Srila Giri Maharaja: “A forest does not a Vrndavana make.”


Dear Sriman ______________ dasa,

Please accept my blessings and well-wishes.

I was hoping to hear from you and now I feel some relief that I have.

It is also gratifying to know that you continue to practice some of the things you learned while you were here with me.

While it is very good you are chanting japa and gayatri and following the four regulative principles, these are the bare minimums required to maintain one’s connection with the practice of Krishna Consciousness.

Actually, what you are doing, as I understand from your email, is the very thing that was condemned by our gurus. Srila Sridhara Maharaja referred to it this way in the case of Sriman Jagadananda, when he heard he was not actively preaching, or even working, “Oh, he is sitting idly taking the name?” That was his disparaging query.

Srila Saraswati Thakura never liked for his devotees to live the type of lifestyle you seem to be following. He even wrote a song condemning it. Srila Prabhupada (Swami Maharaja) makes reference to it in the following purport:

vibhajya tanayebhyah ksmam
rajarsir malayadhvajah
ariradhayisuh krsnam
sa jagama kulacalam

vibhajya — having divided; tanayebhyah — among his sons; ksmam — the whole world; raja-rsih — the great saintly king; malayadhvajah — named Malayadhvaja; ariradhayisuh — desiring to worship; krsnam — Lord Krsna; sah — he; jagama — went; kulacalam — unto Kulacala.

After this, the great saintly King Malayadhvaja divided his entire kingdom among his sons. Then, in order to worship Lord Krsna with full attention, he went to a solitary place known as Kulacala.

Malayadhvaja, the great king, was certainly a maha-bhagavata, topmost devotee. By executing devotional service, he begot many sons and disciples for propagating the bhakti cult (sravanam kirtanam visnoh [SB 7.5.23]). Actually, the entire world should be divided among such disciples. Everyone should be engaged in preaching the cult of Krsna consciousness. In other words, when disciples are grown up and are able to preach, the spiritual master should retire and sit down in a solitary place to write and execute nirjana-bhajana. This means sitting silently in a solitary place and executing devotional service. This nirjana-bhajana, which is the silent worship of the Supreme Lord, is not possible for a neophyte devotee. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura never advised a neophyte devotee to go to a solitary place to engage in devotional service. Indeed, he has written a song in this connection:

dusta mana! tumi kisera vaisnava?
pratisthara tare, nirjanera ghare,
tava hari-nama kevala kaitava

“My dear mind, what kind of devotee are you? Simply for cheap adoration you sit in a solitary place and pretend to chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, but this is all cheating.” Thus Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura advocated that every devotee, under the guidance of an expert spiritual master, preach the bhakti cult, Krsna consciousness, all over the world. Only when one is mature can he sit in a solitary place and retire from preaching all over the world. Following this example, the devotees of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness now render service as preachers in various parts of the world. Now they can allow the spiritual master to retire from active preaching work. In the last stage of the spiritual master’s life, the devotees of the spiritual master should take preaching activities into their own hands. In this way the spiritual master can sit down in a solitary place and render nirjana-bhajana.

SB 4.28.33

For some reason, some of my disciples seem to think they are the ones who should retire, leaving all the hard work of preaching to their guru.
I find myself foraging for food and living in a tent in the forest for lack of less austere options, I suppose.
When you were here I gave an example to illustrate the mentality of the materialists “They would rather live as a homeless person, foraging for food, than live in a nice temple, take nice prasadam and serve the Deity.” While nodding in agreement, you seemed to think this was something of an exaggeration, almost unbelievable. I wonder if you believe it now?

There is a “less austere option” for you, to live in our Math, as described above. But under the sway of the mind, which is one’s enemy, you are convinced that the “less austere option” (living in the Math) is the option which is so extremely austere it is not practical for you. In your mind, you have already chosen the “less severe option”, that of “foraging for food and living in a tent in the forest.” Such thinking is what gives birth to the expression “Better to reign in hell, than to serve in heaven.” It also causes Krishna to explain to Arjuna that what is nighttime for the materialists is daytime for the sages, and so forth.

Those who are fortunate enough to gain a faraway and dim glimpse of Krishna Consciousness sometimes try to imitate the life of the vraja-vasis. Hearing about the pastimes of Krishna in Vrndavana they come to believe they can enter into such intimate relationships with Krishna by imitating the idyllic life of Krishna’s eternal associates. To do this they try to “create heaven on earth”, so to speak, and suppose this idyllic life they attempt to construct for themselves is one of no responsibility; where the constantly vacillating whims of one’s mind are taken to be direction from the flute-song played by Krishna. Taken a step further, they conclude it is, thereby, the duty of the spiritual master to condone and even encourage these things. They entirely miss the most essential element inherent in the character of all the vraja-vasis, not the least tinge of self-interest; their only consideration is how to please Krishna, regardless of any pain or suffering that may come to them as a result.

As a result of the mistaken conclusions explained above, many charlatan gurus spring up to take advantage, knowing it will be easy to collect many foolish persons as disciples. The word disciple is then mutilated to mean one who has permission to follow his own whimsical ways, rather than to follow a spiritual discipline directed and enforced by one’s guru, the process which forms the only legitimate basis for any claim to discipleship.

Krishna has given every jiva the generous gift of free will, which allows everyone to do whatever he wants, providing he accepts the results of his actions. You are no exception, so you can “do as you wish to do”, as Krishna told Arjuna at the conclusion of Bhagavad-gita.

It is obvious you learned some valuable things during your tenure as a brahmachari, serving under the direct supervision of your spiritual master. I am gratified to see that. You also gained some affection for me, and I for you. Still, I am always hopeful I will get the chance to see you return to your previous position.

I pray this finds you in good health and spirits.

Your affectionate well-wisher,

Swami B.K. Giri