pandita Dasa

Srila Prabhupada arrived in Sri Vrindavan Dhama on May 17th 1977 to prepare to 'leave his body.' He started making arrangements to secure the future of his movement. He formed his will, the temple property trusts, gave instructions for the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust and GBC and established his initiation system.

Due to some unseen good fortune I got to be with Srila Prabhupada at this time. On May 28th a committee of the GBC met in Srila Prabhupada's room and asked various questions for the future of ISKCON. Regarding initiations Satsvarupa Maharaja asked Srila Prabhupada, "Our next question concerns initiations in the future, particularly at that time when you're no longer with us. We want to know how first and second initiations would be conducted." Srila Prabhupada answered, "Yes; I shall recommend some of you. After this is settled up, I shall recommend some of you to act as officiating acaryas."

Then Tamal K.G. asked, "Is that called ritvik-acarya?" Srila Prabhupada replied, "ritvik yes." (R.C. 5-28-77) I mentioned this to Yasodanandan Prabhu, who entered into his diary at that time. I'm using that diary to help compile this information. Yasodanandan Prabhu had a conversation with Bhavananda Maharaja on May 31st where he asked, "What's this I heard from Gauridasa about [the] nomination of ritvic acaryas?" Bhavananda said, "It just means on behalf of Prabhupada. That's all. I can't wait until we start to do this."

One of my services for Srila Prabhupada was to take care of his garden and fan him with the camara while he was there. At these times he would chant japa or listen to devotees chant bhajans or read. Sometimes the secretary, Tamal K.G., would read letters from the devotees. Srila Prabhupada would dictate a response, then the secretary would type it and bring it back later to read it again to Srila Prabhupada who would approve and sign it.

On July 5th Tamal asked Srila Prabhupada about some devotees who wanted to get initiated. This was in the garden as I fanned him. Srila Prabhupada said, "Tomorrow I will I will announce some ritvik acaryas who will initiate disciples on my behalf when I leave the planet."

It was actually two days later on July 7th when Srila Prabhupada named the first eleven ritvik acharyas. Again this occurred in the garden as I fanned Srila Prabhupada. Here is the transcription of the tape:
Tamal K.G.: We're receiving a number of letters now, and these are people who want to get initiated. So up until now, since your becoming ill, we asked them to wait.
Prabhupada: The local senior sanyasis can do that.
T.K.G.: That's what we were doing... I mean, formerly we were... the local GBC,
sanyasis, were chanting on their beads, and they were writing to your Divine
Grace, and you were giving a spiritual name. So should that process be
resumed, or should we...? I mean one thing is that it's said that the spiritual
master takes on the... you know, he takes on the... He has to cleanse the disciple by... So we don't want that you should have to... Your health is not so good, so that should not be... That's why we've been asking everyone to wait. I just want to know if we should continue to wait for some more time?
Prabhupada: No, the senior sanyasis...
T.K.G.: So they should continue to...
Prabhupada: You can give me a list of sanyasi's. I will mark who will...
T.K.G.: Okay.
Prabhupada: You can do. Kirtananada can do, and our Satsvarupa can do. So
these three, you can give, begin.
T.K.G. : So supposing someone is in America; should they simply write to
directly to Kirtananda or Satsvarupa?
Prabhupada: Nearby, Jayatirtha can give.
T.K.G.: Jayatirtha.
Prabhupada: Bhagavan... Bhagavan and he can also do. Harikesa.
T.K.G.: Harikesa Maharaja.
Prabhupada: And, five six men, you divide who is nearest.
T.K.G.: Who is nearest. So persons wouldn't have to write to your Divine
Grace. They could write directly to that person?
Prabhupada: Hm.[yes]
T.K.G.: Actually they are initiating the person on your Divine Grace's behalf.
Those persons who are initiated are still your...
Prabhupada: Second initiation we shall think over; second initiation.
T.K.G.: This is for first initiation, okay. And for second initiation, for the
time being they should...
Prabhupada: No, they have to wait. Second initiation, that should be given...
T.K.G.: Should... Some devotees are writing you now for second initiation, and
I'm writing them to wait a while because you're
not well. So can I continue to tell them that?
Prabhupada: They can do second initiation.
T.K.G.: By writing you?
Prabhupada: No; these men.
T.K.G.: These men, they can also do second initiation. So there's no need for
the devotees to write to you for first and second initiation. They can write
to the man nearest them. But all these persons are still your disciples.
Anybody who gives initiation is doing so on your behalf.
Prabhupada: Yes.
T.K.G.: You know that book I'm maintaining of all of your disciples names?
Should I continue that?
Prabhupada: Hm..[yes]
T.K.G.: So if someone gives initiation, like Harikesa Maharaja, he should send
the person's name to us here and I'll enter it in the book. Okay. Is there
anybody else in India that you want to do this?
Prabhupada: India, I am here, we shall see. In India, Jayapataka.
T.K.G.: Jayapataka Maharaja.
Prabhupada: You are also in India.
T.K.G.: Yes.
Prabhupada: You can note down these names.
T.K.G. Yes, I have them.
Prabhupada: Who are they?
T.K.G.: Kirtanananda Maharaja, Satsvarupa Maharaja, Jayatirtha Prabhu,
Bhagavan Prabhu, Harikesa Maharaja, Jayapataka Maharaja, and Tamal Krishna
Prabhupada: That's nice. Now you distribute.
T.K.G.: Seven. There's seven names.
Prabhupada: For the time being, seven names, sufficient. You
can make Ramesvara.
T.K.G.: Ramesvara Maharaja.
Prabhupada: And Hrdayananda.
T.K.G. Oh, yeah. South America.
Prabhupada: So without waiting for me, wherever you consider
it is right... That will depend on discretion.
T.K.G.: On discretion.
Prabhupada: Yes.
T.K.G.: That's for first and second initiations.
Prabhupada: Hm [yes]
T.K.G.: Okay. Shall I send a kirtana party, Srila Prabhupada? (break)

Later on Hansadutta Maharaja was added and Tamal Krishna Maharaja drafted the
following letter:

Vrindaban July 9, 1977
To All G.B.C., and Temple Presidents
Dear Maharajas and Prabhus,
Please accept my humble obeisances at your feet. Recently when all of the
GBC members were with His Divine Grace in Vrndavana, Srila Prabhupada
indicated that soon He would appoint some of His senior disciples to act as
"ritvik-representative" of the acarya, for the purpose of performing
initiations, both first initiation and second initiation. His Divine Grace has
so far given
a list of eleven disciples who will act in that capacity:

His Holiness Kirtanananda Swami
His Holiness Satsvarupa dasa Gosvami
His Holiness Jayapataka Swami
His Holiness Tamala Krsna Gosvami
His Holiness Hrdayananda Gosvami
His Holiness Bhavananda Gosvami
His Holiness Hamsaduta Swami
His Holiness Ramesvara Swami
His Holiness Harikesa Swami
His Grace Bhagavan dasa Adhikari
His Grace Jayatirtha dasa Adhikari

In the past Temple Presidents have written to Srila Prabhupada
recommending a particular devotee's initiation. Now that Srila Prabhupada has
named these representatives, Temple Presidents may henceforward send
recommendation for first and second initiation to whichever of these eleven
representatives are nearest their temple. After considering the
recommendation, these representatives may accept the devotee as an initiated
disciple of Srila Prabhupada by giving a spiritual name, or in
the case of second initiation, by chanting on the Gayatri thread, just as
Srila Prabhupada has done. The newly initiated devotees are disciples of His
Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad, the above eleven senioe
devotees acting as his representative. After the Temple President receives a
letter from these representatives giving the spiritual name or
the thread, he can perform the fire yajna in the temple as was being done
before. The name of a newly initiated disciple should be sent by the
representative who has accepted him or her to Srila Prabhupada, to be included
in His Divine Grace's "Initiated Disciples" book.
Hoping this finds you all well.
Your servant,
Tamal Krsna Gosvami
Secretary to Srila Prabhupada

A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami

Prabhupada (Letter Signed by Srila Prabhupada)

I told some of the devotees what I heard about this and Yasodanandan wrote it down in his diary. On July 8th Yasodanandan Prabhu wrote, "Tamal Krishna Maharaja was talking about [with Prabhupada] rtvik gurus to initiate on behalf of Prabhupada after he leaves the planet." On July 9th Yasodanandan wrote, "I heard from Tamal Krishna Maharaja in the afternoon that Srila Prabhupada had told him to send a letter to 'all the temples' to explain the ritvik initiation system for the future." On July 10th Yasodanandan wrote, "Tamal Krishna Maharaja comes out of Prabhupada's room. TKG: "Haribol, Yasoda, did you see this?" Yasoda: "No, what is it?" TKG: "This is signed by Prabhupada." Yasoda: "What does all this mean?" TKG: "Devotees have been writing to Prabhupada asking for initiations and now Prabhupada has named eleven ritviks who can initiate on his behalf. Prabhupada said others can be added." Yasodanandan: "And when Prabhupada departs?" TKG: "They'll be ritviks. That's what Prabhupada said. It's all on tape."
(R.C.5-28-77 & 7-7-77etc.)

These arrangements were for after Srila Prabhupada's departure.

The next few days after the ritvic appointments I heard more instructions from Srila Prabhupada. Tamal K.G. asked him the next morning, July 8th, if there should be vyasasana's for the ritviks in the temples. Srila Prabhupada said, "No; that would create enmity among my disciples. You can make another room for that, but not in my temples." The way I understood it was that the ritviks could be shown respect and even worshipped privately; but the devotees guru would/will be Srila Prabhupada and they should offer their prayers and obeisances to him. The new devotees should continue to offer the prasadam to Srila Prabhupada with the standard mantras. Only Srila Prabhupada should be worshipped by all of the devotees in ISKCON.

Tamal K.G. also asked Srila Prabhupada if there could be more ritviks in the future. Srila Prabhupada said that more could be appointed by the GBC at Mayapura. Tamal K.G. asked Srila Prabhupada what to do if a ritvik falls down and Srila Prabhupada replied that the GBC could remove them. Srila Prabhupada said that his temples were for his worship only and if we become diksa gurus we should only accept worship in our own temples. That way the movement would be united under Srila Prabhupada. The new devotees are junior God-brothers and sisters and if we become a pure devotee, diksa guru, those initiates would be 'grand disciples' of Srila Prabhupada. But this will be rare and must be done outside of ISKCON. For ISKCON we are all Godbrothers and sisters, junior and senior. Of course all respect is to be given to the senior and all devotees. Srila Prabhupada wanted one big happy family built on love and trust. That's why he established the ritvik system with him in the center. That's why he spent days and nights writing the lawbooks for the next ten thousand years.

When I informed Yasodanandan about Srila Prabhupada's instructions Tamal K.G. called me into his office and said, "I told you never to say anything about what Prabhupada says to anybody without clearing it through me first! You'll never do anything for Prabhupada again!" He told me to 'get out.'

I was thunderstruck! He had the authority to 'fire me' and he did. I retreated to my room and lamented like anything. Upendra Prabhu came to see me and tried to encourage me. He said he was working on Tamal K.G. to try to get me back. They had tried out a couple of other devotees to do my services. The next day Upendra returned and said that the devotees were 'spacing out.' He said Tamal K.G. didn't realize how much service I was actually doing and they needed me back. I was going to get another chance. It was the one of the happiest days of my life! I relished my service even more and thought that the ritvik initiation system would be continued indefinitely.

After Srila Prabhupada actually left the planet and I noticed the first vyasasana's appear in the temple rooms I was shocked. I returned to Vrindavan in early 1978 and met Tamal K.G. in his room. I asked him why vyasasana's were being put in the temple rooms when we both heard Srila Prabhupada say not to. He asked me if I thought Srila Prabhupada could of said anything else after I had left. (I had to leave at the end of July 77 because my visa had expired.) I said I'm sure he could have but I don't know why he would have when he'd talked about the ritvik system for months before his departure. Tamal K.G. said, "Well he did, and if you don't believe me you can ask Kirtanananda Swami." I asked if there was a tape or letter to that effect and he responded by slamming his fist down on he desk and said, "I don't want to hear another word about this Gauridasa!" I retreated out of his room disappointed.

A few years later, on Dec. 3rd 1980, Tamal Krishna Maharaja told the real story at the Pyramid House inTopanga Canyon, California. Here are some key quotes: "Actually, Prabhupada never appointed any gurus. He appointed eleven ritviks. He never appointed them gurus. Myself and the other GBC have done the greatest disservice to this movement the last three years because we interpreted the appointment of ritviks as the appointment of gurus."... "You can't show me anything on tape or in writing where Prabhupada says, 'I appoint these 11 as gurus.' It doesn't exist because he never appointed any gurus. This is a myth."

My plea is to the GBC, to meet and study the final days of Srila Prabhupada in this regard. Now the movement is splintered with each of the 100+ guru's having a little group of his own. Vaisnava etiquette is lacking in most cases. Devotees that would of joined ISKCON are joining other groups. Intelligent people are rarely coming as before. Where are all of the 'stars' these days? The ritvik initiation system will bring more souls to the shelter of Srila Prabhupada and his Hare Krishna Movement. The ritvik initiation system will reunite Srila Prabhupada's family and make his temples a place where the whole world can live again!

Srila Prabhupada said we will show our love for him by how we cooperate after his departure. What can a bunch of splinter groups accomplish? If we do learn the art of cooperation and the ritvik initiation system gets reenacted it will be a great day in the history of ISKCON. The preaching mission will expand just like it did in 'the good old days' with Srila Prabhupada in the center as our common denominator. Sometimes it takes years and sometimes lifetimes to fulfill the order of the spiritual master. Better late than never! All glories to our Jagat Guru, the sakta-vesa avatar, Srila Prabhupada! He is still approachable through his teachings and he can and will deliver us all back to Godhead if we just take proper shelter. Let's give real peace a chance!

Gauridasa Pandita Dasa