Understanding Srila Prabhupada’s Ritvik Order

February 27, 2021 in Articles by Laksman dasa

Understanding Srila Prabhupada’s Ritvik Order
By Narasimha das
Many years ago, I was having a discussion with a senior disciple of Srila Prabhupada who had been living aloof from ISKCON for a long time. He was unaware of the reason for the major schism among Srila Prabhupada’s disciples.
I was first trying to explain that everyone in the world should accept Srila Prabhupada as the jagat-guru or the real acharya for all sane people in this age. I politely suggested that His order for the perpetual continuation of ritvik initations in ISKCON was meant to facilitate a united movement for spreading the benediction of Lord Chaitanya’s mission of saving all conditioned souls in this age.
He said, “Well, you seem to have a high realization of Srila Prabhupada, but not all are on that level. Other sincere devotees may not have such grandiose realizations.”
I then mentioned that Srila Prabhupada specifically ordered the continuation for ritvik initiations, even after His physical departure. This devotee then tried to suggest that others may have other interpretations of this order according to their own realizations.
I decided not to reply to him further on this topic. I later remembered that even many non-devotees and ordinary people who had contacted Srila Prabhupada immediately recognized, at least for a while, that He was self-effulgent and not at all an ordinary man. Considering this, I wondered why several of His leading disciples lost this understanding as soon as He left this world, or even before.
This discussion often arises: Why do many of Srila Prabhupada’s direct disciples reject His common-sense order for ritvik initiations? Some devotees suggest it is because–due to familiarity–they had come to see Him as an ordinary man. Others suggest it is because their realizations are not yet mature. Others say it is due to ignorance only. Others say it is due to jealousy or envy. Any or all these things may be true, but I feel the primary reason is given by Srila Prabhupada Himself in the following quotes:
“I have got this personal experience in my Guru Maharaj’s institution. Different Godbrothers took the words of Guru Maharaj in different interpretations for sense gratification and the whole mission [was] disrupted. This is still going on for the last 40 years without any proper settlement. I am always afraid of this crack, but I am sure if our aim is to serve Krishna sincerely and the Spiritual Master simultaneously, that will be our success. That means serve Krishna and the Spiritual Master simultaneously with equal faith and serious vow, and then success is sure. ” (Letter, Oct.18, 1969)
Srila Prabhupada often warned that personal motives among His leading disciples could ruin His mission. Due to personal motives for sense gratification people lose their intelligence by becoming lusty and greedy. There are no limits of sin or selfishness for those possessed by greed and false ambitions. They will commit any abominable action for their depraved ambitions. They may even kill their own children, parents, or spiritual master. This is the verdict of shastra.
For sincere or non-envious devotees, it is easy to conclude that Srila Prabhupada is the real acharya and jagat-guru for the golden age. He is self-effulgent. For devotees not yet pure, yet not envious, this conclusion will be the natural result of careful study without personal ambitions. Such devotees easily understand the beauty and bliss of Srila Prabhupada’s instructions for ritvik initiations.
Some points to consider:
A.) Throughout Srila Prabhupada’s books it is clearly enjoined that only a fully self-realized pure devotee who is specifically appointed by Krishna or the mahabhagavata acharya can become the bona fide spiritual master and impart diksha to new devotees. This was proven by the personal examples of many great devotees, such as Sri Gadadhara Pandit and Srila Gaura Kishora das Babaji, who did not agree to initiate their own disciples without a direct order from Lord Chaitanya or Lord Krishna. 
B.) When specifically asked how initiations would be continued after His disappearance, Srila Prabhupada replied, “I shall appoint some of you to act as representatives of the Acharya. Ritvik. Yes.”
C.) Srila Prabhupada gave many follow-up instructions, including an official signed document stating the same thing: ritvik initiations “henceforward.”
D.) The ritvik system was already functioning in ISKCON for many years prior. He simply sanctioned the GBC to manage it without His personal oversight. (Note: “Ritvik” is not a “vada” or philosophy. Rather it is a system of management and sadhana by which priests conduct Vedic rituals under the auspices of the self-realized Acharya.)
E.) Srila Prabhupada repeatedly insisted that nothing in ISKCON management or sadhana be changed. 
Srila Prabhupda: “The question may be raised that since the Lord is supposed to be worshiped by great demigods like Lord Brahmā, Lord Śiva and others, how can an ordinary human being on this planet serve Him? This is clearly explained by Pṛithu Mahārāja by the use of the word yathādhikāra, “according to one’s ability.” If one sincerely executes his occupational duty, that will be sufficient. One does not need to become like Lord Brahmā, Lord Śiva, Indra, Lord Chaitanya or Rāmānujācārya, whose capabilities are certainly far above ours. Even a śūdra, who is in the lowest stage of life according to the material qualities, can achieve the same success. Anyone can become successful in devotional service provided he displays no duplicity. It is explained here that one must be very frank and open-minded (amāyinaḥ). To be situated in a lower status of life is not a disqualification for success in devotional service. The only qualification is that whether one is a brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya or śūdra, he must be open, frank and free from reservations.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam : Canto 4: “The Creation of the Fourth Order” : SB 4.21: Instructions by Maharaja Prithu : SB-4.21.33 : PURPORT)
Unfortunately, immediately after Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance in November of 1977, polluted leading members of the GBC made illicit plans for occupying His post through duplicity and deceit. They avoided conducting “open and frank” discussions with senior Godbrothers conversant with Srila Prabhupada’s books. They “displayed duplicity” by not carefully consulting Srila Prabhupada directly through His books and instructions. They decided instead to go against Srila Prabhupada’s many direct instructions and warnings, for the sake of consulting a Gaudiya Matha sannyasi whom Srila Prabhupada had explained played a major part in the severe disruption of the Gaudiya Matha.
On the other hand, despite the GBC’s deceit and false propaganda, many sincere new devotees have understood that Srila Prabhupada is the real initiator and teacher for everyone is this age. For them, Srila Prabhupada’s order for the continuation of ritvik initiations is common sense.