Subject: Ritvik initiations.
What was the opinion of Srila Sridhar Maharaja and Govinda Maharaja regarding ritvik initiation in Iskcon?
Whether ISKCON or any other place, rtvik initiation is rtvik initiation.
Rtvik means “one who acts on behalf of another.” A rtvik guru in our sampradaya is a devotee who is designated and authorized by a guru to perform initiations on his behalf. Those whom he initiates are disciples of the guru that designated the rtvik to act on his behalf for the purpose of initiating disciples. Usually this is done when the initiating guru is unable to be personally present to perform the initiation. For example: a guru in India may designate one or more devotees in the USA to initiate disciples on his behalf as a matter of convenience so that the prospective disciple does not have to travel to India or the guru travel to the USA.
I acted as rtvik for both Srila Sridhara Maharaja and Srila Govinda Maharaja during their lifetimes to facilitate the initiation of sincere seekers of Krishna Consciousness who desired initiation from these two Acharyas. Those whom I initiated at those times did not become my disciples, they are disciples of the gurus just mentioned.
Do they believe that initiation from a Guru in ISKCON means that the devotee becomes a disciple of Srila Prabhupada?
A guru does not initiate disciples after his disappearance from this world. Spiritual initiation is a very simple matter to understand. It has been made complicated by those who wish to cheat less intelligent people or those with a poor fund of knowledge.
Think of guru like a father and his disciples like children. A father produces children during his lifetime. Does he produce any children after his death? Of course not, although his children can produce their own children. To spread Krishna Consciousness a guru initiates disciples during his lifetime. After his disappearance he can no longer initiate disciples. However, his disciples can become guru and produce their own disciples. That is the way the sampradaya continues, just as the line of a particular family continues from one generation to another.
Rtvik initiations, in the manner you must be questioning, where you have been told a guru, such as Srila Prabhupada, has passed away and his disciples are initiating on his behalf so that those they initiate become the disciples of Srila Prabhupada is a complete hoax. It is akin to the Christian conception that Jesus is the only son of God, the only guru, and no other person is deserving of one’s faith, only he can offer salvation and deliver one to heaven. These are faithless persons or, at least men of little faith, who believe God is so impotent He can have only one son. It is utter foolishness. God is not impotent. He can have unlimited sons who may serve as gurus to save the fallen souls of this world and deliver them beyond heaven to the spiritual world.
Also how is the initation process in Sri Chaitanya Saraswath Math?
In order to disassociate our mission with that currently going by the name Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math (SCSM) I have changed our name from Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math to Sri Gaura Vinoda Saraswat Sanga. Unfortunately, after Srila Govinda Maharaja’s disappearance Nirmala Acharya Maharaja and others associated with him deviated from the sampradaya and, thereby, became unfit to continue the line. Therefore, the question of how initiations take place within the current SCSM is irrelevant to me.
Does Nirmala Acharya initiate on behalf of Govinda Maharaja?
No. He initiates on his own behalf.
So all the initiated devotees becomes disciple of Govinda Maharaja and Srila Sridhar Maharaja?
No, as already explained.
We are not Christians who believe there was only one savior who appeared thousands of years ago and died, leaving all those before and after him bereft of a living savior. However, even if you should think there is no one currently qualified to serve as a living Acharya, one who’s instructions are non-different from Krishna’s, it is better to continue your search for a true guru rather than half heartedly accept as a guru one about whom you doubt is truly a self realized soul (jñāninas tattva-darśinaḥ). That is Krishna’s instruction for our benefit.
tad viddhi praṇipātena
upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ
Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have 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 Bhāgavatam (6.3.19) says, dharmaṁ tu sākṣād bhagavat-praṇītam: the path of religion is directly enunciated by the Lord. Therefore, mental speculation or dry arguments cannot help lead one to the right path. Nor by independent study of books of knowledge can 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. Not only should one 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.
— Bg. 4.34
I thank you for your questions and pray this finds you well in health and spirits.
Swami B.K. Giri