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On My Behalf

With so many young people joining the movement in droves worldwide, it has become impractical for Prabhupada to personally initiate every individual. He has, therefore, instituted a system whereby his most senior disciples will conduct the initiation ceremony on his behalf as officiating priests. The first step is a letter of recommendation to Prabhupada from a temple president, confirming that certain devotees are ready for initiation. Then Srila Prabhupada will chant on the required sets of beads and post them in time for the yajna. Finally, Prabhupada will designate a particular sannyasi, or GBC man, to perform the fire yajna at the initiation ceremony. In this way, Prabhupada has been able to initiate thousands of new devotees without actually being present at each and every center. By the end of 1972, however, so many new people have joined the movement that there is a need to further modify the system. Prabhupada writes to Kirtanananda Swami explaining that he is delegating him to chant on beads for devotees in America and Canada. In many of the letters that Srila Prabhupada writes during January, he takes the opportunity to explain the system. My Dear Revatinandana, Please accept my blessings. Just now I have received some more requests for giving first initiation from Dhananjaya, and now I am receiving weekly not less than ten to fifteen such requests from new students. So it is becoming very expensive to send so many sets of beads such long distance, and it has become little bothersome for me also. So I think now you may be appointed by me to give first initiations to new disciples by chanting on their beads on my behalf. In America Kirtanananda Swami is doing that. So now, if there are two of you, that will give me great relief. Kirtanananda will chant on the beads for new devotees in America, Canada, like that, and you can chant on the beads for the European continent new disciples. They shall, of course, still be considered as my disciples, not that they shall become your disciples, but you will be empowered by me to chant on their beads and that is the same effect of binding master and disciple as if I were personally chanting. They may continue to send me their letters of request, along with the President's recommendation, and I shall give them a name and it will be entered by my Secretary in our records. Only I will send my letter of reply to you and you will purchase beads there and chant on them and send, along with my letter, to the new initiates. Is that all right? I shall continue to deal with the matter of second initiations. The sacred threads do not require so much postage to send airmail. [Letter to Revatinandana - January 4, 1973]

Revatinandana: Prabhupada empowered me to initiate devotees on his behalf, but I didn't feel fit to chant on their beads. So he said, "No, it is not like that. Because I am telling you to do it, therefore it is pure. Just chant rounds like you usually do, and do your best to chant purely as always."

Prabhupada also begins utilizing modern technology regarding brahmana initiation. The following letter illustrates his method of utilizing tape recorders to convey the Gayatri mantra. My dear Bhutatma, Please accept my blessings. I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated December 18, 1972, forwarded to me here at Bombay. I am very happy to hear from you that everything is going nicely in the San Francisco temple. Upon your recommendation I am very glad to accept the six new students as my duly initiated disciples. Their letter is enclosed herewith. As for chanting on their beads, I have delegated Kirtanananda Swami to chant on the new devotees' beads on my behalf in your country. In Europe, Revatinandana Swami will chant on the new devotees' beads on my behalf. Because it is such long distance, therefore it is very expensive to send beads airmail from here, and there are so many instances of the beads being lost in that way. And I am getting now requests up to 20 or 30 each week, so it is practically becoming impossible for me to chant the beads when I am so far distant. Therefore the new devotees may send their beads to Kirtanananda in New Vrindaban, and he will chant the beads and send back to them. Is this all right? Now hold the fire yajna and give also second initiation to Sarvadarsan, Yajnapati, and Hari Vallabha. Enclosed please find three sacred threads, duly chanted by me, along with three copies of Gayatri mantra. Hold the fire yajna for all nine devotees. And for the second initiates teach them how to chant on the finger divisions and play for them the tape of me reciting Gayatri mantra into their right ear. [Letter to Bhutatma - January 5, 1973]

There are some Gaudiya Vaishnavas who preach that pure transcendental sound vibration, sabda-brahma, cannot be transmitted by technology. It can only be transmitted in person by a pure devotee, they say. However, here Srila Prabhupada is giving a higher understanding. He has recorded a tape of his chanting the Gayatri mantra which is now being used to initiate his disciples into the brahminical stage of devotional service. If, as they say, the transcendental sound vibration of Gayatri cannot be reproduced electronically, then many of Prabhupada's disciples were cheated and did not receive the Gayatri mantra at all. Regrettably, lesser Vaishnavas with a poorer fund of knowledge come to a conclusion that leads to Vaishnava apaRadha because this false understanding implies that Srila Prabhupada was unaware of what he was doing. Many people have become Krishna devotees simply by listening to the beautiful songs of George Harrison and chants of Indian devotional singers. So what to speak of hearing Prabhupada's recorded classes' That's how so many westerners became devotees. If the spiritual sound vibration was not imparted, then how did so many persons give up material life for spiritual life' The argument loses further credibility when applied to books. Srila Prabhupada herein elucidates: Why distinguish between chanting and book distribution' These books I have recorded and chanted, and they are transcribed. It is spoken kirtan. So book distribution is also chanting. These are not ordinary books. It is recorded chanting. Anyone who reads, he is hearing. [Letter to Rupanuga - October 19, 1974]

One may wonder why such disparities among Vaishnavas exist. The answer is always based on a misunderstanding of sastra. This is explained by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. prabhu kahe, sruti, smriti, yata rishi-gana sabe 'eka'-mata nahe, bhinna bhinna dharma Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu replied, "The Vedas, Puranas, and great learned sages are not always in agreement with one another. Consequently there are different religious principles." [CC, Madhya 17.184] In his purport to this verse, Srila Prabhupada states, "Unless one comes to the Absolute Truth, there is no possibility of agreement." Therefore, only on the platform of absolute truth can there be agreement. Regarding this particular issue, the consequence is clearly enunciated by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and he uses the great saint Madhavendra Puri as an example. dharma-sthapana-hetu sadhura vyavahara puri-gosanira ye acarana, sei dharma sara "A devotee's behavior establishes the true purpose of religious principles. The behavior of Madhavendra Puri Goswami is the essence of such religious principles." Lord Chaitanya immediately offers sastra-pramana to prove this point by quoting Yuddishtira Maharaja from the Mahabharata, Vana-parva [313.117]. tarko 'pratishthahsrutayo vibhinna nasav rishir yasya matam na bhinnam dharmasya tattvam nihitam guhayam mahajano yena gatah sa panthah Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu continued, "Dry arguments are inconclusive. A great personality whose opinion does not differ from others is not considered a great sage. Simply by studying the Vedas, which are variegated, one cannot come to the right path by which religious principles are understood. The solid truth of religious principles is hidden in the heart of an unadulterated, self-realized person. Consequently, as the sastras confirm, one should accept whatever progressive path the mahajanas advocate." [CC, Madhya 17.186]

Therefore, the conclusion of sastra is that true dharma always resides in the heart of the maha-bhagavata Vaishnava. And following such advanced Vaishnavas is actually the approved path of dharma. As far as initiated disciples of Srila Prabhupada are concerned, they really have no option but to accept his version. This is stated by Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya and accepted by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. "The order of the spiritual master is very strong and cannot be disobeyed. That is the injunction of the sastras, the revealed scriptures. "[CC, Madhya 10.144] As usual, the truth is simple. But complicated minds make everything appear complicated. Since Vishnujana Swami is now in Pittsburgh, Prabhupada requests Maharaja to perform the fire yajna for the new initiates on his behalf. The chanting on the beads and the performing of the fire sacrifice are formal rituals that Prabhupada no longer has time to perform with the movement growing so fast worldwide. Therefore, he delegates these formal functions to his leading students under the direct order of the Supreme Lord, because Srila Prabhupada never does anything that is whimsical or unauthorized. Real initiation always takes place in the heart of the initiate with the acceptance of vani, devotional wisdom. Along with that is a change of consciousness to offer everything as service to God.

Nari dd: When Vishnujana Swami came with his bus party he performed my fire sacrifice along with Chandra Bhanu, Brahma Das, and some others. Srila Prabhupada wrote a letter accepting us as his disciples and said it would be just as potent if somebody else did the fire yajna because he was accepting us. Vishnujana Swami was there, so Srila Prabhupada had him do it. When he was chanting it was just so pure, so potent, with so much spiritual energy. It's pure when anyone chants, practically, but I just felt the potency that much more. There was so much dancing and jumping when he led the kirtan afterwards. Also present at the Pittsburgh temple is Rama Das, who met Vishnujana Swami in Miami's Peacock Park over the New Year. Later, he had gone to the Washington, DC, temple and met the same Pittsburgh TSKP members who had introduced him to Krishna consciousness in Florida. He has now joined that traveling party with Mahendra, Brahma Das, and Chandra Bhanu and is back with them in Pittsburgh to see the initiation ceremony. After the initiations, Vishnujana Swami sits with two initiates, Brahma Das and Chandra Bhanu, to honor prasadam. Rama Das also sits with them to hear Vishnujana Maharaja tell a story about Radha-Damodara's wonderful mercy. "Radha-Damodara actually saved my spiritual life," Maharaja says. "I had a dream one night. I was dreaming of a beautiful woman and I was going off with her. But at the last moment I looked at my watch and it was time to do Radha-Damodara's arati. So I immediately said to her, 'I have to go. I have an arati to do now.' So I jumped up and ran off. In this way, Radha-Damodara saved me."

Reference: Radha Damodara Vilasa by Vaiyasaki Dasa