Srila Prabhupada Founder Acharya doctrine is Christian inspired ritvik-vada

The Position of Srila Prabhupada Founder Acharya


Prabhupada Founder Acharya book cover
Cover to Srila Prabhupada Founder Acharya book.

Pranams Maharajas and prabhus. All glories to our merciful masters and Their benevolent Lordships, Sri Sri Gaura Nitai, Sri Sri Krsna-Balarama and Sri Sri Radhe-Shyam.

I just read the GBC paper written by Ravindra Svarupa dasa, Srila Prabhupada: the Founder-acarya of ISKCON and, as a member and one of the earliest French disciples of His Divine Grace still practicing, I want to express my indignation. Some people accuse me of having left the institution, but I consider myself as belonging to the greater, real ISKCON, not to what my guru’s mission has sadly been made into.

I am somewhat disconcerted that the GBC has imposed their unenlightened views on the society once again. The same root reason for their past blunder of presenting the 11 ritviks named by Srila Prabhupada in July 1977 to initiate on his behalf as long as he was sick, as chosen successors and rubber-stamping them as “His Divine Grace, 108, uttama-adhikari and what not”, and their countless subsequent mistakes and failures, is again producing sour fruits.

What is that reason? It is the stubborn refusal to approach higher-level sadhus for siksa. As Srila Prabhupada had mentioned that one could approach his godbrother, the ‘acarya-board’ of ISKCON approached Srila BR Sridhara Maharaja in 1977, but only to use him to establish themselves as gurus, to have the stamp of approval of a senior Vaisnava to back up their scam and rule the mission they had just high-jacked, not for taking siksa. The ISKCON leaders are thus left with their minds as authority, like munis, or any common person for that matter.

Actually, anyone who has not prayed for and approached a higher siksa-guru after Srila Prabhupada’s physical departure proves he or she has not understood that fundamental point of his teachings: to always be in higher sadhu-sanga. Srila Prabhupada clearly speaks of siksa-guru in the very first chapter of the Chaitanya Charitamrita It is said that the association of saints is the birthplace of bhakti, and that one should always associate with saints, even up to prema, as it is still the main limb of bhakti.

Once again they have legislated that this sadhu-sanga can only be done within the walls of the institution, they have thereby cheated the whole society and presented themselves de facto as the sadhus. It is like interbreeding, and everyone knows the danger of consanguinity. They are bleeding inside each other’s wounds… They present their ISKCON gurus as the only possible boats one can take to cross over the ocean of material existence, but it’s a great violence to propose stone boats and forbid their dependents to take shelter of good boats.

To present themselves as the only choice, they have to character assassinate the Gaudiya Math, seen as “the competition”, therefore they present the various sadhus thereof as spiritually impotent. At the same time, maybe out of fear of vaisnava-aparadha, or maybe and I prefer to believe so, out of intellectual integrity, Ravindra Svarupa writes, “Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura attracted many luminaries,” (p12) then minimizes it by writing, “Many senior Gaudiya Math disciples left the institution in disgust,” (p13) without mentioning, except in a footnote (p66-67) that those who did not participate in the controversy (and therefore do not fit into the category of asara). Srila Prabhupada actually co-founded the Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti in the 1940s with his would be sannyasa-guru Srila BP Kesava Maharaja. Some also preached outside of India, partly through their western followers who had left ISKCON disgusted with the “illusions of proprietorship” of the Zonal acaryas. ButRavindra Svarupa insists, “Srila Prabhupada made a kind of reboot-and-recovery of Mahaprabhu’s mission”, (p41) completely discrediting the Gaudiya Math.

Completely and offensively discarding the preaching of many Gaudiya Math sadhus,Ravindra Svarupa writes, “Animated by the indwelling spirit of its founder-acarya, ISKCON is the embodiment in this world of the spiritual potency of Lord Caitanya.” (P50) This is so much wishful thinking! Countless ISKCON devotees have taken shelter of Gaudiya math sadhus after the falldown of their guru(s) having been promoted as bona fide by the GBC, or after realizing they had been short-changed, but how many devotees from the Gaudiya math are joining ISKCON?

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura wrote, “If those who have no inclination for bhajana do not get the association of Vaisnavas who are immersed in the bliss of bhajana, they’ll become completely materialistic in no time. For such people it is nothing but self-deception to establish and promote themselves as representing the society of Gauranga without association with suddha-vaisnavas.” (Sri Caitanya- siksamrta)

Then Ravindra Svarupa writes, “ISKCON is exemplifying unity in diversity” (p50) This is not possible if one has a sectarian mood. In the words Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura, sampradaya-virodho’yam davanalo vicintyate. “The eleventh obstacle of the Vaisnavas is sectarianism, which takes the shape of the forest fire. Due to sectarianism a person cannot accept anyone outside of his own group as a Vaisnava, and as a result he faces many obstacles in finding a guru and associating with devotees. Therefore extinguishing the forest fire is most important.”

Then Ravindra Svarupa quotes a letter by Srila Prabhupada, “But if we fight on account of diversity, then it’s simply the material platform.” (P51) So stop fighting! Get off the material platform instead of presenting pages and pages of rhetoric and verbiage in a document that took 6 years to produce but which is full of misconceptions and statements out of touch with reality. When you know that this paper has been approved by all their gurus, swamis and leaders, you can understand the level of their advancement…

Ravindra Svarupa insists again, quoting a 1969 letter of Srila Prabhupada out of context, “The Gaudiya math has failed” (p58). However, Srila Prabhupada said in 1977, “ No more non-cooperation. Now everyone cooperates to spread Lord Caitanya’s movement.” and it’s quoted p61! Why not act upon that?

There is a spiritual axiom, which states clearly that one cannot progress from one adhikara of bhakti to the next without associating with a living uttama-adhikari (See Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya 16.74 Purport and Madhya 22.71, Purport, and Srila Sarasvati Thakura’s commentary in Bhag 11.2) When is the last time ISKCON leaders availed themselves of that higher association? Almost 40 years ago, before Srila Prabhupada left! How did the ISKCON leaders go from the kanistha-adhikara to the madhyama-adhikara level, what to speak of up to the uttama-adhikara level? The answer is very simple: according to the above-mentioned axiom they did not!

Moreover, it should be stated: “By an offense against the dearest devotee of the Lord, even real bhava will be destroyed, if the offense is grave. If the offense is medium, the bhava will turn to bhava-abhasa. If the offense is slight, the bhava will become an inferior type.” (BRS, 1.3.54) One is retrograded to a lower adhikara if one offends sadhus. They committed vaisnava-aparadhas against Srila BR Sridhara, Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja and Srila BV Narayana Maharaja. So where are they at now?

Those who have not succumbed to the various trappings surrounding the position of guru ( Over 50% of the ISKCON gurus [75 out of 140 (I have stopped there)] have fallen down. And that’s the official record…) have maintained themselves somewhat afloat by continuing to serve the mission and practicing vaidhi-bhakti, but without vertical advancement to higher levels, due to no sadhu-sanga, they only make horizontal progress within the kanistha-adhikara.

Founder Acharya philosophy is Christian ritvik-vada

Founder Acharya Doctrine Rittvik
Cover to Back to Prabhupada, No. 31, Spring 2011

Ravindra Svarupa speaks of the importance of Srila Prabhupada’s presence “to be felt in the life of every ISKCON devotee today and in the lives of devotees many centuries in the future” (p11). How is this different from Christianity?

He speaks of establishing Srila Prabhupada as “the founder-acarya of ISKCON for all times” (p16), as if Srila Prabhupada needed the GBC and had waited for them to do so. No one contests this position to Srila Prabhupada, so “for all times” is irrelevant, unless the GBC means something else than the words indicated when they speak of establishing Srila Prabhupada as such. And this is what it is all about: Behind the words “founder-acarya”, there is a whole doctrine, which is presented and developed point by point. And it has nothing to do with the Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition.

The need to “keep Srila Prabhupada in the center” (p17) comes when no qualified gurus are there, (or the highly qualified one has not been recognized), and when so many gurus have fallen down, bringing about the extreme reaction to an extreme situation: the ritvik-vadis, who are continuously challenging and attacking the GBC position on the guru issue. Ritvik-vada is also inspired by Christianity.

The ideas of Srila Prabhupada being “not less a presence to subsequent generations than he has been to the first. Some believe he could even be more;” of “fostering in all devotees of ISKCON generation after generation an ever-increasing awareness of their deep connection with its founder-acarya;” (p17) of Srila Prabhupada “being a perpetual indwelling active, guiding and directing presence;” (p22) of Srila Prabhupada “being an inescapable, predominant, felt presence in the lives of all devotees, no matter who else may serve as their diksa-guru;” (p 24) and of “If Srila Prabhupada’s position as Founder-acarya is realized, generation after generation will be able to receive his special mercy;” (p 25) smells terribly like Christianity.

Or is it kowtowing to the ritvik-vadis, who are de facto following the Christian tradition of one savior, Lord Jesus-Christ, and everyone else is just a helper? Calling the gurus ‘teachers’ (p 25) and ‘guides’ (p 86) just fit that idea Srila Prabhupada ’s books will naturally be read as we read Srila Rupa Gosvami’s or Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s books. Why try to invent something? Why do we want to apply indiscriminately to all devotees what applies to his direct disciples?

Ravindra Svarupa speaks of “authentically conveying Srila Prabhupada’s real teachings” (p27). Why don’t they start to teach what he taught on jiva-tattva and guru-tattva instead of the apasiddhantas they have voted or are constantly adjusting?

GBC’s institutional role according to Srila Prabhupada

Ravindra Svarupa speaks of Srila Prabhupada having made the GBC his “chosen successor at the head of ISKCON.” (P82) Where is the evidence for this? Who is foolish enough to accept that, except uneducated devotees, particularly the new ones? Srila Prabhupada made the GBC the ultimate managing authority, not the ultimate spiritual authority. He said that he had created the GBC for big egos, that it was the watchdog of ISKCON.

GBC members are simply to see that things are going on… So how is it that the GBC are the final authority? They are simply to examine that things are going on nicely, that is all.

(Letter July 9, 1971)

GBC men should not dictate very much, simply supervise and see that the standards are maintained.

(Letter, February 14th 1972)

What will happen when I am not here, shall everything be spoiled by GBC? So for the time being, let the GBC activities be suspended until I thoroughly revise the whole procedure.

(Letter, April 11th 1972)

I made the GBC to give me relief, but if you do like this, then where is the relief. It is anxiety for me. This is the difficulty, that as soon as one gets power, he becomes whimsical and spoils everything.

(Letter, Sept 12th 1974)

I am training some of my experienced disciples how to manage after my departure. So if instead of taking the training, if in my lifetime you people say ‘I am the Lord of all I survey’, that is dangerous conspiracy.

(Letter, Oct 8th 1974)

Now has the GBC become more than Guru Maharaja?

(Letter, Nov 10th 1975)

It is now evident that some of our top men are very much ambitious and there has been so many fall-downs.

(Letter, January 27th, 1975)

The GBC’s record of blunders is so bad that they are an authority only in their own minds
, especially a spiritual authority. This is utterly ludicrous. They have been changing their position on the guru issue so many times that one cannot keep track of it, and now they have almost joined the ritvik-vadis in their conclusions.

When the GBC finally admitted in 1990 in the Vaisvava Journal N1 through an excellent article of Ravindra Svarupa that Srila Prabhupada had not appointed the 11 as successors and that the infamous, preposterous zonal-acarya concept had been properly rejected in 1985, then the ritvik-vadis ‘ attacks against the GBC and their popularity went down. But when the GBC retracted themselves later on, the ritvik-vadis flourished more and more and have challenged and defeated regularly the GBC’s untenable position on the guru issue, so much so that the GBC is more and more openly agreeable to some form of ritvik-vada, which Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja called “prachanna ritvik-vada”, or covered ritvik-vada.

Their present philosophy, presented in this position paper is actually nothing short of ritvik-vada with a thin veneer of the traditional guru idea, so that they can get all the benefits of a guru position without assuming its responsibilities. They more or less agree with the ritvik-vadis that their present gurus cannot deliver their disciples by not being able to deliver to them the ‘transcendental necessities’ (see C.C. Madhya 24.330 Purport: suddha-nama, divya-jnana, etc.) and that it is Srila Prabhupada who is delivering them to their disciples. They say that if one’s guru falls down one can take shelter of Srila Prabhupada and be saved anyway. Well, that is not the Gaudiya-Vaisnava philosophy. It is Christian or maybe at best from the Sri Ramanuja and Sri Madhva lines but Srila Prabhupada or our previous Gaudiya acaryas never encouraged that.

How GBC ritvik-vada philosophy formed

Tamal Krishna Goswami Bhakti Charu Srila Prabhupada
Srila Prabhupada asked Tamal Krishna Goswami to make a GBC meeting to decide who would initiate after him. Tamal Krishna Goswami disobeyed and did not arrange the meeting because he didn’t think he would be selected.

During the last month of his lila, Srila Prabhupada asked Tamal Krishna Goswami to make a GBC meeting and decide who would initiate after him. Bhakti Charu Swami was a witness and has admitted it. Tamal Krishna Goswami did not obey. Srila Prabhupada asked him if they had a meeting and Tamal Krishna Goswami answered that they did not. Srila Prabhupada then asked him if he (Srila Prabhupada) should suggest some names Tamal Krishna Goswami answered negatively. He admitted later that he thought he would not be chosen but that it would be Kirtanananda or Satsvarupa. Then, as Tamal Krishna Goswami still did not obey and did not call for a meeting, Srila Prabhupada suggested the names of Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja or HH Radha-Govinda Swami, or both.

Bhakti Charu Swami was also in the room in 1979 when Srila Prabhupada’s god-brother Sri Akincana Krsna dasa babaji Maharaja, whom Srila Prabhupada said was a paramahamsa, came and examined Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja when he was displaying uncommon symptoms and confirmed he was in bhava .

Srila Prabhupada had given us an indirect hint by repeatedly telling us that his Guru Maharaja had not appointed an acarya but that “ his idea was, ‘let them manage then whoever is qualified for becoming Acarya, he’ll manifest’.” (Letter 21.9.1973) and “his idea was that who would come out successfully and self-effulgent acarya would be selected.’ ” (Letter 28.4.1974) So Srila Prabhupada was certainly against artificially making an acarya, but not at all against recognizing one. So, here we had one! He was in bhava, in uttama-adhikara. But what did the GBC say? “ No, he is just greedy to become a guru, and the Babaji is trying to help him. We won’t accept him.” It is said atmavan manyate jagat, one sees the world according to one’s own mentality.

When I presented the idea to the GBC in 1994, Bhakti Charu Swami said that this was the worst attack of kali against the movement since the gopi-bhava club of LA in the early 70s, thus calling me a kali-cela. That year he was trying to push a resolution that every new disciple should establish his relationship with Srila Prabhupada as the most important thing in his/her spiritual life. Now he has succeeded. Kali has successfully neutralized the once so powerful ISKCON society by reducing it to an impotent religion, a mere sukrti-producing factory.

It is sad to see new people joining ISKCON on the basis of Srila Prabhupada’s books but being served this Christian-ritvik soup.

The “philosophical response” of the GBC to my suggestion of a guru-reform was 100 Bengali devotees with the order to scare me to death; a smaller GBC group even told them to beat me and leave me with my breath. I have heard the same arguments used against Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja, who was an ISKCON member and against Srila BV Narayana Maharaja, who was outside of ISKCON: “We have to protect ISKCON.” I have come with the passing of time to read this as, “We have to protect our own positions in ISKCON, our monies, manpower, pratistha and facilities.”

The Jews are still waiting for the Messiah. They missed the boat, but at least they know that they’re supposed to wait for a messiah. The ISKCON leaders don’t even understand that! The GBC tried to promote 11 kanisthas as the successor acaryas then, when their fraudulent, sinister plot was exposed, they dropped the idea, thus “throwing the baby out with the bath water.”

Missed boats of opportunity

It brings to my mind a French joke: Once there was a great flood. The people in a small town were being evacuated. The local priest, Father Hubert was in the church, praying. The Firemen came on a Zodiac boat and told him he should come with them. He said he depended on God’s mercy and had full faith in it. The water kept on rising. The Fire Brigade kept on evacuating the people. When the water was more than halfway up the big entrance doors of the church, they came back and told the priest, who had climbed up the preaching chair, “Father Hubert! You must come now! The water is rising and we won’t be able to come back for you. We can barely pass under the entrance porch now.” He refused again, repeating he had faith and depended on the Almighty. They insisted but he refused so they left. He drowned in the rising waters. When he arrived at the gates of heaven, he was loudly complaining, “I prayed and prayed with faith, but God did nothing!” St Peter told him, “Just wait a moment. Let me consult our registers. What’s your name again?” He exclaimed, “I just told you. I am Father Hubert, the unfortunate priest forsaken by God in spite of his faithful prayers!” St Peter looked at him sternly and said, “Sorry, Father Hubert, but this is not a fact! You can see for yourself what is written next to your name here: Father Hubert: …2 Zodiac boats

Prabhupada Founder Acharya Boat
The Jews are still waiting for the Messiah. They missed the boat, but at least they know that they’re supposed to wait for a messiah. The ISKCON leaders don’t even understand that!

Srila Prabhupada had arranged for the Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja boat, whom they enviously rejected and slandered until Krishna took him away the very eve of the day they wanted to forbid him to preach worldwide. So they missed that boat, which was within the society itself. Srila Prabhupada had also arranged for the Srila BR Sridhara Maharaja boat, whom the GBC rejected in 1992 when he suggested them to let other devotees who were as much or more advanced than those in place to become gurus (which was not difficult given the hecatomb which followed over the years.) So they missed that boat too, from outside the society.

Srila Prabhupada had arranged a third boat, also outside the society, the Srila BV Narayana Maharaja boat, who gave them good advice for years and even saved ISKCON from Srila Prabhupada’s son who claimed it as his inheritance. Some top leaders approached him for siksa but later rejected him under their peers’ pressure. The result of rejecting a bona fide guru is that they are cursed and that nobody can give them shelter. (Srila Narayana Maharaja said that they had actually approached him to get higher knowledge so that they could compete with Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja who had siksa disciples of 30 ISKCON gurus plus a few Prabhupada disciples taking siksa from him.) By the way, if Srila BV Narayana Maharaja was not bona fide and top leaders approached him for siksa, what does that tell about their qualifications? And since he is bona fide but they rejected him, what does that tell about their qualifications and those of the GBC who made a horrendous campaign of slander against him? So they missed that boat too.

Ravindra Svarupa’s paper is an implicit admission that none of the present ISKCON gurus are actually qualified, especially p. 98 where he’s asking a rhetorical question, “What if there are a number of self-effulgent acaryas?” and an insult to Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja not recognizing him as such. The GBC is left with the only sadhu they have met and recognized as such, our Srila Prabhupada, but they are trying to make him into some kind of a Jesus-Christ figure, with some kind of “born-again Hare Krsna” mentality that one is saved if he belongs to ISKCON and that, “it doesn’t matter if your guru is not qualified or falls down because “Lord Prabhupada” will save you anyway.

Ravindra Svarupa writes, “the central temple opens a gateway to the vertical dimension” (p86) but since when do buildings and not sadhus save the people? Ravindra Svarupa gives the example of the sampradaya-acaryas, but if you follow that line of thought, our sampradaya acarya is Madhvacarya, so should we follow the udharaka (savior) and upakaraka (helpers) conception of the Madhvas and Ramanujas?Ravindra Svarupa defends his paper against this accusation in “Response to Criticism of the Founder-Acarya Book”  but where is the difference, really?

One may say that since Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu we have become a special branch of the Madhva line, the Gaudiya line. Then the sampradaya acarya is Srila Rupa Gosvami, as we are called rupanugas. But did Srila Prabhupada ever instruct us to take Rupa Gosvami as the sampradaya acarya and follow the Madhvas/Ramanujas’ mood?

Trying to make Srila Prabhupada into a special founder-acarya, that he already is, shows the spiritual bankruptcy of the GBC. They are still trying to cling to Srila Prabhupada, as they only see the body, not understanding that, “ Krishna and His representative are the same. The spiritual master is the principle, not the body.” (SP Letter 28.4.1968)

Having missed a basic tenet of Vaisnavism, the siksa-guru conception, they’re left with trying to concoct a solution for the salvation of their members instead of accepting Srila Prabhupada’s teachings and solution. Therefore they present Srila Prabhupada as the savior. Most if not all ISKCON gurus share the same misconception: “I am not a qualified guru but I am connecting my disciples to Srila Prabhupada so they’re going Back To Godhead through his mercy.” That is not our Gaudiya-Vaisnava philosophy. That is Christianity or covered ritvik-vada, consciously or not. It is an apasiddhanta and as such should be opposed.

The GBC are responsible for misleading their dependents with a kind of morbid, nostalgic brand of Christian-ritvik-vada instead of promoting Srila Prabhupada’s healthy philosophy: to always be in higher sadhu-sanga. Granted, Srila Prabhupada at one point recommended us not to associate with most of his god-brothers because they had not recognized his greatness, but his last words, as quoted byRavindra Svarupa (p66-7) were different. Why cling to the former instructions and not the latest?


It is a basic teaching, included in ISKCON, that if one is not able to deliver one’s dependents, he should connect them with one who can. That person must be a presently living saint, not Srila Prabhupada. Pure sadhus are always there. Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja used to say that ropes of mercy are hanging but we do not see them. Such sadhus are the ornaments of the Earth. Without them, it could not exist, just like it could not exist without the sun and the moon. One has to look for their association, pray and cry for it. And not be sectarian and think that such a sadhu can only be in one’s institution.

Every time a boat of merciful salvation is presented, it is a challenge to sectarianism, that great enemy of truth, and to one’s preconceived ideas.