by Swami B.G. Narasingha
‘Ṛtvik Defeated!’ is an article from 1998 that was adapted from an informal talk by Swami B.G. Narasingha Maharaja with some god-brothers in Mysore, South India, on March 20th, 1995. Swami Narasingha points out the many flaws in the posthumous Ṛtvik ideology. This article was later edited and pubslihed in the book Prabhupāda Vijaya.
Swami Narasingha: They don’t want to accept what Jīva Gosvāmī has said. They want to understand the truth in terms of the present, not in the light of the previous ācāryas. They regard their books as dispensable. That is a big mistake. Can you actually imagine walking up to Śrīla Prabhupāda and saying, “The Six Gosvāmīs are very great, we have their picture on the altar, but it is obvious that since your books are here all the other works of the ācāryas are dispensable.” That couldn’t possibly fly, so to speak. Or they could say it in such a way like, “Śrīla Prabhupāda, through you we are going to get everything. We can’t understand many of the previous ācāryas, but through you we are going to get everything.” “Yes.” You know in a different mood. If you did it with that mood…we could burn all the other books. We don’t need anything. You are a fool. He would just have to tell you you are a fool right to your face…
There are no real philosophers in the world today. There are only politicians, scientists and other types of sense-gratifiers. There are no philosophers. And if there were, they wouldn’t have a prayer to deal with, without the help of the Sandarbhas. You can only deal with the scientists and materialists with the help of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s purports. (When you get into details of philosophy). For instance, most devotees can detect sahajyāism only because Prabhupāda said these are the groups of sahajiyās, different things like that. In many cases they really don’t understand, what is the sahajyāism about this? For example, there is a group which sings this mantra, nitāi-gaura, rādhe-śyāma, hare kṛṣṇa, hare rāma. Śrīla Prabhupāda said, “Yes, they are devotees, but the ācāryas have recommended Śrī kṛṣṇa-caitanya prabhu Nityānanda…(the Pañca Tattva Mahā-mantra) and then the Hare Kṛṣṇa Mahā-mantra.” They sing this mantra and we say this mantra is not bona-fide. But Prabhupāda says they are devotees.
If you look at the mantra, nitāi-gaura, rādhe-śyāma, hare kṛṣṇa, hare rāma, there are so many names poetically put together. What is wrong with this? Prabhupāda said it is bogus. But if that is all you are armed with, if that is your only proof, a third party will challenge, “Prabhupāda said?” That is nice. But why is it bogus? This man says it isn’t, but your Prabhupāda said it is. Okay. Why is it bogus? Don’t just tell me who says it is bogus; that is not what I asked you. I asked you why it is bogus.” And pretty much they end up saying, “It just is, that’s all. Because he said.” And then they will be lost. Then there is nothing.
Why should they listen to you? “He says, you say, but I want to know why.” Then they say, “Why do you chant this mantra?” And they will give you an answer and a meaning to their mantra. If you can’t follow the siddhānta, right then they will turn around to you and ask, “What is wrong with that?” And you will say, “Prabhupāda said it wasn’t right.” Sorry, you don’t know why it isn’t right, you lose. Actually, it has to do with the siddhānta that they know. And that’s it in a nutshell: they consider Nityānanda to be Rādhārāṇī. Someone neophyte might say , “Well, it doesn’t matter if they have the wrong understanding, they are worshiping Kṛṣṇa. So they are worshiping Caitanya and considering Nityānanda to be Rādhārāṇī. That may be a mistake, but they are worshiping Gaura-Nitāi.” The way some devotees think, that is all right, they are worshiping Gaura-Nitāi. So you are not a big philosopher, so you have a little misunderstanding. That little misunderstanding makes the whole thing stink right on the spot. That makes the whole thing go rotten and void, become zero. You get nothing out of it. You go to a different place, not where they are.
Godbrother 1: You mentioned this the other day, Śrīdhara Mahārāja’s comment on a certain group. They are worshiping the conception of so many different…
Swami Narasiṅgha: Their conception is adulterated, but their sādhana is better than ours. Almost exclusively every member of their group chants 64 rounds a day, almost exclusively. They do kīrtana hour after hour. We say, remember the days in the 60’s and the 70’s when we used to do six hours of hari-nāma a day? Well they do six hours of hari-nāma a day and they have been doing it since the days of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta. In many ways they have a shining program, more complete and better than us. Then someone will say, “Well they have this kīrtana-style which is really not what Prabhupāda wanted. They have this really flamboyant style of dancing and spinning, and swooning and jumping with the mṛdaṅga.”
You should have seen the bull fights in Māyāpura this year in the kīrtana. They also have a strange way of dancing and singing and yelling and whooping and hollering. They are in a very, very weak position, not referring to the siddhānta, not knowing much about the substance.
Godbrother 2: So if one doesn’t know the siddhānta, or doesn’t know the reason why something is bogus, and another group comes along with a sādhana or philosophy that Prabhupāda didn’t address directly, they will be helpless in understanding whether it is bona-fide or not.
Swami Narasiṅgha: Exactly. They can only think,”They are not in our society, they are not bona-fide. We know that.”
Godbrother 2: So the only safe thing for them is to give a categorical denunciation. Where what Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja was saying it seems to me, represented a personality who could filter out what was outside of your direct experience of what Prabhupāda gave you, could give you the essence of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism beyond what Śrīla Prabhupāda may have detailed to us and help us sort through it, but they rejected that so they have either blocked out anything beyond their society or, whatever they do contact outside is very questionable, maybe sahajiyāism, maybe something….
Godbrother 1:…something outside the camp…
Swami Narasiṅgha: Like what was done at Māyāpura, they invited a big personality in who is basically an impersonalist and had a big program. That is done in the name of money-making.
One of the parts to the answer to Mother Dīrgha’s question is that…how to defeat the Ṛtvik idea and the answer is that, because there is no example of a Ṛtvik ācārya ever in the whole history of existence in this universe. And there are hundreds of stories in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam of guru-disciple, guru-disciple. In the C.c. there wasn’t even Ṛtvik what to speak of Śrīla Prabhupāda, Caitanya Mahāprabhu was present but the people weren’t ‘ṛtviking’ for Him. There is no example of a Ṛtvik ever. There is only the example of paramparā. In the Nectar of Devotion, Chapter Seven, which is a summary study of Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, you have to look it up, Śrīla Prabhupāda talks about sannyāsīs. There he says that the sannyāsī will always accept any sincere disciple. That is one of the direct references. C.c. Ādi-lila 1. The truth of guru-tattva is described. It describes the paramparā, the disciplic succession. Without being initiated by a bona-fide spiritual master…it doesn’t say without being initiated by a Ṛtvik of a bona-fide spiritual master although he has left the world. It says without being initiated by a bona-fide spiritual master one cannot go back to Godhead. And also in there it says, first one generally takes śikṣā, then the śikṣā-guru then gives dīkṣā. So there is no example of a Ṛtvik anywhere except sometimes during the living presence of the spiritual master a Ṛtvik acts as a priest because he can’t be present. That is quite common.
Otherwise, if you look in the current Sikh magazine you can find many good references for Ṛtviks because that is what the Sikhs are. They are a Ṛtvik religion. They finished off the last guru, Guru Nanak Singh. They define a Ṛtvik body that sits in the temple in Amritsar and they worship the Grantha-sahib. Just like some devotees, all they need is Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books as their guru. Well all they need is Guru Nanak’s book. It is called the Grantha-sahib, the great book. And they give Ṛtvik. But in our line there is no example. There is no precedence anywhere; not in any lecture of Śrīla Prabhupāda.
One time one newspaper reporter inquired, “After you, who will be guru?” And Śrīla Prabhupāda said, “All my disciples will be guru.” There is no reference to their brand of Ṛtvik. It is just a play on words that Prabhupāda made the Ṛtviks. But he didn’t say they would be anything but be the Ṛtviks. He established the Ṛtviks to initiate around the world before he left the world on his behalf. In their mind there is no proof that that was ever changed. Therefore that is what he set up and that is what goes on, until he indicates otherwise. But the otherwise had already been indicated for 12 years of preaching.
When I took sannyāsa (in 1976), and I can show you my sannyāsa initiation, Prabhupāda said in his very short sannyāsa initiation lecture, “you become guru.” He says it five times in this lecture. “You become guru. You become guru.” Some people say that that means śikṣā-guru. In Śrīla Prabhupāda’s essay, that is in the BBT archives, we printed that in the book, In Search of the Ultimate Goal of Life. Śrīla Prabhupāda says, there are some who say that become guru means only become śikṣā-guru. And he said, such persons are foolish. They do not understand the paramparā. That is in In Search of the Ultimate Goal of Life. What he says five times, particularly in my sannyāsa initiation lecture, he says in hundreds of times in other places, both generally and pointedly. There is no reference anywhere of a Ṛtvik. And as I said yesterday, ultimately the Ṛtvik, even if everyone agrees to become a Ṛtvik. My disciples they don’t want a Ṛtvik, they are quite happy with their guru. Ask them. Why should they want to become Prabhupāda’s disciple? But if you say there is no one qualified among Prabhupāda’s disciples, then why would anyone want to become his disciple?
If all of you have been following his teachings for 25-30 years and you are not qualified, then why should I follow his teachings? It must mean that his teachings have no potency. That is what the Ṛtviks are actually saying. They are saying that Prabhupāda has no potency. His teachings have no potency. Well maybe, you, (referring to a devotee not present), don’t follow the principles, well I do – for twenty-seven years, very strictly. And not just the principles of four regulative principles, a lot of other principles that are outlined in the śāstras. What it means to become a Kṛṣṇa conscious person. What it means to serve the spiritual master.
And basically Ṛtvik philosophy is not good because it is offensive to those who actually do follow. And that is really what it is all about. Oh, you don’t follow. You are the one that doesn’t do this. You are the one who can’t come to the dhāma and live in India. You are the one who has no tapasya. You are figuring that no one else does. Well, I’ve been here for twenty years and I’ve been following for longer than that these principles and concepts, siddhānta and so many things. So to say that no one is qualified…okay what if no one is qualified? Then why become a disciple of A. C. Bhaktivedānta Swami? What is the advantage? Oh, now you are going to become qualified? All the others didn’t.
They don’t know what it means to become qualified. The spiritual master can qualify somebody, even though they have a defect in their habit or their practice. That is also possible. Does [ this devotee] accept that Prabhupāda’s father is a pure devotee? If so, then let him answer why did Prabhupāda’s father give hashish and marijuana to the sādhus that came into his house? Why did he go and make gifts of marijuana and butter to the sannyāsīs at Kālī Ghāṭa? I mean he was distributing dope basically. So which way do you accept him as a pure devotee? What is the criterion that makes him a pure devotee? It is certainly not that. He has a hookah in his house, that is even mentioned in the Līlāmṛta. And I guess only the guests smoke it. Have you ever sat down with somebody and just tried to get them something to eat. “No, no I won’t take.” That just doesn’t fly. Ten times, but one of the times for sure they are going to insist that you have the drink, the water, the refreshment, the sandwich, whatever it is that you are offering them.
So by what criterion does he know he is a pure devotee. I don’t think ______Prabhu can answer that question. I don’t think he knows. Then by his own estimation Prabhupāda’s father is not fit. He doesn’t strictly follow the principles. Then by which way is he known as a pure devotee? What is a pure devotee?
They think a pure devotee means somebody who is materially pure. Nobody is materially pure. What, you don’t pass stool? Everyone has a material body. Everyone is materially contaminated, more or less. They don’t know what is spiritual purity. It is just that they have some idea of what is material purity. And they fail in that also. They fail in both counts. Therefore they just figure no one is qualified. That is the truth.
If I wanted to go and accept a teacher and learn karate, let’s say. So I go to one school and I inquire, “In the national competition, how many of the students of this teacher took first or second place?”
“Oh, no, no – they got their butt kicked every time for a year.” Why would you want to become his student for? Then they say, here is another professor, his students win every time.
Immediately you want to enrol in the school where the students are successful. Not where the students are a failure. You don’t want a tutor whose students fail the exams. If you look for a tutor you want a tutor whose students pass the exams with flying colours. So if you look for a spiritual master you just don’t look for the spiritual master, you look for the spiritual master who has the qualified disciples and then for sure you know you have the right thing. And they discredit Śrīla Prabhupāda by saying no one is qualified. And he also indicated that when he said, You can judge the spiritual master by the disciples. And that is just what they are doing.
They are condemning Śrīla Prabhupāda. Why? Because their glorification of him is just mundane. It is not really transcendental. When it is taken and put under the magnifying glass it is no glorification of him. It is a vilification of him. Not a glorification. He used to say, You have to be this or that about behaviour and following because one will judge, or one will know about the spiritual master due to the position of his disciples. So that is what we know about Śrīla Prabhupāda according to them, that there is no use in following this teaching, it doesn’t work.
So they’ll have to say they are not qualified and for the dignity of Śrīla Prabhupāda I’ll say, that’s fine with you but I don’t have the same opinion about others. And I see others who are qualified and they’ve got the mercy and they know the philosophy and they know the practice. And look at Śrīla Prabhupāda…”You say you haven’t seen God, then sit down and be quiet. I say I have and you listen to me.” Ultimately I have to take the same stand even if they say, “Oh that is quite puffed up.” And I say, “Well, that is quite an embarrassment for you to keep saying no one is qualified who has been following Śrīla Prabhupāda.” That is quite an embarrassment. So ultimately I would have to take that position and say, “Yes, I am, I can, I will, I do, and all by the grace of Śrīla Prabhupāda, nothing on my own.” And they are saying just the opposite. They are saying his grace comes to me and it amounts to nothing.
Then from another side Prabhupāda and Kṛṣṇa are on the same plane, the same transcendental plane. So either you bring down Kṛṣṇa or you bring down Prabhupāda. In either case you have to be qualified. Even if you want to be a Ṛtvik and connect to Śrīla Prabhupāda you have to be able to transcend this world, you have to be connected in the line. The flow of the current has to be coming through you also, otherwise you can’t connect anybody.
And that is what initiation, real initiation means. The disciples, they are connected to the whole flow. And according to their adherence to the line, to the conception and everything, then that matures more and more. But this Ṛtvik idea is saying, okay you are a Prabhupāda disciple, good luck, I didn’t make it I hope you do. That doesn’t work at all.
Godbrother 2: Another thing we were discussing in North Carolina before we came here is they say you become directly Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disciple.
Swami Narasiṅgha: Haṅsadūta, one of the leaders of the Ṛtviks, told his former disciple Rāma Dāsa (Rahugana), since re-initiated by Śrīla Bhakti Pramoda Purī Mahārāja, that he doesn’t really believe in the Ṛtvik philosophy, but just has to have something to do.
What is the meaning of that, connecting me to Śrīla Prabhupāda. What is the meaning of that? He is doing the same thing. So we should consider like, well, who should the truth of the sampradāya come through? And if that is true, if that’s the truth… Years ago N. D., a godbrother, had his confrontation and I was asked to do something. So I said that I don’t want to get involved with this issue. I have more important things to sort out than the Ṛtvik thing, because it isn’t an issue in the world I live in, where I am with the public or with the devotees. Anyway, so I called him up and said, Okay, I’ll try to do something. I’ll send you a list of twenty questions. You send these questions to _____ Prabhu, either 5 at a time or all at a time, whatever you want. And he said to say this, Well, according to what we conceive of what you are saying, because there are no references to Ṛtvik anywhere in the sampradāya, you are proposing a new course for the sampradāya, so we are willing to accept that but we want to get a little confidence in you that it has taken a turn since the time of Brahmā, it is going to be a new type of thing. We just want to be sure, so we want you to answer these questions which will show that you understood the old sampradāya. And if you can answer these questions then we can consider that you may know what is the future that is to be done. If you can’t answer these questions then you haven’t understood the primary, how you can understand the theoretical science let along what is to be done in the future. This is to be done now, this Ṛtvik. If he didn’t understand the old school…and I gave him twenty questions and he mailed them to him but he never got a reply back.
I’ve never met the man personally but I have heard his philosophy and I’ve heard different kinds of things and there is no way he or his team of Ṛtviks can answer these questions because they seem to miss the fundamental substance of the Brahma-Gauḍīya Vaisnava sampradāya which comes through Lord Caitanya and the Six Gosvāmīs, either from Śrīla Prabhupāda’s book or any source.
Many times they give a mundane conception for these things. And that is part of our reply, part of our challenge back to them. If they heard part of this and they want to respond… actually I have forty questions now. They are not tricky questions, or loaded questions. They are straightforward questions. Why this? Why this? What is the meaning of this song? What is the meaning of this? Simple things. Things that they even do. What is the meaning and why do we do it? Who are these people? And they don’t know. So…Wasn’t there some questions in your little booklet about Ṛtvik or something?
Godbrother 2: That was Prabhupāda’s initiation lecture.
Swami Narasiṅgha: One of these was all about the Ṛtvik also. Well, not all about but part of it was about Ṛtvik.
Godbrother 2: Your booklet?
Swami Narasiṅgha: Yes.
Godbrother 2: There is the history of Rāmānujācārya when he comes to see the deceased body of Yāmunācārya and he has already left the world and he is in samādhi. And there is a mystic transmission of the three vows. He hadn’t taken dīkṣā from him. They had never seen each other. When Yāmunācārya had come to where Rāmānuja was as a boy and he was studying under Yādava Prakāśa. He had seen Rāmānuja on the street but they never had any direct contact. Before, Yāmunācārya he sent his disciple to bring Rāmānuja to him. But by the time the disciples had travelled from the distance where Rāmānuja was living Yāmunācārya had left his body. When Rāmānuja arrived there was a crowd…if there was ever an instance of direct public witnessing of divine connection between the guru and the disciple it was that instance. It is very well documented. And yet after that instance, he wasn’t initiated, he returned to his village and the disciples of Yāmunācārya they got together and had a meeting and said, Well someone has to go on behalf of the sampradāya and give him dīkṣā and initiate him. They choose among themselves one Mahā Pūrṇa, who was a householder devotee, disciple of Yāmunācārya. And he became the dīkṣā-guru of Rāmānuja.
If there was ever a case that would have been a Ṛtvik initiation, or that they would consider, that would have been done. But it is such an obvious thing that they said, Well now someone has to go and give him dīkṣā to bring him into the sampradāya. A very, very clear case that after that kind of connection still dīkṣā was given by a living ācārya who later Rāmānuja surpassed. Rāmānuja even initiated disciples in the living presence of him. He had many gurus whom he had studied different śāstras under. And our sampradāya, to a large degree, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī instituted different things based on the structure of Śrī sampradāya. I recently discussed with my wife, that was a very, very prominent example in very strict vaisnava sampradāya, total dismissing any idea of Ṛtvik. Actually the direct opposite.
Godbrother 1: One thing Ṛtviks always say when you come in conversation with them is, Prabhupāda said everything is in his books.
Swami Narasiṅgha: What is the meaning of the sannyāsa gayatri mantra? What is the meaning of the sannyāsa gayatri mantra? Prabhupāda gave it to over seventy men. What is the meaning of it? It is not in his books. You don’t know. Wrong. Where in his books does it say who is the prayojanācārya? Wrong. It is not in his books. Where does it tell us what is the commentary of the Brahma Gāyatrī mantra? Wrong. It is not in his books. That is a foolish statement. Because we cannot understand at that time. Everyone is fool. One time Prabhupāda said, Preaching is for fools. It means going out and convincing people. They are the fools so we have to convince them. We have to make arguments with them.
Śrīla Prabhupāda would meet with Śrīdhara Mahārāja, they didn’t have to convince each other that Lord Caitanya is God. They could relish being in the holy dhāma, relish the holy name, relish some aspect of the Brahma-saṁhitā. Again, you have studied Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books, you have studied the conversations, the Ṛtvik people, how do they explain in all those fifteen volumes of conversations Prabhupāda preaches to everybody and he corrects everybody’s misconceptions, from disciples to doctors, to heads of state. But when he talks to Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja in one of those volumes, Śrīla Prabhupāda makes a statement about Gaṇeśa and Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja corrects him and says, “No, it is not like that.” And then Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja talks for about three fat paragraphs describing Gaṇeśa and the position of Gaṇeśa. And after that Śrīla Prabhupāda says, “Oh yes, Mahārāja, thank you.” Nobody in the world could we ever see correct Prabhupāda or tell him.
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja preached to Śrīla Prabhupāda for six straight years. They lived in the same house together and Śrīdhara Mahārāja did the preaching and Śrīla Prabhupāda learned from him the conception of Bhaktisiddhānta. And Śrīla Prabhupāda was thoroughly abreast of all of these things. Highest conceptions. They come out in a few places.
There was an article about that in the Gauḍīya. deha-pada pallava…one verse written by Jayadeva Gosvāmī describing Kṛṣṇa’s plea for the foot dust of Śrīmati Rādhārāṇī. This verse is only mentioned twice. Once on record and once to Jadurāṇī in 1967 where he told her the whole story about how Jayadeva Gosvāmī wrote that verse. Similarly when Keśava Mahārāja left the world in 1968 or ’69 Śrīla Prabhupāda wrote a praṇāma-mantra and forwarded by mail to Mathurā as a condolence for the disappearance of Keśava Mahārāja. That mantra was actually taken from the Stavāvalī of Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī verse 4 or 6, and he just changed one of the lines and made the verse go to Keśava Mahārāja instead of to Sanātana Gosvāmī. He knew about the Vilāpa Kusamāñjali also. That is considered the highest and most esoteric poetry. That is why Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī is considered the prayojanācārya. Basically because of that set of poems. That is it, there is nothing higher, no aspiration, no concept, no feeling, no necessity, no urgency superior to what the ācāryas found in those prayers.
This isn’t described in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books. But Śrīla Prabhupāda is fully aware of that. Everything is found in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books except over half of the tenth canto, and the eleventh canto and the twelfth canto. Those are not in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books. So, these are spirited statements. Just like here in our temple we have everything, but part of that everything is that desire to be ready to receive whatever else Kṛṣṇa wants to give. That means in everything. Prabhupāda has given us everything, that means he gave us Śrīdhara Mahārāja also, so why do you reject that. That’s what they cannot understand. We have Śrīdhara Mahārāja because he gave him to us. I had never been on that side of the river practically.
Tripurāri Mahārāja was massaging Śrīla Prabhupāda’s feet when Śrīla Prabhupāda said, “If you have any questions regarding the philosophy, you go to see my godbrother B. R. Śrīdhara Mahārāja in Navadvīpa.” Tripurāri Mahārāja was massaging his feet. If you ask anybody, if you took a picture, painted a picture of that, there is Tamāla Kṛṣṇa Mahārāja and a few people standing around by Śrīla Prabhupāda’s head and Tripurāri Mahārāja is massaging his feet and he said, on this particular day at this very moment the order was given, or not the order but a reply to a question, an answer to an inquiry was given to this group of devotees. Is there any body in this group that we might think that this reply would go to more than the others?
Yes, the man who is massaging the feet is the man to receive this order most prominently. There is evidence that when Duryodhana and Arjuna came and Arjuna went to the feet of Kṛṣṇa. Duryodhana went to his head and it is not because when Kṛṣṇa looked and opened His eyes and looked down His body. It is more advantageous to be at the feet of the guru than to be next to his head. It is better to be at his feet.
So basically, the Ṛtvik’s philosophy is a frustrated philosophy. It comes from frustration which stems from the inability to follow, inability to follow the teachings of the spiritual master, not properly studying, not properly understanding, not properly following. It comes from this type of frustration. It is also like a scape-goat. It’s like-that’s right, now you don’t have to practice and you never do.
You never have to become pure and we can just continue the lineage of Śrīla Prabhupāda. We can continue his glory in the world and we don’t have to become pure to do it. We can just be screw ups the whole life and the answer is, no, you will be a failure. You can only continue to glorify the spiritual master by becoming pure yourself.
Even in the Manu-saṁhitā, which is the original law book of mankind, it says that after the spiritual master disappears the disciples have two choices: one is to serve the senior brother, the senior disciple, and the other is to sit on the seat, the āsana, of the guru and take the position, the command, continue the line. There are only two choices.
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja sort of added a third choice there, get out of the way. Either give support, take the post, or step aside. The history of ISKCON was they only gave one choice: give your support. There was no question of someone else taking the post. Neither was there any chance of getting out of the way. You couldn’t even step out of the way. If you stepped out of the way you were branded as an envious snake for not giving your positive support. In other words, if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. But Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja says that either one has to take up that service and carry the line, give support to a senior godbrother, or just step back and don’t interfere, just step out of the way.
So, the Ṛtvik idea is a cop out philosophy, to say that no one is qualified, therefore I don’t have to become qualified, we will just initiate everyone as Prabhupāda’s disciple.
Godbrother 2: The question we had was that they will encourage everyone to become directly Prabhupāda’s disciple but will they ever accept them as an equal godbrother?
Swami Narasiṅgha: No. If they have enough money they might even accept them as a superior godbrother. If they have enough money they will make it. But actually they don’t. Śrīla Bhakti Promod Puri Mahārāja said this Ṛtvik philosophy is very dangerous, it is the death of the sampradāya, it is the death of the line. There is no life there.
In fact, this Ṛtvik ācārya idea is dead conception. Where is the life? Life means I must become pure, I must surrender. I must embrace the life of unalloyed devotion and I must preach.
But what are the Ṛtvik ācāryas doing, they are pointing to the so called disqualification of others. They say no one is qualified to hold the post of guru. They see only disqualification in everyone. They are like Duryodhana but we should not be like him, we should try to see like Yudhiṣṭhira.
There was a story. One day Lord Kṛṣṇa met with Duryodhana and Yudhiṣṭhira. Kṛṣṇa asked Duryodhana to go into the kingdom and bring back a person more qualified than himself. Then Duryodhana went out. Kṛṣṇa then requested Yudhiṣṭhira also to go into the kingdom and to find a person less qualified than himself. Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja was also highly qualified in all the military sciences and more. Then Yudhiṣṭhira went out. After some time both men returned alone, empty handed. Kṛṣṇa then inquired from each why they had returned alone. Duryodhana said, I could not find anyone more qualified than myself. And Yudhiṣṭhira said, I could not find anyone less qualified than myself.
You see? Those with the Ṛtvik mentality are like Duryodhana. They do not and cannot see the good qualities of others. In this way what they want to say is that they alone are qualified, at least to judge the qualifications of other. This kind of thinking is avaiṣṇava and it is against the devotional line.
Another argument is this: the Ṛtvik ācāryas are saying that no one is qualified, but they have not seen everyone, so how do they know for sure? It is the same old story.
A man says that he has not seen anyone who has seen God, therefore he says that no one has seen God. But how does he know? He has not met everyone and inquired, “Have you seen God?”
“No.” And if he met someone who said that he had seen God, would he believe him? Probably not.
Consider this point also: Śrīla Prabhupāda had at least five thousand disciples, and many of them are still carrying on Kṛṣṇa consciousness even to this day. Now you want to say that none of them have become qualified, none of them have become Kṛṣṇa conscious, none of them are qualified.
So if that is true, then why on earth would you want to become a disciple of Śrīla Prabhupāda? After all, not even one of his disciples became qualified– even after following the process for almost thirty years. Then what will be the use of your following that process? Certainly it will be defective. If one is a professor but none of the professor’s students have qualified to pass the examination then why would I want to enrol as one of his students? I would do much better for myself to find a professor who has got some qualified students. Then at least I might have a chance to qualify myself. Those who are preaching the Ṛtvik conception are actually doing great harm to Śrīla Prabhupāda’s movement. This Ṛtvik idea is dangerous, it simply leads to the grave, it has no life.
But how can we know for sure if a godbrother is a qualified paramahaṁsa or not? First you surrender. Become the pure devotee of Kṛṣṇa and your spiritual master then you will know who is who. It takes one to know one. So they say there is no one qualified, but I say that I have met so many qualified personalities.
For example, if I ask you was Śrīla Prabhupāda a pure devotee? Everyone will say yes. But what is your proof? What is your proof that he was a pure devotee? Prove it. Here is an answer from one godbrother – “Well, Śrīla Prabhupāda came to America alone, spread the movement, preached to the public, published many books on the topic of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.”
Then here is my reply – “Yes, Śrīla Prabhupāda did that and much, much more but that is all external. Do you mean to say that if an old man simply comes to America and publishes some books on Kṛṣṇa then we should consider him a paramahaṁsa? No. Then what is the actual proof? Prove it.”
The Godbrother will say – “I have my faith and I know it in my heart that Śrīla Prabhupāda is a pure devotee.” And then myself speaking, “Yes! That is your proof! That is your only proof!” Your faith is your proof. Faith allows us to know, to understand, to measure the standard but that is our only real proof.
And Śrīla Prabhupāda also stated that. And this is somewhere in the Folio. It is somewhere on tape. He was asking the devotee how do you know Kṛṣṇa is God? They were giving śāstra. Prabhupāda said, “The Bible also says, how do you know?”
And they would give another answer. And Prabhupāda would say, “The Christians are also saying…” He was playing the devil’s advocate. Finally one devotee says, “Well, I know in my heart” and Prabhupāda said, “Yes, that is your proof.”
The śāstras are not the proof, there are so many śāstras. The Bible, the Koran, so many. But what is your real proof. You can seek help from the śāstras to know some of the necessary qualifications in guru but ultimately we must hear from our heart. And that is the real proof. It is a subjective experience. They don’t even have a conception of objective and subjective consciousness. These people don’t understand different planes of consciousness, objective, subjective etc. It is a matter of knowing from the inner flow of the heart. It is not objective but subjective. Knowledge of the position of the guru descends from above. Kṛṣṇa Himself reveals the guru to a prospective candidate. Kṛṣṇa chooses who will be guru and for whom. It is not a matter of voting a man to the post of guru nor is the position of guru understandable by those who have no faith.
The qualifications to know the truth, to understand the position of guru depends on śraddhā, our faith. Yasya-deve parā-bhaktir…If we have proper faith then the truth is revealed in our heart and there is no greater proof than that. We may judge the position of so many persons in this world by their various qualification and disqualifications but if we try to understand what is guru in that way we will be baffled.
Godbrother 1: But the guru must be pure and perfect?
Swami Narasiṅgha: Yes. He must be pure. He must be perfect but what are your conceptions of purity or perfection? In which way shall we consider that he is perfect or not? How shall we understand his purity? By Vedic standards the gopīs are impure. They were unchaste from the material point of view but what was their standard of spiritual purity. They are actually the purest of the pure because they simply wanted to satisfy Kṛṣṇa. They have no separate desire other than the pleasure of Kṛṣṇa. Then why is it that the wives of the Vedic brāhmaṇas in kṛṣṇa–lila were more pure than their husbands? Because they simply tried to satisfy Kṛṣṇa and His friends. Materially women are considered less intelligent than men and they are always impure like the śūdras. But they were more pure than their husbands.
Also Rāmānanda Rāya was a śūdra, a government servant, therefore he was impure by Vedic standards and as such a sannyāsī should never touch such a person. But Caitanya Mahāprabhu rejected such measures of purity and impurity and embraced Rāmānanda Rāya. Not only that but he accepted Rāmānanda Rāya as His rasa-guru.
We cannot know what is spiritual purity simply by trying to measure purity by material standards. One may perfectly follow the four regulative principles for many, many lifetimes but he may remain impure. On the other hand one may not so expertly observe the regulative principles yet he may be a pure devotee of Kṛṣṇa. “What?” The godbrother says, “But that is impossible. Śrīla Prabhupāda taught us to strictly follow the regulative principles otherwise we cannot go back to Godhead.”
My answer – “Yes, we may strictly follow the regulative principles but without surrender to guru and Kṛṣṇa where is our purity? It remains only material purity. There are many brāhmaṇas and sannyāsīs in India who are very, very strictly following the four regulative principles yet they are great oppressors and offenders of Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s mission (māyāvādīs for one). Similarly there are examples of many devotees who are not so strict about the regulative principles but they are pure devotees nonetheless.
“What? You have got to be kidding,” the godbrother says. “Like who?”
And I say, “Like Śrīla Prabhupāda’s father for example. Everyone knows that Śrīla Prabhupāda dedicated his Kṛṣṇa Book to Gaura Mohana De, a pure devotee of Kṛṣṇa. Yet his father kept a hookah, a water pipe, in his house for entertaining saintly persons. And he sometimes supplied them with gañjā, marijuana also. So what is his purity if he supplied a water pipe and gañjā to his guests? If you did such things at this time your godbrothers would drive you out with a stick. You will be outcast from the society. So what was the purity of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s father that he took him to be a pure devotee of Kṛṣṇa?
His purity was that he simply desired that his son would become a pure devotee of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī and he prayed to all those saintly persons whom he entertained to please give this blessing to his son. That was his purity. He simply desired for his son to become a pure devotee of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī.
So we have to judge purity from the inner plane not from the external circumstances. There is another example. There was Puṇḍarīka Vidyānidhi. When he came to Navadvīpa he was setting in his luxurious house smoking a water-pipe, wearing costly clothing and perfumes. From his external appearance and habits he was a materialist. But when he heard the verse, aho baki yaṁ stana-kāla-kūṭaṁ recited by Mukunda Datta he became mad with love of Kṛṣṇa.
aho baki yaṁ stana-kāla-kūṭaṁ
jighāṁsayāpāyayad apy asādhvī
lebhe gatiṁ dhātry-ucitāṁ tato ‘nyam
kaṁ vā dayāluṁ śaraṇaṁ vrajema
“O how amazing it is! The sister of Bakāsura (Pūtanā) desiring to kill Śrī Kṛṣṇa, smeared poison on her breasts and forced Kṛṣṇa to drink her milk. Even so, Lord Kṛṣṇa accepted her as His nursemaid and thus she reached the destination suitable for Kṛṣṇa’s mother, Of whom should I take shelter but the most merciful Kṛṣṇa?” (Bhāg. 3.2.23)
When Puṇḍarīka Vidyānidhi heard this verse he became very serious and soon shivering, shedding tears, and rolling on the floor in ecstasy became manifest in his body. He began to cry, “Of whom should I take shelter but the most magnanimous Lord? Where should I take refuge without such a Lord?” So much devotion Puṇḍarīka Vidyānidhi had for Kṛṣṇa within but outwardly he appeared to be an ordinary materialist.
Godbrother 1: Is there more than one pure devotee manifest on the planet at a time.
Swami Narasiṅgha: Certainly. Śrīla Prabhupāda used to say that there were many pure devotees living in Vṛndāvana chanting 100 rounds of japa daily. But it is not so easy to find such devotees because they usually keep themselves hidden from the public eye. Many of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s godbrothers were also pure devotees; Śrīpad Keśava Mahārāja, Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja, and Kṛṣṇa Dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, just to name a few. As Śrīla Prabhupāda once said, “My spiritual master did not initiate fools.” Both Keśava Mahārāja, Śrīdhara Mahārāja, and Bābājī Mahārāja have all been certified in writing by Śrīla Prabhupāda as being paramahaṁsas and pure devotees, and or both. No question about it, it has been confirmed by him. So even if we have no faith – no! Prabhupāda confirms. Keśava Mahārāja is a pure devotee. Śrīdhara Mahārāja is paramahaṁsa. He is a pure devotee. Bābājī Mahārāja he is paramahaṁsa.
A neophyte devotee who has some faith in his guru thinks that his guru is the only paramahaṁsa. Āmāra guru, jagat-guru, my guru is jagat-guru. This thinking will be troublesome for the disciple. The neophyte does not understand the faith of others he thinks that everyone must be of his mark. The neophyte must make progress in his vision otherwise he runs the risk of committing offence and again falling back into the mundane world. There is not only one guru or one pure devotee but many.
This point has not been properly understood by the general body of devotees. For example, just after the disappearance of our Śrīla Prabhupāda it was said that there were only eleven pure devotees. Now it is widely said by a number of devotees that there are no pure devotees at all. The propaganda machine goes on but where is the proper understanding where is the knowledge and realisation? In the beginning they were claiming there were eleven pure devotees now they are saying there are no pure devotees. But we are thinking that in both cases there is no proper knowledge or realisation.
There is always a plurality of gurus – caitya-guru, vartmana-pradarśaka-guru, śikṣā-guru, nāma-guru, mantra-guru, sannyāsa-guru, rasa-guru, śāstra-guru, dhāma-guru, parama-guru, etc. There are many Gurus but the neophyte devotee has trouble to understand what is actually Guru so he is some times accepting one (or eleven) and rejecting another (or everyone).
The search for Guru is not limited to your society or mine or anybody else’s. Guru is a universal principle not a sectarian concern. Śrīla Prabhupāda had to leave the Gauḍīya Maṭha started by his spiritual master in order to preach and pursue the truth. Similarly, individually we have had to leave the movement to maintain our proper conceptions of the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava sampradāya. Not only ourselves but many have felt the necessity to leave in their search for a bona fide Guru and to maintain the proper standards of purity free from Vaiṣṇava aparādha since the disappearance of Śrīla Prabhupāda.
Godbrother 3: Can one have two gurus?
Swami Narasiṅgha: Why two gurus? One can have hundreds of gurus if necessary. For example. If in a previous life one has accepted a guru but due to his own short coming he could not achieve success then in a future life he will be given another chance. He will meet Śrī Gurudeva in a future life but that may or may not be the same identical personality who was his guru in the past. But guru he will get, that is sure. We may pass many lifetimes being helped by many gurus before we reach perfection.
Godbrother 3: But what about this lifetime. Can one have more than one guru in this lifetime. For example, you have first, second, and sannyāsa initiation from Śrīla Prabhupāda but you also have a disciple relationship with Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja. How is that possible?
Swami Narasiṅgha: That is also not a new thing. It is more the standard in our paramparā to have two or more Gurus rather than having only one. In fact Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura often remarked that, “The eka-guru-vādīs, those who preach the philosophy of having only one guru, will certainly have a difficult time achieving perfection.”
If you study our guru-paramparā carefully you will see that many of our ācāryas such as Kṛṣṇa Dāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī, who offers respect to Rūpa and Raghunātha at the end of every chapter of the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, had two or more gurus. Actually he mentioned four gurus. There is his initiating guru, Lord Nityānanda was his guru, and Rūpa and Raghunātha. He had four gurus mentioned.
Actually, after the disappearance of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, many of his disciples accepted śikṣa from Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja. Our Śrīla Prabhupāda also accepted Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja as his śikṣā-guru. And on the order of Śrīla Prabhupāda, I have also accepted Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja as my śikṣā-guru and that has been a great blessing for me.
Godbrother 3: Wouldn’t it be better if everyone was just a Ṛtvik-ācārya and initiated disciples on behalf of Śrīla Prabhupāda?
Swami Narasiṅgha: That is all right, but we are not Sikhs. That is the conception started by Guru Govind Singh. He announced that there would be no more gurus, only that a body of Ṛtvik-acharyas would initiate. Since then Sikhism has become a dead religion. We are not interested in that. We are members of a living conception, a living sampradāya.
Godbrother 1: Even if you wanted to use that statement that everything is in Prabhupāda’s books you could agree with it; that’s true so where is the Ṛtvik philosophy. Prabhupāda said everything is in my books so where is the Ṛtvik philosophy? If its not in the books so then it can’t be…
Godbrother 4: Is the word ṛtvik even mentioned in the books?
Godbrother 1: Yes, in a yajña, a priest. I forget. It was pointed out years ago.
Swami Narasiṅgha: The way the Ṛtviks were appointed…I was a ṛtvik. I mean, can you imagine when Śrīla Prabhupāda is in good health, anyone else chanting on the beads. And Prabhupāda is going to give the beads…I mean, can you imagine I was there and Prabhupāda said to me, “here you chant on the beads.” And the disciples are sitting there and I chant on the beads and then I give them back to Prabhupāda and he gives them to those disciples? Right in front of them? Can you imagine how wierd that would be? Can you imagine that happening?
Well, it happened. Right in front of the devotees Prabhupāda asked me to chant on the beads. In Hyderabad farm there were three people being initiated and he asked me to chant on the beads and then he gave the beads and the name because he was tired. And he asked me to chant on the beads. I chanted on the beads and he gave the beads to those three devotees and gave them first initiation. And so many times Prabhupāda wrote: chant on their beads and this is their names. Many times. That is Ṛtvik. That is the Ṛtvik function. Can you imagine their thinking with Prabhupāda sitting right there and he asks someone else to chant on the beads and then he takes the beads and he hands them to them.
When Śrīla Prabhupāda was ill he started setting up a system, this area and that area they would initiate on his behalf. And there is that point I mentioned the other day it is the godbrothers mainly saying this. A new person he doesn’t come and decide that, they decide that for him. According to the association he comes into his faith develops. So if he meets a Ṛtvik and he tells him, no one is qualified, you just do this and that and we will initiate you and you can become a disciple of Prabhupāda. Even if you did that you may find in due course, I mentioned this the other day, where the candidate disciple just said, well I don’t want to be Prabhupāda’s disciple, I want to be your disciple. I don’t know Prabhupāda. I read his books but I am inspired by what you tell me. No, no you will be Prabhupāda’s disciple.
That happened during the time of Śrīla Prabhupāda. Some man wanted to be initiated by Brahmānanda. There is a letter. In the living presence of the spiritual master generally the etiquette is followed. That is just another rule of etiquette. As I was pointing out to someone the other day, the disciple who is preaching knows that the potency for preaching that whatever people are attracted to in him that is actually just the grace of the spiritual master just working through him. So it is natural that he wants everyone to be initiated by his own guru. But after his disappearance the same principle is working if he is surrendered to that principle. Actually in this little blue book it mentions two good qualifications there for becoming guru. guru-niṣṭhā and niṣkiñcana-bhakti. We must give respect to the post of guru, of course we should have the necessary qualifications, guru-niṣṭhā and niṣkiñcana-bhakti, firm faith in the order of the spiritual master and freedom from the desire for power, profit, adoration and distinction. And we should have this before accepting the post of guru and accepting disciples. But it will be very difficult to say from an objective point of view who is or who isn’t a paramahaṁsa. In here Prabhupāda says about the post of guru. Someone says the guru must be paramahaṁsa. The answer is the post is paramahaṁsa.
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja said the same thing in a more elaborate way. He would say, yes in Trafalgar Square there was a billboard in WWII, wear this uniform, the uniform will show you what to do. He gave that example, without qualification take the post, the post will dictate to you what is your duty. Śrīla Prabhupāda said that in my sannyāsa initiation lecture also. And he says, the post of the guru is paramahaṁsa, the message is paramahaṁsa, that will make you paramahaṁsa. Take this post. If you fail, you have lost nothing. They asked him once. In ISKCON they called a sannyāsī a vāntāśī – it means a vomit eater.
They asked Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja what is the fate of a fallen sannyāsī? He said, a Vedic sannyāsī, who has taken sannyāsa in the course of varṇāśrama certainly suffers a tremendous loss. Those who have sacrificed their youthful life, and this and that, and fame and country, to take the calling of preaching and make the sacrifice for Caitanya Mahāprabhu, under great personalities like Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, A. C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda, their gain is tens of hundreds of thousands of times greater than their apparent present loss of having fallen down from sannyāsa. The sacrifice of serving such a soul for even a moment is thousands and thousands of times greater than the defect that comes to them for losing their sannyāsa, for falling down. ISKCON doesn’t have such a generous view at all. And that generous view comes from a proper appreciation.
More Articles by Swami B.G. Narasingha
Heresy, Inquisition, Jihad, Fatwa and the Hare Kṛṣṇas
‘Heresy, Inquisition, Jihad, Fatwa and the Hare Kṛṣṇas’ was written by Śrīla Narasiṅgha Mahārāja in July 2010 was a follow-up article to his essay, ‘Śriya Śuka.’ After receiving a barrage of complaints, insults (and a few death threats) from members of a certain Vaiṣṇava mission, Narasiṅgha Mahārāja asks if there is any difference between Christian and Muslim fanatics and the Hare Kṛṣṇas?
The Dawn of the Age of Love?
“Dawn of the Age of Love” was written in 2009 by Śrīla Narasiṅgha Mahārāja in response to the erroneous idea that Kalki-avatāra does not appear at the end of this Kali-yuga. Quoting previous ācāryas, he shows that this is not the case.
This Saṅkīrtana Movement Is the Līlā of Mahāprabhu
‘This Saṅkīrtana Movement Is the Līlā of Mahāprabhu’ by Swami Narasingha was first published on March 30th 2002. This article was based on class by Narasingha Maharaja given in 2001 wherein Maharaja discusses gaura-līlā in relation to kṛṣṇa-līlā and how by engaging in Mahāprabhu’s saṅkīrtana movement, one attains Vṛndāvana.