Srila Giri Maharaja “Acharya Hierarchy: An Email Exchange”

BKG St. Pete Arrival


Dear Prabhu,

Please accept my humble obeisances and well-wishes.

You wrote:

Undoubtedly, Srila Govinda Maharaj has mentioned about the formation of the Acharya Sabha and you seem to be highlighting this one single point (in your other article titled “Six Months – Still No Acharya Board“) from the will, but nowhere do you recognize the special position of Srila Acharya Maharaj. If you do not mind, can please explain why?

After all his name appears in the will over 20 times as opposed to only one or two times for any other devotee, including other Acharyas.

Given my points above, I am curious to learn as to how you would adjust the following statements from the will according to your conception of all Acharyas being strictly equally “unique” in their respective positions.

Prabhu, I am one Acharya in a great Mission where our predecessor named six Acharyas to succeed him. My duty to the members of our mission is not to undermine Srila Gurudeva’s decision to select six Acharyas, but to support it. That is my understanding.

You are correct in ascertaining my emphasis on the “sameness” of these six Acharyas. They are six of the same thing, Acharyas. I have never denied they are simultaneously different from each other.

If your emphasis on the “special position” and “unique position” of Srila Acharya Maharaja is not intended to point to his “superior position” and thereby, the inferior position of the others, then what is your point?

What I have seen happening, and what I strongly object to, is that the special characteristics of one Acharya, Srila Acharya Maharaja in this case, are being used to infer that he is therefore superior to the others. I believe this is a dangerous precedent that will wreak havoc in our Mission if this conception is promoted by its leaders.

If an individual such as yourself, due to his faith in a particular Acharya, believes that one Acharya is superior to one or more of the others, you have that freedom. However, Srila Sridhara Maharaja informed us that mat guru jagat guru (my guru is the highest guru) is a conception held by the devotees of a junior status, kanishtha-adhikari.

Sri Krishna tells us who is the Acharya, acaryam mam vijaniyan. “The Acharya is Me.” Then who are we to decide which Krishna is superior and which is inferior? For that matter, who are we to decide which devotee of Krishna is superior and inferior? (See quotes below from C.C.)

I believe it is a a serious mistake for any of us to embark on what I consider the dangerous path of speculating who, among Mahaprabhu’s devotees is higher and who is lower. An Acharya must follow the previous Acharyas. One of the dangers we face is the tendency to invent something new that was not given by the previous Acharyas. I believe the attempt to rank our Acharyas as higher and lower is such a new invention and is beneath the dignity of our Mission.

Srila Krishna dasa Kaviraja Goswami and Srila Bhakti Vedanta Swami are predecessor Acharyas. I am trying to follow them. Here are some of their relevant statements from The Chaitanya Charitamrta of Srila A.C. Bhakti Vedanta Swami.

Adi 10.4
caitanya-gosanira yata parisada-caya
guru-laghu-bhava tanra na haya niscaya

The associates of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu were many, but none of them should be considered lower or higher. This cannot be ascertained.Adi 10.5

yata yata mahanta kaila tan-sabara ganana
keha karibare nare jyestha-laghu-krama

All the great personalities in the line of Lord Caitanya enumerated these devotees, but they could not distinguish between the greater and the lesser.

Adi 10.7
vande sri-krsna-caitanya-
premamara-taroh priyan
sakha-rupan bhakta-ganan

I offer my obeisances to all the dear devotees of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the eternal tree of love of Godhead. I offer my respects to all the branches of the tree, the devotees of the Lord who distribute the fruit of love of Krsna.

Sri Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami sets the example of offering obeisances to all the preacher devotees of Lord Caitanya, without distinction as to higher and lower. Unfortunately, at present there are many foolish so-called devotees of Lord Caitanya who make such distinctions…

…Anyone who is a bona fide preacher of the cult of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu must be respectful to the real devotees of Lord Caitanya; one should not be envious, considering one preacher to be very great and another to be very lowly. This is a material distinction and has no place on the platform of spiritual activities. Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami therefore offers equal respect to all the preachers of the cult of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who are compared to the branches of the tree.

First we must understand our own rank before trying to rank the Acharyas selected by our Guru. If we understand our rank, that we are fallen jivas, we will see the foolishness of the attempt to rank those who Srila Gurudeva wanted to establish as his successor Acharyas.

Srila Gurudeva did not encourage this sort of speculation. He told me many times, with words to this effect, “In Kali yuga it is very difficult to see who has bhakti.” If we cannot see who has bhakti how can we possibly judge how much of it any particular devotee has in relation to another?

Prabhu, we are fallen souls. Do you really think we can establish which Acharya is higher and which is lower simply by counting the number of times someone’s name is mentioned in a document? If so, then count the number of times Srimati Radharani’s name is mentioned in Srimad Bhagavatam.

You like facts? Here are some facts I think you cannot disagree with. You will find the names of many devotees of Krishna mentioned numerous times in the Srimad Bhagavatam but, nowhere will you find the name of Srimati Radharani. It is not because she is the least important servitor of Krishna, it is because she is the most exalted.

I have no problem glorifying the different devotees in our Mission by pointing to their various distinguishing characteristics. While Srila Acharya Maharaja holds many distinctions, so do the others named in the Will of His Divine Grace.

Sriman Yudhamanyu and Srimatis Jivana and Kumkum “are always obedient towards me.” Is there a higher distinction than this?

To attempt to rank our devotees, as if we were government inspectors, charged with determining the various qualities of apples, is an exercise I believe we would do best to avoid.

C.C., Adi 4.44

No one is higher or lower than anyone else in transcendental relationships with the Lord, for in the absolute realm everything is equal. But although these relationships are absolute, there are also transcendental differences between them.

There are many other things I could say but I think this is sufficient and, again, my time is short

It is good you are asking these questions. We should not feed our doubts by allowing them to linger in our brains.

Lastly, I believe we should all try to avoid the trap set by our minds to engage in speculations about which of our Acharyas is higher or lower. We must try our utmost to see each of the six Acharyas selected by Srila Govinda Maharaja through the eyes of the shastra:

acinoti yah sastrartham acare sthapayaty api
svayam acarate yasmad acaryas tena kirttitah

“An acarya is one who fully understands the conclusions of the revealed scriptures and whose behavior reflects his deep realization. He is a living example for he teaches the meaning of the scriptures both by word and deed.” — Vayu Purana

I pray this finds you well in all respects.

Sincerely yours,

Swami B.K. Giri