Śrīpāda Padmanābha Mahārāja: ISKCON’s philosophy is now similar to the ṛtvik philosophy*. They are saying, “We do not have the highest realization, but we are connecting you with Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja Prabhupāda. You will get all things from him.”
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: If the ṛtvik system is bona fide, then why did Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja take initiation from his Gurudeva? And, why did his Gurudeva allow his many sannyāsī disciples to initiate? Why did Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura accept a guru who, being illiterate, could not even sign his name, and who was blind? Moreover, that blind personality rejected him two times, saying, “I don’t know anything. You should go to another guru.” Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura replied, “If you do not initiate me, I will fast until death.” At last Śrīla Gaura Kiśora dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja initiated Prabhupāda, who would later say with pride, “I am his only disciple.”

* A ṛtvik is a priest who performs a yajña (fire sacrifice) for the fulfilment of worldly desires (karma-kanda) on behalf of someone else.

After the departure of Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja, some of his followers have propounded the idea that anyone can still become the direct, initiated disciple of Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja by taking initiation from any of his disciples, who solely act as a ‘ṛtvik’ intermediate. Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja strongly refuted this idea on many occasions. In a lecture spoken in Russia on July 19, 2001, Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja explained:
Those who think, “There is no need to accept a guru as a mediator because we can chant the holy name, we can read books, and we can do arcana and sādhana simply by the ṛtvik system,” are not within the guru-paramparā. They deceive others. They are actually cheaters; not bhaktas. Nowhere in the śāstra is it written that a ṛtvik can ever give bhakti. [There are nineteen places in Prabhupāda’s books where the word ṛtvik is used, and in all cases the word only refers to a priest officiating or performing a fire sacrifice. Even when the word used is ṛtvik-ācārya, it is still defined as a priest performing a fire sacrifice for a secular gain.] This can never be the case.
… These ṛtviks have no faith in Kṛṣṇa, no faith in bhakti, and no faith in scriptures like the Vedas, Upaniṣads, Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, and Caitanya-caritāmṛta. They also have no faith in the guru-paramparā, and that is why they cannot give bhakti.
This word ṛt has come from the word Ṛg-Veda. Those who know all Vedas, including the Ṛg, Sāma, Yajur, and Atharva Veda, all the Upaniṣads, and all the Purāṇas, are actually ṛtvik. I think, however, that these modern ṛtviks don’t even know the ABC’s of the Vedas. They say that in this world there are no pure devotees, and therefore there are no pure devotees to initiate anyone. This idea is very, very wrong and it against the principles of bhakti. The ṛtvik proponents saw that the devotees in their society were quarrelling amongst themselves, and that there was no śuddha-bhakta there. Then, mistaking that those who quarrelled were in the guru-paramparā, the ṛtviks became opposed to the actual guru-paramparā.
Beware of this ṛtvik system. Without a self-realized guru you cannot achieve bhakti in thousands of births. This is an established truth. This is siddhānta. You should therefore accept a sad-guru, serve him, and try to follow his instructions. Then you can develop your Kṛṣṇa consciousness and all of your anarthas will disappear. Otherwise, it will never be possible for pure bhakti to come and touch your heart and senses.
… Real ṛtviks know all śāstras, and all of them have gurus. A ṛtvik cannot be a ṛtvik without accepting a real guru. All ṛtviks, like Vaśiṣṭha Ṛṣi, are very high-class devotees. Viśvāmitra, Gautama, and even Vyāsadeva are ṛtviks, but they have all accepted the guru-paramparā. They all believe that there are always self-realized gurus in the world. Nowadays, therefore, those who call themselves ṛtviks are all cheaters, and we should beware of them.
Later on that year, on December 12, 2001, Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja further discussed this in a lecture given in Germany:
Many say that Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja was a follower of the ṛtvik system, but this statement is quite false. Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja accepted the guru-paramparā, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu, and the goal of life as shown by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī, the Gītā and the Bhāgavatam. Since Śrīla Svāmī Mahārāja accepted these principles, how can anyone say he accepted the ṛtvik system? Nowhere in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Gītā, or any other scriptures is it stated that the ṛtvik system has anything to do with the guru-paramparā and bhakti. It has no connection with bhakti at all. The ṛtvik system is only employed for the performance of a fire sacrifice, for the fulfilment of worldly desires (karma-kāṇḍa). It is totally irrelevant to our bhakti, to Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, to the Gītā, and to our guru-paramparā. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī never mentioned anything about the ṛtvik system in his Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi, or in his other books. Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī has written so many books, but he has never discussed the ṛtviks.

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