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Current schools of thought in the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya have developed as a result of the manifestation and preaching of three successive Sampradaya Acaryas: Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, and A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada. The main mission of these Sampradaya Acaryas is to fulfill the desire of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu to spread Krsna consciousness worldwide. Today, the Hare Krsna movement has introduced Krsna consciousness to most parts of the planet.

In Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur's era, India was under the influence of British imperialism, a system in which Bhaktivinoda Thakur participated. Srila Bhaktivinoda simultaneously rejected the traditional, family-oriented diksa lineages of his day while introducing a western institutional format to organize the preaching. His work was expanded by his son, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, who used the same institutional format to facilitate his preaching work. Following Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, Srila Prabhupada came directly to the West and established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), which he registered as a non-profit religious organization.

Following Srila Prabhupada's physical departure, there has been controversy and struggle over the issue of how initiation into the Sampradaya officially takes place. The three previous institutionally structured organizations were headed up by Sampradaya Acaryas, whose positions were far beyond the limited scope of the traditional diksa guru. Consequently, there has been a great deal of confusion over how to organize the preaching mission in the physical absence of the Sampradaya Acarya. The traditional guru/disciple scenario used to facilitate both the preaching and the association aspects of Caitanya Mahaprabhu's sankirtana movement is now being accommodated in an institutional format. This has led to a somewhat confusing array of competing or opposing camps, each with their own philosophical vision of what the Sampradaya Acarya expected to have take place after his disappearance.

Whether one is a long-time follower or is new to Gaudiya Vaisnava teachings, there is a need to clearly understand what these various groups offer and what their actual philosophical position is. It is an important and necessary part of one's spiritual journey to become familiar with the different positions before committing oneself to following or supporting one of these paths. In an attempt to assist the reader in understanding the current schools of thought, we offer the following categorical summaries and references.

I recently published a definitive paper on my personal position, entitled "Sampradaya Acarya". While it has not yet been widely distributed or accepted as an official 'camp', it is a unique philosophical conclusion that is distinctly different from the available alternatives. After publishing a paper entitled "Church of Rtvik", I invited one of the rtvik camps to debate. I am presently writing a detailed analysis of "The Final Order", and hope to engage other rtvik groups in dialogue once it is published. Over the years, I have written various papers giving my perspective on historical events within ISKCON and the Gaudiya Matha camps. In the future, I hope to publish additional papers that illustrate how these groups differ philosophically from one another.

By Rocana dasa
November 2003

Sampradaya Acarya

The Sampradaya Acarya school of thought rejects the common notion that initiation into the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya requires being connected to the parampara through the process of diksa initiation. All the other schools advocate that diksa initiation is an absolute requirement, and this point is the essence of our difference.

In fact, connection to the Sampradaya Acarya can be made through any one of the categories of guru: diksa, siksa, vartma-pradarsaka, caitya, and book bhagavata. This is the case because those who are officially categorized as Sampradaya Acaryas are distinctly elevated personalities. Sampradaya Acaryas are nitya-siddha, saktavesa avatars who are fulfilling the promise of Lord Sri Krsna that whenever there is a decline in religiosity, He will come directly or through his representatives to re-establish religious principles. Access to such a divine personality cannot be restricted by a mandate like the exclusivity of institutionalized diksa initiation.

"Sampradaya Acarya"
by Rocana dasa, 2003

"Questions & Answers on Sampradaya Acarya"
by Rocana dasa, 2004

"The Lilamrta: A Philosophical Analysis"
by Yasoda nandana dasa, 1996

[This Rtvik author's paper acknowledges Srila Prabhupada's elevated status]


Srila Prabhupada established this Society for the purpose of fulfilling his mission and performing his lila. As such, ISKCON presented a unique scenario wherein the Sampradaya Acarya was fulfilling many functions simultaneously: being the Founder/Acarya of the society, the diksa guru, the father figure and motivator, and the official commentator on tattva through the publication of many Vaisnava texts.

Following Srila Prabhupada's departure in 1977 the Society has continued to this day, undergoing many changes in an unsuccessful attempt to maintain the original mood and momentum. Presently within ISKCON there are various sub-schools, all trying to capture the balance between the institution and the diksa guru. Most prominent is the present GBC's official position on diksa, which is not shared by all ISKCON members, or even by the diksa gurus themselves. Within ISKCON, one finds practically as many visions as there are gurus on what it means to represent Srila Prabhupada, the Founder/Acarya. There is not, however, a common acceptance as to what the Founder/Acarya wanted to establish after his disappearance.

"Siddhanta of the Bhaktivedantas"
by Rocana dasa, 1997

"Love Is Blind?"
by Rocana dasa, 1996

"Srila Prabhupada's Perfect Plan"
by Rocana dasa, 1996


The Rtvik school concludes that the initiation process Srila Prabhupada established during his lila period should continue despite the end of his manifest lila. Through the intercession of Rtvik priests, it is believed that Srila Prabhupada continues to accept direct diksa disciples. This conclusion is very controversial because it appears to all other parties to be a serious philosophical departure from the Sampradaya's siddhanta. The Rtviks have made a concerted effort to challenge these objections, and have managed to convince many people through their preaching and writing that what they're doing is bona fide and proper, and has the blessings of the Sampradaya Acarya.

ISKCON has officially rejected the Rtvik philosophy, which it sees as a direct threat to the ISKCON gurus, and has ostracized many Rtvik proponents. There are three main groups of Rtviks: the Hare Krishna Society, the ISKCON Reform Movement, and the unorganized advocates of ritvik-ism who do not identify with either the HKS or the IRM. While all Rtviks seem to accept the main premises found in "The Final Order", they differ on various details.

Hare Krishna Society Declines Challenge to Rtvik Debate
Oct/Nov, 2003

"The Church of Rtvik"
by Rocana dasa, 2003

"Cooperation - The Final Order"
by Rocana dasa, 1997

"Cooperation - The Greatest Challenge"
by Rocana dasa, 1997

Gaudiya Matha

The Gaudiya Matha was spawned from the previous Sampradaya Acarya, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur. While Srila Prabhupada was a direct disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, he never officially joined any of the Gaudiya Matha groups who organized after his Spiritual Master's disappearance. After a period of turmoil, these mathas adopted the principle that each disciple was free to establish his own institution, and essentially become the Acarya of that mission. Most of the prominent mathas look upon their own founder/acarya as being of equal stature to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, and make no distinction between Him and themselves. They don't accept that there is a category of devotees above and beyond them, i.e., the Sampradaya Acaryas.

Concluding that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta re-established the traditional diksa lineage, the Gaudiya Matha has blended the roles of traditional diksa guru, acarya, and heads of institution. Under the Gaudiya Matha umbrella is a rainbow of variety, ranging from those who are performing the function of a traditional guru with a little asrama and a few acres, to those who consider themselves similar or equal to ISKCON, like Narayana, Puri and Sridhar Maharajas. Those who are following the more traditional guru format see themselves simply as diksa gurus. Those at the other end of the spectrum see themselves more as the Sampradaya Acarya. As Srila Prabhupada's Godbrothers have departed, they have turned their institutions over to their disciples, who have generated their own unique philosophical perception of what it means to be part of the sampradaya.

Desa-kala-patra (Time, Place and Circumstance)
by Rocana dasa, 2005 (Krsna Blog Archive)

Srila Prabhupada’s Instructions on Advanced Association
by Rocana dasa, 2005 (Krsna Blog Archive)

Questions on Narayana Maharaja's "Bhagavata Parampara"
by Rocana dasa, 2004 (Krsna Blog Archive)

Dharma Mela Debates between
Rocana dasa, Brahma dasa and Audarya lila dasa, 2001-2002

The Gopi Bhava Club:
Narayana Maharaja and ISKCON Leaders Seek Cooperation
Lectures delivered at the Kesavaji Gaudiya Math, Mathura 1994

Gopi Bhava Club Papers 1992-1994

"B.V. Narayana Maharaja"
by Rocana dasa, 1997

Traditional Diksa

The traditional diksa lineages that Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur interfaced with during his lila period, and which he disagreed with and departed from, can still be found in various parts of India. These lines are primarily passed on through family members, who trace their lineage back to one of the associates of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. They have little significance in today's Gaudiya Vaisnava landscape. The most active connection that can be made is through the line of Lalita Prasad, the son of Bhaktivinoda Thakur and the brother of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati. Lalita Prasad aligned himself with these groups and considered them to be bona fide and legitimate, although they were essentially rejected by the Sampradaya Acaryas.

Writings of Rocana dasa

Vada Archive