The email below came in response to a question by one of my disciples regarding association. It is my prayer that all my disciples give careful attention to its contents by following the directives therein, while always remembering Sriman Mahaprabhu’s instruction “trnad api sunicena...“
Swami B.K. Giri
Date: October 10, 2012
Dear Srimati Jadurani devi dasi,
Please accept my blessings and well–wishes.
I remembered the conversation that we had about ISKON and how you mentioned you were still friends, I think with a former editor, or maybe the present one, of Back to Godhead. I figured I was just going to the temple to get something from their store and it wasn’t like I was going there to receive any kind of instruction or anything so that it was probably okay. Anyways, maybe it’s nothing or maybe it’s something but I just thought I’d mention that.
It’s good you are asking for my clarification in the matter of associating with members of ISKCON.
The first point to note carefully is that my relationship with them and your relationship with them are not the same. My initiating guru, Srila Prabhupada, is the founder acharya of ISKCON. After his disappearance the organization was naturally left to his disciples, whose responsibility it was to conduct the spiritual and managerial affairs of the organization. Those disciples of Srila Prabhupada are all my Godbrothers and Godsisters. As such, I naturally have some sort of ongoing relationship with them either distant or close, formal or substantial.
By the action of the Divine Will, I cannot point to a single close or substantial relationship that I maintain with any of my brothers and sisters who remained in ISKCON. This is more or less a relative view of those relationships which developed due to their veering off the course our guru directed us to follow. As a result, they have become wayward sons and daughters of our guru. However, this does not necessarily mean they have been disowned by him.
Srila Sridhara Maharaja has identified Srila Prabhupada Bhakti Vedanta Swami Maharaja as a shaktyavesha avatara of Sri Nityananda Prabhu. His mercy knows no bounds. Whoever renders even the smallest service to His Divine Grace must see the result of that service fructify at some point. For some it will come sooner, for others later. In either case, the seed distributed by Srila Prabhupada is exceedingly hearty and will grow in any soil. Only Vaishnava aparadha, offense to a devotee, can stop its growth to maturity, where it will produce pure unalloyed devotion to Sri Krishna.
There is also an absolute view. Because we are brothers and sisters of the same spiritual father, those who have real faith in our guru, with whom we have an eternal spiritual relationship as his disciples, may again return to the fold of his devoted followers at some point in the future. Indeed, this is our expectation.
In any event, you should maintain an attitude of respect towards all my spiritual relatives. This is best accomplished by keeping a safe distance between you and them, both physically and mentally. There is no need to be involved with them on either level, except as may occur in the course of your service to me.
Yesterday you were wondering if, or how, bad can have its origin in Krishna. I explained that there is no bad coming from Krishna, that “bad” is a conception that arises within the world of relativity due to a perverted understanding of the Absolute and one’s relationship with Him.
The Absolute could not be so if there were any deficiency within Him. Because there is no deficiency within Him, all things are harmonized within the jurisdiction of the Absolute Truth, which is all–encompassing. A verse in the Isopanishad points to this quality of the Absolute.
om purnam adah purnam idam
purnat purnam udacyate
purnasya purnam adaya
[Iso Invocation]“The Personality of Godhead is perfect and complete, and because He is completely perfect, all emanations from Him, such as this phenomenal world, are perfectly equipped as complete wholes. Whatever is produced of the complete whole is also complete in itself. Because He is the complete whole, even though so many complete units emanate from Him, He remains the complete balance.”
We are all spirit souls, tiny spiritual units of consciousness who, as a result of the misuse of our free will, are now living within the world of relativity. We are “in this world, but not of it.” Because we are in this world, and because it is also an emanation of the absolute, we must offer due respect to the laws governing the relative world, while simultaneously being always mindful of our true spiritual heritage.
Now I have accepted you as my spiritual daughter and it is incumbent upon me to explain to you something of my absolute and relative relationships.
Because you are so young, I don’t know how much you will be able to understand about these two different relationships I maintain with my spiritual family. But, now that you have been born into my family, you should also try to understand these relationships in order that you may grow and develop in good spiritual health.
To understand these different relationships and to understand how so-called bad can come out from the Absolute good, you must understand the nature of prakrta and aprakrta. The relative world is prakrta and the spiritual world is aprakrta. The prakrta world is described as a perverted reflection of the aprakrta world. Because we are living at present within material consciousness, we must try to understand the spiritual world, or the aprakrta world, with the help of the language we know, which is the language of the material world. This language is suitable for this purpose in most respects, but not perfect.
The perfect understanding will only come through undeviated and uninterrupted service to Shri Krishna.
na bhaved grahyam indriyaih
sevonmukhe hi jihvadau
svayam eva sphuraty adah“One cannot understand the transcendental nature of the name, form, quality and pastimes of Sri Krsna through one’s materially contaminated senses. Only when one becomes spiritually saturated by transcendental service to the Lord are the transcendental name, form, quality and pastimes of the Lord revealed to him.”
Using the language that is available to us, you should try to see that everything in this world must have its origin in the Absolute.
If there were no stealing in the world of the Absolute, there could be no stealing here. If there were no trees, creepers, insects, animals, sky, ground, houses, families, brothers, sisters, and so on, in the absolute world, there could be none of these things within this world. For stealing, lying, fighting and so on to exist in this world they must have their counterparts within the transcendental pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, just as what is known as love, affection, beauty, grace and sweetness within this material world must have their spiritual counterparts within the transcendental world of the Absolute Truth.
What we call “bad” within this material world, things such as stealing and lying, are bad because they are perverted reflections of their spiritual counterparts. The difference being, that these activities, carried out within the material world, are conducted with no intention of satisfying the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but rather with the selfish interest of attempting to exploit others who, when seen from the absolute perspective, are none other than servants of the Lord, just as we, ourselves, are the eternal servants of Sri Krishna. In the aprakrta spiritual word there is not the slightest interest in exploitation of anyone, least of all the pure inhabitants of that world who are all the most highly qualified eternal devotees of Sri Krishna.
Every atom, or unit of consciousness, living within the aprakrta plane is a purely dedicated soul with no other interest than to give satisfaction to the Lord and His devotees.
The “Srimad-Bhagavatam” proclaims that it is describing the parama dharma, the means by which the jiva can attain to the super–most position of relationship with God. This proclamation would amount to nothing more than mere boasting or bravado, if it could not substantiate its claim.
The claim is substantiated through descriptions of the transcendental relationships between the Lord and His devotees that show, without equivocation, that the Supreme Lord comes to His nearest and closest possible position in relation to His devotees, in the spiritual land of Goloka Vrndavana where He accepts them as His equals, or even His superiors. Due to the influence of the devotee’s pure love for Krishna and His reciprocal love for His devotees, He plays with them as His equals, and even submits Himself to their control, accepting them as His superiors.
Above and beyond the descriptions of the Lord’s transcendental pastimes with His devotees, the “Bhagavatam” describes in great detail the process by which even the conditioned souls such as ourselves can attain an eternal position in the Lord’s pastimes and offers numerous examples supporting the efficacy of this process and the ultimate success of those who carefully follow it.
In that transcendental aprakrta plane, the pure devotees of the Lord, who control Him through their pure unadulterated love, and who thereby have attained mastership over the Lord Himself, are very different from the souls in this world who make the demoniac attempt to become lord and master of all they survey through coercion and manipulation of others.
What was beautiful and good in the first instance, is transformed into bad in the second instance by the perverse use of the jiva’s free will to attempt to exploit the Lord and His devotees, rather than serve them with unalloyed love and devotion.
Denying the jivas the ability to transform this good into bad, would also deny them the free will and independence to serve their Lord under the influence of ecstatic love, rather than forceful submission. The Lord’s grant of this free will to the jiva would be meaningless without a similar grant of territory in which the jiva could carry out his defiant behavior.
Submission to the will of one’s guru is of a similar nature and bears similar consequences to those described above with regard to the jiva’s relationship with the Lord.
As the jiva can live either within the relativity of the material world or the spiritual world, a disciple of a Vaishnava guru may have both relative and absolute relationships with his guru and, thereby, with the other disciples of his guru.
The disciple who regards his guru’s instructions as relative, rather than absolute, must be regarded and treated differently from those who serve their guru with unwavering dedication, just as we behave differently with the material environment and the spiritual one. And, as we must deal with the material environment with great caution, knowing it as a powerful and ever present danger, we must use similar caution when dealing with devotees who exhibit a cavalier attitude towards following the most vital instructions of our gurus, shastras and sadhus.
As a parent warns his child away from the influence and association of problem children out of a desire to protect his own children from their bad influence, so a guru must steer his disciples away from bad influences. And, just as there may be bad influences even within the sphere of one’s own family relations, there may be bad influences within the guru’s spiritual family relations.
Because the adults are able to harmonize their differences sufficiently to behave with each other in a friendly and civilized manner is not cause for the children to disregard their parent’s warnings to be wary of such associations.
I think you can understand my point. Because I refer to one of my Godbrothers as a friend, that should not be taken as an automatic license to associate with anyone and everyone related in some way with him, nor should it be seen as my stamp of approval for any and all interactions with ISKCON or its members, or even my Godbrothers who are disciples of Srila Sridhara Maharaja or Srila Govinda Maharaja.
If I made a reference to that devotee you mentioned as my friend, it was in an effort to simplify a far more complex relationship. To be clear, it will be best for you to consider my true friends as being those devotees who are presently working with us or are otherwise supporting or helping our preaching.
By material calculation you are certainly an adult and capable and qualified to make, and be responsible for, your own decisions and behavior. In spiritual life you are a minor who will be best served by following the advice of your spiritual guardian, even if the value or judiciousness of his advice is not readily apparent.
Your errand to purchase some kantha mala, neck beads, does sound innocent enough and harmless, as you said. And yet, I think you must have felt some uneasiness with your conscience, resulting in your mentioning this to me.
In the absence of clear guidance from guru, shastra or sadhu we will be left to follow our conscience, which is very difficult to distinguish from our various mental and intellectual impulses. To help us distinguish the direction of conscience from the other impulses it will be helpful to pray to Sri Sri Guru and Krishna for guidance. Through our sincere prayer Krishna will guide us from within as caitya-guru, the guru within.
I think you can appreciate the gravity of the issues I have undertaken to discuss with you herein. The cause necessitating such a discussion as this one is not the purchase of some neck beads from ISKCON. The cause is a much broader range of rather complex issues which we have discussed before but may have been difficult to grasp fully then, as they may well be difficult to grasp fully, even now.
You have entered a new world which is as different from the world you came from as it would be to venture into a foreign country where everything about that country, the language, the culture and the environment, were very different from the surroundings you were accustomed to. In such a circumstance it is very helpful to have a trusted guide to help navigate that foreign land.
With the help of such a guide, and other persons friendly to you, you can expect to gradually become acclimated to, and even feel perfectly at home with, your new land, culture and language.
I mention all these things because unfortunately your acquaintance who told you he did not accept your initiation as being bona fide, while not necessarily reflecting the public opinions or positions of ISKCON, do reflect accurately the personal and perhaps more privately held positions and thinking of many, if not most, or all, of ISKCON’s leaders and gurus. These opinions cannot help but be extended to their followers and by further extension, to those who associate with them, however distant, such as the gentleman of your acquaintance, who could not accept your initiation.
In 1982 Srila Sridhara Maharaja passed some remarks related to the above, noting that the leaders of ISKCON, while outwardly showing their respect to him, did so only formally, not substantially.
Soon after Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s disappearance in 1988, Srila Govinda Maharaja spoke to the formal respect shown to Srila Sridhara Maharaja by the leaders of ISKCON:
Srila Govinda Maharaja
881102A Nab (edited by bkg for readability)
…Jayapataka Swami [ISKCON guru/GBC] also came here, and he glorified [Srila Sridhara Maharaja] very much. Now there is no difficulty to glorify. Now [after his disappearance] no one can come to Guru Maharaja. No one can see him here, then he is glorifying very nicely. And also I have seen, that book is also with me, one news of the disappearance of Guru Maharaja, and they wrote very nicely four or five pages. Five pages about Guru Maharaja, glorifying, and said Guru Maharaja was the highest Vaishnava in this world.They are not coming in the time of Guru Maharaja, they’re afraid their disciples will go to Sridhara Maharaja, if they are seen going to him.But after the disappearance of Guru Maharaja, they printed his magazine and there are five pages of glorification of Guru Maharaja. And very nicely they wrote. Little mistakes are there, little mistakes. Not historical mistake, some time mistake. You have seen? And they sent it.
Guru Maharaja was not taking their magazine from them. Guru Maharaja wrote them “We do not want your magazine. Don’t send to me.” In this way, Maharaja was very heavy, he cannot tolerate any apa–siddhanta [opinions antithetical to bona-fide vedic conclusions].
The same pattern of behavior continued from various groups towards Srila Govinda Maharaj until the time of his disappearance.
I must instruct my disciples in the same way my gurus instructed us. Those who are fortunate enough to have faith in these instructions will make unhindered progress on the path of Krishna Consciousness. Those who cannot muster such faith will face many impediments and their progress will be very troubled and difficult.
You may wonder at how it is possible for someone to display so many symptoms of a Vaishnava and yet my instruction is to avoid their association. I also find these instructions, and the necessity for them, to be full of wonder and amazement and yet, they are vitally important, truthful and entirely consistent with the teachings of our previous acharyas.
Gaudiya Vaishnavism is full of mysteries, with guru tattva (truths about guru) being principal among them.
Srila Bhakti Vedanta Swami spoke to the point I am making in a purport to his Chaitanya–charitamrta:
“There are many jealous people in the dress of Vaisnavas in this Krsna consciousness movement, and they should be completely neglected. There is no need to serve a jealous person who is in the dress of a Vaisnava. When Narottama dasa Thakura says chadiya vaisnava seva, nistara peyeche keba, he is indicating an actual Vaisnava, not an envious or jealous person in the dress of a Vaisnava.” –Sri Bhakti Vedanta Swami, CC, Madhya 1.218
I have spoken exhaustively and also written many articles addressing the misbehavior of my Godbrothers who disobeyed the orders of our predecessor acharya, Srila Govinda Maharaja. Immediately after his disappearance they arrogated powers and positions not delegated to them by Srila Govinda Maharaja. As I have already addressed these topics extensively in postings on our website, there is no need for me to speak to those points extensively here.
I hope it will be sufficient for me to point out the unfortunate fact that they exhibited the behavior referred to above, to the point that immediately after his disappearance they flagrantly disregarded the most important and clear instructions of Srila Govinda Maharaja regarding his selection of acharyas to follow him. They immediately contrived and implemented their own scheme, subordinating Srila Gurudeva’s directions to theirs.
Srila Prabhupada addressed a very similar problem in the following way:
So it is better not to mix with my Godbrothers very intimately because instead of inspiring our students and disciples they may sometimes pollute them. This attempt was made previously by them, especially Madhava Maharaja and Tirtha Maharaja and Bon Maharaja but somehow or other I saved the situation. This is going on. We shall be very careful about them and not mix with them. This is my instruction to you all. They cannot help us in our movement, but they are very competent to harm our natural progress. So we must be very careful about them.—Letter to: Rupanuga — Tirupati 28 April, 1974
Srila Sridhara Maharaja was specifically named by Srila Prabhupada as an exception to the above direction.
Fortunately for me, I also have a few Godbrothers who are exceptions to the above prohibitions. Principally, there is Sriman Uddharan Prabhu who I have spoken of many times. There are others also, as you know, who have accepted Srila Gurudeva’s directions and are assisting us and helping our preaching work. Their association will be helpful to you.
Srila Govinda Maharaja offered some further explanation that is also very appropriate for you to consider and follow.
I received a letter describing a society that is being formed by mixing together so many Vaisnava groups. I can clearly say that if the society is made in the way described, it is against the principle of Srila Guru Maharaj. It was to avoid this very thing that Srila Guru Maharaj made separately Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math. He was in the highest position of the whole Vaisnava community, but he never joined with their missions. Srila Guru Maharaj did not want to be deviated from his own vision by any of his Godbrothers or other Gurus, therefore he made Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math. Furthermore, Srila Saraswati Thakur gave the charge of the Rupanuga-sampradaya to Srila Guru Maharaj – it is clear and everyone knows it.
So many stalwart Vaisnavas made big societies and invited Srila Guru Maharaj to be their President. For the time being in some cases he accepted and told them. “If it will help to bring harmony to your society then you can use my name,” but he himself never went back there.Srila Guru Maharaj gave very clear directives for his sampradaya saying, “Who wants to follow me and my directives, he can come to Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math and follow Govinda Maharaj as my successor.” He gave very clear directives on many occasions and in many ways – and everyone knows it.I do not want to create any chaos or disturbance in our community. Whatever qualification and position I have was all given by Srila Guru Maharaj for his service, and I shall try to maintain that.What is the meaning of ‘preceptorial line?’ This word ‘preceptorial’ means that it must be in one channel, not several channels. The Ganges is not flowing within several channels – it is flowing through one channel, and who wants Ganges water he must come to that channel. When a channel leaves the Ganges, that is not Ganges water. The Ganges water is running in the main channel. This is the situation with our preceptorial line.—Srila Govinda Maharaja, Affectionate Guidance
My detractors will immediately seize upon the above reference to claim I am trying to compare my position to that of Srila Sridhara Maharaja or Srila Govinda Maharaja. Such claims reveal the depths of their foolishness and enviousness. The objective reader will understand easily and immediately that the reference I include above is intended to draw a comparison based on the circumstances I face, not my stature relative to that of Srila Sridhara Maharaja or Srila Govinda Maharaja.
The following passage lends further elucidation to the situation that inevitably follows the disappearance of a stalwart acharya, came immediately upon Srila Govinda Maharaja’s disappearance and the direction I am trying to follow in relation to such a situation.
Srila Swami Maharaj often said, “I am ISKCON.” That means that all the property of Krishna consciousness—the Society he formed—was living with him, and he could not tolerate that any disturbance will come to his preaching life, and he would try to remove such disturbances by any means. But after His Divine Grace’s disappearance, some wave of illusion in the form of ego immediately tried to spread bad influence. You know that many have been affected by that influence. By those infected persons’ power many good souls were ousted, and Srila Guru Maharaj tried to give them some hope and shelter in the form of relief work. At present I am trying to serve his divine chair to the best of my limited capacity. — Srila Govinda Maharaja, Divine Guidance, Hand-carved Gems, Pg. 117
You can learn the above lessons in two ways, either by hearing from me or through your own long and bitter experience. Our process is to learn by hearing from spiritual authorities. That is the preferred method and the method followed by faithful and intelligent devotees. Those of lesser faith and intelligence ignore such instruction, but learn the same lessons through many hardships, disappointments and heartaches endured through their lengthy trial and error methods used in an attempt to circumvent the preferred authoritative process.
If you have any further questions I will be happy to address them, but I think what I have explained above is sufficient.
I pray this finds you well in health and spirits.
Swami B.K. Giri