In anticipation of our celebration tomorrow of Srila Govinda Maharaja’s avirbhava and a forthcoming announcement of a large number of new transcripts of Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s audio recordings being posted on our website, I thought he would be pleased to hear some auspicious news. I present it here for the satisfaction of the vaishnavas, Srila Gurudeva’s disciples, friends, servants and follows; for it is by their grace that such news will reach his ears.—Swami B.K. Giri
Email to Sriman Paramananda dasa of the United Kingdom.
Dear Sriman Paramananda dasa.
Please accept my humble obeisances and my echoing your chant of the glories of our trinity of gurus, Their Divine Graces Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Srila Bhakti Rakshaka Sridhara Deva-Goswami and Srila Bhakti Sundara Govinda Deva-Goswami.
I have often wondered how to characterize these three gurus in a concise way that our friends would appreciate and understand, and yet I had forgotten until now the simple phrase you reminded me of: “Our trinity of gurus.” “Trinity of Gurus” was even used sometimes by us to refer to a pamphlet that highlights their connection and “glories.” A copy is attached below.
I have tried to contact you a few times since last receiving some transcripts from you but, alas, with no success. So I am doubly happy to receive your email below. First to know you remember me and continue to share mutual interests and second that you have prepared even more transcripts and are ready to send them to us. I doubt you can believe how joyful I was to read this happy news.
When Srila Prabhupada was crossing the Atlantic on the Jaladuta his “only solace” during that very difficult journey was found in reading his copy of Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta:
Today the ship is plying very smoothly. I feel today better. But I am feeling separation from Sri Vrindaban and my Lords Sri Govinda, Gopinath, Radha Damodar. The only solace is Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita in which I am tasting the nectarine of Lord Chaitanya’s Leela. I have left Bharat Bhumi just to execute the order of Sri Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati in pursuance of Lord Chaitanya’s order. I have no qualification, but I have taken up the risk just to carry out the order of His Divine Grace. I depend fully on Their mercy so far away from Vrindaban.
—A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, “The Jaladuta Diary, 1965”
By Srila Prabhupada’s grace we have many books, writings, lectures, talks, videos, devotees and personal references to call upon as our solace. Even “our trinity of gurus” came about for me only by Srila Prabhupada’s causeless mercy. It is not possible for me to select any one of these solaces as supreme for, in the words of Srila Saraswati Thakura when referring to prasadam preparations, “Each one is better than the next.” Having said that, not a day goes by that I do not consult with one of the transcripts of Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s talks or his audio recordings or try to recall something I heard while in his presence. And, in the case of the latter two, regularly seek out the transcript that confirms or refreshes my memory of what was said. Years ago I began to compile a list I call “All in One Quotations”. It is comprised of quotes from our trinity of gurus that I hear or read and think, “I must save this for future reference.” A substantial portion of those quotes are from transcripts you have done or short transcriptions I have done that I can refer to at a later date. You might be surprised to learn, as I was, that the list is now 561 pages in length. Still, I often remember something I want to include in an email or article and search my “All in One Quotations” and can’t find it. In the case of Srila Sridhara Maharaja quotes, I next go to the transcripts, where I often find what I’m looking for, but sometimes, still cannot find it, as it remains to be transcribed.
In 1996, during a visit to Australia, Srila Govinda Maharaja spoke about his method of speaking. He said (paraphrasing) “What I can prove I say, and that is one hundred percent proof. And what I cannot prove, I do not say.” I try to follow that method, but I am far below the standard. But at least in my writing I think I follow it very closely. The transcripts you have given us are a principal source for making that possible.
The non-devotees are generally rewarded for such great efforts as you have undertaken with salaries and other forms of remuneration. Yet you receive no such compensation or reward in that way. In one of his letters Srila Prabhupada has explained very nicely the method followed by devotees; the method you have adopted due to your love and reverence for the subject matter and the author of it:
Letter No. 34 To Ramananda.
I have no objection to paying you something monthly for doing the Hindi translating work, thereby freeing you to devote your time 100% in this way, but I am hesitating for one reason only, that it is the common understanding of Krsna Consciousness or the science of devotional service rendered to Krsna that we shall serve Him spontaneously and without any desire for compensation for our service. Our service to Krsna is voluntary and we are interested only that He shall be pleased, not myself. Therefore the advanced devotee is ready to serve Krsna under all conditions of difficulty or scarcity, never mind other things, because he knows in his mind that by giving his full attention and energy to Krsna, that the Supreme Personality of Godhead will not disregard this and make him to suffer. No, Krsna is not like that. If He sees His devotee sincerely and seriously trying to serve Him, He is prepared to give His devotee anything and everything to mitigate any suffering conditions. That is mature understanding and realization of Krsna Consciousness. Of course, I can understand that you are a married man, with wife and children, but so are many of my students, and what will they think if I give you money for your devotional service? But I do not give them any money? They will think something discrimination. “Oh, he is Indian boy, therefore Prabhupada is giving him some special favor,” like that. I do not want to set such example. It is not that I cannot pay you, I am easily able to pay you, and I am willing to pay you in principle, only I do not want to create any example which may be mistaken by other students. So under these circumstances, if you do not want to give your time and energy full time for translating and editing the Hindi work, unless there is some compensation of money, then what can I do? All of these American and European boys and girls, they have had enough of money, they are sons of millionaires and rich men of America, still they do not ask me for one farthing for their work. They could go out and make thousands of dollars a month as educators and skilled professional men, still they prefer to live with me and eat only a little rice from the floor, and sleep on the cold ground without cover, that is their advanced realization of spiritual life.
I only noticed this letter today and it was very comforting to me because it justifies a method I have been following regarding translations of articles on our website into languages other than English. For years I have wanted desperately to have articles translated into Russian and other languages. All the translations you will find on our website have been offered as seva, without remuneration. However, several times devotees have offered to do translations on the condition that I pay them for their work. I never did. In my desperation to present the teachings of our Guru Varga in other languages I was very tempted by these offers because, as Srila Prabhupada wrote: “I have no objection to paying you something monthly for doing the Hindi translating work, thereby freeing you to devote your time 100% in this way… .“ Although we are poor by Western standards, we could afford to pay, to a limited extent, the relatively low wages sought by those in developing countries to do this work. By Krishna’s grace I always instinctively resisted that temptation for the same reasons I just now learned Srila Prabhupada resisted that impulse: “I am hesitating for one reason only, that it is the common understanding of Krsna Consciousness or the science of devotional service rendered to Krsna that we shall serve Him spontaneously and without any desire for compensation for our service. . . . It is not that I cannot pay you, I am easily able to pay you, and I am willing to pay you in principle, only I do not want to create any example which may be mistaken by other students. So under these circumstances, if you do not want to give your time and energy full time for translating and editing the Hindi work, unless there is some compensation of money, then what can I do?”
I don’t know your personal situation. From what I’ve heard from others who know you better I suppose it to be something akin to a poor brahman. And yet from your hands come very valuable jewels. Whether you are rich or poor, I think our trinity of gurus must be pleased that you are doing this seva.
I have read all our books at least once. They are very instructive albeit, to a certain degree, theoretical. For that reason they are meant to be studied under the guidance of a higher vaishnava, just as we are to work under the guidance of a higher vaishnava. I no longer spend much time reading our books but I do spend a substantial amount of time, often the better part of a day, consulting the transcripts, recordings, lectures, room conversations and so forth of our gurus. All these transcendental reference materials are of incalculable value, but the words of our sat-guru spoken to devotees and others in a frank everyday manner often prove to be of the greatest value. Although the Infinite is always Infinite, they (the words of our sat-guru) are the most Infinite, because the Infinite makes Himself known through them. In fact, He cannot be known directly, but only through His devotees.
As an example of my frequent use of the transcriptions you produce, you might find this recent blog of mine of interest Analyzing Self-Analysis & “The Duties of An Acharya.”
As soon as I receive the next batch of transcripts you send, I will ask Sriman Gokulananda to post them to our website. I can’t say how many times they are read or downloaded by others. I only know my own personal experience with them. I feel very certain, however, that the work you are doing is not only being appreciated far and wide today, but will continue to serve as a valuable reference for many generations of devotees far into the future.
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I pray this finds you well in health and spirits.
Swami B.K. Giri