The following email was sent by Srila Giri Maharaja on March 1, 2011 as a response to several questions arising from our articles, “Six Months – Still No Acharya Board”, “Srila Govinda Maharaja Did Not Choose a Single Acharya”, Acharya Board Simplified and “Hierarchy of Acharyas”.
Please accept my humble obeisances and well-wishes in remembrance of my Divine Master.
Prabhu, I was working on a more complete response to your last inquiry when a more urgent matter arose.
For a thorough discussion of all the points, I advise you to call me. I will be happy to speak with you. Until then, here are some things to consider.
You Wrote: I am a little bewildered to see eminent Acharayas of the same mission to have widely differing perspectives on the same topic
If you haven’t already done so, I believe you would be well served by reading the “17 Page Paper” which you can download from our website HERE This paper is particularly relevant to understanding the differences between “Society consciousness and God consciousness”, the clash that inevitably occurs between the two, and the differences that may occur between members of the same spiritual organization and how they may be resolved. You can also refer to this subject in Sri Guru and His Grace.
Baladeva Vidyabhushana’s translation of Bhagavad Gita differs with that of Srila Sridhara Swami. We, in the line of Chaitanya Saraswati, accept the version of Baladeva Vidyabhushana. Then there are the commentaries of Srila Bhakti Vedanta Swami, Bhakti Vinoda Thakura and Srila Bhakti Rakshaka Sridhara Maharaja. Obviously there is some difference in their commentaries. Otherwise, there would be no need for them. How is it possible that these highly qualified Acharyas differ? Srila Sridahara Maharaja told us it is achintya, inconceivable.
“An Acharya Board (Acharya Sabha) shall be formed, composed of initiating acharyas, to consult with one another regarding all spiritual matters and to give guidance to all Trust Boards.”
is being fulfilled by the previously formed (March 7, 2010) International Acharya Board (Acharya Board).
The IAB, headed by Srila Acharya Maharaja, has made it clear to me, through their personal emails, that they will not obey the above direction given by Srila Gurudeva. This is certainly a serious deviation from the order of our Spiritual Master. They are determined not to follow this order and I vehemently disagree with them. I am insisting they obey it.
Those who deviate from the order of the Guru face this dilemma:
keha ta’ acarya ajnaya, keha ta’ svatantra
sva-mata kalpana kare daiva-paratantra
“Some of the disciples strictly accepted the orders of the acarya, and others deviated, independently concocting their own opinions under the spell of daivi-maya.”
This verse describes the beginning of a schism. When disciples do not stick to the principle of accepting the order of their spiritual master, immediately there are two opinions. Any opinion different from the opinion of the spiritual master is useless. One cannot infiltrate materially concocted ideas into spiritual advancement. That is deviation. There is no scope for adjusting spiritual advancement to material ideas.
— CC Adi 12.9
In the face of such flagrant deviation it is my duty to alert those in our Mission to come back to the proper position. I have repeatedly done this but my warnings have not been heeded. I will continue to try.
The duty of each of us is to obey the instructions of the Acharya, not deviate from them.
In my opinion, Gurudeva’s Will, like all his instructions, are like the Puranas and Itihasas, instructions and histories in furtherance of the Vedic conclusions. The genuine disciple and follower must accept them as indispensable instructions meant to guide us along the proper path of sadhana bhakti. And, like the Vedas, these instructions are best understood by submissive hearing from a higher vaishnava.
Srila Swami Maharaja, Prabhupada, left this world more than thirty years ago. Since that time most of his followers are still unable to understand simple points of our Gaudiya Siddhanta. Why? Because they are trying to establish the truth among themselves who are mostly in the category of laghu rather than hear from a higher vaishnava guru.
Thus they are still engaged in disputes over subjects that were settled for us thirty years ago simply by approaching Srila Sridhara Maharaja with our questions in the manner described in BG. With pranipata, pariprashna and sevaya. Humble and submissive inquiry to a realized soul accompanied with service to that great soul.
Some approached him, as we did, with their inquiries but neglected to offer seva. Thus, they deviated from the proper path and became asara, useless. They could not offer proper service because they could not obey Srila Sridhara Maharaja. They came, as he said, only for information gathering. Therefore, there was no substantial spiritual development in them.
Srila Swami Maharaja once told his disciples ‘”Obedience is the first law of discipline.” So unless there is obedience, there cannot be any discipline. And unless there is discipline, there is no question of disciple. Disciple means one who follows the discipline.’
We just published an article by Sriman Jagabandhu dasa for which I offered the title “Guru siksha – reflection, refraction, restoration.” The article begins:
“In his beautiful Bhagavata Speech, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur explains that when God’s Holy Words first are expressed as the Scriptures, They are, no doubt, Pure. However, through the influence of time and misunderstanding they receive the tincture of the nature of the receiver.”
One may think that Bhagavad Gita As It Is would be the self evident and obvious outcome of any translation of Bhagavad Gita. It is not. The tendency to imbue it with “the tincture of the nature of the receiver.” is almost irresistible. That Srila Swami Maharaja presented this great scripture “As It Is” is a testament to his extraordinary dedication to preserving the purity of the text and his obedience to his guru. You cannot have one without the other.
As I asked in a previous email, ‘Sriman Yudhamanyu and Srimatis Jivana and Kumkum “are always obedient towards me.” Is there a higher distinction than this?’
The real test for our progressive development in Krishna Consciousness is not our ability to innovate, but to obey. Obedience to the Guru is the only hope for a disciple’s progress and the only position of safety.
As soon as we begin to manufacture something new, substituting our own idea for the instructions of Sri Guru, we have left the proper track. If that happens, we will be lost. We must immediately get back on the right track and continue our progress.
The five member “Acharya Board” have left the proper track. They are following the direction of Sripada Bhakti Sudhira Goswami Maharaja instead of obeying the direction given by His Divine Grace Srila Govinda Maharaja, they have thus deviated. I am encouraging everyone to get back on track and follow Srila Gurudeva.
If you have been following my articles, you are aware that I differ sharply with the members of the International Acharya Board, now calling themselves simply “Acharya Board”, four of which were named by Srila Gurudeva as Acharyas to succeed him, and the other a highly respected preacher in our Mission.
I do not know Sripada Acharya Maharaja very well, but I have known the others for a long time. They are my friends and I have the highest regard for the service and dedication they have shown to preaching Krishna Consciousness in all corners of the world. Additionally, they have all distinguished themselves as very dedicated and loyal followers of Srila Govinda Maharaja. These things are well known to everyone.
They are, in the phraseology of Srila Sridhara Maharaja, my worshipable friends.
“and if Vasudeva Prabhu not will change his mood, I shall not stay with him. That is, Mahaprabhu is, Mahaprabhu and Prabhupada [BSST], they are my worshipable, and Vasudeva Prabhu is worshipable friend. But, I cannot ignore Mahaprabhu and Prabhupada. For them I come out from my home, and taken sannyasa. If Vasudeva Prabhu not change with his mood, I leave this Math, peacefully.”
What is written above is instruction for us all. We must follow our Acharya, Srila Govinda Maharaja. Our duty, responsibility, everything, is to him and him alone. If others are of a similar mind, we should serve together with them. The leaders who follow the Acharya should be followed by us. Those who deviate should be observed closely for some period of time to see if they will come back to the proper line. If, after a judicious period of time, they do not, they should be abandoned.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krsna says, “It is better to die while performing one’s own duty than to try to do another’s duty.” That is one stage of understanding: the relative consideration. The absolute consideration is also given in the Bhagavad Gita: sarvadharman parityaja mam ekam saranam vraja. Krsna says, “Give up everything. Come to me directly.” This is the revolutionary way. This is absolute. And this is relative: “Stick to your own clan. Don’t leave them.” That is the national conception. There is nation consciousness and God consciousness; society consciousness and God consciousness. God consciousness is absolute. If society consciousness hinders the development of God consciousness, it should be left behind. This is confirmed in the Srimad Bhagavatam (5.5.18):
gurur na sa syat sva jano na sa syat
pita na sa syaj janani na sa syat
daivam na tat syan na patis ca sa syan
na mocayed yah samupeta mrtyum
“Even a spiritual master, relative, parent, husband, or demigod who cannot save us from repeated birth and death should be abandoned at once.” What to speak of ordinary things, even the guru, may have to be abandoned. One may even have to give up one’s own spiritual guide, as in the case of Bali Maharaja, or one’s relatives, as in the case of Vibhisana. In the case of Prahlada, his father had to be given up, and in the case of Bharata Maharaja, it was his mother. In the case of Khatvanga Maharaja, he left the demigods, and in the case of the yajna patnis, (the wives of the brahmanas) they left their husbands in the endeavor to reach the Absolute Personality.
We need society only to help us. If our affinity to the society keeps us down, then that should be given up, and we must march on. There is the absolute consideration and the relative consideration. When they come into clash, the relative must be given up, and the absolute should be accepted. If my inner voice, my spiritual conscience decides that this sort of company cannot really help me, then I will be under painful necessity to give them up, and to run towards my destination, wherever my spiritual conscience guides me. Any other course will be hypocrisy, and it will check my real progress.
— Sri Guru and His Grace
To take a stance, as I have, in direct opposition to the sannyasis on the International Acharya Board is not a matter I take lightly. It has arisen as a matter of necessity because I cannot ignore the directions given by my gurus and especially the last instructions given by Srila Govinda Maharaja to his followers.
Each of us who want to be recognized as Srila Govinda Maharaja’s followers, disciples and so forth are charged with the same responsibility. na hi kalyana krt kascit…
If we are sincere in our attempt, then no one in the world can check us or deceive us; we can only deceive ourselves (na hi kalyanakrt kascid durgatim tata gacchati). We must be true to our own selves, and true to the Supreme Lord. We must be sincere.— Sri Guru and His Grace
Whatever is happening, we must see the Divine Will is behind it, manipulating each of us in one way or another.
You Wrote: but if you cannot satisfactorily answer my simple question, then what is the point of such a discussion?
Prabhu if this is what you think, that I cannot answer your simple question, then I do not understand why you are writing to me again.
Since you have written to me, however, it seems you must think I may be able to answer your questions.
Accepting that premise I will continue.
First, the focus of my public statements has been on those portions of Srila Gurudeva’s Will that are very clear and unambiguous. He named six Acharyas for specific regions of the world. He did not name a single world-wide Acharya or an Emperor Acharya stationed to collect tribute from his lesser king acharyas.
Srila Gurudeva’s Will states:
“An Acharya Board (Acharya Sabha) shall be formed, composed of initiating acharyas, to consult with one another regarding all spiritual matters and to give guidance to all Trust Boards.”
He did not say there should be a “Head” of the Acharya Sabha, nor did he name or delegate anyone to be the “Head”. Neither did he delegate anyone to select the members of this Sabha. Therefore, reasonableness would dictate that all “initiating acharyas” should be members.
I don’t believe you have indicated any disagreement with the above so, I assume you accept these things.
In my article “Acharya Sabha, Simplified” I pointed out “That these six will be initiating Acharyas is undisputed.” In other words, there are six Acharyas, not one, and not seven, and each should be seen as an initiating Acharya who will have his own disciples.
To my amazement these simple, clear, unambiguous statements and their logical conclusions stated above, concerning the six Acharyas, that require no interpretation for their understanding, have had their meanings maligned by members of the International Acharya Board who, as a group, have intentionally supported the misconceptions you now hold.
I think the two paragraphs below taken from one of Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s talks, available on our website, answers your main question. I will take a new look at your others at a later date if you like.
Gadadhara Pandit was a very innocent type. Nityananda preached throughout the length and breadth with great force. But Gadadhara Pandit, who is told to be the Radharani Bhava incarnate. But not pushing, not doing any tangible service in the Lila of Mahaprabhu, but her affinity towards Mahaprabhu exceeds that of all.
So not by the magnitude of the external activity we shall go to judge the position of a Vaishnava, always. Still, what service we can’t ignore, that is a noble thing, a great thing. But ultimately, the key is in the hand of the Lord.
— ‘Srila Sridhar Maharaja “Doing Your Duty as an Eternal Servant of Bhakti“‘ END @ 04:46
Prabhu, if you will simply try to understand the meaning of the above two paragraphs and the meaning of Acharya (acaryam mam vijaniyan) and read Srila Gurudeva’s Will from that outlook, I believe you will have no difficulty putting everything into proper perspective.
You Wrote: If there is a gradation in the service responsibility (according to one’s qualification), then so be it. What is the harm is accepting that which has been given by our Gurudeva?
You seem to be accusing me of something but I really cannot understand what it is.
“If there is a gradation in the service responsibility (according to one’s qualification)”. Please clarify this and tell me how you are grading or ranking “the service responsibility” and what you mean by “one’s qualification”. What is the standard of measurement you are using for your scale? And what is your qualification for judging where one falls on the scale?
Please then, tell me clearly which grade you have assigned to each of the six Acharyas and how you arrived at their grade. Then I will have a clear basis by which to agree or disagree with your grading system.
Is there a higher “service responsibility” than that of Acharya?
Srila Sridhara Maharaja consistently pointed our attention to the importance of quality over quantity. Yet it appears you are going back again to your numbers argument implying that someone given Acharyaship over a greater number of devotees and temples or some other such measurement is, thereby, higher in “a gradation in the service responsibility”. Why this is relevant to someone who has already admitted the futility of ranking the Acharyas, “My line of thought is not to point out the superiority of one of the Acharyas with respect to others.”, I cannot understand.
“So not by the magnitude of the external activity we shall go to judge the position of a Vaishnava,”
There are portions of Srila Gurudeva’s Will that may seem a little confusing and more easily allow for different interpretations. I am not troubled by them but can easily understand why others would be. You have offered one such example which I will address. To address more than this is too difficult for me by email. I will be happy to speak with you, however if you would like to call me.
In the meantime, the application of common sense and a little objectivity should go a long way to clearing most of the confusion.
Here is a statement you offer from Srila Gurudeva’s Will followed by your interpretation of the meaning.
You Quoted Srila Govinda Maharaja’s Will: “The entire mission shall respect Bhakti Nirmal Acharya Maharaj who will be the administrator. And this is my last wish and last ‘Will’: Everyone will cooperate with Bhakti Nirmal Acharyya Maharaj”.
Then You Wrote: Srila Acharya Maharaj has been entrusted the responsibility of heading the world-wide mission, at least in the capacity of an administrator in addition to being an Acharya.
I do not agree with your conclusion.
The first consideration must be “Is Acharya Maharaja following the direction of his guru?” If he is deviating why should he be respected? Our first allegiance is to Srila Govinda Maharaja, then to those following him. Acharya means following the previous Acharya.
Acaryavan puruso veda (Chandogya Upanisad 6.14.2): one has full knowledge about life when one is acaryavan, controlled by the acarya.
That he is deviating is clear, he refuses to follow his Guru’s order to form the Acharya Sabha. He will not even discuss the issue. How serious is this?
He is the “Head” of the IAB which offered to sell me a seat on the “Acharya Board”[IAB] if I would just pay the price. What was the price? I must abandon the formation of the Acharya Sabha and accept their International Acharya Board. In short, accept that I be included as one of the deviants. Of course I refused.
What is directed in Srila Gurudeva’s Will is not my property to bargain with, nor theirs, it is the property of Srila Gurudeva. It should not be used as a bargaining chip to negotiate deals, no matter how appealing the deal may be.
Again this shows they are entirely willing to discard Srila Gurudeva’s Will if it will just get them what they want, Goswami Maharaja as the seventh Acharya, which they think will be accomplished by keeping him as a member of the “Acharya Board.”
Will it be corrected in the future? Time will tell. If Acharya Maharaja and the IAB come back to the proper track then he will automatically be respected as will they.
Again I can discuss this with you better over the phone than by email so I invite you again to call me. Briefly, I will say this. Please consider the statements above along with the following.
“Sripad Mahananda Bhakti Ranjan Prabhu will be the head in respect to spiritual matters of the devotees. He will be respected as the Chief Secretary of Srila Guru Maharaj and as my faithful friend. Specially the foreign devotees will respect and obey him and not cross over him.”
What is Acharya if not the spiritual head? But Gurudeva clearly said “the head in respect to spiritual matters of the devotees” is Prabhu Mahananda and no one should “cross over him.” “the Chief Secretary of Srila Guru Maharaj” indicates an administrative function in addition to his spiritual one. Would it not be crossing over Prabhu Mahananda to accept Acharya Maharaja as the spiritual and administrative head of “the world-wide mission”?
But isn’t a very similar direction given with respect to Sripada’s Goswami Maharaja and Ashrama Maharaja?
“Sripad Ashram Maharaj and Sripad Goswami Maharaj both are my very close friends, all devotees shall follow them.”
Doesn’t “all devotees shall follow them” include Acharya Maharaja? Since no restriction is proffered, are they the ultimate “administrator[s]” and spiritual heads? So, if Acharya Maharaja is the overall head of the world-wide mission as you seem to think, but he is obliged to “follow them” then aren’t they really the heads of the world-wide Mission?
The next question to come will be, “But are they the heads collectively or individually?” In other words are Ashrama Maharaja and Goswami Maharaja supposed to be the heads when they agree on a particular thing or are they each heads individually. If it is the latter, what happens if they don’t agree on a particular matter? Which one should be followed?
And what about your proposition, “Srila Acharya Maharaj has been entrusted the responsibility of heading the world-wide mission, at least in the capacity of an administrator”?
You Wrote: “The entire mission shall respect Bhakti Nirmal Acharya Maharaj who will be the administrator.
“The entire mission” means the Indian group, or Indian mission, not the world-wide Mission.
“Sripad Bhakti Nirmal Acharyya Maharaj shall succeed me as President Sevaite Acharya of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, including Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math and Mission, Sree Chaitanya Saraswata Krishnanushilana Sangha and all other Maths mentioned herein. From this point on these aforementioned Maths as a group shall be referred to as “Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math et al”. [i.e. the Indian Mission]”
Srila Bhakti Nirmal Acharya Maharaja is the “President Sevaite Acharya” of the “Indian Mission”, period.
If he were more than that there would be no need for an Acharya Sabha “composed of initiating Acharyas” (to give guidance to all other Boards), a Primary Trust Board (where he has one of seven votes), and so on. He may undertake new construction projects “But this will be subject to discussions with the Primary Trust Board.” And, “all decisions regarding financial affairs” of the SCSM et al must be done after consulting with Sripadas Mangal Maharaja and Mahananda Prabhu who, combined, have “The responsibility of monetary affairs”.
With so many restrictions placed on Srila Acharya Maharaja for his administration of the Indian mission, do you really believe Srila Gurudeva intended him, not as “an” “administrator”, as you put it, but “the” “administrator”(quoting the Will), for the world-wide Mission?
If so then why is it stated that “They will carry out the administration of their Math till their death.” referring to “Kumkum and Jivana and Yudhamanyu”? If they are the administrators of the San Jose Ashram, then obviously Acharya Maharaja is not the world-wide administrator since at least one part of the world is explicitly excluded from his administration.
Just as “The entire mission shall respect Bhakti Nirmal Acharya Maharaj who will be the administrator.” applies to those under Acharya Maharaja’s charge in the “Indian Mission”, the same applies to those in Russia where Sripada Avadhuta Maharaja should be the Acharaya, “The devotees of Russia shall follow Sripad Avadhut Maharaj completely.”
The same in turn for each of the Acharyas. “Sripad Janardan Maharaj will become the Acharya and Sevaite of the Soquel Math.”
Srila Govinda Maharaja explained the term “sevaite” to mean servitor, but in the role of guardian, the one who is responsible for the care of the Math, Deities and devotees. Another term with similar meaning would be administrator or manager, etc. Thus, Srila Janardana Maharaja will be the Acharya and administrator of the Soquel Math and, as Acharya Maharaja’s first duty is to look after the Indian Mission, Janardana Maharaja should look after the Soquel Math in all respects both as Acharya and Sevaite.
After delineating Srila Janardana Maharaja’s role in Soquel the Will goes on to state “Similarly, Sripad Ashram Maharaj will be the Acharya of Mexico.” I take “similarly” to mean “in the same way as Janardana Maharaja”, Acharya AND Sevaite or administrator. I conclude the same for each of the Acharyas in their respective areas as this is my understanding of the role and position of an Acharya.
Srila Sridhara Maharaja explained the meaning of Acharya to me with respect to himself, with words to this effect, “He is entitled to all the assets but is not responsible for any of the liabilities.” That is Acharya. All affairs are under his jurisdiction, both spiritual and managerial.
I haven’t seen any evidence in Srila Govinda Maharaja’s Will suggesting that Acharya Maharaja should interfere with or otherwise become involved with the Acharyaship or administration of the Soquel Math or any other Maths outside the Indian Mission.
The only possible exception I see to this could be Acharya Maharaja’s role as one of the members of the yet to be formed Acharya Sabha which, due to the language “give guidance to all Trust Boards”, one might reasonably conclude “all Trust Boards” to be international in scope, especially since there is no legal tie between the Acharya Sabha and any Trust Board. That is, the Acharya Sabha is purely an advisory Board with no legal or binding power over any other Board either Indian or international.
This explanation of the advisory nature of the Acharya Sabha is also in line with the direction given to the previously formed (March 7, 2010) International Acharya Board who were directed, during Srila Gurudeva’s presence, to guide SCSM, “Navadwip, and its Indian and International spiritually affiliated Centers.”
After Srila Gurudeva’s disappearance, all such Boards should either have been dissolved or come under the jurisdiction of the Primary Trust Board, “the authority of this Primary Trust shall be supreme over any and all other Trusts.”
In any event, the phrase “spiritually affiliated Centers” does not imply any legally binding or even managerial or administrative function for the IAB or its proper replacement, the Acharya Sabha.
Gurudeva’s desire for an association of initiating Acharyas would be the natural forum for bringing together the Acharyas of disparate interests, their own disciples, preaching, Maths and so forth, for a common interest, the world-wide mission-
“The world is suffering from the famine of Krsna consciousness, Krsna talk, krsna kirtan. So we must try to open offices of food distribution so that we may distribute the food of Krsna consciousness to all souls. Mahaprabhu said “Whoever you come across, talk of Krsna (yare dekha, tare kaha ‘krsna’upadesa).” Give them the food of Krsna consciousness, krsna katha. The world is filled with famine stricken people. We must distribute food, give the life and breath of Krsna consciousness to whomever we meet by speaking about Krsna.”— The Loving Search for the Lost Servant
The actions taken by the four Acharya members of the IAB, on the other hand, in violation of Srila Gurudeva’s direction to form an Acharya Sabha with the six Acharyas, have served to enforce disparate interests rather than ameliorate them.
This was accomplished by undertaking a number of unauthorized actions already mentioned, the most notable being, the usurpation of the Acharya Sabha by the International Acharya Board and including a non-acharya member to that Board.
The primary motivation for all of these actions is their attempt to make Sripada Goswami Maharaja the seventh Acharya although he was not named as such in the Will.
When men try to get things they should not have, they do things they should not do. Goswami Maharaja thinks he should be included as one of the Acharyas, the seventh Acharya, the other four members of the IAB agree with him. To get what they want, they are disobeying Srila Govinda Maharaja’s orders.
I’ll offer one final example that may be helpful in judging the “unique position” of an Acharya.
Srila Bhakti Vedanta Swami Maharaja was an Acharya who I assume you would characterize as one with vastly more “service responsibility (according to one’s qualification)” than Srila Sridhara Maharaja. Really?
I will be interested to learn how you apply your grading scale to these two great Acharyas.
I pray this finds you well in all respects.
Swami B.K. Giri