May 28th Conversation In A Nutshell

Vidura Mahatma dasa —

The May 28th conversation (the section dealing with initiations) covers what will be officially implemented in the future for the system of initiations. Neither ritviks nor regular gurus were appointed on May 28th. Nevertheless, the conversation links to the time when Srila Prabhupada did officially give his order for how initiations would continue in the movement. That official order is the July 9th letter. Furthermore, the May 28th conversation proves that the July 9th letter applies to the time when Srila Prabhupada is ‘no longer with us’:

Satsvarupa: Then our next question concerns initiations in the future, particularly at that time when you are no longer with us. We want to know how first and second initiations will be conducted.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. I shall recommend some of you. After this is settled up. I shall recommend some of you to act as officiating acarya.

Tamala Krishna: Is that called ritvik-acarya?

Srila Prabhupada: Ritvik. Yes.

The argument is: “the May 28 conversation clearly goes on to explain the relationship that the recommended ritviks would have with the newly initiated devotees once the etiquette of Srila Prabhupada’s physical presence had been observed, and that relationship is one of ‘disciple of my disciple – regular guru.

True. But only if Srila Prabhupada gave that order – a condition set by Srila Prabhupada emphatically. The ritviks could not have legitimately become ‘regular gurus’ on the basis of expectation alone because Srila Prabhupada clearly gave one further condition:

“…be actually guru. But on my order. […] When I order you become guru, he becomes regular guru. That’s all.”

If Srila Prabhupada intended for his disciples to become ‘regular guru’ and initiate disciples of their own after his disappearance, why did he not just say so right then and there in the May 28th conversation? Srila Prabhupada very clearly expressed his intentions to appoint ritviks in the near future for when he was no longer with us. Why hadn’t Srila Prabhupada stated his intentions to appoint regular gurus in the future, instead simply leaving it at “when I order”?

It was a ritvik system that was implemented later on July 9th, officially:

“Recently when all of the GBC members were with His Divine Grace in Vrndavana, Srila Prabhupada indicated that soon He would appoint some of His senior disciples to act as “rittik”-representative of the acarya, for the purpose of performing initiations, both first initiation and second initiation. […] Now that Srila Prabhupada has named these representatives, Temple Presidents may henceforward send recommendation for first and second initiation to whichever of these eleven representatives are nearest their temple. After considering the recommendation, these representatives may accept the devotee as an initiated disciple of Srila Prabhupada by giving a spiritual name, or in the case of second initiation, by chanting on the Gayatri thread, just as Srila Prabhupada has done. The newly initiated devotees are disciples of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad, the above eleven senior devotees acting as His representative.”

Note: The secretary himself, Tamal Krishna, in the beginning of the July 9th letter, refers to a time when Srila Prabhupada indicated that he would appoint ritviks for first and second initiations. In the May 28th conversation this matter was particularly addressed by Srila Prabhupada in response to a question pertaining to the time when Srila Prabhupada was “no longer with us.” Thus it cannot be argued that the ‘ritviks’ were to become ‘regular gurus’ upon Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance without contradicting the given time factor of the initial question: when Srila Prabhupada is ‘no longer with us.’


          Srila Prabhupada’s answer pertaining to ritviks is actually quite different in nature from his answers pertaining to regular guru’s. Regarding the appointment of ritviks, Srila Prabhupada expressed his intentions to do so in the near future. But when it came to ‘regular guru’s, Srila Prabhupada was adamant in not only avoiding expressing any intention to appoint regular guru’s, but also putting forth a condition: “on my order.” In other words, unlike the appointment of ritviks, the idea of ‘regular guru’ lacked (1) any expressed intention by Srila Prabhpada and (2) had a condition attached to it (his order). Srila Prabhupada’s answer to the appointment of ritviks thus greatly differs from his answer to ‘regular guru’s when closely examined in this way.

          The conclusion is that the July 9th letter stands as Srila Prabhupada’s official given system for initiations in the movement and that this fact is supported by the May 28th conversation.

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