Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Ritvik Acharya Imbroglio

What is a Ritvik? – Is ‘RTVIK’ an invented term?


Harinam Diksha Initiation Ceremony ISKCON Bangalore March 2011

It was a very emotional and historic day for all followers of Srila Prabhupada, as hundreds of them formally accepted him as their diksha guru. The formal diksha ceremony was held in Hare Krishna centres of Bangalore, Mysore, Hubli, Vrindavan and Chennai. The respective Presidents of the temples conducted the harinam diksha and second initiation ceremonies.

What is a Ritvik? – Is ‘RTVIK’ an invented term?

By: Mahotsaha Chaitanya Dasa

Presenting the role of the ‘Ritvik’ as intended by Srila Prabhupada!

In my current article which is a part of series on clarifying the various doubts and misconceptions about the system of initiation in ISKCON, I will try to present the role of the ‘Ritvik’ or ‘Officiating acharyas’ in ISKCON as intended by Srila Prabhupada. In the previous article, I tried to cover the significance of the term Ritvik and its proper meaning as given by Srila Prabhupada and used by various devotees under different contexts over the time in the history of ISKCON.

[PADA: Conditioned souls cannot give diksha in any case, thus Srila Prabhupada would have to remain in the post of diksha guru for ISKCON not matter what. That was our understanding all along from 1970. And that is what a growing number of people are now agreeing to.]

It was well established by all the evidences presented therein, that ‘Ritvik’ is not an invented term, rather it is a term referred to extensively in various Vaisnava scriptures and by Srila Prabhupada at different situations.
The term ‘Ritvik’ has been specifically used in the context of system of initiation in ISKCON by Srila Prabhupada for the first time in the famous ‘Appointment Tape’ of May 28, 1977. Although this is the first time we hear Srila Prabhupada using this term in the context, it appears that he had been referring to this system of initiation, with the ‘Ritviks’ in place after his physical departure, at various times with his personal secretary Tamal Krishna Goswami and others. It is obvious by the way Tamal Krishna Goswami uses the term ‘Ritvik Acharya’ very casually, as is it is a well-known word, and the way Srila Prabhupada responds saying “Ritvik, yes.”

[PADA: Right, first of all there are missing tapes from that era. Next, the existing tapes were hidden from the devotees and these tapes only published much later, in 1990, way after the 11 had promoted themselves as gurus and the damage had already been done. Next, people who were investigating these tapes and evidences were being banned, beaten and sometimes even assassinated, because there was a document cover-up going on.]

Soon after this conversation, the institutional directive about the system of initiations after Srila Prabhupada’s physical departure was sent forth by Srila Prabhupada’s secretary Tamal Krishna Goswami with the signed approval of Srila Prabhupada on July 9th 1977 to all the GBC and Temple Presidents. This letter formally put the ‘Ritvik system of initiation’ in place, from that day ‘henceforward’. It was clearly stated therein, that “The newly initiated devotees are disciples of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the above eleven senior devotees acting as His representative.”

[PADA: Correct, the July 9th letter says that the system of having people act as representatives and not as gurus would continue after he departed. Of course even our critics like Rocana das, Kailash chandra, many GBC followers, and folks like Wyatt are also acting as representatives and not as acharyas. They are following our system without admitting. Of course, as soon as some of us want to act as representatives, they attack us. Sorry, none of the GBC have been qualified to act as gurus, its that simple, they were only supposed to act as representatives. No one has shown any evidence that the 11 were ordered to act as acharyas. No one has shown even one person who is qualified to act as the successor and not as the representative. Sorry, all of us are at best, representatives, not successor acharyas.]

So, what exactly does Srila Prabhupada mean by ‘Ritviks’? Were they

1. just priests who perform the Vedic ritual of dishing out spiritual names to the candidates for initiation, or
2. were these ‘ritviks’ the apprentice diksa gurus who are acting as ritviks only until they are fully qualified, at which point they will initiate on their own behalf, after the physical departure of Srila Prabhupada?
Both these understandings of Ritvik is quite prevalent in the ISKCON circles, but are far from the correct meaning of ‘Ritvik’ as intended by Srila Prabhupada. Let us look at both the above assumptions as against the definition given by Srila Prabhupada.

1. When Srila Prabhupada set up the Ritvik system of initiation, he was quite clear about the gravity of the role of the individuals who would act as Ritviks on his behalf, to accept disciples for him, by officiating in the process. The post of ritvik is a very responsible position. Srila Prabhupada specifically chose 11 devotees who already had a proven track record of taking senior responsibility within his mission. He did not simply pull the names out of a hat. Thus, although for the most part their function would be fairly routine, they would also be the first to spot deviations from the strict standards necessary for initiation. Rather, as a policeman’s job is mostly routine since most citizens are law abiding, yet he will often be the first person to know when some misdemeanor is being committed. Srila Prabhupada would often express concern that initiation should only take place when a student has proven, for at least six months, that he can chant 16 rounds a day, follow the four regulative principles, read his books etc.

Should a Temple President start sending recommendations to a ritvik for students who were failing in one of these essential areas, the ritvik would have the power to refuse initiation. In this way, the ritvik would ensure that the standards within ISKCON remained the same as the day Srila Prabhupada left the planet. Thus the ‘Ritviks’ are certainly not mere functionary priests for conducting rituals, but this role was to be performed by senior experienced devotees in the movement as intended by Srila Prabhupada.

This also meant that as a senior devotee, a ritvik would himself have to be following strictly, and would hence be a qualified siksha guru. As a ‘Ritvik’ assigned by Srila Prabhupada, holding the responsibility to check the genuinity of candidates presenting for initiation, he also holds a potential relationship as a siksha guru to those candidates. Although, it is not necessary for a Ritvik to personally meet every initiate that is recommended by the Temple President, we can see no reason why a ritvik should not meet new initiates, and even perform the ceremony, if such an arrangement is agreeable at the local Temple level. Thus a Ritivk is not only officiating on behalf of Srila Prabhupada for initiation, but also acts as an instructing Spiritual Master/siksha guru to the younger devotees who join Srila Prabhupada mission, as the Ritvik is a senior devotee.

2. Let us examine the second common misunderstanding: Srila Prabhupada several times has mentioned, in his various literatures and teachings, (which I will not cover here for brevity), in order to take disciples one must be a fully authorized maha-bhagavata. Before Srila Prabhupada left, he put in place a system that made it illegal for anyone other than himself to initiate within ISKCON. Thus, there is no authorization for anyone, at any time in the future of ISKCON, to initiate on their own behalf, apart from Srila Prabhupada. Thus even if a ritvik, or anyone else for that matter, were to attain the level of maha-bhagavata, he would still need to follow the ritvik system if he wished to stay within ISKCON. We were given an order on July 9th, 1977, and it says nothing about the ritviks ever becoming diksa gurus. Hence, it is quite absurd to ever presume that those acting as ritviks can one day have disciples of their own in ISKCON, while there is no such written directive authorizing it.

This system of initiation set up by Srila Prabhupada in the July 9th 1977, is quite simple for the simple, but complicated for the complicated. Complicated, for those crooked minds that intend to take over the position of a maha-bhagavata and enjoy the rasa of accepting the surrender of innocent jivas who come to the shelter of Krishna by reading the transcendental literature of Srila Prabhupada.

Thus the current crop of self-appointed acharyas of ISKCON are not only taking their disciples to the royal roadway to hell, as substantiated by Srila Prabhupada in Sri Isopanisad, but they are also drinking the poison of Guru bhava, which is the last snare of illusory energy for a sadhaka within ISKCON. In ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada made it very sure by his emphatic preaching, that nobody can get victimized by the last snare of illusory energy which is the tempting proposal to become one with God (the famous Mayavadi philosophy), hence the illusory energy of Lord, Mayadevi has taken the role of creating the misconception of tempting one to become an Acharya-as good as Srila Prabhupada.

However, Srila Prabhupada being the vigilant commander-in-chief of ISKCON, has very well noted this attempt of Maya and hence given clear understanding of his intentions according to which ISKCON should function after his physically manifest presence. One only needs to be simple minded, and at sincere to take the straight-forward order of Srila Prabhupada and implement it and the success in spiritual life both individually and institutionally is guaranteed. This is well demonstrated in the functioning of Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON Bangalore since the time the devotees here accepted Srila Prabhupada as the sole Diksha guru. I am fortunate to be part of this glorious preaching mission and have felt the direct connection with Srila Prabhupada while under the able guidance of various senior devotees who act as my siksha gurus. I even received my initiation from Srila Prabhupada by this Ritvik system of initiation, with one of these senior devotees officiating on Srila Prabhupada’s behalf.

The success of ISKCON Bangalore and the spiritual contentment experienced by various devotees practicing this system here from the past few years stand testimony to the fact that this is not only a simple solution to all the prevailing problems in ISKCON worldwide, but also the system of initiations as intended by Srila Prabhupada.

In the next article (below), we will look at ‘What the Ritviks do?’ and ‘how they are selected?’ as per Srila Prabhupada’s intentions.

Is ‘RTVIK’ an invented term?

By: Mahotsaha Chaitanya Dasa

A common misconception answered about the ‘dirty word’ in ISKCON’s guru issue.

By In my previous article, I presented my case of becoming and staying a full-time devotee in ISKCON Bangalore, having been introduced to ISKCON Bangalore, only after Srila Prabhupada was alone accepted as the sole Diksha Guru in the temple. In my personal testimonial, the readers could clearly find how one can naturally develop a positive and loving relationship with Srila Prabhupada.

One can still receive inspiration from him and remain connected with the eternal Gaudiya Vaisnava parampara, by simply accepting and implementing the system set up according to the July 9th 1977 directive. Although it appears quite simple to do this, and solves all problems of ‘Guru issue’ clouding ISKCON today; some less-intelligent (read ill motivated) persons deliberately try to introduce incorrect understandings and introduce unnecessary doubts and objections against the simple system setup by Srila Prabhupada.
In this article, we will try to address one such misconception that is propagated with the usage of term ‘RTVIK’.

The Sanskrit word ‘RTVIK’ is used heavily by both the sides who debate on the Guru issue, but the very word used to describe the guru issue has been (and still is) misused and misunderstood by nearly everyone. For the last three and a half decades, the GBC of self-appointed acharyas has led a very harsh and negative propaganda against what they defined as the ‘RTVIK system of initiations.’ ‘Rtvik’ word has been painted as a newly invented term to suit those who simply don’t want to accept the established norms of GBC on the issue. The result is the Sanskrit word, which invokes respect and honor, has been ‘demonized’. However, the word ‘RTVIK’ is found and used in Srila Prabhupada’s books and Vedic scriptures in an honorable and positive way. If we don’t properly understand the very word used on the topic, then how can we even begin to understand the very issue it has come to represent?

One common misconception spread by the party of self-appointed acharyas of ISKCON GBC is that ‘RTVIK’ is an invented term purportedly by his personal secretary at that time, HH Tamal Krishna Goswami(TKG), first during the May 28th 1977 conversation, famously called ‘The appointment tape’ and then in the July 9th 1977 directive to the institutional heads of ISKCON. But the fact is that this word and its derivatives has been used extensively in Srimad Bhagavatam(numbering precisely 31-refer to box below for references), and used by Srila Prabhupada with respect to the system of initiations he wished to have, when he was no longer physically present.

• Ritvik : 4.6.1 / 4.7.16 / 5.3.2 / 5.3.3 / 5.4.17 / 7.3.20 / 8.20.22 / 9.1.15
• Rtvijah : 4.5.7 / 4.5.18 / 4.7.27 / 4.7.45 / 4.13.26 / 4.19.27 / 4.19.29 / 5.3.4 / 5.3.15 / 5.3.18 / 5.7.5 8.16.53 / 8.18.21 /8.18.22 / 9.4.23 / 9.6.3
• Rtvijam : 4.6.52 / 4.21.5 / 8.23.13 / 9.13.1
• Rtvigbhyah : 8.16.55
• Rtvigbhih : 4.7.56 / 9.13.3

The word ‘RTVIK’ specifically means as translated by Srila Prabhupada in Srimad-Bhagavatam (8.16.53) as “the priests recommended by the spiritual master”.

Since we are discussing ‘RTVIK’ in context of the Guru issue it is relevant to understand its contextual meaning as intended by Srila Prabhupada. Rtviks are defined as the deputed priests of the spiritual master. They preside over a Vedic ritual meant for the worship of Lord Visnu (visnu-aradhana). The initiation ritual observed in ISKCON is a standard Vedic ceremony, and it may be performed by rtviks, who officiate on behalf of the Acarya. This understanding and practice was clearly established by Srila Prabhupada personally, and there should be no controversy regarding the definition or function of the rtvik priest.

The new initiates offer dakshina and service to the mission of the guru, and the priests may also receive some token honor or reward for their services, according to Vedic custom. (In ISKCON Srila Prabhupada would either receive the guru dakshina personally and use it for a global ISKCON project or for his traveling expenses, or he would give money to the BBT or some other important or needy branch of his preaching mission. He never said that priests representing ISKCON should receive money or expensive gifts for their services.

Nor did he say they should assume positions of absolute authority and accept worship as gurus.) lthough the word ‘RTVIK’ as such appears for the first time from TKG in the May 28th 1977 conversation (The appointment tape: Please find the relevant part of the conversation in the BOX) in context of Guru issue, it is quite evident by the way he refers to the term as if obvious, that Srila Prabhupada has referred to the word many times in context of the system of initiations in ISKCON,he intended for the time when he would no longer be physically present.

Satsvarupa dasa Goswami: Then our next question concerns initiations in the future,particularly at that time when you are no longer with us. We want to know how first and second initiation(s) would be conducted.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. I shall recommend some of you. After this is settled up I shall recommend some of you to act as officiating acarya(s).
Tamal Krsna Goswami: Is that called ritvik acarya?
Srila Prabhupada: Ritvik. Yes. (Yes, ritviks)

The way TKG refers to the word and the way Srila Prabhupada replies in affirmative very much suggests that it was a familiar word to both of them at least as it would have been referred to in previous unrecorded conversations or other means of communication such as letters etc. The meaning that is evident in the above conversation is very much that ‘RTVIK’ means ‘officiating acharya’ who performs the ceremony of initiation on behalf of Srila Prabhupada, which was later put into writing in the July 9th 1977 directive.

Furthermore, the use of word ‘Rtvik’ is continued by TKG in his correspondence with the other GBC members during that time in his letters as the personal secretary of Srila Prabhupada as shown in the box:
July 10th – (Tamal Krsna Gosvami [TKG] quotes Srila Prabhupada in letter to Hansadutta Swami): “I have selected you among eleven men as “rittvik” or representative of the acharya, to give initiations, both first and second initiation, on my behalf.”

“Srila Prabhupada has appointed thus far eleven representatives who will initiate new devotees on His behalf.” (TKG’s letter to Kirtanananda, July 11, 1977)

July 12th- (TKG to Sucandra and Avinas Chandra and Harikesa Swami): “[handwritten] P.S. Information on the process for conducting initiations is contained] in a letter already sent to Ramesvara for xeroxing. Prabhupada] has named 11 persons, including] yourself, to act as ‘rittik’, H[is] representatives for initiating.”

July 19th: “Make your own field and continue to become ritvik and act on my charge.”

July 31st: (TKG quotes SP in letter to Hansadutta): “Make your own field and continue to become rittvic and act on my behalf.’” [letter to Hansadutta, dated July 31, 1977]

TKG further uses the word ‘RTVIK’ and confirms the meaning intended by Srila Prabhupada in his Topanga Canyon admission when he said that there would be more ritviks added later in the future:

“Later on there was a piled up list of people to get initiated, and it was jammed up. I said, ‘Srila Prabhupada, you once mentioned about ritviks. [...] Srila Prabhupada said, ‘All right, I will appoint so many…’ and he started to name them. He made it very clear that they are his disciples. [...] I asked him two questions, one: ‘What about Brahmananda Swami?’. I asked him this because I happened to have an affection for Brahmananda Swami. [...] Srila Prabhupada said, ‘No, not unless he is qualified’. [...]Before I got ready to type the letter, I asked him, two: ‘Srila Prabhupada is this all or do you want to add more?’. He said, ‘As is necessary, others may be added.’” (TKG, December 3rd, 1980)

There is the documented evidence of the diary of Yasodanandana das, with its original entries made directly after conversations with TKG. This diary quotes the secretary, Tamal, to say, (after departure) “they’ll be ritviks, its all on tape.”

Another diary entry records how Gauridas Pandit das heard Srila Prabhupada say, “Tomorrow I will I will announce some ritvik acharyas who will initiate disciples on my behalf when I leave the planet.” Thus we see that Srila Prabhupada and other Vaisnavas used the term ‘ritvik’ many times, yet it is simply amazing how the GBC of self-appointed acharyas has banned this term, ‘ritvik,’ somehow thinking this prohibition pleases Lord Krishna and Srila Prabhupada and their many godbrothers, and the Vaisnavas, even though our founder acharya, Srila Prabhupada, used it to implement a system of initiations after “he is no longer with us.” It has also demonized any devotees professing to follow this system of initiation or advocating it.

In the next article we will try to understand what are the various incorrect meanings pasted on to the word ‘RTVIK’ currently in ISKCON and what was the actual intended rolepf ‘RTVIK’ as set up by Srila Prabhupada, in detail.


Re-posted from: Why the Ritvik System is bonafide!

Ritviks are the priests authorized by the spiritual master or his institution to accept students on behalf of ISKCON and Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada made this perfectly clear. This understanding of the procedure Prabhupada prescribed is consistent with references to ritviks mentioned in Srila Prabhupada’s books.

Often devotees opposed to Srila Prabhupada’s ritvik-system for initiations deliberately use the term “ritvik-vada” for the negative connotation this seems to imply. (For instance, the ideas of the sunyavadas, mayavadas, and advaitavadas are condemned by Vaisnava acaryas.) In truth, the term “vada” has no negative conotation. It refers to a philosophical system. There exists no such philosophy as “ritvik-vada”. Acceptance of a specific procedure for conducting a Vedic ritual in no way constitutes a “vada”, or philosophical system. If someone insists on calling ritvik a “vada”, he could use a more fitting term, such as “Prabhupada-vada.” Devotees of the “ritvik camp” believe that all of Srila Prabhupada’s orders are perfect and should be accepted as such by those who claim to be his disciples — particularly those who are leaders in ISKCON.

The attempt of IskCon bogus GBC gurus to degrade the transcendental Vedic term “rtvijah” or “ritvik” to a derogatory word is one more example of offenses that have entered iskcon due to neglecting Srila Prabhupada’s instructions in this regard. In Vedic culture, a ritvik is an exalted priest. Such priests were often respected as gurus, yet they never pretended to be as good as Lord Hari. By the order of the Acarya, the rtvijah recites the mantras that request the presence of Lord Visnu in the fire of Vedic sacrifice (agni-hotra), and he then makes offerings to the Supreme Lord according to Vedic sastra. The rtvijah performs an exalted function. He is a pure brahmin or Vaisnava who is never concerned about the political correctness or convenience of his stance.

Offensive GBC Resolution against Srila Prabhupada:

Iskcon GBC Resolution 304 states: “Whereas the doctrine that Srila Prabhupada desired to continue to act as diksa-guru after his departure from this world, and did not desire any of his disciples to give diksa, or initiation, in succession after him is an errant philosophical deviation (known as ritvikism); and Whereas ritvikism directly contradicts the principle of parampara.
Srila Prabhupada:  “I have selected you among eleven men as ‘rittvik‘ or representative of the acharya, to give initiations, both first and second initiation, on my behalf.” (July 10th)
“…the process for initiation to be followed in the future.” (July 11th)
“…continue to become ritvik and act on my charge.” (July 19th)
“…continue to become ritvik and act on my behalf.” (July 31th)

In these documents we find words such as “continue” and “future” which along with the word “henceforward” all point to the permanency of the ritvik system. There is no statement from Srila Prabhupada that even hints that this system was to terminate on his departure.
Above GBC statement is a direct blasphemy against Srila Prabhupada, for which the GBC collectively will receive their karma und be punished for sure.

SB 9.1.15 adhvaryuna–by the rtvik priest;
SB 4.5.7   rtvijah–the priests;
SB 4.5.18 rtvijah–the priests
SB 4.6.52 rtvijam–of the priests;
SB 4.7.16 rtvik–the priests;
SB 4.7.27 rtvijah–the priests;
SB 4.7.45 rtvijah–the priests;
SB 4.7.56 rtvigbhih–with the priests;
SB 4.13.26 rtvijah–the priests;

Srila Prabhupada’s letter July 9th, 1977: 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.

[PADA: At the same time Srila Prabhupada complains he is being poisoned. Highly unlikely he had appointed them as his successors, otherwise, what was their motive for making him complain of being poisoned? What many believe now: He had not ordered them to be gurus, they were ambitious, they "took him out" so they could hi-jack his seat. Then they hid documents, orchestrated banning and killing dissenters, and sat in the seat by goonda powers, not spiritual powers. Whether people like it or not, that is the way history will record this, and is already recording it. ys pd]


  1. Thank God isKcon goo roos and their reps ( God bless them ) are not out on the streets daily here in old Toronto. Excellent article.

  2. These GBC people are not even qualified to run a tea shop at the Calcutta train station, never mind be ritviks. Ritviks are bona fide, they aren't.

  3. Guru means heavy with knowledge. Many kinds of false gurus are advertised today, such as a sex guru, a guru of weight lifting, the guru of coffee making, whatever. In the same way ritvik when used as the term priest is a word, but to use it as the word guru is a misnomer.

  4. OK Wyatt, show us what was ordered, and where it is being followed? Madhavacarya says criticizing the opponent without proving the right idea is a false argument. You have to show us chapter and verse what was ordered, and where that order is being applied. We already know what you object to, but we have no idea what is your alternate idea? Just tell us what you think is the proper process, you never do. We are doing the wrong thing, but you never tell us what is the right thing, that means, you do not know what is the right thing? Or what? Why do you never tell us what was ordered and where that is being applied? This is neti neti, not this, not this, its mayavada. How come you never tell us what was the order? ys pd

  5. Wyatt follows Rocana. Srila Prabhupada is not the diksha guru, but cannot say who is the diksha guru because PADA exposed their diksha gurus already. Good job PADA. They cant say the name of their diksha guru, because they are already exposed.

  6. Yes Wyatt types do not get it. Every where in the Vedas it says we have to accept a pure devotee as our guru, These people are not reading the books at all, or they would know that already. Its does not say anything else, there is no "plan b," that is the only recourse, and that is what we see all over the Vedas. They think there is another option, there is none mentioned, it does not exist. ys pd


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