Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj
GAUDIYA MATH - Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math
"I have chosen Sriman Bhakti Sundar Govinda Maharaj... as my successor. With this I transfer these beads and from now he will initiate on my behalf as ritvik. The ritvik system is already involved both here and also in the foreign land. The ritvik is the representative. So if you want to take from me, and you take by his hands, then it will be as well and as good as taking from me."
by Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj
[from a recording on Gaura Purnima, 26th March, 1986]
According to the desire of my Divine Master, I have been maintaining this Disciplic Succession but it is no longer possible for me, as I am now too old and an invalid. You all know from long ago I have chosen Sriman Bhakti Sundar Govinda Maharaj and I have given him sannyasa. All my Vaishnava Godbrothers are very affectionate towards him and it is also their desire to give him this position. I have previously given to him the charge of the Math and now I am giving him the full responsibility of giving Harinam, diksha, sannyasa, etc., as an Acharya of this Math on behalf of myself.
Those who have any regard for me should give this respect and position to Govinda Maharaj as my successor. As much as you have faith in my sincerity, then with all sincerity I believe that he has got the capacity of rendering service in this way. With this I transfer these beads and from now he will initiate on my behalf as ritvik. The ritvik system is already involved both here and also in the foreign land. The ritvik is the representative. So if you want to take from me, and you take by his hands, then it will be as well and as good as taking from me.
In the Mahamandala, Sagar Maharaj and many others are also ritvik of Swami Maharaj and also myself. They may do so, but in this Math and in any Math under this Math, he will be the representative. If anyone cannot accept this, he may leave the Math rather than stay here and disturb the peace of the Math. With all my sincerity and good feelings to Guru-Gauranga, to the Vaishnavas and the Acharyas, Mahaprabhu, Pancha-Tattva, Radha-Govinda and Their Parshadas, with all my sincere prayers to Them, henceforth he will represent me in this affair beginning from today's function.
Now I shall go from here and he will do the necessary. On my behalf, he will give Harinama, diksha, sannyasa, and everything.
Last Will & Testament
"The said Sriman Bhakti Sundar Govinda Maharaj, of whom I, Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj, am the Godfather, and am by caste Gaudiya-Vaishnava Brahmin, and am by occupation a Religious Preacher and Worshipper of the Deities at the address Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, P.O. and Police Station Nabadwip -- the said Sriman Bhakti Sundar Govinda Maharaj, who, despite temporarily changing his formal position, was named and recognized by me as Sri Govinda Sundar Vidyaranjan and engaged by me in all the various services of the Math; and upon whom on the 6th November, 1985, I conferred the order of sannyasa whence I again named and recognized him as Sri Bhakti Sundar Govinda Maharaj; and, since he has tirelessly and whole-heartedly assisted in the duties of organizing and developing this Math and also in the duties of establishing and developing Calcutta and Hapaniya Centers, etc., and since he has arranged many donors and has provided much encouragement to even myself in the duties of managing the Math, etc., and all the above-mentioned tasks he is still performing up to this day; and since he is still naturally disposed to serve the Math and its residents, and at all times he is endeavoring for the progressive development of Sri Math, and above all, he is well-known and unanimously acclaimed as being firmly established in the philosophy of the Siddhanta [Perfect Axiomatic Truth] of Bhakti as propounded by both myself as well as by my Divine Master -- thus, I hereby appoint him as my Successor Sevaite Acharya, and President.
"In compliance with the Rules and Regulations of the aforesaid Deed, all my lawful claims, directorship, and rights will automatically be inherited by him. In all my Maths, etc., he alone shall as the Acharya, confer initiation, etc., and shall as the Sevaite [Guardian-Servitor] and President, manage all the duties of my established Temples, Ashrams, etc.
"Hereby, I do reveal my final desire and directives unto all my Eastern and Western lady and gentlemen disciples, as well as to the faithful souls devoted to the Divinity, that: they must respect him as the exclusive Acharya and President, and remain faithful to him and cooperate with him in the service duties of the Math.
"If anyone cannot honor these directives and this final desire of mine, then they shall be bound to dissociate themselves from my established Maths."
What Sridhara Maharaja meant by ritvik is exactly what he said: "from now he (Govinda Maharaja) will initiate on my behalf as ritvik." Sridhara Swami said, that Govinda Maharaja would give diksha on HIS behalf, not on behalf of himself!
"I am giving him the full responsibility of giving Harinam, diksha, sannyasa, etc., as an Acharya of this Math on behalf of myself."
In the Last Will: "thus, I hereby appoint him as my Successor Sevaite Acharya". Govinda Maharaja is successor as SEVAITE acharya, giving dksha ON BEHALF of Sridhar Mahajara.
Srila Sridhar Maharaja appointed Govinda Maharaja as ritvik to give diksha on HIS behalf and then said if anybody does not accept that, then they should leave the Matha rather than make disturbance. "If anyone cannot accept this, he may leave the Math rather than stay here and disturb the peace of the Math."
Srila Sridhar Maharaj Further Discusses his Rtvik Position
Srila Sridhar Dev Goswami Maharaj
Discussions about Srila Govinda Maharaj as Rtvik Representative with Doctor Asthana
from a tape recording on 29 April, 1987
Dr Asthana: I am a little worried about Srila Govinda Maharaj's position.
Srila Sridhar Dev Goswami Maharaj: I have given him, I have empowered him, to do all these things on my behalf: Rtvik. I have appointed him to do all spiritual activity on my behalf.
Dr Asthana: But this "Rtvik" word is misinterpreted by many people.
Srila Sridhar Dev Goswami Maharaj: They may do so.
Dr Asthana: Some do not consider him as a direct successor; they consider him only as a Rtvik.
Srila Sridhar Dev Goswami Maharaj: More than Rtvik.
Dr Asthana: Eh?
Srila Sridhar Dev Goswami Maharaj: More than Rtvik. Whatever it may be, I am giving power. Just as "yauva-raja". When the King installs his son as King and retires himself, what will be the result? As Dasarath wanted to do with Ramchandra. The King gives all the authority of a king to the son and retires to go to the jungle although he is living with full power and glory.
Dr Asthana: Many people I have talked to do not consider the Rtvik to be the direct Guru. They say the Rtvik is Rtvik.
Srila Sridhar Dev Goswami Maharaj: Rtvik is Rtvik, but if such transfer of power is done then what harm? For those that have got no sraddha, they may go away. They may not accept. I do not care. I don't accept them.
Dr Asthana: Does Rtvik mean the direct successor?
Srila Sridhar Dev Goswami Maharaj: Rtvik means the representative. It may be temporary or it may be permanent. It may be partial or it may be full, as empowerment is there.
Dr Asthana: Is the empowerment to Govinda Maharaj now temporary or permanent?
Srila Sridhar Dev Goswami Maharaj: Permanent. Wholesale - both property and the function - transferred. If anyone has no recognition of this opinion of mine, I do not want them to live in the Mission. I drag them out.
Dr Asthana: But can they still operate from outside and still operate as part and parcel of you?
Srila Sridhar Dev Goswami Maharaj: As a revolt. That is a revolt - without sanction - anyone can do. I have deserted them. But they may do anything and everything as they wish and reap the results far from the spiritual world, from God. Unlawful.
Power may be extended and withdrawn also - I want to withdraw myself from them. Those that won't have faith in my decision. I withdraw from them. It is not a fashion but a question of faith. If they have no such faith in me, I withdraw myself from them.
Dr Asthana: Some devotees may consider, "That power (of Rtvik) was given to me in 1982 or '84, and he got that power in '86 so I am more senior.
Srila Sridhar Dev Goswami Maharaj: No position of seniority. No position of senior. That only seniority will be considered as the qualification - no.
Dr Asthana: I was thinking of sending all the senior devotees a letter trying to make this thing clear so that later on no complication like that comes up because at that time we will be very insecure when other types of interpretation start.
Srila Sridhar Dev Goswami Maharaj: According to their faith - what to think? What to say? Those that do not obey me after my departure means automatically they will be left by me. Only it is a transaction of faith. No right but faith. If no faith in my word, they are automatically rejected.
Dr Asthana: Some people have no particular obligation of faith to anyone. They go to many persons to gather something. They are just interested in knowledge and position.
Srila Sridhar Dev Goswami Maharaj: We have no concern with them. We hate them. We hate them: we don't think that they have any religious line in life.
In a very crude position maybe there will be some collecting (of knowledge) here and there when one cannot understand who is who.
Dr Asthana: They are just like an encyclopaedia.
Srila Sridhar Dev Goswami Maharaj: They are not fit (to see) that God is coming to him (and) through whom. If I am sincere in my search for God then God also will come to me from His side, and where we meet, he should be considered the Guru. Guru means representative of God Himself.
Dr Asthana: Yes we all agree with it. There are many traps and loopholes in these types of things, Maharaj, and some will play on this their whole life. They will think out how to manipulate the situation.
Srila Sridhar Dev Goswami Maharaj: The importance of life - life-giving and (life)-taking is not so important to them.
Srila Sridhar Dev Goswami Maharaj: Govinda Maharaj has told some of them, "No, you are a disciple of Guru Maharaj, and I am your Godbrother."
Dr Asthana: He can leave that instruction and give new instruction. Or we can call the devotees here and ask you to tell them.
Srila Sridhar Dev Goswami Maharaj: You may classify them into two (my disciples and Govinda Maharaj's disciples). There are my disciples also, and if what they do Govinda Maharaj does not accept, they will be rejected.
Dr Asthana: Although I have taken both initiations from you, under your instructions I am taking all instructions also from Govinda Maharaj. I am considering Govinda Maharaj as siksa-guru.
Srila Sridhar Dev Goswami Maharaj: Yes, siksa-guru.
Dr Asthana: So, they (the new initiates) should all consider him as diksa-guru. But I know that some people can twist each matter to their convenience and ultimately put (down) Govinda Maharaj.
Srila Sridhar Dev Goswami Maharaj: The ambitious party and those who want name and fame rather than the substance itself.
Dr Asthana: I want to make it absolutely clear once again. They will not oppose you and it will be beneficial.
Srila Sridhar Dev Goswami Maharaj: I have told on many occasions, "If you cannot take from Govinda Maharaj and accept him as Guru, you are to go away."
Dr Asthana: It is advisable to write letters to all the people saying that whoever has taken initiation from Srila Govinda Maharaj will be considered as a direct disciple of Srila Govinda Maharaj.
Srila Sridhar Dev Goswami Maharaj: Not to create havoc now. What will be - after me.
[Srila Govinda Maharaj arrives and joins the conversation]
Srila Govinda Maharaj: They are respecting me, no doubt, but I am thinking that everyone is Srila Guru Maharaj's disciple. And that is good for me. But what you are saying, that also has some right.
Dr Asthana: But Srila Guru Maharaj has made you the successor to run this Math.
Srila Govinda Maharaj: Yes, that is correct -
Dr Asthana: So, how will this Math run? Once Srila Guru Maharaj disappears they will go away, then what will you do alone? You will run the whole thing alone?
Srila Govinda Maharaj: Not alone.
Srila Sridhar Dev Goswami Maharaj: Whoever will support him, he will run the Math with them.
Srila Govinda Maharaj: I am with my Godbrothers. I am not alone.
Dr Asthana: This is what I am saying, you have to have a certain number who you can consider now as your disciples.
Srila Govinda Maharaj: If anybody wants to take initiation from me, that is another thing, but everyone is coming from outside and they are asking for initiation from Srila Guru Maharaj and I am officiating by way of giving initiation on behalf of Srila Guru Maharaj. This is the position at present.
Dr Asthana: So how to stop this position?
Srila Govinda Maharaj: Yes, we can stop it immediately, that is no problem. The problem is that they have some special regard and respect for Srila Guru Maharaj.
Dr Asthana: I may have some special regard and respect for Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur, but that does not mean that I can ask Srila Guru Maharaj to give me initiation on behalf of Bhaktivinode Thakur.
Srila Sridhar Dev Goswami Maharaj: That is not applicable in this case.
Dr Asthana: Yes. I may have some special regard for Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur, but it is not that I can come to Srila Guru Maharaj and say, "Give me initiation on behalf of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur."
Srila Govinda Maharaj: No. You are to think this: they have a special regard for Srila Guru Maharaj therefore they are coming here. They are not coming for me.
Dr Asthana: If they are not coming for you, they should not come here.
Srila Govinda Maharaj: That is your desire maybe.
Dr Asthana: I wish for Srila Guru Maharaj to express his desire. I feel that Srila Guru Maharaj should make this absolutely clear.
Srila Govinda Maharaj: Srila Guru Maharaj said that those who cannot respect Govinda Maharaj, they cannot stay in this Math.
If Srila Guru Maharaj will say, "If anyone wants to take initiation from me, then he must take initiation from Govinda Maharaj and that is enough for him (the devotee)." This statement is a correct statement as per your idea.
Dr Asthana: My idea is that Srila Guru Maharaj has stopped giving initiations and anyone who wants to accept the disciplic succession of Srila Guru Maharaj should now come to Srila Govinda Maharaj. And all the grace of Srila Sridhar Dev-Gosami Maharaj will come more if you worship Srila Govinda Maharaj than if you try to worship Srila Sridhar Maharaj directly. It is like one trying to worship Krishna directly and another trying to worship Krishna through Radharani. I do not have any confusion.
Srila Sridhar Dev Goswami Maharaj: Now please stop.
Dr Asthana: There may be some chaos and confusion, so, Srila Guru Maharaj, please make this clear.
Srila Sridhar Dev Goswami Maharaj: We do not want any quantity (large numbers of disciples), but quality.
Dr Asthana: I am insisting upon this because I know what is going to happen later on.
Srila Govinda Maharaj: The seed of initiation is only sraddha. Sraddha is the only seed of initiation. They have sraddha to Guru Maharaj - full faith - then they are coming here. Therefore it is very difficult to transfer them to another person. Later we can settle. Now Srila Guru Maharaj wants to stop.
Dr Asthana: If they want to be Srila Sridhar Maharaj's direct disciple, it is not good for them. Now they should go to Srila Govinda Maharaj. Therefore they should accept this decision.
Srila Govinda Maharaj: Srila Guru Maharaj told it before.
Dr Asthana: I have more mercy from Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur because I am a disciple of Srila Sridhar Maharaj. I have more mercy from him than a direct connection with Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur, because I have accepted his disciple as my Guru. It is the same way in your case, otherwise how will the disciplic succession run?
Srila Sridhar Dev Goswami Maharaj: Parvati Devi asked Shiva, "Who is the highest Lord to be served" Shiva replied, "Narayana". aradhananam sarvvesam visnor aradhanam param. Then Parvati Devi was a little mortified to think, "I am not serving Narayana". tasmat parataram devi tadiyanam samarchchanam. - this next line came from Shiva, meaning, "Those who serve the servants of Narayana are greater devotees than those who serve Narayana directly." This is because they serve both of them. Do you follow?
Dr Asthana: I don't understand the Sanskrit.
Srila Sridhar Dev Goswami Maharaj: If anyone loves you, and if someone loves your son, the one who loves your son will be considered to love you more than those who love you directly and not your son. Do you follow that?
Dr Asthana: Yes, I follow.
Srila Sridhar Dev Goswami Maharaj: It is like that. Shiva said, "aradhananam sarvvesam visnor aradhanam param" - Of all the worshippers, the worshippers of Vishnu are the highest." "tasmat parataram devi tadiyanam samarchchanam" - And even it is the case that those who worship the servants of Vishnu, - they are higher worshippers of Vishnu." Hearing this, Parvati Devi was very much satisfied to think, "I am serving the servant of Vishnu, my Lord, Shiva".
"If you love me, love my dog."
Sridhara Maharaja's 'Final Ritvik Order'
VNN Editorial January 8, 1999 VNN2811
BY GAURIDASA PANDITA DASA
EDITORIAL, Jan 8 (VNN) -- Dear Prabhus, Please accept my respectful obeisances. All glories To Srila Prabhupada and the Gaudiya Vaisnavas!
I was asked to reply to Tripurari Swami's statements regarding the ritvik appointments and I obliged. I did not intend to get into a big debate with the Gaudiya Math Vaisnavas on this issue, but I feel it is Krsna's desire that the air be cleared once and for all; so I will make a humble attempt. I got a few responses that did not address the actual facts of the matter. In fact the responses I received were in direct opposition to Sridhara Maharaja's instructions; the one they are supposed to be quoting as their authority!
Tripurari Swami and the other respondents claim that the ritvik initiation system is bogus and they quote Sridhara Maharaja as saying so; but they must not be aware that just before his passing from this world Sridhara Maharaja's final order was for a ritvik initiation system !
In one of Sridhara Maharaja's last speeches before he left the planet he appointed Govinda Maharaja as his ritvik representative. This is documented in the Book, "Sermons Of The Guardian Of Devotion" which I will quote below. The devotees have charged that I have misunderstood Srila Prabhupada and that he couldn't of appointed ritviks to initiate disciples for him after his physical departure saying it is apasiddhanta or an apa-sampradaya; but the pure devotees can make adjustments according to time, place and circumstances and his is exactly what Srila Prabhupada and Sridhara Maharaja did. They had the authority to do so and for us and to say they couldn't make those adjustments and didn't, is offensive to Srila Prabhupada and Sridhara Maharaja. After all, it is documented in the July 9th 1977 letter to all GBC's and Temples Presidents and in one of Sridhara Maharajas last speeches.
Since the devotees who responded to me did not use any quotes to back up their claims I did the research and came up with the exact quotes from Sridhara Maharaja. We must remember that the final instructions supersede the previous ones.
Here are the exact quotes from His Holiness Sridhara Maharaja: "With this I transfer these beads; from now he [Govinda Maharaja] will do so on my behalf as ritvik. The ritvik system is already involved both here and in the foreign land. The ritvik is the representative, so if you want to take [initiation] from me and you take from his hand then it will be as well and as good as taking from me. In the maha mandal [earth] Sargar Maharaja [formerly Akshayananda Swami] and many others, they are also ritviks of Swami Maharaja [Srila Prabhupada] and also myself and they may do so. But in this Math he, Govinda Maharaja will be the representative. Henceforth he will represent me in this affair beginning from today's function.
Now I shall go from here, [depart the material world] he will do the necessary on my behalf. He will give Hari Nama diksa, sanyasa and everything." [Sridhara Maharaja Sermons Of The Gaurdian Of Devotion]
So it is due to a lack of knowledge that the devotees still decry the bonafide ritvik initiation system. This system is also used in the Ramanuja Sampradaya. Ritvik priests are also mentioned in the Srimad Bhagavatam and the Krsna book contrary to so many claims of the uninformed sentimentalists.
Sridhara Maharaja did appoint 'regular gurus' in the Gaudiya Math and it proved a failure. Also seeing the condition of the guru system in ISKCON after Srila Prabhupada's departure he made the right adjustments according to the circumstances just before his departure. If the devotees would follow his and Srila Prabhupada's final orders we would be a lot better off and could even cooperate to push on Lord Chaitanya's movement. Srila Prabhupada wanted to cooperate with the Gaudiya Math; but with so many gurus fighting over the maths and disciples cooperation is not possible. When the devotees learn the actual instructions of our acharyas and follow them to the letter we will be a dynamic preaching force again.
At this point I would like to respond to the latest article against me and the ritvik system posted on VNN called "No Living Guru, No Living Sadhu, Nor Living Shastra" By Syamasundara Dasa.
First of all he says that I am not aware of Srila Prabhupada's books. I don't have every word memorized but I have read all of Srila Prabhupada's books at least twice and continue to read them daily. I wonder if Syamasundara Prabhu has even read the whole Bhagavatam and Chaitanya Caritamrta? They have oceans of information regarding the history of the Gaudiya Math and ISKCON, it's problems and the solutions. We have to read and understand them with a pure heart and then practice them. Syamsundara Prabhu says we need a 'good dose of common sense' and here is some: First read before you write!
Syamasundara Prabhu quotes a letter from 1969 authorizing a devotee to stay with Sridhara Maharaja. But later Srila Prabhupada wrote to all of his disciples forbidding any association with his Godbrothers after he saw the confusion it caused. Again the final instructions supercede the previous ones; that's simple logic.
The next point in contention is the common statement made by Symasundara, " Furthermore, in the end Prabhupada did tell his disciples they could consult Sridhara Maharaja for philosophy. This fact has been documented by others." If this is 'documented' please let us see it! We need to start talking facts and end the confusion.
Next Symasundara says, " Unfortunately most ritvik followers, while advocating the idea that everything is in Srila Prabhupada's words, don't have the ears for hearing all of them, resolving what appears to be contradictory, and arriving at a spiritual understanding of them."
Srila Prabhupada himself said that everything we need to know is in his books and if we simply read them the answers will come. Yes we advocate this. Again things must be taken into context and not twisted to suit our own philosophies and desires. I couldn't make out what he meant in the last part of his sentence. Maybe he can clarify?
Next Syamasundara says, " Rather than drawing from Prabhupada's words that Sridhara Maharaja is the senior Vaisnava that Swami Tripurari suggested he was, Gauridas Pandit corrects "Tripurari", informing the Swami that the ritviks do respect and take the advice of senior Vaishnavas. He says that Vishnujana Swami is a senior Vaishnava whom he respects (of course, for those who didn't know, he passed away over 20 years ago)."
Yes Sridhara Maharaja is a senior Vaisnava; but isn't he also 'passed away' as you say about my spiritual mentor Visnujana Swami, who continues to inspire me and others? Why make a distinction here? The Vaisnava dies to live! He reasons ill who says that Vaisnavas die! And please be nice to the departed Vaisnavas! Whether he passed away or not has nothing to do with it. Both remain an inspiration to many of us. They are living still in sound. I'm listening to Visnujana Swami right now chant Gopinath and it is ecstatic. I play it constantly.
We all know Hansadutta Prabhu has had his problems in the past. That's because he tried to be the guru instead of being the ritvik representative of the guru, as ordered by His Divine Grace. I lived with him recently for almost a year and can say that he follows a strict sadhana rising early, bathing outside despite the cold and performing Mangala aratika for his beautiful Deities. He also chants his rounds. It says in the Harinama Cintamani that if we hold a rectified Vaisnava to his past mistakes we are guilty of blaspheming that devotee. To forgive is the first Vaisnava quality. Look at Jagai and Madhai and Sri Sri Goura Nitai's mercy upon them! Do you think the mercy should be stopped? I hope not!
Syamsudara continues, " The fact that one could propose someone like Hamsaduta prabhu as comparable with Srila Sridhara Maharaja in terms of being a senior Vaishnava makes clear to me that, as Tripurari Maharaja concluded, these people are not very interested in spiritual life, which involves understanding what terms like "senior Vaishnava" are all about. I was not comparing them! We are interested in spiritual life. Why would I sacrifice my time and effort to respond to all of this if I wasn't interested in rectifying the situation. This goes beyond my selfish interests and addresses the interests of all of the Vaisnavas now and into the future. Believe me, I'd rather be chanting blissfully with Visnujana Swami or someone like him than having to answer every bogus allegation made against me, the ritvik initiation system and most of all Srila Prabhupada.
Syamasundara then makes this statement which really ruffles my feathers, " Not only do the ritviks not want a living guru, they don't want a living sadhu, nor living sastra."
We have a living guru, Srila Prabhupada! The senior devotees are 'sadhus' and also 'living representatives' of the guru. There is life where the orders of the spiritual master are followed. For those who don't follow there is a spiritual 'death'. The Sastra is always living except for those who twist it to suit their own material desires. So we do want the living guru, the living and departed sadhus and the living Sastra. You're the one's who say that Srila Prabhupada is 'not available anymore' and that we need a new 'living guru'! Are all of the devotees initiated by Sridhara Maharaja in the past going to get re-initiated now?
In conclusion I would like to request all of the devotees from all camps to seriously study this matter with an open mind and heart for the benefit of all. Please come to the LA meetings or meetings in the future and discuss the philosophy like the six Goswami's of Vrindavan did. This is in our tradition, to debate philosophical matters and churn out the Truth for the benefit of the mission of Sri Sri Guru and Gouranga and the fortunate souls of the world.
Hoping this meets you well,
Gauridasa Pandita Dasa