(right) Srila Prabhupad with Rupanuga das and the other original members of the Bhaktivedanta Institute, surrounded by the New Hastinipur devotees and guests. The devotee standing behind Rupanuga das is Brsakapi Prabhu, the temple president. Seated L. to R., Swarup Damodar das Brahmachari and Sadaputa das Adhikary, with Madhava das Brahmachari far right. July, 1976.

Ritvik Reality

Ritvik Reality
“I Stop for the Time Being”    

On July 9, 1977 Srila Prabhupada issues a letter to all GBC and Temple Presidents, naming eleven disciples to “act as ritvik—representatives of the acarya, for the purpose of performing initiations, both first initiation and second initiation.”  And further, “Now that Srila Prabhupada has named these representatives, Temple Presidents may henceforward send recommendations for first and second initiation to whichever of these eleven representatives are nearest their Temple.”  Also, “The newly initiated devotees are disciples of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivendanta Swami Prabhupada.”

Although the letter does not specifically indicate that the ritvik initiations are to go on in the future after Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance, a number of his disciples assert that the word “henceforward” means that Srila Prabhupada wanted ritvik initiations to go on in perpetuity.  In other words, Srila Prabhupada meant that after his disappearance, none of his disciples would be authorized to accept their own direct disciples, but that all initiations were to be performed in his name or on his behalf.  Their ultimate proof of this is his use of the word “henceforward” in the letter.

Devotees who oppose this proposition say it contradicts the system of disciplic succession taught by Srila Prabhupada in books and lectures as well as the historical standards of the sampradaya, etc. Everyone is more or less trying to prove what Srila Prabhupada really meant by the word “henceforward,”  and the debate has been going on for years, with opponents citing the same guru, sadhu, sastra.

Both parties are fixed in their positions.  Now who will decide?  It would appear that only Srila Prabhupada himself could do it.  Certainly no one can know or explain Srila Prabhupada’s intention better than he himself.  And everyone already knows the dynamics of disciplic succession as described in Srila Prabhupada’s books.  So the question must be raised: Does Srila Prabhupada himself say anything further about what he intended in that letter?

Yes, he does.  On October 18, 1977, several months after the July 9th letter in question, and just a matter of weeks before his disappearance, Srila Prabhupada indicates what his intentions were for introducing ritvik initiations.  To reiterate, the word “henceforward” per se can be interpreted, but intended meaning can be best explained by the author himself, Srila Prabhupada.  No one can deny this point.

The October 18th 1977 conversation takes place in Vrindaban.  A Bengali gentleman has come from New York seeking initiation from Srila Prabhupada.  But Srila Prabhupada has already deputed his ritvik acaryas and he thinks Jayapataka should do the initiation.  The following is a transcription, in sequence, of the relevant part of the ensuing discussion:

Bhagavan:  It (Jayapataka’s name) is already on there, Srila Prabhupada.  His name was on that list.

Srila Prabhupada:  So. I depute him to do this at Mayapur and you may go with him.  I stop for the time being.  Is that alright?

Tamal Krsna: Stopped doing what, Srila Prabhupada?

Srila Prabhupada: This initiation. I have deputed my disciples. Is it clear or not?

Tamal Krsna: It is clear.

Srila Prabhupada:   And if by Krsna’s grace I recover from this condition, then I shall begin again, or I may not be pressed in this condition to initiate.  It is not good.

The key sentences here are not the ones containing the word “depute,” but rather the following:  “I stop for the time being,”  “And if by Krsna’s grace I recover from this condition, then I shall begin again.”  “I stop for the time being” indicates that the ritvik appointments made three months earlier were necessary due to Srila Prabhupada’s condition, but he considered them temporary—to last until his own initiations could begin again.  In other words, “for the time being” indicates Srila Prabhupada’s expectation of taking up initiations again in due course.  “And if by Krsna’s grace I recover from this condition, then I shall begin again,” indicates his hopeful intention to take up initiation duties again in the future.  The phrase “begin again” also refers to the way Srila Prabhupada was doing initiations previous to his appointment of the ritvik representatives.  Srila Prabhupada created a grand global arrangement for, in effect, biding time. Why?  Because, as Srila Prabhupada himself explained, “I may not be pressed in this condition to initiate.  It is not good.”

The reasonable conclusion to all this is straightforward when based upon Srila Prabhupada’s declared intentions: he wished to return to his duties as initiating spiritual master as soon as he could, which means that the word “henceforward” was equivalent to “for the foreseeable future” and “until further notice.”  Therefore, there is no evidence that Srila Prabhupada intended to introduce the July 9th letter as a permanent procedure for continuing his disciplic succession.  That parampara procedure had already been explained in his books.

After all is said and done, this conversation, taking place only a few weeks before his untimely disappearance, leaves one with a heavy heart when contemplating just how much Srila Prabhupada wanted to go on preaching and translating.  Jaya Srila Prabhupada!  Srila Prabhupada ki jaya . . .