“He reasons ill who tells that Vaisnavas die, when thou art living still in sound. The Vaisnavas die to live, and living try to spread the holy life around.”Madhavanada das writes, “Is Srila Prabhupada present or not?” He poses the wrong question. Why? Because Srila Prabhupada is Always present, in His books, in His places of worship, He is always present in our hearts, and He is even personally present in His eternal form before us. The apprentice devotee needs to ask, what do I need to do in order to see and hear my Srila Prabhupada, right now. What is preventing each of us from receiving Srila Prabhupada’s darshan? Our vision, our hearing, our eyesight, indeed all our senses are compromised by the 4 defects. First, we have imperfect senses. Second, we are in illusion. Third, we make mistakes. Fourth, we have the cheating propensity. These 4 material defects all operate all the time. How can we remove these defects? We can’t remove the defects ourselves. Can the person drowning in the ocean of material suffering rescue himself? No! The all merciful pure devotee can extend a rope to the drowning person. But if that drowning person says, “go away, I can do it myself” or if he says, ”what are you talking about, I’m not drowning”, that person is lost. But if that drowning person chooses to take the rope, then the first part of the rescue begins. This article explains how the disciplic succession is perpetuated, how that drowning person is truly rescued.
(Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur)
I offer millions of prostrated obeisances to my diksa guru Srila AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, to my param gurudev Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada, and to all my siksa gurus, all who have spent valuable time and energy to try to rescue me from the ocean of repeated birth and death. Now if I can only do my part and never let go of Their lotus feet.
The word 'rtvik' is mentioned 16 times within Srila Prabhupada's books, all within Srimad Bhagavatam. In 15 of the 16 times, rtvik is found in the word-for-word synonyms or text. In each of those 15 cases, rtvik means brahmana priest within the context of a sacrifice (yajna). Only once is rtvik mentioned in the purports. In that lone instance, rtvik is mentioned as a subset class (only 4 types) of brahmana priest. Those priestly duties are but a small portion of the responsibilities of a brahmana. In Srimad Bhagavatam 7.3.30 purport, those 4 types of rtvik are named. In Srimad Bhagavatam 2.6.25 purport the expertise or duties of each of the 4 brahmana rtvik priests in a sacrifice is explained by Srila Prabhupada. Finally, because this is Kali Yuga, Srila Prabhupada states "...therefore in the present age only the yajna of chanting the holy name of the Lord is recommended."
Srimad Bhagavatam 7.3.30 - Hiranyakasipu Prays To Lord Brahma
"My dear lord, by your form as the Vedas personified and through knowledge relating to the activities of all the yajnic brahmanas, you spread the Vedic ritualistic ceremonies of the seven kinds of sacrifices, headed by agnistoma. Indeed, you inspire the yajnic brahmanas to perform the rituals mentioned in the three Vedas. Being the Supreme Soul, the Supersoul of all living entities, you are beginningless, endless, and omniscient, beyond the limits of time and space.
PURPORT: … Acting as Supersoul, the Lord gives inspiration to a suitable person to perform the Vedic ritualistic ceremonies. In this connection, four classes of priests, known as rtvik, are required. They are mentioned as hota, adhvaryu, brahma and udgata."
Srimad Bhagavatam 2.6.25 - Purusa-Sukta Confirmed:
"Other requirements are utensils, grains, clarified butter, honey, gold, earth, water, the Rg Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, and four priests to perform the sacrifice.
To perform a sacrifice successfully, at least four expert priests are needed: one who can offer (hota), one who can chant (udgata), one who can kindle the sacrificial fire without the aid of separate fire (adhvaryu), and one who can supervise (brahma). Such sacrifices were conducted from the birth of Brahma, the first living creature, and were carried on till the reign of Maharaja Yudhisthira. But such expert brahmana priests are very rare in this age of corruption and quarrel, and therefore in the present age only the yajna of chanting the holy name of the Lord is recommended. " (Caitanya-caritamrta Adi 17.21).
These 4 types of brahmana rtvik priests are again mentioned in Srimad Bhagavatam 8.16 - (Executing the Payo-vrata Process of Worship). Aditi, the wife of Kasyapa Muni, who is the mother of the demigods, is lamenting the removal and absence of her sons from their posts as demigods by the Demons. She explains her lamentation to Kasyapa Muni and asks his help. Kasyapa Muni reccomends a specific type of worship of Lord Vishnu, the Payo-vrata process of worship, a 12 day yajna to satisfy Lord Vishnu. Aditi accepts Kasyapa muni as her guru and He explains to Aditi what He has heard from his guru, Lord Brahma, about how to satisfy Lord Vishnu. As part of the instructions from her Guru, Aditi was told how to satisfy the acarya(spiritual master) and the brahmanas who were directing the yajna and who are his assistants (brahmana rtvik priests).
Srimad Bhagavatam 8.16.53: "One should satisfy the spiritual master [acarya], who is very learned in Vedic literature, and should satisfy his assistant priests [known as hota, udgata, adhvaryu and brahma]. One should please them by offering them clothing, ornaments and cows. This is the ceremony called visnu-aradhana, or worship of Lord Visnu. SB 8.16.54: O most auspicious lady, one should perform all the ceremonies under the direction of learned acaryas and should satisfy them and their priests. By distributing prasada, one should also satisfy the brahmanas and others who have assembled. SB 8.16.55: One should satisfy the spiritual master and assistant priests by giving them cloth, ornaments, cows and also some monetary contribution. And by distributing prasada one should satisfy everyone assembled, including even the lowest of men, the candalas [eaters of dog flesh]."
Thus the Srimad Bhagavatam and Srila Prabhupada's Bhaktivedanta purports describe rtvik as a brahmana priest who assists an officiating acarya in the performance of a yajna (sacrifice). Nowhere does the Srimad Bhagavatam or Srila Prabhupada's purports expand the duties of rtvik to include anything other than assisting that acarya in a sacrifice. And nowhere are the duties ever described as anything other than : "...one who can offer (hota), one who can chant (udgata), one who can kindle the sacrificial fire without the aid of separate fire (adhvaryu), and one who can supervise (brahma). ..."(SB 2.6.25p). When the yajna has been completed and all the brahmanas have been satisfied (a sort of voluntary but required compensation), the brahmana's rtvik duties are officially concluded until another yajna needs to be performed and then the Acarya summons the brahmanas in their assistant priest (rtvik) capacity.
All the duties of a brahmana including rtvik duties are described by Srila Thakur Bhaktivinode (in Jaiva Dharma, chapter 3) as being part of Naimittika dharma (duties that are prescribed in the varnasrama system for the different castes and orders). The brahminical (includes rtvik) duties are material activities that are undertaken to eventually obtain pure spiritual practices. Because there is a beginning and an end to each instance of a rtvik’s duty, the rtvik activity can never be considered eternal or transcendental. And because this dharma would not be necessary if the jiva was not bound and conditioned by material nature, the brahminical duties of rtvik must be considered to be temporary and not a part of the eternal transcendental disciplic succession. The only system of disciplic succession recommended by Guru, Sadhu, and Sastra can be found be found in Bhagavad-gita 4.34 where Krsna Himself declares and Srila Prabhupada comments in the purport:
"Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.
The path of spiritual realization is undoubtedly difficult. The Lord therefore advises us to approach a bona fide spiritual master in the line of disciplic succession from the Lord Himself. No one can be a bona fide spiritual master without following this principle of disciplic succession. The Lord is the original spiritual master, and a person in the disciplic succession can convey the message of the Lord as it is to his disciple. No one can be spiritually realized by manufacturing his own process, as is the fashion of the foolish pretenders. The Bhagavatam says: dharmam hi saksad-bhagavat-pranitam - the path of religion is directly enunciated by the Lord. Therefore, mental speculation or dry arguments cannot help one progress in spiritual life. One has to approach a bona fide spiritual master to receive the knowledge. Such a spiritual master should be accepted in full surrender, and one should serve the spiritual master like a menial servant, without false prestige. Satisfaction of the self-realized spiritual master is the secret of advancement in spiritual life. Inquiries and submission constitute the proper combination for spiritual understanding. Unless there is submission and service, inquiries from the learned spiritual master will not be effective. One must be able to pass the test of the spiritual master, and when he sees the genuine desire of the disciple, he automatically blesses the disciple with genuine spiritual understanding. In this verse, both blind following and absurd inquiries are condemned. One should not only hear submissively from the spiritual master; but one must also get a clear understanding from him, in submission and service and inquiries. A bona fide spiritual master is by nature very kind toward the disciple. Therefore when the student is submissive and is always ready to render service, the reciprocation of knowledge and inquiries becomes perfect.
(3 times we are told to approach the spiritual master, present tense ; 4 times Srila Prabhupada instructs us to submissively inquire, present tense ; 5 times He tells us to render service - again, the present tense)
Srila Prabhupada further explains the How and the Why to approaching, inquiring, submitting to, and serving a pure devotee. This personal training a pure devotee gives a disciple is explained here in Srimad Bhagavatam 3.22.7:
“I have fortunately been instructed by you, and thus great favor has been bestowed upon me. I thank God that I have listened with open ears to your pure words. PURPORT: Srila Rupa Goswami has given directions, in his Bhakti-rasamåta-sindhu, on how to accept a bona fide spiritual master and how to deal with him. First, the desiring candidate must find a bona fide spiritual master, and then he must very eagerly receive instructions from him and execute them. This is reciprocal service. A bonafide spiritual master or saintly person always desires to elevate a common man who comes to him. Because everyone is under the delusion of maya and is forgetful of his prime duty, Krsna consciousness, a saintly person always desires that everyone become a saintly person. It is the function of a saintly person to invoke Krsna consciousness in every forgetful common man.
Manu said that since he was advised and instructed by Kardama Muni, he was very much favored. He considered himself lucky to receive the message by aural reception. It is especially mentioned here that one should be very inquisitive to hear with open ears from the authorized source of the bona fide spiritual master. How is one to receive? One should receive the transcendental message by aural reception. The word karea-randhraiu means “through the holes of the ears.” The favor of the spiritual master is not received through any other part of the body but the ears.
This does not mean, however, that the spiritual master gives a particular type of mantra through the ears in exchange for some dollars and if the man meditates on that he achieves perfection and becomes God within six months. Such reception through the ears is bogus. Srimad Bhagavatam The real fact is that a bona fide spiritual master knows the nature of a particular man and what sort of duties he can perform in Krsna consciousness, and he instructs him in that way. He instructs him through the ear, not privately, but publicly. “You are fit for such and such work in Krsna consciousness. You can act in this way.” One person is advised to act in Krsna consciousness by working in the Deities’ room, another is advised to act in Krsna consciousness by performing editorial work, another is advised to do preaching work, and another is advised to carry out Krsna consciousness in the cooking department. There are different departments of activity in Krsna consciousness, and a spiritual master, knowing the particular ability of a particular man, trains him in such a way that by his tendency to act he becomes perfect. Bhagavad-géta makes it clear that one can attain the highest perfection of spiritual life simply by offering service according to his ability, just as Arjuna served Krsna by his ability in the military art. Arjuna offered his service fully as a military man, and he became perfect. Similarly, an artist can attain perfection simply by performing artistic work under the direction of the spiritual master. If one is a literary man, he can write articles and poetry for the service of the Lord under the direction of the spiritual master. One has to receive the message of the spiritual master regarding how to act in one’s capacity, for the spiritual master is expert in giving such instructions.
This combination, the instruction of the spiritual master and the faithful execution of the instruction by the disciple, makes the entire process perfect. Srila Visvanath Chakravarti Thakura describes in his explanation of the verse in Bhagavad-gita, vyavasayatmika buddhiù, that one who wants to be certain to achieve spiritual success must take the instruction from the spiritual master as to what his particular function is. He should faithfully try to execute that particular instruction and should consider that his life and soul. The faithful execution of the instruction which he receives from the spiritual master is the only duty of a disciple, and that will bring him perfection. One should be very careful to receive the message from the spiritual master through the ears and execute it faithfully. That will make one’s life successful.” (Srila Prabhupada states 5 times we should receive and execute instructions from the spiritual master and 8 times these instructions should be received aurally, through the ears.)
Thus Srila Prabhupada did not turn His transcendental acceptance of a disciple (Vaisnava initiation) into a temporary materialistic event or process.
While Srila Prabhupada was personally present in his prakat lila (visible or manifest lila), the system was that if a person wanted initiation he had to approach Srila Prabhupada personally. Exactly like the Bhagavad Gita verse, BG 4.34 above. We had to approach Srila Prabhupada by asking Him personally for initiation, by writing a letter to Him, or by having the Temple President write to Him on our behalf. This was the only system. After some time Srila Prabhupada would reply with His answer of acceptance or non-acceptance. Srila Prabhupada would then either perform the fire yajna (early days) or deputize assistants (rtvik) to perform the fire yajna after He personally accepted an applicant as His sisya or disciple. No one person or persons kept the post of rtvik assistant permanently, because the service would end upon the completion of the yajna. If Srila Prabhupada later requested another yajna to be performed in another zone, a different person, close to that zone, would be deputed to perform the rtvik assistant service. The external proof that Srila Prabhupada personally accepted a disciple came in the form of a letter from Srila Prabhupada to the prospective disciple, or to that person's Temple President (e.g., I accept so-and-so as my initiated disciple), or in a face to face conversation with that disciple. The fire yajna then followed at some future time. The person performing the fire yajna was Srila Prabhupada's temporary assistant rtvik priest, even though unqualified according to the standard described in Srimad Bhagavatam 2.6.25 purport. And as Srila Prabhupada himself declares in that same purport, "But such expert brahman priests are very rare in this age of corruption and quarrel, and therefore in the present age only the yajna of chanting the holy name of the Lord is recommended. ... [Caitanya-caritamrta Adi 17.21] "In this Age of Kali there is no other means, no other means, no other means for self-realization than chanting the holy name, chanting the holy name, chanting the holy name of Lord Hari."
Even in the final months of Srila Prabhupada's prakat lila (visible and manifest lila), He received so many letters and personal requests for initiation. Srila Prabhupada personally gave names and accepted as His disciples any who were in India. July 7, 1977 conversation:
Tamala Krsna: “Okay. Is there someone else in India that you want to do this?”
Prabhupada: “India, I am here. We shall see…
“In this section of the conversation, Tamal Krsna Goswami is asking Srila Prabhupada who will decide on the initiates in India. And Srila Prabhupada says, "I am here. We shall see." Now the obvious point is: if this were a list to operate for rtvik initiation after Srila Prabhupada's disappearance, then why does Srila Prabhupada put himself on the list? In other words, how can Srila Prabhupada be giving a posthumous list if he puts his own name on the list? This simple point completely defeats the interpretation that the posthumous rtvik-diksa proponents put on the July 9th Letter. As Srila Prabhupada puts himself on the list, the system described can be only meant to operate in his presence." (Balavidya das, September 8, 2007, USA, Sampradaya Sun).
If the prospective disciple was in another place, and had requested initiation from Srila Prabhupada, His deputed disciples would give the name and do the yajna but the applicant would still be Srila Prabhupada's disciple.
On October 18, 1977, Srila Prabhupada stated that, "I stop, for the time being." (the initiations), then He deputed Jayapataka Maharaja to give the name and perform the yajna for a Bengali man in Mayapur (Gaura Kesava prabhu's analysis: "Srila Prabhupada Gave No Diksa after October 18, 1977; Sampradaya Sun, March 17, 2009). But 1 or 2 weeks later, Radha Govinda Maharaja brought some new men to Vrndavana who were requesting that Srila Prabhupada personally give them Hari Nam initiation. Srila Prabhupada told Radha Govinda M. that he (Radha Govinda M.) should initiate them as his own disciples. Radha Govinda M. and the men begged Srila Prabhupada, that He (Prabhupada) should initiate them and Srila Prabhupada finally agreed (related by Bhagavat das Gosvami, who was personally present and witnessed the exchange). Each prospective disciple had approached Srila Prabhupada in His physically manifest form and Srila Prabhupada accepted them as His disciples.
In these examples from Srimad Bhagavatam, and from our own lives and experiences, Srila Prabhupada is the Acarya. When He ordered, and only when He ordered, was a fire yajna begun and finished. If Srila Prabhupada did not specifically order a fire yajna, then there was no fire yajna. When Srila Prabhupada ordered and empowered a few men to assist Him by choosing names and performing a fire yajna, the actual acceptance of a disciple was transcendental and made only by our Srila Prabhupada Himself, those new disciples were all acknowledged to be Srila Prabhupada’s disciples. Who was the actual representative of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and the disciplic succession? Was it the rtvik assistant priest apprentices, or was it the Uttama adhikari Acarya, who as the living representative of Sri Sri Radha and Krsna, put this apparatus into motion? It was Srila Prabhupada and only Srila Prabhupada! If Srila Prabhupada said on October 18, 1977 that He was stopping (the initiations) and then deputed Jayapataka Maharaja as his rtvik representative for one instance in Mayapur, and He did, then Srila Prabhupada was initiating only on a case by case basis. As He said, ”I stop, for the time being…”. Srila Prabhupada could still give initiations because He was the prakat manifestation, the transcendental, transparent via medium of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and fully independent from our (every other apprentice devotee in ISKCON) materialistic conceptions. But those (the 11 non-pure devotee apprentices) who were appointed to act as Srila Prabhupada’s rtvik assistants up until October 18, 1977, had no such independent freedom to continue to perform the brahminical rtvik service after October 18,1977. And to misunderstand this instruction was such a great disservice that all of us must be held responsible. Only Srila Prabhupada could adjust the October 18, 1977 instruction, and evidently He didn’t. There are further instructions that Srila Prabhupada gave us after October 18, 1977 that we should publicly examine with great care in order to avoid further reckless behavior and disservice to His Divine Grace, our Prabhupada.
Of course, we now know through Bhagavat das Gosvami, and Gurukrpa das, and others who were personally present, that Srila Prabhupada, at some point later in October 1977 ordered Tamal Krishna Maharaja and Ramesvara das to call for all of us (Prabhupada's disciples) to come to Vrndavana and that He (our Prabhupada) would give us encouragement and further individual instructions. Srila Prabhupada also called for those who wanted initiation to come to Vrndavana to receive initiation and instructions from Himself personally (Srimad Bhagavatam 3.22.7). Unfortunately, Tamal and Ramesvara did the opposite; and through a letter to each GBC man and the BBT newsletter, told all of us that Srila Prabhupada wanted us not to come to Vrndavana, but to serve in separation. So each of us needs to ask ourselves, would we rather follow the books, lectures, and instructions of our Srila Prabhupada, or do we want to follow some letters composed by Tamal Krsna M., signed with Tamal's famous rubber stamp, and further perpetuated by the posthumous Rtviks?
There are some who believe that Srila Prabhupada's solution to protect the physical assets of corporate ISKCON from his eldest son, who was under the influence of caste brahmanas (the "henceforward" argument from the last will) should be applied to the transcendental assets of disciplic succession, eternal Gaudiya Vaisnava philosophy, and the eternal instructions contained in Srila Prabhupada's own books and those of the previous acaryas. This solution (posthumous rtvik initiation) is a materialistic approach and is contrary to the descriptions of the disciplic succession given by Srila Prabhupada and the previous acaryas. Additionally, do not think that Srila Prabhupada made any errors of omission either. He didn’t forgot to include the portion of His purports that state, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to Krsna except though Me (Srila Prabhupada)." And don’t think that He failed to include that explanation that states that “the disciplic succession ends with Me; And henceforward I (Srila Prabhupada) am the only real guru and all real devotees now and in the future will be my disciples.” These statements are not there because Srila Prabhupada did not propose or endorse posthumous rtvik initiation. Please rtvik people, stop claiming that our Srila Prabhupada has proposed some temporary, materialistic solution for preserving the disciplic succession. You advocate the posthumous rtvik position so that you can maintain your very tiny independence, free from active, submissive inquiry and free from personal instruction from a visible living diksa or siksa pure devotee guru (prakat lila) who will correct your mistakes and instruct you to surrender your will to the Supreme will of Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga. (E.g.: Once on a morning walk in Australia a devotee named Tamal Krishna asked Srila Prabhupada: “Since the books are transcendental, can't we just study the books?” Srila Prabhupada took Tamal's ear between His thumb and finger, twisting the ear, and then said, "The books cannot do this!") (Related by Madhudvisa Maharaja to Bhagavat Maharaja.)
Srila Prabhupada explained why we have to approach an acarya during a lecture given in Mumbai in 1973 (Srila Prabhupada Lecture on Bhagavad-gita 13.8-12, October 5, 1973, Bombay):
"... So to understand this knowledge one has to approach acarya. Acarya means one who knows the purpose of Vedic literature, sastra. Asrnoti yah sastram. And practices and teaches his disciple. He knows. Acarya means knows. One who knows the purpose of Vedic literature, he practices in his life, and he teaches his disciple. He is called acarya. So acarya upasanam. Before worshiping the Lord... Just like here Krsna said in the beginning, acaryopasanam, and in the middle he says, mayi cananya-yogena bhaktir avyabhicarini. So before engaging yourself in devotional service to the Lord, you must first of all worship acarya, acaryopasanam. One cannot become a devotee personally. Just like some rascals say, "What is the use of accepting guru?" Of course, they have got very bad experience. But who is acarya? Acarya means one who has received the Vedic knowledge through the parampara system. Evam parampara-praptam imam rajarsayo viduh [Bhagavad-gita 4.2]. He is acarya. Acarya cannot be manufactured, self-made. No. He must come down from the disciplic succession. He is acarya. You have to approach such acarya who is coming in disciplic succession. acaryavan puruso veda. One who is under the shelter of acarya, he knows things. So Krsna recommends also here that if you actually want to become in knowledge, if you want to have real knowledge, then you must worship acarya. Acaryopasanam. This is Vedic system. Tad vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet [MU 1.2.12].
It is not that "If I like, I can go to a guru; if I don't like, I can learn the books at home and learn everything. " No, that is not possible. Practically ... Just like if you purchase some medical book and study at home and if you begin to practice, you will be called a quack. You will not be recognized by the government. You will not get the practitioner's registration. You will not. Unless you have passed through the medical college, your medical examination, you will not be accepted, even if you say that "I have read all the books." Similarly, if you simply think that "I have read... As we see generally, "Oh, I have read Bhagavad-gita hundred times." But you ask him what is Krsna, he cannot say. Because he has not approached the acarya. This is the difficulty. He might have read Bhagavad-gita a thousand times, but he will not understand a single word because he has not approached. ..."
Our param Gurudev, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada also had to confront this posthumous rtvik philosophy when so many were claiming to be Thakur Bhaktivinode's disciples, despite never approaching Him during His manifest(prakat lila) pastimes. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhupada wrote in this essay, Thakur Bhaktivinode (The Harmonist, December 1931, vol. XXIX No.6):
"...There have, however, already arisen serious misunderstandings regarding the proper interpretation of the life and teachings of Srila Thakur Bhaktivinode. Those who suppose they understand the meaning of his message without securing the guiding grace of the Acarya are disposed to unduly favour the methods of empiric study of his writings. There are persons who have got by heart almost everything that he wrote without being able to catch the least particle of his meaning. Such study cannot benefit those who are not prepared to act up to the instructions lucidly conveyed by his words. There is no honest chance of missing the warnings of Thakur Bhaktivinode. Those, therefore, who are misled by the perusal of his writings are led astray by their own obstinate perversity in sticking to the empiric course which they prefer to cherish against his explicit warnings. Let these unfortunate persons look more carefully into their own hearts for the cause of their misfortunes.
The personal service of the pure devotee is essential for understanding the spiritual meaning of the words of Thakur Bhaktivinode. …
The Editor of this Journal (Srila Bhaktisidhanta), originally started by Thakur Bhaktivinode, has been trying to draw the attention of all followers of Thakur Bhaktivinode to this all-important point of his teachings. It is not necessary to try to place ourselves on a footing of equality with Thakur Bhaktivinode. We are not likely to benefit by any mechanical imitation of any practices of Thakur Bhaktivinode on the opportunist principle that they may be convenient for us to adopt. The Guru is not an erring mortal whose activities can be understood by the fallible reason of unreclaimed humanity. There is an eternally impassable line of demarcation between the Saviour and the saved. Those who are really saved can alone know this. Thakur Bhaktivinode belongs to the category of the spiritual world-teachers who eternally occupy the superior position.
The present Editor (Srila Bhaktisiddhanta) has all along felt it his paramount duty to try to clear up the meaning of the life and teachings of Thakur Bhaktivinode by the method of submissive listening to the Transcendental Sound from the lips of the pure devotee. The Guru who realizes the transcendental meaning of all sounds, is in a position to serve the Absolute by the direction of the Absolute conveyed through every sound. The Transcendental Sound is Godhead, the mundane sound is non-Godhead. All sound has got these opposite aptitudes. All sound reveals its Divine face to the devotee and only presents its deluding aspect to the empiric pedant. The devotee (pure devotee as explained below-Lgd) talks apparently the same language as the deluded empiric pedant who had got by heart the vocabulary of the Scriptures. But not withstanding apparent identity of performance, the one has no access to the reality while the other is absolutely free from all delusion. ...
Thakur Bhaktivinode is acknowledged by all his sincere followers as possessing the above powers of the pure devotee of Godhead. His words have to be received from the lips of a pure devotee. If his words are listened from the lips of a non-devotee they will certainly deceive. If his works are studied in the light of one's own worldly experience their meaning will refuse to disclose itself to such readers. His works belong to the class of the eternal revealed literature of the world and must be approached for their right understanding through their exposition by the pure devotee. If no help from the pure devotee is sought the works of Thakur Bhaktivinode will be grossly misunderstood by their readers. The attentive reader of those works will find that he is always directed to throw himself upon the mercy of the pure devotee if he is not to remain unwarrantably self-satisfied by the deluding results of his wrong method of study. …
Those who pretend to recognise the Divine Mission of Thakur Bhaktivinode without aspiring to the unconditional service of those pure souls who really follow the teachings of the Thakur by the method enjoined by the scriptures and explained by Thakur Bhaktivinode in a way that is so eminently suited to the requirements of the sophisticated mentality of the present Age, only deceive themselves and their willing victims by their hypocritical professions and performances. These persons must not be confounded with the bonafide members of the flock.…"
Currently, ISKCON follows the Catholic system of electing their gurus from a group of non-pure devotee apprentices (Caitanya-caritamrta Adi Chapter 1- Summary - by Srila Prabhupada: "The first manifestation described is the spiritual master, who appears in two plenary parts called the initiating spiritual master and instructing spiritual master. They are identical because both of them are phenomenal manifestations of the Supreme Truth. Next described are the devotees, who are divided into two classes, namely, the apprentices and the graduates."...).
The posthumous rtvik "reformers" follow the Evangelical Christian process of accepting an aprakat (not personally manifest) Srila Prabhupada, without having to approach and humbly submit themselves at His lotus feet for inquiry, instruction, and service. Both systems appear to be somewhat pious and well intending, but because neither follow the Guru-Sadhu-Sastra model of approaching a pure devotee during his prakat lila (manifest visible pastimes), inquiring submissively, and rendering service; both simply take one down the royal road to repeated birth and death (Hell). I can hear the pundits of the Internet screaming: “Prabhupada said: Vani is more important than vapu!" We all agree on this point. Vani is more important. So whose vani should we accept, the temporary posthumous rtvik model originally proposed by Tamal and carried on by his Current Indirect Anathematized disciple, Krsna Kant; or do we accept the sastric vani given to us by Srila Prabhupada, as it was given to Him by His Prabhupada, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada through disciplic succession? And what is Srila Prabhupada's Vani on this topic? We shall see in this next section.
If we want to understand how Srila Prabhupada and His Books explain the continuance of the Gaudiya Vaisnava disciplic succession, we must hear and follow His vani, all His Vani. Please remember, Srila Prabhupada told us that if we want to emphasize a point, state that point 3 times.
First, in Caitanya-caritamrta Antya 5.131:
"If you want to understand Srimad-Bhagavatam," he said, "you must approach a self-realized Vaisnava and hear from him. You can do this when you have completely taken shelter of the lotus feet of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu."
bhaktir bhavati naisthiki
"As one regularly hears the Bhagavatam or renders service unto the pure devotee, all that is troublesome to the heart is practically destroyed, and loving service unto the glorious Lord, who is praised with transcendental songs, is established as an irrevocable fact."(Bhag. 1.2.18) [This is Srila Prabhupada's original translation of this verse. Ramesvara das substituted his own version in the 2nd printing] ...". In this Caitanya-caritamrta Antya 5.131 verse, Srila Prabhupada writes 7 times that: "if you want to understand Srimad Bhagavatam, you must approach a self-realized Vaisnava and hear from him."(all present tense).
Srila Prabhupada explains the above verse (CC Antya 5.131) in this lecture SP.720620SB.LA; SB 2.3.23:
"...You do not know the conclusion and you dare to write some poetry. Don't do this." And he said, bhagavata para giya bhagavata-sthane:(?) "If you want to understand Srimad-Bhagavatam, then you go and study Srimad-Bhagavatam from the pure devotee. Then you'll understand. Otherwise, you'll write all these nonsense." Bhagavata para giya bhagavata-sthane. So one bhagavata... The two bhagavatas. You study Srimad-Bhagavatam from living bhagavata. So if one does not take or does not surrender unto the living bhagavata, he cannot understand Srimad-Bhagavatam. Many scholarly, learned scholars, Sanskrit scholars, they cannot understand Bhagavatam. ..."(All in the present tense: as in do it now.)
Again in Caitanya-caritamrta Antya 7.53p:
"… if one wants to learn the meaning of Srimad-Bhagavatam, one must take lessons from a realized soul. One should not proudly think that one can understand the transcendental loving service of the Lord simply by reading books. One must become a servant of a Vaisnava. As Narottama dasa Thakura has confirmed, “chaòiya vaisnava-seva nistara payeche keba: one cannot be in a transcendental position unless one very faithfully serves a pure Vaisnava. One must accept a Vaisnava guru (adau gurv-acrayam), and then by questions and answers one should gradually learn what pure devotional service to Krsna is. That is called the parampara system."(Also the present tense.)
In support there is Srimad Bhagavatam 4.20.24-25, where Srila Prabhupada writes 15 times that: we should hear from the lips of a pure devotee(s) (also in the present tense).
Of course there is BG 4.34: "Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth(this verse is in the present tense)."(3 times approach; 4 times submissively inquire; 5 times render service.)
In Srimad Bhagavatam 3.22.7 Srila Prabhupada states 5 times that the disciple should receive instructions and submit himself to the service that the guru prescribes and He also states 8 times that the disciple should receive that instruction aurally, through his ear (all in the present tense). Srimad Bhagavatam 3.22.7 purport: “…The real fact is that a bona fide spiritual master knows the nature of a particular man and what sort of duties he can perform in Krsna consciousness, and he instructs him in that way. He instructs him through the ear, not privately, but publicly. “You are fit for such and such work in Krsna consciousness. You can act in this way.” One person is advised to act in Krsna consciousness by working in the Deities’ room, another is advised to act in Krsna consciousness by performing editorial work, another is advised to do preaching work, and another is advised to carry out Krsna consciousness in the cooking department…” (These instructions should be given in public.)
In Srimad Bhagavatam 1.1.3 purport, Srila Prabhupada describes the future: "...This process of disciplic succession of the Bhagavata school suggests that in the future also Srimad-Bhagavatam has to be understood from a person who is factually a representative of Srila Sukadeva Goswami. … One should conclude, therefore, that the serious student of the rasa should receive the message of Bhagavatam in the chain of disciplic succession from Srila Sukadeva Goswami..."
And finally, we have the famous Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya 22.51 and 22.71 purport:"
Madya 22.51: Unless one is favored by a pure devotee, he cannot attain the platform of devotional service. To say nothing of Krsna-bhakti, one cannot even be relieved from the bondage of material existence.
PURPORT: Pious activities bring about material opulence, but one cannot acquire devotional service by any amount of material pious activity, not by giving charity, opening big hospitals and schools or working philanthropically. Devotional service can be attained only by the mercy of a pure devotee. Without a pure devotee's mercy, one cannot even escape the bondage of material existence. The word mahat in this verse means "a pure devotee."... One also has to associate with such a mahatma who has accepted Krsna as the supreme source of the entire creation. Without being a mahatma, one cannot understand Krsna's absolute position. A mahatma is rare and transcendental, and he is a pure devotee of Lord Krsna. Foolish people consider Krsna a human being, and they consider Lord Krsna's pure devotee an ordinary human being also. Whatever one may be, one must take shelter at the lotus feet of a devotee mahatma and treat him as the most exalted well-wisher of all human society. We should take shelter of such a mahatma and ask for his causeless mercy. [Present tense again! Now!-Lgd] Only by his benediction can one be relieved from attachment to a materialistic way of life. When one is thus relieved, he can engage in the Lord's transcendental loving service through the mercy of the mahatma [Srila Prabhupada states it here 3 times: that a person must associate with (take shelter of) (present tense) a pure devotee mahatma and He states 3 times that the goal of a pure devotee's association is to receive that pure devotee's mercy]."
Caitanya-caritamrta Madya 22.71 purport:
”… A neophyte may fall down by associating with non-devotees because he is not firmly convinced and strongly situated. The second-class devotee, even though he cannot support his position with çastric reference, can gradually become a first-class devotee by studying the çastras and associating with a first-class devotee. However, if the second-class devotee does not advance himself by associating with a first-class devotee, he makes no progress (present tense). There is no possibility that a first-class devotee will fall down, even though he may mix with nondevotees to preach. Conviction and faith gradually increase to make one an uttama-adhikari, a first-class devotee.”
Srila Prabhupada does not say which pure devotee(s) we should hear from, only that we should approach such a pure devotee(s) and hear from him (them), inquire submissively, and render the service that the pure devotee guru (diksa or siksa) instructs should be done (Bhagavad-gita 4.34: all in the present tense - as in, do it now). This is initiation into the parampara. This is the infallible system described by Srila Prabhupada and confirmed by Guru, Sadhu, and Sastra for perpetuating our disciplic succession. This process, as given by our Srila Prabhupada, is not very complex! Of course, if our goal is to try to hold on to our very minute independence and its concurrent enjoying mood by resisting Srila Prabhupada's repeated instructions: to approach and take shelter of pure devotees; to hear and submissively inquire from pure devotees; and to serve pure devotees; with the goal of obtaining a pure devotee's mercy (the result of which is pure devotional service as described in the Nectar of Instruction (NOI 8p) (and all in the present tense; i.e., now; not simply the past); Again, if we do resist Srila Prabhupada's instructions (His vani), these straightforward verses, as found above, will become impossible to understand and we will mistake the resultant misfortune to be the greatest pleasure, birth after birth.
[Emphasis added by the author.]
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