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- The Validity Of Srila Prabhupada's Ritvik System -

Srila Prabhupada initiates his German disciples in Schloss Retterhof near Frankfurt 1974
Srila Prabhupada initiates his German disciples in 'Schloss Rettershof' near Frankfurt 1974

The Validity Of Srila Prabhupada's Ritvik System
By Sattvic Das

Recently a devotee objected to the validity of the Ritvik system based on the following contentions:

1) SP would introduce a totally new system to the parampara, and

2) if somehow Krishna wanted this introduced, then SP surely would have given us extensive instructions on how to do it and what it means. He did neither.

This is my reply:

Dear prabhu. Hare Krishna. By your own logic Srila Bhaktisiddhanta also introduced something 'New" in the Parampara.

1) He asked his disciples to form a GBC, something that no other Acharya in our parampara has ever done and

2) He did not ask any of his disciples to intiate but to work under the direction of the GBC and wait for the "Self-effulgent" Acharya to manifest.

Both these ideas were totally unprecedented and therefore were not accepted by his disciples, albeit for the same reason the GBC did not accept Srila Prabhupada's order on intitations. (Not traditional). They (the disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta disobeyed his order and created chaos in the Institution.

The Gaudiya Math broke into many factions and each disciple became an acharya thus disintegrating the Institution he worked so hard to build.

Srila Prabhupada did the same. He formed a GBC and did not ask any of his disciples to initiate but to act on his behalf. These are the facts.

Introduction of different means to carry on the work of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the prerogative of the Acharya. The Acharya, being a Nitya Siddha, is in direct contact with the Lord and they receive instructions and are thereby authorized by the Lord to accept way and means by which the Parampara is maintained. They make tradition as the meaning of tradition is a time-honored practice or set of such practices which starts at some point, a custom to be carried on through generations or until some other tradition is created.

There is no change in the principle of the Parampara but the details differ from one Acharya to the next. Srila Prabhupada did give us extensive instructions especially when the GBC asked for guidance on what to do about initiations 'especially at a time when he was no longer with us'. He sent a document to all the officers of his Institution directing them to follow the system of initiations he adopted for his Institution. How more extensive instructions do we need to convince us that Srila Prabhupada, knowing he was about to leave this miserable world, did in fact establish the system of initiations to be carried on until Sri Krishna makes arrangements for carrying on the Parampara?

When did we question Srila Prabhupada about whether what he introduced in Iskcon was indeed "traditional"? Can you imagine what he would have said to such an audacious fool?

Yet, on this count (Ritvik initiations) the GBC decided to question the validity of the order and rejected it because it is not traditional.

Was chanting 16 rounds traditional?
Was giving brahmana initiation to westeners traditional?
Was giving brahmana to women traditional?
Was allowing women to worship the deities in the temple traditional? The list goes on and on.

There is no plausible reason not to follow the order of the spiritual master because "It is not traditional".

The repercussions of the offense committed are there for everyone to see. The Hinduization of Iskcon, the continuous falldown of anointed gurus by a disobedient GBC, The fragmentation of Iskcon into feudalism. Gurus having their own separate Institutions, The Gopi bhava club and..... where do we stop?

Your servant
Sattvic Das

Srila Prabhupada's Letter to Rupanuga 4/28/74

"In the latter days of my Guru Maharaja he was very disgusted. Actually, he left this world earlier, otherwise he would have continued to live for more years. Still he requested his disciples to form a strong Governing body for preaching the cult of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He never recommended anyone to be acarya of the Gaudiya Math. But Sridhara Maharaja is responsible for disobeying this order of Guru Maharaja, and he and others who are already dead unnecessarily thought that there must be one acarya. If Guru Maharaja could have seen someone who was qualified at that time to be acarya he would have mentioned. Because on the night before he passed away he talked of so many things, but never mentioned an acarya. His idea was talked of so many things, but never mentioned an acarya. His idea was acarya was not to be nominated amongst the governing body. He said openly you make a GBC and conduct the mission. So his idea was amongst the members of GBC who would come out successful and self effulgent acarya would be automatically selected. So Sridhara Maharaja and his two associate gentlemen unauthorizedly selected one acarya and later it proved a failure. The result is now everyone is claiming to be acarya even though they may be kanistha adhikari with no ability to preach. In some of the camps the acarya is being changed three times a year.

Therefore we may not commit the same mistake in our ISKCON camp. Actually amongst my Godbrothers no one is qualified to become acarya. So it is better not to mix with my Godbrothers very intimately because instead of inspiring our students and disciples they may sometimes pollute them. This attempt was made previously by them, especially Madhava Maharaja and Tirtha Maharaja and Bon Maharaja but somehow or other I saved the situation. This is going on. We shall be very careful about them and not mix with them. This is my instruction to you all. They cannot help us in our movement, but they are very competent to harm our natural progress. So we must be very careful about them."


Bhaktivinode Thakura writes: "Devotees of the Supreme Lord are not controlled by the scriptures since their activities are congenial to Divine Wisdom. When self-realized devotees ordain any new arrangement, this should be accepted as religious code, even if such new arrangements are not found in the scriptural dictums of the previous sages." (Sri Tattva- Sutra) .

NOTE: Paramahamsa Vaisnava acaryas are always transcendental to tradition:  

"No. Tradition, religion--they are all material. They are also all designation." (SP Conv., March 13, 1975)

Our only tradition is how to satisfy Vishnu." (SP Lecture, July 30, 1973)

“Every acarya has a specific means of propagating his spiritual movement with the aim of bringing men to Krishna consciousness. Therefore, the method of one acarya may be different from that of another, but the ultimate goal is never neglected.” ( Caitanya-caritamrta purports Adi 7.37)

“Except for God, no one can establish the principles of religion. Either He or a suitable person empowered by Him can dictate the codes of religion.” (purport, Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.3.43)

Myth: “It cannot be the case that Srila Prabhupada intended to operate a representational ( ritvik)  system of initiation within ISKCON, in which he remained the diksa guru indefinitely, since it goes completely against tradition.”

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, “Both the Supreme Personality of Godhead and My spiritual master, Isvara Puri, are completely independent. Therefore neither the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead nor that of Isvara Puri is subject to any Vedic rules or regulations.” (CC Madhya 10.137)

BUSTED: Srila Prabhupada most certainly did set up a representative of acarya system, even the GBC admit as much, and there is no evidence he ever ordered it to stop. Srila Prabhupada never taught that a disciple can stop following one of his orders just because he thinks it may not be ‘traditional’. In relation to the Spiritual Master, the ‘tradition’ we follow is to accept him as Krishna’s representative and then do whatever he says:

“According to the Vaishnava tradition, we arrive at the truth through the guru, the spiritual master, who is accepted as the representative of the Absolute Truth, the Personality of Godhead.”
(TQE = The Quest for Enlightenment 6)

“Disciple means there is no argument. Whatever the guru will say, you have to accept. That is disciple. That is final. There is no argument.” (Srila Prabhupada conversation 28.6.76)

The validity of Srila Prabhupada's Ritvik system

It is amazing how self-motivated devotees and false IskCon gurus try to objected to the validity of Srila Prabhupada's Ritvik system which is outlined in Srila Prabhupadas Letter of July 9th 1977 and discussed in the May 28th conversations.

This is the last written instruction we have on initiations. It is a very important letter that all members of ISKCON should be familiar with, regardless of your position. It was adressed to All G.B.C., and Temple Presidents. This is where the first eleven names originated, and how initiations were to be carried out.

This letter was based on the equally important May 28th Conversation between the GBC and Srila Prabhupada, as regards to how initiations in the future, will go on, particularly at that time when Srila Prabhupada is no longer with us.

It is essential for devotees to understand that all ISKCON members are first and foremost followers of Srila Prabhupada and that it is by his blessings that we advance in Krishna consciousness. The eternal spiritual master is a resident of Vaikuntha and is our ever well-wisher. It is he who is preparing a place for us in the spiritual world.

Srila Prabhupada’s intentions with regard to how initiations should be conducted in his physical absence was clearly stated in the May 28th, 1977 discussion with the GBC:


Srila Prabhupada’s direct Ritvik Acarya appointment May 28, 1977 ISKCON Governing Board Commission (GBC) meeting.
Notes enclosed in [ ]

Satsvarupa: By the votes of the present GBC. Then 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 initiation would be conducted.

Prabhupada: Yes. I shall recommend some of you. After this is settled up, I shall recommend some of you to act as officiating acaryas.

[Srila Prabhupada clearly did not state "diksa-guru" nor "acarya" which is a direct repudiation of the successor diksa-guru accepting their own disciples senario in ISKCON.]

Tamala Krsna: Is that called ritvik-acarya?

Prabhupada: Ritvik, yes.

[Srila Prabhupada equates "officiating acarya" with "ritvik" which is the second direct repudiation of the successor diksa-guru senario in ISKCON.]

Satsvarupa: Then what is the relationship of that person who gives the initiation and the…

Prabhupada: He’s guru. He’s guru.

Satsvarupa: But he does it on your behalf.

Prabhupada: Yes. That is formality. Because in my presence one should not become guru, so on my behalf, on my order… Amara ajnaya guru haia. Be actually guru, but by my order.

[This is the third direct repudiation of Srila Prabhupada's disciples accepting their own disciples in ISKCON.]

Satsvarupa: So they may also be considered your disciples.

Prabhupada: Yes, they are disciples. Why consider? Who?

[This is the fourth direct repudiation of the successor diksa-guru senario in reply to Satsvarupa's question.]

Tamala Krsna: No, he’s asking that these ritvik-acaryas, they’re officiating, giving diksa. Their… The people who they give diksa to, whose disciple are they?

[Here Srila Prabhupada ends his conversation with Satvarupa and replies to Tamal's misunderstanding. Tamal's misunderstanding is clearly evident as he repeats Satvarupa's same question which was already clearly answered by Srila Prabhupada. Further, Tamal's misunderstanding is clear in his saying that ritviks and officiating acaryas give diksa which they clearly don't, as they merely are representing the uttama-adhikari diksa-guru. Tamal's misconception of "diksa" and "diksa-guru" is that both diksa-guru and disciple must be physically present for diksa which clearly contradicts Srila Prabhupada's teachings as i pointed out later .]

Prabhupada: They’re his disciple.

Tamala Krsna: They’re his disciple.

Prabhupada: Who is initiating. He is grand disciple.

Satsvarupa: Yes.

Tamala Krsna: That’s clear.

[Here Tamal draws his own conclusion and foolishly accepts only the sentence ("There're his disciple.") which he likes or understands. He ignores Srila Prabhupada's clear answers to Satvarupa's previous questions which repudiated the "disciples accepting their own disciples" senario in ISKCON four times and thus Tamal misses Prabhupada's concluding statement as follows.]

Satsvarupa: Then we have a question concer…

Prabhupada: When I order, "You become guru," he becomes regular guru. That’s all. He becomes disciple of my disciple. That’s it.

[Here Srila Prabhupada clearly concludes his reply to Tamal and says that his disciples can become regular guru and accept their own disciples only when he orders them to. This clearly indicates that he did not yet give the specific order for his disciples to become regular  gurus and accept their own disciples in ISKCON in this meeting.

He already repeatedly confirmed this fact with his prior repudiation (four times) in reply to Satsvarupa's original question on what the GBC were to do for 1st and 2nd initiations "WHEN  WHEN WHEN when you no longer are with us" as already pointed out. So it is inconceivable that he changes his mind in replying to what is essentially the same question from Tamal vis-a vis, "Whose disciples are they?".

Tamal's misunderstanding of this crucial meeting was later confirmed in the 1980 Topanga Canyon guru meeting detailed in subsection Unfortunately as secretary, his deviation was also written into the minutes of the May 28, 1977 meeting.

The May 28 audio conversation of Srila Prabhupada

Tamal Krishna: "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 for the last three years because we interpreted the appointment of ritviks as the appointment of gurus. [...] 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. At that point it was very clear in my mind that he were his disciples. [...] You cannot show me anything on tape or in writing were Prabhupada says: 'I appoint these eleven as gurus' it does not exist. Because he never appointed any gurus. This is a myth." (Tamala Krishna Goswami: Pyramid House Confession December 3rd 1980)

How stupid people can be not to understand? Satsvarupa questions: "...initiations in the future, particularly at that time when you’re no longer with us. Srila Prabhupada answers to the question: (in the future, particularly at that time when I am no longer with you) I shall recommend some of you to act as officiating acaryas. Tamal Krishna confirms this by asking: is this called ritvik-acarya? whereupon Srila Prabhupada replies: Ritvik, yes.

So it clearly states: in the future, particularly at that time when Srila Prabhupada is no longer with us, he will recommend some to act as officiating acaryas, to act as ritvik representative of the acarya, for the purpose of performing initiations (on HIS behalf). The newly initiated devotees are disciples of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. 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. (Letter to: All G.B.C., All Temple Presidents)


Srila Prabhupada’s specific instructions for carrying out initiations in Iskcon after his physical disappearance as asked directly of him by his Governing Board Commissioners on May 28, 1977 was that he would soon recommend some of his disciples to act as officiating acaryas or ritviks representatives. In the following week on June 4, 1977 he wrote in his will that Iskcon directors would have to be his duly initiated disciples. This also confirms his no change “henceforward” order sent to all GBCs and temple presidents the following month (July 9, 1977) proclaiming his 11 chosen ritvik representatives that would initiate future disciples on his behalf even after his physical disappearance. These three seperate instructions are Srila Prabhupada’s actual replies to the direct question from his GBC disciples in charge of ISKCON management on how they should carry on initiations. Over the next 4 months until his physical disappearance, Srila Prabhupada never changed these orders either written or spoken.

•   He would appoint some of His senior disciples to act as ritvik - representative of the acarya,
•   the above eleven senior devotees acting as His (Prabhupadas) representative.
•   The newly initiated devotees are disciples of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad,
•   The name of a newly initiated disciple should be included in His Divine Grace's "Initiated Disciples" book.
•   "...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)

aSrila Prabhupada gives initiation, accepting disciples

The Ritvik System Is Bona fide

Feb 22, UK (SUN) — Balavidya Prabhu in his article "Questions for Madhu Pandit dasa" seems unable/unwilling to grasp the Ritvik System. Perhaps the following will help.

As he put it, "Is the "rtvik" system bona fide?" Yes - it is bona fide. As can be seen, only the formalities of initiation - ceremonies 1st and 2nd initiation have changed, as this is offered on behalf of Srila Prabhupada by Ritviks (Officiating Acaryas/Representatives of Acarya). This in confirmation with 9th July 1977 Order. Diksa given to the Madhyama has NOT changed." The formalities may be slightly changed here and there to make them Vaisnavas.

    Srimad Bhagavatam 4.8.54 Purport - Dhruva Maharaja Leaves Home for the Forest: "Those who are not actually in the line of acaryas, or who personally have no knowledge of how to act in the role of acarya, unnecessarily criticize the activities of the ISKCON movement in countries outside of India. The fact is that such critics cannot do anything personally to spread Krsna consciousness. If someone does go and preach, taking all risks and allowing all considerations for time and place, it might be that there are changes in the manner of worship, but that is not at all faulty according to sastra. Srimad Viraraghava Acarya, an acarya in the disciplic succession of the Ramanuja-sampradaya, has remarked in his commentary that candalas, or conditioned souls who are born in lower than sudra families, can also be initiated according to circumstances. The formalities may be slightly changed here and there to make them Vaisnavas."

Please also refer to the following articles:

Who in Iskcon went to Srila Prabhupada in 1972 and 1977 and said, "Srila Prabhupada, you cannot create a rtvik system, it is not found in shastra?" was it Rupanuga dasa? Gaura Keshava? Basu Ghosh? Sankarsana dasa Adhikari? Ravindra Svarupa? damana? JPS, HKS, EIEIO? who?

No one in ISKCON can answer this because no one would ever DARE to go and approach Srila Prabhupada and ask him this question. They all the accepted that whatever he did was bona fide.

During his manifested physical presence they all accepted that it was a bona fide arrangement and they all knew he NEVER changed it, but the personal ambition factor came in and then everything went crazy.

Prabhupada: "and as soon as he learns that Guru Maharaja, the I kill guru and become guru, then he is finished..."

They did not reject it when he was with us but now that they have a vested interest to carry on their guru business, they are arguing like crazy that Srila Prabhupada cannot be the the guru. Just see the envy of the acarya.

Sri Mukunda dasa: Hare Krishna Trivikram.

Your cheating nature is evident in your replies. Your cheating nature comes from defending the voted-in guru system that creates so-called gurus out of homosexuals and pedophiles and votes in Trivikrama with these same pedophiles and homosexuals as gurus, and he accepts it knowing it all so well. That's all. You can go on defending them and their buddies all you want.

To correct your miss-information, Rtviks were created for when "you are no longer with us"

not "during my illness" where do you get this from? another of your concoctions. and the answer that you cannot give is, "no one protested because everyone accepted what Srila Prabhupada did was bona fide"

you only protest now because you think "Srila Prabhupada is dead" you are just a cheerleader of bogus gurus that were voted in with child molestors and pedophiles, just admit it.

Ritvik - *Representative*

Oct 5, UK (SUN) — Ritvik - *representative* of the acarya, for the purpose of performing initiations, both first initiation and second initiation.

This is for the benefit of those who have ears to hear.

Ritvik--*representative* of the acarya, for the purpose of performing initiations, both first initiation and second initiation.

Note the word *representative* indicated below which was also mentioned in July 9th 1977 directive.

Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya 24.330:

    "Similarly, a disciple's qualifications must be observed by the spiritual master before he is accepted as a disciple. In our Krsna consciousness movement, the requirement is that one must be prepared to give up the four pillars of sinful life-illicit sex, meat-eating, intoxication and gambling. In Western countries especially, we first observe whether a potential disciple is prepared to follow the regulative principles. Then he is given the name of a Vaisnava servant and initiated to chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, at least sixteen rounds daily. In this way the disciple renders devotional service under the guidance of the spiritual master or his representative for at least six months to a year. He is then recommended for a second initiation, during which a sacred thread is offered and the disciple is accepted as a bona fide brahmana."

    Note: we know that without becoming a Maha-bhagavata it is an offense against the chanting of the holy name (3rd offense in chanting) to be worshipped as good as God (Acarya). Ritvik --the representative of the acarya allows for this function of worshipping the acarya (Prabhupada) without slaughtering the spiritual lives of others.

    "When one has attained the topmost position of maha-bhagavata, he is to be accepted as a guru and worshiped exactly like Hari, the Personality of Godhead. Only such a person is eligible to occupy the post of a guru."

Srila Prabhupada is revealing his position as the jagad-guru (Spiritual Master of the entire world). It is Srila Prabhupada that has distributed the Holy Name (thru his books) all over the world. Krishna is His pure devotee Prabhupada's property to give.

Caitanya-caritamrta, Antya 7.12:

    "…in the Dvapara-yuga one could satisfy Krsna or Visnu only by worshiping opulently according to the pancaratriki system, but in the age of Kali one can satisfy and worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead Hari simply by chanting His holy name." Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura explains that unless one is directly empowered by the causeless mercy of Krsna, one cannot become the spiritual master of the entire world (jagad-guru). One cannot become an acarya simply by mental speculation. The true acarya presents Krsna to everyone by preaching the holy name of the Lord throughout the world. Thus the conditioned souls, purified by chanting the holy name, are liberated from the blazing fire of material existence. In this way, spiritual benefit grows increasingly full, like the waxing moon in the sky. The true acarya, the spiritual master of the entire world, must be considered an incarnation of Krsna's mercy. Indeed, he is personally embracing Krsna. He is therefore the spiritual master of all the varnas (brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya and sudra) and all the asramas (brahmacarya, grhastha, vanaprastha and sannyasa). Since he is understood to be the most advanced devotee, he is called paramahamsa-thakura. Thakura is a title of honor offered to the paramahamsa. Therefore one who acts as an acarya, directly presenting Lord Krsna by spreading His name and fame, is also to be called paramahamsa-thakura."

Ritvik is a REPRESENTATIVE of the acarya, SO IF the word REPRESENTATIVE is mentioned in CC 24.330 without mention of the word "Ritvik", what's the problem in understanding? Study Srimad Bhagavatam - there are many places which priest has to officiate, Ritvik is mentioned. Vedic society in the past has Ritviks - so why not now?

In this case REPRESENTATIVE was used instead if the word Ritvik. "Representative of the acarya" is also mentioned similarly in (CC Madhya 24.330) --- this is the secret. Ritvik is the same. Representative of acarya mean RITVIK Representative who OFFICIATES on BEHALF of the acarya for the specific purpose. What's the purpose? for the purpose of performing initiations, both first initiation and second initiation. The newly initiated devotees are disciples of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the above eleven senior devotees acting as His representative.


Bhakti Vaibhava Puri Maharaja: "You have selected 11 gurus"
Srila Prabhupada: "I have not selected. I have appointed 11 ritviks"


Please also see: Further Articles