Commentary on Part 10 of 'Challenging the ZAS'


Sep 09, 2017 — CANADA (SUN) —

Any devotee familiar with the arguments for and against Ritvik-vada will recognize the great significance of this section of the 1979 paper challenging the Zonal Acaryas. Here, we have an historical footprint of what devotees understood, in the years immediately after Srila Prabhupada accepted maha-samadhi, about the July 9th Letter and his instructions for continuation of diksa initiations into ISKCON's long future.

As a great many devotees have known all along, the July 9th Letter was never understood at the time of its writing, or for many years thereafter, to be even remotely similar to what would eventually become the Ritvik-vadi's interpretation of it.

This section of the 1979 paper is specifically about how arrangements were made by Srila Prabhupada for ongoing diksa initiations. There is not one word, not one statement implying the notion of post-samadhi Ritvik diksa initiations. Yes, the term "rttvik" is used throughout this section of text, but only and very specifically in the context of diksa initiations to be carried about by Srila Prabhupada's disciples, who would give diksa initiation to disciples who would be their own diksa disciples – not Srila Prabhupada's diksa disciples.

There are so many fascinating points one could make about this section of the Zonal Acarya challenge paper, but we will cover just a few of them.

First, it's interesting to note that one of the personalities very involved in the Vrindavan situation out of which this paper emerged was Yasodanandana dasa. He was famously (and unfortunately) kicked out of the movement, and out of his position as headmaster of the Vrindavan gurukula, along with Pradyumna dasa. Pradyumna prabhu had also written a letter to the GBC (at bottom) challenging the Zonal Acarya system (his paper is mentioned in this 1979 article), but in fact, the 1979 paper had an even greater impact in the movement.

Yasodanandana was undoubtedly one of the key personalities involved in formulating the positions expressed in this 1979 paper. And as history has shown, he has also gained the reputation of being one of the grandfathers of the asiddhantic Ritvik-vada philosophy.

Clearly, Yasodanandana dasa knew perfectly well what this 1979 paper said. He knew, as so many of us did, what our godbrothers and sisters were saying and understanding about the meaning and intent of the July 9th Letter – and that it never had any connotation related to post-samadhi rttvik diksa initiations. In later years, when Yasodanandana gathered his tribe of distraught and disenfranchised devotees, and with the help of a few other godbrothers began to fashion the planks of Ritvik-vada, he never propagated the references found in this section of the 1979 paper. For obvious reasons.

Yasodanandana dasa is well known as an archivist. He has perhaps reproduced and distributed more pages of letters, papers, and reams of compiled quotations having to do with guru-tattva, the GBC, ISKCON management, etc., than any other devotee on the planet. Yet we have never known him to promote this particular paper. Nor has the paper been promoted, to our knowledge, by Krishna Kant Desai, author of 'The Final Order', or any of the other prominent Ritviks or Prabhupadanugas.

Yet strangely enough, it was Yasodanandana himself who gave us a copy of this paper, many years ago, along with countless other documents in our archives.

Coming back to the text of the paper, it's important to note the time referents. That before his disappearance, Srila Prabhupada organized and planned ISKCON's future, including the appointment of eleven senior Godbrothers who would give diksa initiation to their own direct disciples. "At that time, no one expected that His Divine Grace would depart so soon afterward." Nor did Srila Prabhupada refer in the July 9th Letter to arrangements for after his departure. There was absolutely no reason to consider the July 9th Letter to be a 'post-samadhi instruction' – although that is exactly how the Ritvik-vadis doggedly mischaracterize the letter to this very day.

    "It is also well-known that once, when His Divine Grace was asked the question whose disciples would the future initiates be, Prabhupada's reply was that those disciples would be the disciples of the initiating gurus. They would be considered grand-disciples of Prabhupada. And their basis of spiritual life would be Srila Prabhupada's books. It was quite clear at that time that His Divine Grace gave the initiating spiritual masters facility to increase the number of followers for the purpose of spreading the Krsna consciousness movement." (emphasis added)

There is one more key point we would like to make. The 1979 paper states:

    "As a matter of fact, we may remind ourselves that the Sanskrit term used by His Divine Grace is "rttvik acarya." Never the term acarya was used exclusively. The term rttvik acarya indicates one who performs sacrifice for another person, as confirmed in the Manu-samhita, "rttvik ka laksana agnistomadikanmakhan.'"

Over the long years of arguing against Ritvik-vada, including the explicit arguments presented in our "Defeat of Ritvik-vada" paper, we have always made this point: the language of the July 9th Letter does NOT contain the term, "ritvik acarya", nor any derivation thereof ("rttvik acarya", or "rittik acarya"). Nor does this term appear anywhere else in an instruction from Srila Prabhupada. So it is fascinating that the term appears here, in this 1979 paper, claiming that Srila Prabhupada used the term "rttvik acarya". While all devotees should by now know the text by heart, here it is, quoted verbatim from the July 9th Letter:

    "Recently when all of the GBC members were with His Divine Grace in Vrndavana, Srila Prabhupad indicated that soon He would appoint some of His senior disciples to act as "rittik" -- representative of the acarya, for the purpose of performing initiations, both first initiation and second initiation."

There is a vast difference between the concept of a "rittik acarya" and a rittik "representative of the acarya". Although no evidence has ever been produced of Srila Prabhupada referring to a rttvik acarya, still the misconception lives on. The most likely seed of origination is the May 28th Room Conversation, in which Tamal Krishna used the term, and the misattribution of the term to Srila Prabhupada was reinforced in the 1979 paper.

While we won't present further discussion on the point today, for the sake of brevity, at the conclusion of our serial presentation of the Zonal Acarya challenge paper we will re-visit this issue and discuss it in more detail.


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