Copies of the magazine can be obtained by visiting Srila Narayan Maharaj’s American tour or by contacting myself in New York or Nanda Gopal Prabhu in Badger Ca. You can write to me. The "about the author" link below has my email and snail mail addresses.
Since there is so much discussion of guru tattva, and in particular rtvik on VNN I am presenting here for your examination one article from the magazine entitled:
Rtvik and Sri Guru Tattva
After the physical departure of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, and uttama-bhagavata acarya, there have been many questions about his disciples acting as gurus, some of whom have fallen down. Thus there is an overall concern about gurus amongst his followers and how to properly continue the line.
The ‘guru-tattva’ and ‘rtvik’ discussions now challenge the assembled devotees to understand Srila Prabhupada’s desires regarding Vaisnava initiation. There are several sincere, yet conflicting viewpoints interpreting Srila Prabhupada’s intentions. The ‘rtvik proposal’ suggests that Srila Prabhupada desired that a system be set up for devotees (as rtviks) to initiate on his behalf even after his departure, and those new initiates would continue to be his disciples alone.
At Sri Kesavaji Gaudiya Matha, Mathura, curious devotees asked Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayan Maharaj questions on this topic. Srila Narayana Maharaj is always happy to clarify siddhanta and to glorify Srila Prabhupada. To help us grasp Srila Prabhupada’s intentions for the continuation of the Krsna consciousness movement, Srila Narayan Maharaj presents here pertinent references from the Vedic scriptures (Gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Caitnya-caritamrta,Upanisads, Ramayana), clearly conveying the true meaning of ‘rtvik’, and how it is viewed in relation to the eternal system of guru-parampara.
For the many devotees whoare trying to serve Srila Prabhupada Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s sankirtan movement, we hope the following explanations will offer criticially important insight into these often misunderstood topics.
The meaning of the word ‘rtvik’
Q: According to scripture, what is themeaning of rtvik?
A: Tesam rg yatrarthavasena pado-vyvastha–"The Vedic mantras in which the quarters are arranged to carry complete meaning and are composed according to the science of meter are called rca or rg." [Pangala-sutra 2.9.32], The established conclusion of all the Vedas, discovered deep within the Vedas, is pure devotion unto Vrajendra-nandana Sri Krsna, who is all-mighty (sarva-saktiman) and an ocean of all nectarean mellows (akhila-rasamrta-sindhu). However, externally, the Vedas appear to be related to the performance of yajna (sacrifice), but the Sama-Veda and yajur-Veda are directly related with sacrifices and their rituals.
‘Rtau yajtiti rtvik.’ One who conducts sacrifices according to Vedic mantras is called a rtvik. There is an arrangement of sixteen types of rtviks to peform Vedic sacrifices. These are Brahma,udgata, hota, adhvaryu,Brahmaccsi, prastota, matiavarun, pratisthata, pota, pratiharta, accavak, nestha, agnidhra, suBrahmanya, gravastota, and unyaita. The yaman empoys priets to perform sacrifices for him and pays them. He selects these sixteen types of rtviks for the sacrifices. All these are virtuous, of high character, learned in the Vedas and expert in execution and supervision of sacrifices. Among all these sixteen rtviks, hota, udgata, adhvaryu and Brahma are prominent.
Four types of prominent rtviks
(1) One who invokes the particular deities (devatas) to be present in the sacrifice by reciting the Mantras of Rg-Veda, and thus performs the sacrifice , is called hota..
(2) One who sings aloud the hymns of Sama-Veda in adoration of invoked deities is called ugata.
(3) The adhvaryu murmurs the prosaic section of the Yajur-Veda, and performs his specific duties. His participation in yajna is quite prominent.
(4) Protecting the yajna from external obstacles, rectifying the possible mistakes in recitation, and removal of various types of discrepancies arising in the detailed performances related to yajna, is the function of Brahma. He is the chief priest of yajna. He supervises the over all functioning of yajna and rectifies the faults. So this Brahma is considered superior to all other rtviks. Hence it is imperative for the Brahma, who undertakes the main responsibility to supervise the whole sacrifice, to have complete knowledge of the three Vedas (Rg, Sama, Yajur).
Rtviks mentioned in Vedic History
In: Valmiki’s Ramayana, similar descriptins about rtvik are found:
- Na sadanga vidatrasinnavrato nabahusrutah
- Sadasyastasya vai rajnyo navada kusala dvijah
"In the putresti-yajna (sacrifice performed with the desire to have a son) conducted for Maharaj Dasaratha all the conductors, or rtviks, were well-versed in all the limbs of the Vedas. They were all strict celibates, and had heard the Vedas repeatedly and systematically from expert knowers of Vedas. All of them were expert in philosophical discussion and assertions."
We find another example of sixteen rtviks described in the Ramayana in the description of asvamedha-yajna.
- hayasya yani cangani tani sarvani brahmanah
- Agnau prasyanti vidhivata samastah sadasritivirjnh
"All sixteen types of rtviks started to offer oblative articles systematically into the fire, which were required as integral limbs of the asvamedha-yajna."
Rtviks employed to help fulfill fruitive desires
Beginning from the Vedic period up to Dvarapa-yuga, it is seen that many great emperors have obtained their desired fruits by flawless performance of sacrifices. Because these kings were not
Expert in the Vedas and in pefomring sacrifices, they themselves became yajmans, and they appointed As rtviks, non-greedy and virtuous brahmanas, who were well-versed in the Vedas and in performance of yajna. Sometimes even brahmanas, who were knowers of the Vedas used to perform the Vedic sacrifices with the help of rtviks in order to fulfill their fruitive desires. Generally all of these sacrifices were performed for fulfilling material desires, the chief of which was the attainment of heavenly planets.
Function of rtvik is not related to transcendental bhakti
Q: What is the relationship of rtvik with guru-tattva as described in scriptures?
A: After deliberation upon the Mahabharata (the fifth Veda), Valmiki’s Ramayana , and the Puranas, It becomes very obvious that rtviks have nothing to do with paramartha, the subjects of the supreme transcendental goal, namely atma-tattva (the science of the self), bhagavata-tattva (the science of Bhagavan), bhakti-tattva and so on. The rtvik does not aim to attain mukti in the form of emancipation from mundane miseries, nor to attain eternal service to the lotus feet of Bhagavan after becoming free from the cycle of birth and death. After the completion of yajnas, the yajman pays the appropriate remunerations (daksina) to the rtviks and sends them away. The yajman and the rtvik have no mutual eternal relationships.
In Srimad bhagavatam and Mahabharata also there are very few contexts which are related to rtviks. In Srimad-Bhagavatam wherever the word "rtvik" has been mentioned, it is used only in connection with the performance of yajnas, and nowhere can it be found being used in relation to paramartha or supreme transcendental goals. In the famous episode of Puranjana, there is a reference in which King Pracinabharhi performed unlimited numbers of yajnas through his rtviks. As a result of these yajnas the eastern portion of the earth was completely covered by sacrificial grass mats (kusa). In many of these asvamedha-yajnas animals were also sacrificed. Still the king’s mind was restless. Eventually by the instructions of Davarsi Narada he realized the futility of yajnas performed to fulfill material desires. After completely abandoning them, he entered into the path of bhakti. This topic is illustrated in the Fourth Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam.
In the Adi-parva of Mahabharata, regarding the topic of the Khandavana-daha, the burning of the Khandavana forest, there is a descriptive episode of Kind Svetaki. During his lifetime King Svetaki had so many yajnas performed that all of his rtviks became fed up with such yajnas. In spite of receiving high remuneration from the king for their services, as well as repeated requests that they continue performing yajnas for him, these rtviks were no longer willing to act as rtviks. Thus, becoming hopeless Svetaki took shelter of Mahadeva Sankara. He performed worship of Sri Sankara for a long time and thus pleased him. Kind Svetaki asked for the benediction that Sri Sankara would accept the post of rtvik and complete the performance of his yajnas. Being pleased with the king, Mahadeva Sankara ordered his partial expansion, Maharsi Durvasa, to accept the post of rtvik and complete King Svetaki’s yajna. Apointing maharsi Durvasa as the chief (Brahma) rtvik, King Svetaki successfully performed his yajnas thrgough him, and at last attained Svarga-loka according to his desires.
As described in Valmiki’s Ramayana, Maharaja Dasaratha performed asvamedha-yana and putresti-yajna with the intention of having a son. He appointed Ringi Rsi, who was well-versed in all the Vedas, as the chief rtvik(Brahma). As a result of this performance he had four sons. Furthermore, Maharaja Sri Ramacandra , following the loka-maryada (moral principles and social customs for kings), performed many yajnas such as asvamedha through Maharsi Vasistha, Vamadeva and other rsis and munis who knew the Vedas completely.
The Supreme Lord advises to endeavor only toward paramartha
Thus it becomes obvious that all such yajnas are performed merely to fulfill mundane desires and to attain svarga, but they are never performed in pursuance of paramartha, transcendental bhakti. Bhagavan Sri Krsna, while giving instructions to Arjuna in Gitopanisad, has Himself said:
- trai-vidya mam soma-pahputa-papa
- yajnair istva svar-gatim prarthayante
- te punyam asadya surendra-lokam
- asnanti divyan divi deva-bhogan
"Those who study the Vedas and drink the soma juice, seking the heavenly planets, worship Me indirectly. They take birth on the planet of Indra, where they enjoy godly delights."
- te tvam bhuktva svarga-lokam vislam
- ksine punye martya-lokam visanti
- evam trayi-dharmam anuprapanna
- gatagatam kama-kama labhante
"When they have thus enjoyed heavenly sense pleasure, they return to this mortal planet again. Thus, through the Vedic principles, they achieve only flickering happiness."
In other words, people who are attached to performing the fruitive activities mentioned in the three Vedas (Rg,Sama and Yajur), worship Me by performing yajnas, and, accepting the remnants (soma-rasa) of yajna, they become free from sins and pray for the destination of heaven. As the result of their pious activities they attain Indra-loka, and there they enjoy the objects of divine pleasure available to the demigods. After enjoying the fret sense pleasures available in heaven, they again fall back to the material world due to gradually exhausting all of their pious deeds. Thus, these people who perform yajnas to fulfill their material desires, as prescribed in the above three Vedas, repeatedly return to this material world. Sri Krsna also says:
- trai-gunya-visaya veda
- nistrai-gunyo bhavarjuna
- nirdvandvo nitya-sattva-stho
- ‘niryoga-ksema atmavan
"The Vedas deal mainly with the subject of the three modes of material nature. O Arjuna, become transcendental to these three modes. Be free from all dualities and from all anxieties for gain and safety, and be established in the self."
The Supreme Personality of Godhead is saying: O Arjuna, giving up the three types of modes described in the Vedas, be fixed in nirguna-tattva, the absolute reality beyond the three modes. I alone am the supreme absolute truth established in the Vedas. There isn o reality which is greater than Me. Unalloyed devotion, suddha-bhakti, unto Me bestows the highest welfare upon jivas.
The necessity of approaching a sad-guru for eternal and transcendental benefit
And further Sri Krsna says:
- tad viddhi pranipatena
- pariprasnena sevaya
- upadeksyanti te jnanam
- jnaninas tattva-darsinah
"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."
For understanding Me, the supreme absolute reality, which is the topmost benefit of the jiva, one must approach a guru, who has realized the truth. By offering him obeisances, inquiring submissively from him and by rendering service to him, you should please him. Thus pleased he will bestow upon you knowledge of jiva-tattva (the pure constitutional nature of the self), para-tattva (the nature of supreme absolute reality), and bhakti-tattva. After knowing all these, your human life will be successful.
Is it clear that, other than imparting knowledge of bhagavata-tattva, bhakti-tattva, and atma tattva, the tattva darsi (self realized) guru has nothing to do with the fulfillment of one’s temporary mundane desires.
It is said in the Upanisads:
- Tad-vijanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet
- Samit-[panih srotriyam Brahma-nistham
"To learn the transcendental subject matter, one must approach a spiritual master. In doing sohe should carry fuel to burn in sacrifice. The symptom of such a spiritual master is that he is expert in understanding the Vedic conclusion, and therefore he constantly engages in the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.:"
Furthermore it is said in Svetasvatara Upanisad (6.23):
- yasya deve para bhaktir
- yatha deve tatha gurau
- tasyaite kathita hy arthah
- prakasante mahatmanah
A similar statement is found in Srimad Bhagavatam also:
- tasmad gurum prapadyeta
- jijnasuh sreya uttamam
- sabde pare ca nisnatam
- Brahmany upasamasrayam
"Any person who serisously desires to achieve real happiness must seek out a bona fide spiritual master and take shelter of him by initiation. The qualification of the spiritual master is that he must have realized the conclusion of the scriptures by deliberation, and must be able to convince others of these conclusions. Such great personalities who have taken shelter of the Supreme Godhead, leaving aside all material considerations, are to be understood as bona fide spiritual master."
Bhakti, in the form of loving service to the lotus feet of Sri Krsna, is the only auspicious path for the jivas. To know this, the inquisitive sadhakas (practitioners) must take the shelter of the lotus feet of a sad-guru. Only one who is very expert in the understanding of sabda-Brahma (the conclusions of the Vedas), who has realized the supreme absolute truth and who is never overpowered by mundane sense objects or miseries is a sad-guru. In Sri Caitanya —cariitamrta also this conclusion is established.
- Brahmanda bramite kona bhagyavan jiva
- Guru-krsna-prasade paya bhakti-latu-bija
"According to their karma, all living entities are wandering throughout the entire universe. Some of them are being elevated to the upper planetary systems, and some are going down into the lower planetary systems. Out of many millions of wandering living entities, one who is very fortunate gets an opportunity to associate with a bona fide spiritual master by the grace of Krsna. By the mercy of both Krsna and the spiritual master, such a person receives the seed of the creeper of devotional service."
- tate krsna bhaje, kare gurura
- maya-jala chute, paya krsnera carana
The role of Guru in the sat-sampradaya
From the above scriptural evidences it is very clear that the relationship between guru and sisya (disciple) is eternal and transcendental. Gurudeva is described as the svarupa and prakasa (manifestation) of Bhagavan. Therefore he must always be worshipped like Bhagavan. Only by his mercy can a jiva who is bound in the grips of maya be freed, and after being situated in his pure constitutional position, become engaged in the service of Bhagavan. Without the mercy of Sri Gurudeva the supreme welfare of the jiva is impossible.
On the other hand, the relationship between the yajman and the rtvik is temporary and based on self-interest. It is for the fulfillment of mundane desires. Their relationship lasts for a short time only. Therefore, since time immemorial, the system of guru-parampara, which is also know as amnaya or sat-sampradaya, has been prevalent in the scriptures. The four lines of bona fide succession of spiritual masters has originated form the associates of Sri Bhagavan, that is Sri Laksmi, Sri Brahma, Sri Rudra and Sri Sanat-kumara. In the age of Kali Sri Ramanujacarya, Sri Madhvacarya, Sri Visnuswami and Sri Nimbaditya respectively are the four acaryas famous as the followers of the above presonalities. Guru-parampara (the bona fide succession of spiritual masters) is always prevalent in the amnaya line of these four acaryas. Even in the advaita-sampradaya (followers of Sankaracarya) the tradition of guru-parampara is well preserved.
In these four Vaisnava sampradayas, five types of gurus are described which are (1) caitya guru,
(2)patha-pradarsaka-guru, (3)sravana-guru, (4) diksa-guru, and (5) siksa- guru. Bhagavan Himself, who gives inspiration for bhajana and other devotional activities from the core of the heart, is caitya —guru.
A Vaisnava who speaks fundamental truths about spiritual life and introduces the sadhaka to a sad guru is called patha-pradarsaka-guru.. One who, by the medium of his hari-katha, attracts the sadhaka towards the service of Bhagavan and help him in sadhana-bhajana is called sravana-diksa-guru. One who, by imparting specific instructions on sadhana and bhajana, helps the sadhaka to enter into the realm of bhajana is called siksa-guru or bhajana-guru in different places in the sastras. Both siksa and diksa-gurus have been equally described as the worshipablebhagavata svarupa or representation of Bhagavan.
- guru krsna-rupa hana sastrera pramane
- gure-rupe krsna krpa karena bhakta-gane
"According to the deliberate opinion of all revealed scriptures, the spiritual master is nondifferent from Krsna. Lord Krsna in the form of the spiritual master delivers His devotees."
- siksa-guruke ta jani krsnera svarupa
- antaryami, bhakta-srestha, -- ei dui rupa
"One should know theinstructing spiritual master to be the Personality of Krsna, Lord Krsna manifests Himself as the Supersoul and as the greatest devotee of the Lord."
- jive saksat nahi tate guru caitya-rupe
- siksa-guru haya krsna-mahanta-svarupe
"Since one cannot visually experience the presence of the Supersoul, He appears before us as a liberted devotee. Sucha a spiritual master is none other than Krsna Himself."
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His Gosvami followers have accepted both the panchratrika-guru-parampara and bhagavata-guru-parampara. In fact, both conceptions establish the same meaning; the innermost purpose of both is identical. Still, bhagavata-parampara has supremacy over pancharatrika-guru-parampara. Bhagavata-guru-parampara is establihsed in the gradations of bajan-nistha. Since pancharatrika-guru-prampara is included in bhagavata-parampara, the charm and superiority of bhagavata-parampara is therefore highly glorified. Moreover, there is also no restriction of time in this bhagavata-parampara.
So in the tradition of our sampradaya there is a provision for diksa- guru, siksa-guru, bhajana-guru, patha-pradarsaka-guru, caitya-guru and so on. But we will not find any statement in the scriptures which recommends accepting a ‘rtvik-guru’ or the rtvik tradition in order to perform one’s sadhana of paramartha (the highest transcendental goal). We do not find even in the Sankara sampradaya any depiction of rtvik tradition what to speak of the four Vaishnava sampradayas.
The guru-paramapara is eternal and will always continue to exist
Q: These days we do not see the tradition of guru-parampara in some sampradayas. Some gurus are falling down, unable to maintain the requirements of being a guru, and there seems to be a lack of sad-guru. Therefore, since Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has briefly mentioned rtvik in his letters, and during his manifest presence he has given diksa by appointing rtviks, what is the harm if we accept diksa through such a rtvik system or though his audio cassette now that he is no longer physically present?
A" In the present age of Kali many people become irritated simply by hearing the word ’guru’ because of seeing the misconduct, the activities which are against the principles of bhakti and the fall-downs of many so-called gurus. Thus, at the current time, some people put forward the idea that Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj was the last sad-guru, and after his disappearance there is no longer a sad-guru present in the world, nor will there be one in the future. Therefore, after his disappearance there is not need for anyone to accept any living guru because rtviks will carry forward this sisya-parampara (disciplic succession) and they will give diksa only by utilizing the cassette recordings of his own voice chanting the gayatri-mantras. ‘
This conception is completely speculative and is against the injunctions of the scriptures. The guru-parampara or amnaya line is eternal and everlasting since the time of creation. This line of
guru-parampara is existing up to today without any break, and it will continue to exist like this in the future also. To say, ‘There is no sad-guru living in the world at present and neither will there be any in the future", is an atheistic opinion. Because Srila Swami Maharaj is such an important figure in our eternal parampara it is obvious that he would not establish anything against guru, sastra or sadhu.
- kiba vipra, kiba myasi, sudra kene naya
- yei krsna-tattva-vetta, sei ‘guru’ haya
"Whether one is a brahmana, a sannyasi or a sudra–regardless of what he is–he can become a spiritual master if he knows the science of Krsna."
No sad-guru ever makes anyone a guru or an acarya by force. Rather, by rendering service to his sad-guru, becoming well versed in krsna-tattva, realizing ParaBrahman and becoing detached from the material sense objects, a sad-sisya himself attains the qualifications of a guru by his guru’s mercy. He doesn’t need any stamp or registration for this. On the other hand, we sometimes see the fall-down of a guru who is appointed as successor by his guru. If a sad-guru declares or appoints his qualified successor then it is indeed proper, and if he doesn’t., there is still no harm. The guru-parampara will continue to exist either way. But, in no circumstance is there any provision for rtviks in sat-sampradaya or in the line of guru-parampara.
Accepting diksa through mechanical voice recordings?
Some people talk about accepting diksa through the medium of the audio cassettes of great personalities after they have disappeared. There are various flaws in this ideology. Before giving diksa, a guru examines the characteristics, thoughts, intentions , and so on of the aspiring candidate. Similarly, for some period of time, the aspirant will also observe the gurutva (greatness), conduct, bhajana and attitudeof his guru. When both of them are satisfied, then only is there an arrangement to give and to accept diksa. This process is not possible through cassettes once the guru is no longer physically present. It is not possible for the cassette to examine the aspirant before giving diksa, and neither is it possible for the aspirant to observe the greatness , conduct and mode ofbhajana of the guru though the medium of cassettes alone.
From the history of our sampradaya , it is well known that Krsna Dvaipayana Vedavyasa was a perfected saint or guru of Dvarpara-yuga. But yet his sat-sisya, Srila Madhvacarya, had direct darsana of Srila Vedavyasa who had appeared about 5000 years prior to him. Despite being so qualified, Srila Madhvacarya never thought he could become the disciple of Srila Vedavyasa without the latter’s physical presence. On hearing the sincere prayers of Srila Madhvacarya, Srila Vedavyasa personally appeared before him and gave him diksa. We can observe many such examples in the scriptures. A sad-guru can manifest anywhere by the prayers of sat-sisya. For the common people, the process of accepting diksa is to directly receive krsna-mantra from a sad-guru who knows krsna-tattva. But in the case of uttama-adhikaris, the example of bhagvata parampara is visible everywhere. Hence, it is not a proven fact that the cassette is a bona fide and effective medium to give diksa.
If , in modern times, in special circumstances a guru has given diksa through his representative or through cassette, this still cannot be accepted as the ultimate principle for everyone at all times and in all places. A guru may give diksa through the medium of his representative or cassette to a faithful person who is living in a remote place, and cannot personally come before his guru due to circumstances. But this is a temporary situation arising out of extreme circumstances only. Whenever it is possible, the guru will himself personally give diksa.
‘Rtvik-guru’, a contradiction of terms
Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami has neither accepted nor mentioned the tradition of rtviks as gurus anywhere in his bona fide books. Nor did he support the tradition of rtviks in his personal letters. Whatever Srila Swami Maharaj arranged, it was definitely not ‘rtvik-guru’, which is a contradiction of terms. To call it this is the cause of embarrassment for him among those who know the Vedic sastras. If any of his disciples have anywhere, on the pretext of his name, made such a declaration, then after the word ‘rtvik’, must be added the statement, ‘the representative of guru’. And it must be understood that such representatives such only on a timely or provisional basis. Therefore the sadhaka of suddha-bhakti, after thoroughly deliberating on these facts, must not neglect the principles of guru-parampara. If there is any doubt, then it is necessary to remove it by accepting the correct understanding of guru-parampara. One must accept the innermost thoughts or intentions of the guru, otherwise one will be deceived and misled from suddha-bhakti.
As you can see, it is very important to consider the scriptural meaning of the word ‘rtvik.’ The term applies only when a yajman undertakes a yajna for fulfilling his material desires. Because he, the yajman, is himself ignorant of the Vedic rules for performing the yajna, he appoints, for the successful completion and achievement of desired results, the rtviks, who are virtuous and who know the Vedas.
‘Rtvik-guru’ , an impractical concoction which is against the scriptural conclusions
In consideration of this principle, can it be conjectured that a guru, being ignorant of the diksa mantras and their conceptions, will appoint a rtvik more qualified than himself, who in turn will give diksa to others, thus acting as the representative of the guru? Some people say that Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj appointed rtviks who were to give diksa to his disciples. If this statement is accepted as true, then it means they are accusing Srila Swami Maharaj of being an unqualified guru, and ignorant yajman who, for the sake of fulfilling his material desires or perfection in spiritual life, would have appointed rtviks more qualified than himself. No, it cannot be true, for this is completely impossible. Therefore on the path toward attaining the supreme absolute reality, Bhagavan, this concocted rtvik conception is impractical and against the scriptural conclusions.
Swami Bhakti Vedanta Narayan