Srila Giri Maharaja “Gun Shots Fired?”

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From the mailbox: Srila Giri Maharaja responds to an email received through our “Contacts” page.

Dear M.,

Please accept my respectful well-wishes in remembrance of my Divine Master.

You Wrote:
“I heard from a sanyassi in the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math that after Srila Prabhupada left his body, some disciples of Prabhupada attempted to assasinate Srila Sridar Maharaja… gun shots were fired. Then I was told that to send a warning the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math devotees fired some shots into the air near ISKCON to warn them to stay away or there will be trouble. Is this true and have you heard it?”

I was in Navadwipa Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math at the time of the incident you refer to and, thereby, have first hand knowledge of what transpired.

Your question may appear to some to be inappropriate, distasteful or disturbing. But I appreciate your question, for two reasons. First, the pastimes of the Lord’s pure devotees are always glorious, wonderful and instructive. You have caused me to remember one of those wonderful pastimes of Srila Sridhara Maharaja. Recalling it will not only be beneficial for me, but for all those who hear it. Second, we should not rely upon rumors of such events or be a party to spreading such rumors. It is better to know the actual facts of such events, if they are available to us, and discuss them in the company of faithful devotees. In The Golden Volcano of Divine Love we find Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s explanation of the eighth verse of Sriman Mahaprabhu’s “Shikshashtakam”:

aslisya va pada-ratam pinastu mam
adarsanan marma-hatam karotu va
yatha tatha va vidadhatu lampato
mat-prana-nathas tu sa eva naparah

“Krishna may embrace me in love or trample me under His feet. He may break my heart by hiding Himself from me. Let that debauchee do whatever He likes, but He will always be the only Lord of my life.”

The opening paragraph gives us an insight to Srila Guru Maharaja’s thinking in regards to the matter you have asked about:

This is the greatest medicine for the devotees. We have come to measure the immeasurable, but we must always embrace this principle. In attempting to connect ourselves with the infinite lord of love and beauty, we must remember that He is the infinite. He is only one to us, but he has many devotees like us to deal with. He may embrace us with much affection and adoration, but we must be prepared for the opposite. We may stick to His feet, but He may cruelly trample us. We have caught hold of His holy feet with great hope, with our whole heart; still we may find that He tramples us and does not care for all our attempts and affection.

We may be giving our best and find that our offering is being hatefully dishonored. He may embrace us, but at the same time we must be prepared that His dealings may be extremely cruel. He may trample all our offerings beneath His feet. We must be prepared for both His adoration and His hateful negligence. We should be prepared for any adverse circumstances.

A few pages later we find why I appreciate your question:

In some way or other, if we can enter the group of Krishna’s servitors, we will find that everyone has such a nature, and when they meet together, they will console each other in their respective groups. In different serving relationships there are different sections of servitors of a similar nature, and they console each other with talk of Krishna (krsna-katha). In Bhagavad-gita (10.9,12), Krishna says:

mac-citta mad-gata prana
bodhayantah parasparam
kathayantas ca mam nityam
tusyanti ca ramanti ca

“My devotees mix together, talk about Me, and exchange thoughts that give consolation to their hearts. And they live as if this talk about Me is their food. It gives them a high kind of pleasure, and they find that when they talk about Me among themselves, they feel as if they are enjoying My presence.”

tesam evanukampartham
aham ajnana-jam tamah
nasayamy atma-bhavastho
jnana-dipena bhasvata

“When sometimes the feeling of separation from Me is very acute in My devotees, I suddenly appear before them and quench their thirst for My company.”

Pastimes such as the one you have asked about tend to be embellished or mis-remembered. Such is the case with the story, as you heard it. No shots were fired by either ISKCON or Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math devotees, or anyone else with regard to the incident in question. However, at that time, which I think was 1983, it was not unusual to hear the sounds of gunshots and small bombs exploding a short distance from our Math in Navadwipa. The same may have been true in Mayapura. But the reason for these disturbing sounds had nothing to do with the disagreement between ISKCON and SCSM. The sounds were made by communist gangs that Srila Sridhara Maharaja referred to as goondas (thugs). These communists were vying for political power in the way communists do, through violence, intimidation and threats.

One such “goonda” was also in a position of power in Navadwipa. He was referred to as the “Police Chief.” Baddrinarayana dasa was Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s secretary at the time, handling most of the correspondence with the Western devotees. He told me this: “A man came to Srila Sridhara Maharaja (the police chief) and told him ‘I have come to warn you that Bhavananda Maharaja asked me to kill you, “break your Math” (destroy it) and break the arms and legs of some of the Western devotees visiting you. He has offered me a chest full of money to do this. I will not do it because of my high regard for you. I will not engage in such activities with sadhus.'”

Badrinarayana told me this, along with other leading Western devotees present at the time, in order to prepare us for a meeting with Srila Sridhara Maharaja to discuss the matter and decide a course of action.

We had the discussion with His Divine Grace. He reacted in the manner I alluded to above, suggesting “Krishna may embrace me in love or trample me under His feet.” He also told us, as I recall, of a similar event that occurred many years before when he was living alone in a thatched cottage on the banks of the Ganga. He was warned that someone was offended by his preaching and was planning to kill him. He said “If they have such power, then let them do so.” He believed firmly that our life is fully under Krishna’s jurisdiction. Only a man more powerful than Krishna could take our life against Krishna’s will. Since no such man existed, only Krishna can take our life and, if that is His Divine will, “Let it be.”

We took a different view. It was our desire to do all we could to protect our Divine Master. Thus we made various proposals, in concert with Srila Govinda Maharaja, which Srila Guru Maharaja heard. We concluded that some of us should act as watch guards throughout the night and sound an alarm if any attack occurred. Some precautions would also be taken to see that the entrance to Srila Gurudeva’s upstairs quarters had extra protection. Srila Sridhara Maharaja heard our discussion and accepted our conclusions. While never asking for any additional security for himself, he surely appreciated our desire to offer it to him.

So far as I know, these are the only measures that were taken by any devotees of SCSM. There was a discussion about getting a gun to protect the Math, but it was never acted upon. Srila Sridhara Maharaja did not like the idea. He thought “Guns will invite guns.”

Since none of the devotees of SCSM had a gun, it is not possible that “Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math devotees fired some shots into the air near ISKCON to warn them to stay away or there will be trouble.”

I pray this finds you well in health and spirits.

Sincerely,

Swami B.K. Giri