by Adridharana dasa
We decided to write this article since it is very clear that
Srila Prabhupada's ISKCON is under increasing attack from
other institutions that wish to take advantage of the fact
that ISKCON itself currently operates an unauthorised and
impotent Guru system. In view of the fact that ISKCON's leadership
has been either unable or unwilling to fight off this challenge,
we decide that we had to write the following to protect Srila
Prabhupada's ISKCON from being misled by outside influences.
Where H.H. Narayana Maharaja Diverges from Srila Prabhupada's
This is a short paper giving examples of where His Holiness
Narayan Maharaja teaches differently from Srila Prabhupada
on important philosophical points. In no way is our purpose
here to make any judgements about Narayana Maharaja's spiritual
stature or devotional purity. He has our utmost respect as
a senior practitioner of the principles of bhakti yoga. We
are merely presenting factual information to adjust an impression
some of his followers are promulgating, i.e., that his teachings
are identical and fully in line with Srila Prabhupada's. Thus
the purpose of this paper is not to show that Narayana Maharaja
is in anyway inferior to Srila Prabhupada - only different.
Obviously those wishing to increase their surrender and attachment
to Srila Prabhupada will not be assisted by persons who contradict
him, whether it is Narayana Maharaja or anyone else.
In order to make absolutely certain we have not misunderstood
Maharaja, English not being his first language, we have only
taken quotes from an article that appeared in the 1990 ISKCON
journal entitled 'Conversation with H.H.Narayana Maharaja'
where he was interviewed by H.G. Ravindra Svarupa. Prior to
publication the article was read to Maharaja in Hindi by Satya-narayan
das, and he was allowed to make whatever adjustments he wanted.
Thus we know for certain that the quotes given below fully
and correctly represent his views; especially since, to this
very day, he has never retracted a single word of the article.
We shall give subject headings followed by Narayan Maharaja's
statements, and then point out where he differs from Srila
Narayan Maharaja accepts the concept of re-initiation
"And in the case of a fallen guru- when one has taken diksa
from a guru who falls down, and again he takes from a Bhavananda
or someone, and again he falls. In that case we should watch
and see see that the guru is reliable (.) And when a reliable
brahmana-nistha and sabda-brahma-knowing guru is found, then
he certainly should be re-initiated." (GBC 1990 ISKCON JOURNAL
According to Srila Prabhupada, authorised members of the disciplic
succession never deviate for a second, what to speak of fall
into gross sinful life:
"A bona fide spiritual master is in
the disciplic succession from time eternal and he does not
deviate at all from the instructions of the Supreme Lord."
He taught that if a so-called guru falls down then he was
never properly authorised to initiate:
".sometimes a spiritual master is not
properly authorised and only on his own initiative becomes
a spiritual master, he may be carried away by an accumalation
of wealth and a large number of disciples." (NOD p.116)
Rather than preach that such fall-downs are indicative of
a lack of authorisation, Maharaja fully accepts that such
things occur, and that when it happens one must be 're-initiated'.
The term 're-initiated' was never used by Srila Prabhupada,
and for good reason. If the guru was unauthorised then he
was never giving diksa in the first place, and therefore there
is no question of the disciple ever having been 'initiated'.
If he has not been 'initiated' then where is the question
of 're-initiation'. Remember initiation is not just a ceremony,
but is defined as the authorised transference of transcendental
knowledge from guru to disciple. The term 're-initiation'
is thus meaningless and implies a deviation from the teachings
of our parampara as given to us by Srila Prabhupada. If a
guru falls down then he could not have been authorised by
the predecessor acarya in the disciplic succession, and could
therefore not have initiated anyone with transcendental knowledge.
There is not one single example in all of Srila Prabhupada's
teachings of a former authorised member of the disciplic succession
falling into illusion.
Narayan Maharaja teaches 'living guru' philosophy
"And for a newcomer, it is sure that he should be initiated
by a living guru."
In answer to Ravindra Svarupa's point that the Vaisnava guru
is always living, Maharaja said:
"But not in eyesight."
He later added:
"The meaning of parampara is living guru, present guru." (all
from p.22 ISKCON Journal)
The Maharaja offers no scriptural support for his 'living
guru' 'physical presence' philosophy. Certainly the above
statements are never made by Srila Prabhupada, and hence must
be rejected by anyone claiming to follow Srila Prabhupada:
"The potency of transcendental sound
is never minimised because the vibrator is apparently absent."
"So we should associate by the vibration,
and not by the physical presence. That is real association."
(SP Lecture, 18.8.68, Montreal)
"Therefore we should take advantage
of the vani, not the physical presence."
(SP letter to Suci Devi dasi, 4.11.75)
If it was a fact that in order to be initiated the disciple
must have the guru in his 'eyesight', then many hundreds or
even thousands of Srila Prabhupada's disciples were not properly
initiated, since they never saw his physical body even once.
This 'physical presence' idea was rejected by Srila Prabhupada
over and over again and is never mentioned in any sastra,
yet it forms a corner stone of Maharaja's particular brand
Furthermore nowhere does Srila Prabhupada ever teach that
the current link in the disciplic succession must be 'living',
as in 'physically present' in order to remain current.
Narayana Maharaja teaches that a madhyama adhikari can
give full initiation
"If a man is not uttama Vaisnava, even if he is madhyama adhikari
stage, if he is simple and sincere, he should be treated as
guru and we can take initiation from that person." (page 22)
In a section of the C.c dealing specifically with initiation
Srila Prabhupada says the exact opposite:
"The guru must be accepted from the
topmost platform of devotional service. There are three classes
of devotees, and the guru must be accepted from the topmost
As is self-evident this directly contradicts Narayan Maharaja's
assertion. Certainly a madhyama can accept disciples in an
instructing sense, but such followers are warned:
".they cannot advance very well towards
the ultimate goal of life under his insufficient guidance."
"One should not become a spiritual master
unless he has attained the platform of uttama-adhikari."
(The Nectar of Instruction, text 5, purport)
Narayana Maharaja teaches that a madhyama adhikari can
only give partial initiation
At another point in the conversation, Narayana Maharaja seems
to contradict this concession for madhyama adhikari Diksa
Gurus when Ravindra Svarupa asks the following question:
RS: "Let me ask another question. You said earlier that a
madhyama adhikari is qualified for giving diksa."
NM: "To some extent"
RS: "To some extent"
NM: "Yes, to some extent.
As well as contradicting his own previous assertion; in downgrading
the madhyama adhikari's ability to give initiation, and saying
they can only do it 'to some extent', Narayana Maharaja presents
us with the novel concept of 'partial initiation'. Certainly
Srila Prabhupada never taught that some authorised diksa gurus
can only transmit a portion of the transcendental knowledge
required for liberation. The diksa guru who only initiates
'to some extent' is an entity never mentioned by Srila Prabhupada,
and therefore no ISKCON devotee can accept this idea as bona
Narayan Maharaja teaches that a kanistha adhikari can initiate
"Say there is no madhyama adhikari. Suppose we are all kanishta
adhikari. Then within the kanishta group, if one is on a higher
level than me, he should be treated as guru. He will be vartma-pradarsaka-guru,
or he can initiate." (p.24)
Above Narayan Maharaja clearly states that a kanishta adhikari,
or someone on the lowest platform of devotional service, can
initiate disciples. This seriously contradicts Srila Prabhupada's
teachings on guru tattva:
"When one has attained the topmost position
of maha-bhagavata, he is to be accepted as a guru and worshipped
exactly like Hari, the Personality of Godhead. Only such a
person is eligible to occupy the post of a guru." (C.c.Madhya,
Narayan Maharaja teaches that a kanistha adhikari can not
Later in the conversation the Maharaja seems to contradict
'Uttama adhikari and kanishta adhikari cannot be guru.'
We understand from Srila Prabhupada that in order to preach,
an uttama adhikari will act on the madhyama platform; but
he is still an uttama adhikari. Indeed he 'must' be on the
topmost platform before there is any scope for occupying the
post of initiating guru, on this Srila Prabhupada could not
be more emphatic.
And if kanishta adhikaris cannot be guru we wonder why
the Maharaja had just said they could initiate?
In summary, Maharaja has presented the surprising scenario
that the less qualified one is, the more qualified they are
to give initiation. Let us look again at the statements he
1) Uttama adhikari's cannot initiate.
2) Madhyama's can only initiate to 'some extent'.
3) Kanistha adhikari's can initiate fully.
However Maharaja simultaneously contradicts the above statements
by saying that a kanistha adhikari can not initiatiate, and
also that a madhyama adhikari gives full initiation.
Narayan Maharaja teaches one does not need specific authorisation
"Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati has not said or given any document
that Swamiji (Srila Prabhupada) will be guru. But yet he is
guru. (.) Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura has not mentioned
that so many others will do acarya, yet they have done. This
is the system." (P.23)
Srila Prabhupada clearly taught that one must only take initiation
from someone who has been authorised by his own predecessor
"One should take initiation from a bona
fide spiritual master coming in the disciplic succession,
who is authorised by his predecessor spiritual master. This
is called diksa-vidhana." (S.B.4.8.54, purport.)
One might argue that all Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's disciples
were authorised to initiate. However, there are several problems
with such a hypothesis.
1) At the time of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's passing there was
only an instruction to co-operate under a GBC. There was no
order for everyone to start initiating.
2) That no one was authorised is evidenced by the fact that
the most senior and influential disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta
decided to vote in one initiating acarya, Vasudeva. If they
had all been clearly authorised to initiate then why did they
not all just start initiating straight away?
3) This proves that the 'system' Narayan Maharaja confidently
refers to above was not known to most of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's
leading disciples. Certainly Srila Prabhupada never taught
4) Srila Prabhupada said none of his Godbrothers were qualified
to be acarya, and stressed that authorisation was essential.
When advising one of his disciples against taking initiation
from one of his Godbrothers he wrote:
"On the whole you may know that he is
not a liberated person, and therefore, he cannot initiate
any person to Krishna Consciousness. It requires special spiritual
benediction from higher authorities." (SP Letter to
Yet according to Maharaja the 'guru' in question (Bon Maharaja)
had received such a benediction, along with every member of
the Gaudiya Matha who began initiating.
5) Narayana Maharaja cannot possibly claim to know the content
of every single exchange between Srila Prabhupada and his
Spiritual Master. So how can he, in good faith, state
so categorically that Srila Prabhupada was not the recipient
of such a "special spiritual benediction"?
6) Since Narayan Maharaja accepts Srila Prabhupada as a perfect
acarya, then he must accept Srila Prabhupada would not preach
that one needed authorisation from ones own guru before initiating,
if he had not gained such a 'benediction' before he himself
started initiating. Srila Prabhupada practised what he preached,
the definition of acarya.
Narayan Maharaja rejects the ritvik system
"We don't follow any ritvik system". (page 23)
His main reason for rejecting the July 9th order seems to
be based on the idea that he has not heard of such a system
being employed previously:
"In our Gaudiya Vaisnava line there is no ritvik".
Of course this ignores the fact that there was a ritvik system
running within ISKCON for the last few months of Srila Prabhupada's
appearance. In rejecting the very notion, Narayan Maharaja
is rejecting a system Srila Prabhupada personally set up and
allowed to run 'in our Gaudiya Vaisnava line'. This 'precedent'
argument is itself illogical and self-defeating since there
is no example of a disciple rejecting the order of his guru
purely on the basis that such an order had not been issued
previously. All acaryas set precedents, otherwise there would
be nothing to look back and compare with. So Maharaja's assertion
that such a system has not occurred before, even if it were
true- (and we have no way of knowing what went on in all the
world movements in previous Kali yugas just after the appearance
of the Golden Avatar) - would still be irrelevant, since acaryas
invariably set new precedents; albeit in line with sastric
Since Maharaja fails to offer any injunction from Srila Prabhupada's
books that might prohibit the deployment of officiating priests
to carry out initiations on behalf of a departed acarya, we
can only assume he has no real philosophical validity
to his opposition. Thus he remains conspicuously at odds with
Srila Prabhupada's explicit orders, such as the July 9th institutional
Narayana Maharaja accepts the ritvik system but states
it is not called ritvik
"Only in a case where a guru is very far away from someone.
(.) But it is not called ritvik."(p.23)
Yet Srila Prabhupada himself called the 11 nominated devotees
"ritvik-representative of the acarya" (July 9th letter). And
what happened to the idea of the disciple needing to be within
the 'eyesight' of the guru. How will the disciple see the
guru if he is 'very far away'?
"If someone is in America and the guru is in India, and the
guru cannot go to America and the American cannot come to
India, then, at that time, a devotee in America can officiate
and give hari-name, japa-mala and so on, if the guru orders."
The disciple would certainly need exceptional eyesight to
see a guru from that distance! And where are the previous
examples of such a system? If the Maharaja feels that a system
is invalid if it has not been practised in the past, how is
it that this type of initiation is suddenly so acceptable?
When has inter-continental diksa ever taken place before with
no physical contact between the guru and disciple? What happened
to the physical eye to eye contact that Maharaja previously
deemed so essential?
Narayana Maharaja accepts that ritviks were appointed for
Srila Prabhupada also referred to the 11 ritviks as 'officiating
acarya' on May 28th 1977; and in the following exchange we
see Narayan Maharaja confirm that these nominees were meant
to act after his departure:
Ravindra Svarupa: In fact, that word (ritvik) was not introduced
by Srila Prabhupada but by Tamal Krishna Goswami. Srila Prabhupada
himself said "officiating acarya".
Narayan Maharaja: Well, that can be done. He has told me like
Ravindra Svarupa: He?
Narayan Maharaja: Swamiji. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
I asked him in Vrindavan, what arrangement have you done for
after your. And he told me that in different countries I have
given this trust to our devotees to do the work of acarya,
and they will do. And that after his demise he said they will
preach and give hari-nama and diksa. He has told me also.
Notice that Narayan Maharaja admits Srila Prabhupada had mentioned
the term 'officiating acarya', and that they were meant to
give diksa after his demise. Not only does Maharaja immediately
accept a term with no direct mention in sastra, once more
contradicting his earlier insistence on precedent, but he
also inadvertently helps support the ritvik position. If Srila
Prabhupada had wanted diksa gurus for after his 'demise' then
why talk about something with no mention in any sastra, namely
'officiating acaryas'? Why did he not say 'I shall be ordering
diksa gurus for after my departure' if that was what he had
On the one recorded occasion where Srila Prabhupada used the
term 'officiating acarya', he equated it with the word 'ritvik'
(May 28th 1977) and according to the final July 9th order
ritviks were indeed meant to give diksa after his 'demise'.
Since they were 'officiating acaryas', not acaryas in their
own right, they would give diksa only on Srila Prabhupada's
behalf. Please note that according to Maharaja, Srila Prabhupada
gave this answer specifically with regards to what was to
occur after his departure, not before. So Narayan Maharaja
here accidentally supports the ritvik position by agreeing
that Srila Prabhupada wanted 'officiating acaryas' or 'ritviks'
for after his departure. Unfortunately
Maharaja seems unaware of the clearly prescribed role of these
'officiating acaryas'. Perhaps he had not been shown the July
9th letter by the GBC.
Narayan Maharaja applies the term 'acarya' to persons Srila
".Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami Thakura- he did not mention
who will be guru after his demise. But there is a system in
our sampradaya. So Tirtha Maharaja, Madhav Maharaja, Sridhar
Maharaja, our Gurudeva, Swamiji- Swamiji Bhaktivedanta Swami-
they all became acaryas."
Above Maharaja mentions persons such as Tirtha Maharaja as
being acaryas as part of a bona fide system 'in our sampradaya'.
Yet Srila Prabhupada described such persons as envious rascals.
Srila Prabhupada described Tirtha Maharaja as an 'envious
snake' intent on causing trouble; he said Madhava Maharaja
was 'especially' in the business of 'poison'; and that Sridhara
Maharaja had 'disobeyed the order of his guru maharaja'. Though
Srila Prabhupada encouraged his Godbrothers to co-operate
with ISKCON, and was affectionate to them, he clearly did
not endorse them as being qualified acaryas:
"But Sridhara Maharaja is responsible
for disobeying this order of Guru Maharaja, and he and others
who are already dead unnecessarily thought that there must
be one acarya. [.] So Sridhara Maharaja and his two associate
gentlemen unauthorizedly selected one acarya and later it
proved a failure. [.] Actually amongst my Godbrothers
no one is qualified to become acarya." (Letter to Rupunuga,
Obviously there is a vast gulf in the perception of what constitutes
a bona fide acarya between Maharaja and Srila Prabhupada.
Looking at the above quote from Narayana Maharaja in relation
to his professed conversation with Srila Prabhupada just prior
to his departure, the following is worth thinking about:
If Srila Prabhupada had told Narayan Maharaja he was going
to appoint just 11 officiating acaryas for after his departure,
according to Maharaja, he would have gone completely against
the 'system in our parampara'. Remember in Maharaja's 'system',
after the departure of the guru any disciple can give initiation
as and when he feels ready. For Srila Prabhupada to appoint
just 11 of his thousands of disciples as officiating acaryas
would go completely against what Maharaja considers correct
practice. Thus just why Maharaja felt the appointment of 11
'officiating acaryas', or ritviks, was the 'system in our
sampradaya' is far from clear, especially since he completely
rejects the very notion now. It would seem he is rather confused
over just what is acceptable practice in our sampradaya, and
what Srila Prabhupada actually ordered for after his departure.
Narayan Maharaja rejects the very existence of the word
I have not seen the word "ritvik" in our Vaisnava dictionary.
(.) We have seen no such word as "ritvik". (p.23)
In the Srimad Bhagavatam the word "ritvik" and its derivatives
are mentioned over thirty times. Thus the Maharaja is not
only at odds with Srila Prabhupada, but also with one of the
most important Vaisnava scriptures!
Narayan Maharaja teaches the following in opposition to Srila
1. That authorised initiating gurus can fall down.
2. That the term 're-initiation' has some place in Vaisnava
3. That diksa is dependent on the physical presence of the
4. That the guru must be within the 'eyesight' of the disciple
in order for initiation to take place.
5. That a madhyama can initiate.
6. That a madhyama can give partial diksa.
7. That a kanishta can initiate.
8. That one does not need to be authorised by one's guru before
starting to initiate.
9. That we should not follow the final order on initiation
issued by Srila Prabhupada on July 9th 1977.
10. That envious persons who spent decades fighting over property,
and who voted in a bisexual initiator, are examples of bona
11. That the word ritvik does not exist in vaisnavism.
Narayana Maharaja also contradicts himself by simultaneously
stating the following:
1a) That a madhyama adhikari gives full diksa.
1b) That a madhyama adhikari only gives partial diksa.
2a) That a kanistha adhikari can initiate.
2b) That a kanistha adhikari cannot initiate.
3a) That he rejects a ritvik system in toto.
3b) But he accepts the ritvik system that Srila Prabhupada
set up both for his presence and for after his departure.
4a) That he rejects a system based on the fact that
there is no precedence for such a system.
4b) That he accepts the ritvik system Srila Prabhupada
set up in his presence even though there is no precedence
5a) He states that the initiating guru must be 'living'
in the 'eyesight' of the disciple.
5b) He accepts that one can be initiated even if the guru
is not in the 'eyesight' of the disciple by ordering an officiator
to act on his behalf from another continent.
6a) That the standard system of disciplic succession in our
sampradaya involves every disciple initiating on his own initiative.
6b) That a system of only appointing 11 officiating acaryas
is also bona fide.
It should be noted that we have only looked at one brief exchange
between Narayana Maharaja and a member of the GBC. Yet even
in such a short text we have found many serious discrepancies.
It may be that Maharaja or his followers can justify his views
on the basis of teachings outside of Srila Prabhupada. But
it should be clear to the reader that no amount of justification
will make Narayana Maharaja's teachings the same as Srila
Prabhupada's - and that is what is at issue here.
Most significantly we have shown how Narayana Maharaja admits
that not only did Srila Prabhupada appoint officiating acaryas
to perform initiations for after his departure, but that Srila
Prabhupada actually personally revealed this intention to
him when he was ill in Vrindavan. Srila Prabhupada defined
'officiating acarya' as meaning the same as 'ritvik' - both
on the May 28th tape, and in the July 9th letter that refers
back to the May 28th tape. Thus by Maharaja's own words we
learn that Srila Prabhupada told him he wanted to remain
as the initiating acarya for ISKCON. Hence there is no need
for any ISKCON devotee to seek diksa from Narayana Maharaja,
since he agrees that only Srila Prabhupada should be giving
diksa within ISKCON.
In light of all the above we would humbly suggest that whatever
Maharaja's spiritual credentials, and we are sure they exceed
our own many times over; as aspiring followers of Srila Prabhupada,
wishing to remain chaste to his teachings, His Holiness Narayan
Maharaja is not someone we can take guidance from. Respect
from a distance has to be the only safe policy in this instance.
We hope His Holiness will forgive any offence as none was