Srila Giri Maharaja “News From the Dhama; Choosing Our Associations”

BKG St. Pete

Date: 10/20/15

Dear Sriman Jadu Gopal das,

Please accept my blessings in remembrance of my Divine Masters.

I was very happy to read your letter and the news about yourself and your family.

Srila Sridhara Maharaja told us that Sri Sanatana Goswami used to regularly visit with the residents of Vrndavana and discuss with them the same sort of matters you wrote about, so-called gramya-katha or village talk. He also told us, as I remember, that Srila Jiva Goswami said such talks in the Holy Dhama are as good as talks about Krishna.

The Six Goswamis are described in this way: dhīrādhīra-jana-priyau priya-karau nirmatsarau pūjitau: they were dear to all the residents of Vrndavana, both the gentle and the ruffians. They conversed with all types of people and were highly respected by all of them.

Wherever devotees are present, that is as good as the Holy Dhama. Those who do not recognize or appreciate this fact are considered to be no better than a cow or an ass:

yasyātma-buddhiḥ kuṇape tri-dhātuke
sva-dhīḥ kalatrādiṣu bhauma ijya-dhīḥ
yat-tīrtha-buddhiḥ salile na karhicij
janeṣv abhijñeṣu sa eva go-kharaḥ

“A human being who identifies his body made of three elements with his self, who considers the by-products of his body to be his kinsmen, who considers the land of his birth worshipable, and who goes to a place of pilgrimage simply to take a bath rather than to meet men of transcendental knowledge there is to be considered like an ass or a cow.”

SB 10.84.13

Mahaprabhu warned Sri Raghunatha Dasa about engaging in gramya-katha:

CC Antya 6.236

grāmya-kathā nā śunibe, grāmya-vārtā nā kahibe
bhāla nā khāibe āra bhāla nā paribe

Word for word:
grāmya-kathā — ordinary talks of common men; nā śunibe — never hear; grāmya-vārtā — ordinary news; nākahibe — do not speak; bhāla — well; nā khāibe — do not eat; āra — and; bhāla — nicely; nā paribe — do not dress.

“Do not talk like people in general or hear what they say. You should not eat very palatable food, nor should you dress very nicely.
CC Antya 6.237

amānī mānada hañā kṛṣṇa-nāma sadā la’be
vraje rādhā-kṛṣṇa-sevā mānase karibe

Word for word:
amānī — not expecting any respect; māna-da — offering respect to others; hañā — becoming; kṛṣṇa-nāma — the holy name of the Lord; sadā — always; la’be — you should chant; vraje — in Vṛndāvana; rādhā-kṛṣṇa-sevā — service to Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa; mānase — within the mind; karibe — you should do.

“Do not expect honor, but offer all respect to others. Always chant the holy name of Lord Kṛṣṇa, and within your mind render service to Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa in Vṛndāvana.

Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura says in his Amṛta-pravāha-bhāṣya that when a man and woman are married, they beget children and are thus entangled in family life. Talk concerning such family life is called grāmya-kathā. A person in the renounced order never indulges in either hearing or talking about such subjects. He should not eat palatable dishes, since that is unfit for a person in the renounced order. He should show all respect to others, but should not expect respect for himself. In this way, one should chant the holy name of the Lord and think of how to serve Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa in Vṛndāvana.

But, talk among devotees, although it may sound like the talk of people in general, cannot be the same thing, because devotees are not the same as “people in general.” A devotee washes his clothes, prepares his meals, maintains his body and does countless other things that seem to be “like people in general”; but none of it is the same, because a devotee is always of the mind to please Krishna with his behavior. He is always serving Krishna, either overtly or covertly.

You have made your home an ashram, and your family are all devotees, then why would I not welcome news about you and them? I am happy to know you are remembering me, and I am also remembering you.

I am sorry to hear of your various illnesses, but such things automatically come with these bodies. The only sure remedy is the practice of Krishna Consciousness. Continue this treatment, and you will eventually become free from all these material sufferings. There is no other way.

Regarding your ISKCON friend, the overall rule is this: we should not associate with those that criticize our guru. We need good association, but bad association is worse than death. This is because, through bad association, we can lose our faith in Divinity. Such faith begins and ends with faith in our guru.

Some time ago I began an article as a sort of CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) to be administered to the hearts of devotees plagued with a type of cardiac arrest: arrested faith in the words of Sri Guru. Here is an excerpt:

Just as the spiritual jiva can perceive matter, due to a transformation of his spiritual consciousness; spirit (aprakrta) can become matter (prakrti), and matter can become spirit.

What is material can become spiritual and, what is spiritual can become “materialized.”

One would expect that devotees of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who profess faith in his pure devotees, should have no difficulty in understanding and applying these basic concepts.

And yet, many have great difficulty in doing so. Like the whimsical speculator who concludes the samsara wheel of fortune always lands on a number that promotes one upwards to a higher round of spiritual play, devotees prone to fanciful optimism cannot believe a spiritual organization can reverse course, even when it is directly perceived by our spiritual preceptors who, in an attempt to save us from similar degradation, state the fact directly and unequivocally.

More than thirty years ago such an instance occurred. And yet, today it is difficult to find one devotee among those who profess faith in Srila Sridhara Maharaja, who actually believes his words and acts accordingly:

Devotee: Should we associate with the saints of ISKCON or with the saints from Caitanya Association [Chaitanya Saraswat Math]?

Swami B.R. Sridhara: Ha, ha. There is a direct question put. If you want my clear impartial decision I may say that what they’re doing that is primary. They fail to catch the higher realization. They’re going at present in a business way. The connection with pure spirituality has been lessened there, degraded. As regards to the adherence with the highest ideal, the real ideal, according to me they have deviated and going lower to the material conception of the thing. The monopoly of trade, that is to enjoy the credit of their Gurudeva, exploiting the name of their Guru. Going far down from the high ideal, the abstract thing, and more or less being materialized. Organization to be admired according to the ideal for which they’re organized. The deviation from the high ideal, then the organization will fetch a lower value. The ideal will have the best importance.

So, I cannot give ditto to their activities. So they’re now preaching against me, and I am told that so much that they have been preaching me as a demon and I am injecting poison according to them because I say that they’re below the standard. A big organization, that is good, approaching many souls for their delivery, that is one thing, that quantity. But as regards quality they’re lacking according to my decision, as sincerely speaking, as I feel, I say so. I have got my fifty-five years experience in the Math and seen many things and experienced many things. Though it is not within this mundane experience but experience with the association of the sadhu, that is something. And with that experience, and aspiration, and as supported by our God friends also. What I can understand is that they’re afraid of keeping, or making contact with Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarawati Thakura, and my faith. What I say I am saying from the beginning, from the time of (Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta) Swami Maharaja. They’re also coming during Swami Maharaja’s lifetime. Many came to me, even Swami Maharaja, we had a talk. I think I am in that standard, my talk is of that standard. But they say that is going against them, against their Committee, their combined realization. I have got my independent opinion. And, when it comes in clash with them, they say it is a poison. (82.07.26-27) 82.07.26.A 82.07.27.B

Discussing these points with my Godbrothers and Godsisters in ISKCON, concurrent with the time of Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s statements like those above, I was surprised to learn that even those who professed a great respect and admiration for His Divine Grace, mostly found some reasons to justify ignoring his warnings to us about ISKCON.

There were many excuses offered. One of the most popular was this “I can’t leave my service to Srila Prabhupada.”, referring to book distribution or printing, or serving some managerial function like temple president, etc.; as if their service to Srila Prabhupada depended upon their continued support of an institution in spiritual decline, while their own spiritual lives remained stagnant, or also declining.

They used words like “spiritual uncle”, “exalted vaishnava” and so forth, to describe Srila Sridhara Maharaja. And yet, they rejected his guidance, for which they sought him out, as per the instruction of Srila Prabhupada.

They seemed oblivious to the fact that real service to Sri Guru (Srila Prabhupada) does not manifest through mere mechanical motions of the body and mind to perform some institutional work. Sri Gurudeva wants to see his disciples advance in their spiritual realization, dedication and devotion to Sri Sri Guru Gauranga. He wants to see them advance to the plane of spontaneous service to Sri Rupa, Raghunatha. Mechanical repetition of rote tasks or institutional slogans cannot possibly substitute for the heart’s urgent yearning for such advancement that can only come via the association and service of an “exalted vaishnava” in the line of Sri Rupa: the very thing they rejected when they rejected the guidance of Srila Sridhara Maharaja.

“I may say that what they’re doing that is primary. They fail to catch the higher realization. They’re going at present in a business way.”

Failing to “catch the higher realization”, they continued promoting their “primary” teachings and associations, as if these were the Golokera prema dhana (the treasure of pure love of Godhead found in Goloka) that Srila Prabhupada came to deliver to the world. Thus, they created a trade for themselves by declaring ISKCON owned the monopoly of service to Srila Prabhupada, along with his warehouse of Krishna prema. In doing so, they betrayed His Divine Grace, who was the true proprietor of his franchise for the distribution of Krishna prema and the gatekeeper of his store house.

They also failed to recognize that Srila Sridhara Maharaja was also a franchisee of Sri Rupa’s distribution network. Like Srila Prabhupada, Srila Sridhara Maharaja had also been issued a license by Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Swaraswati Thakura to distribute the very same unadulterated goods he was distributing.

82.03.03.C @ 11:40 82.03.03.C

[Srila Govinda Maharaja reading Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja’s letter (in Bengali), written to him on Jan. 29, 1969.

What follows below is Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s translation of the  Bengali to English (underlined portions were read by Srila Govinda Maharaja but not repeated by Srila Sridhara Maharaja).]

Sripada Govinda Maharaja, you will know my obeisances to you.

Your letter dated the fifth [January] duly received.

What [Sripada] Sridhara Maharaja has directed, I took it on my head. I take it on my head.

[Pujyapada Sridhara Maharaja] He is my always well-wisher.

After the departure of Prabhupada [Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakura] I should receive, I should accept his direction.

I got direction from him that I shall live in this country [America] forever.

Very soon, in near future, I may get the nationality, citizenship here.

You will all bless me that I may die working in this way here. . . .

(Transcriber- bkg)

Two days later Srila Prabhupada composed this letter to his disciple Hrshikesha (emphasis added):

Letter to: Hrsikesa

Los Angeles
31 January, 1969

I suspect that you have interest in taking instruction from some siksa guru, but in this connection, because you are my disciple and I think, a sincere soul, it is my duty to refer you to someone who is competent to act as siksa guru. . . . So if you are actually serious to take instructions from a siksa guru, I can refer you to one who is most highly competent of all my god-brothers. This is B.R. Sridhara Maharaja, whom I consider to be even my siksa guru, so what to speak of the benefit that you can have from his association.

. . .

go to someone who will be competent to act as siksha guru. This is Sridhara Maharaja.
When I was in India, Acyutananda, Ramanuga, and myself, with others, lived with Sridhara Maharaja, so Acyutananda knows him very well. He spared a big house for us and if both of you go there now, it will be very good for your spiritual benefit. Then I will feel that you are safe. Besides that, if you wish to live in India, you can make arrangements for this house so that other of your god-brothers may go there in the future. Just on the other side of the Ganges there is Mayapur, and you can occasionally or every week go there and learn Bengali and Sanskrit if it is your desire. All facilities are there. Sridhara Maharaja is a very good English scholar and he can talk with you very nicely in English. The room in Vrindaban where you are residing may also be kept so that it may be utilized when necessary. But so far as I am concerned, I am becoming older and older, and my life may be finished at any moment. As I have got my permanent residence in America, it is indication of Krishna that I shall live here to organize this movement to the best possible extent. If I sometimes go out of this country, I will go to Europe only and again come back. So, practically I have decided not to go to India anymore. In case I suddenly meet my death, then I shall make my will how to deal with my body later on.
So don’t be carried away by whims. It is my duty to save you. Leave Vrindaban, live peacefully with Sridhara Maharaja, if you do not wish to go to Germany, and thereby you will be spiritually enlightened. Please inform me immediately regarding what you have decided.

Later, shortly before his disappearance, Srila Prabhupada instructed his senior disciples that after his disappearance they should go to Srila Sridhara Maharaja with any questions about philosophy or Vaishnava Siddhanta. They followed this instruction of our gurudeva, and accepted Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s advice, until Gaura-purnima of 1982. At this time they suddenly turned against him because Srila Sridhara Maharaja objected to their actions and ideas which he saw as going far astray from the spiritual siddhanta preached by Srila Prabhupada, Swami Maharaja.

“You can make arrangements for this house so that other of your god-brothers may go there in the future.” — No arrangement was made for our use of this house. But Srila Sridhara Maharaja kept it and made it available for us to stay near to him during several of my visits to Navadwipa in the early ’80’s. It was in this house that I stayed with other Godbrothers while I waited to receive sannyasa from Srila Sridhara Maharaja in 1981. It is also the same house Srila Prabhupada stayed in with some of his disciples when he visited Srila Sridhara Maharaja in the 70’s. The house was painted blue and was known to us as “the blue house.”

During my many visits there during his lifetime (fifteen or so from 1981 to 1987), Srila Sridhara Maharaja spent countless hours patiently answering our endless questions, dealing with our problems and advising us on how to deal with those we met in our preaching; be they devotees, non-devotees or disciples. By ISKCON standards, by any standard, his Math seemed to be running on a shoe-string budget. Yet he freely offered us whatever accommodation he could. Sometimes we were only a few persons, five or six, sometimes we were many, fifty to a hundred or so. He never asked us for anything in return. He lived as he preached, a brahman vaishnava who asked for no salary or remuneration, but accepted whatever donations came to him.

What was it that caused ISKCON to turn away from this exemplary vaishnava, who was recognized by his Godbrothers as the standard bearer of the Rupa-nuga Guru Varga and one their own guru acknowledged as his siksha guru?

Here, in brief, Srila Sridhara Maharaja comments on the GBC’s policies at that time:

82.03.04.C_82.03.05.A 82.03.04.C_82.03.05
Spd. Akshayananda Mhj.- They told Jayatirtha Maharaja. Jayatirtah Maharaja has been told by the GBC board that unless he gives up his connection with your Grace and hearing your tapes, and any connection, then he will be ousted.

And those who have taken sannyasa from your Grace, they must give up their sannyasa and they may apply again from other gurus of ISKCON.

Srila Sridhara Maharaja- They are strict to the extreme?

Spd. Akshayananda Mhj.- To the extreme.

Srila Sridhara Maharaja- Yes. That shows their weakness. Such, such absolute power is not a good sign for them.

Srila Sridhara Maharaja- There are thousands of men on that side, and you are few, five, six or ten, twenty five, and they are so much afraid of you. Only the spirit of conquering, no attitude of give and take of learning, that we may have to learn something yet. They have finished their learning and they are ready only to distribute their own hoarded wealth.

Srila Sridhara Maharaja- And our Bharati Maharaja? Special case.

Spd. Akshayananda Mhj.- He hasn’t come back. He’s not returned.

Srila Sridhara Maharaja- But he should also disconnect?

Spd. Akshayananda Mhj.- Yes, must.

Srila Sridhara Maharaja- Otherwise, no room there?

Spd. Akshayananda Mhj.- And also Kanan Giri Maharaja.

Srila Sridhara Maharaja- Eh?

Spd. Akshayananda Mhj.- Kanan Giri Maharaja also is there.

Srila Sridhara Maharaja- He’s there?

Spd. Akshayananda Mhj.- They must disconnect.

Srila Sridhara Maharaja- Either, either accept them [GBC] or reject [me], no middle policy?

Spd. Akshayananda Mhj.- Black or white, yeah. Eventually it was to come.

Srila Sridhara Maharaja- In one sense it is good.

Completely separate. [Bengali] Bas [finished], clear cut. Independence. Complete independence.

[Bengali with Govinda Maharaja.]

ISKCON does not belong to their committee, but ISKCON ultimately belongs to Swami Maharaja. That represents Swami Maharaja, in my consideration. I look to ISKCON with that light.

Since then ISKCON has softened its position, but only superficially. Whatever the opinions of the general population of ISKCON may be, I have not seen the leaders diverge from what Srila Sridhara Maharaja perceived as nothing more than “formal” reverence for him. And, beneath that formality, I hear a consistent drone of offensive and deprecating ideas directed towards Srila Sridhara Maharaja, his successor (Srila Govinda Maharaja), and their followers. When such a tone is present in ISKCON’s leaders, how can it not be present in some form in their followers?

82.03.06.A – 82.03.06.A [Includes talk with Yashomatinandana dasa adhikari (Ynd) who asks “Shouldn’t we be united?” Srila Sridhara Maharaja responds, united for what?]

Srila Sridhara Maharaja- Unity for what? Unity for bad thing, that can create havoc.

Ynd- But how can it be bad thing, unity for Krishna Consciousness?

Srila Sridhara Maharaja- I say that the ideal is the all-important and then next, unity.

. . .

Ynd- No, what their, what their thing is, that they always had great reverence for you. Therefore whenever there was a crises…

Srila Sridhara Maharaja- Only when they did not differ from me.

JTM- (Laughter)

Ynd- Yes, that is true.

. . .

Ynd- What I’m saying is that, that devotees have great reverence for you, it was not that, only thing that they are little bitter now, is that some of the people who have some criticism against the movement…

Srila Sridhara Maharaja- Reverence, reverence formal. What sort of reverence they have got towards me, you think? Formal, or material, substantial?

Ynd- Well, I think it’s for your knowledge, for your uh…

Srila Sridhara Maharaja- No, no. Their reverence for me, it is formal way, I think.

Ironically, the argument for unity used by Prabhu Yashomatinandana dasa above, was resurrected in exacting detail by the International Acharya Board, which used it to justify its promotion of a single worldwide acharya (Sripada Acharya Maharaja); explicitly contradicting the ideal: following Srila Gurudeva’s Will, which directed us to accept six acharyas.

Casual interactions and acquaintances with members of different Vaishnava sects is sure to occur. But I urge great caution in developing closer relationships with their members.

And in the lower stage also, to keep up and to develop our attention and devotion towards our guru, so much help should come from our senior godbrothers. They will help us understand the greatness of our guru in different ways. They are also doing the work of siksa guru. But when we enter in the kingdom of service, then, of course, everyone will help us. It is also said that we may have an inner attraction towards Vrndavana, and our inner awakenment may be in the service of Krsna of Goloka, but if we mix with so many sadhus in Vaikuntha, then we will be hurled down to Vaikuntha.

In a certain stage, we should beware of bad association, so in Bhakti-rasamrtasindhu (1.2.91) Rupa Goswami has said, sajatiyasye snigdhe sadhau sangah svato vare: What sort of saintly persons shall we try to mix with earnestly? Those who are in our line, who have the same high spiritual aspirations as we do, and who hold a superior position. To associate with such saintly persons will help us the most to progress towards the ultimate goal. (Sri Guru and His Grace)

We need friends, but it will be better if you can develop friendships within my group of friends, “Those who are in our line, who have the same high spiritual aspirations as we do, and who hold a superior position.”

Facebook has sorely disappointed me. It is one outlet for our preaching mission, but it is the very jungle that Srila Sridhara Maharaja wanted to avoid:

Now there is a section who are always saying “Guru Maharaja [Srila Sridhara Maharaja] is great. He is great. He is great.” But his desire they cannot follow, so what is their faith to their Guru.

Srila Guru Maharaja commented, “I do not want to go into the jungle of Ächaryyas, rather I will keep myself to myself, maybe in a thatched house, but that must be very clean and very quiet.” And for that he made Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math. Not only that but he did not want to make many maths, that was his desire. … “Don’t make many maths,” that was Srila Guru Maharaja’s instruction. (Srila Govinda Maharaja, Affectionate Guidance)

Who is the Acharya of Facebook? There is no Acharya. But there are many speculators and disciples of many gurus, the vast majority of which are junior devotees and wayward disciples who wander about almost aimlessly seeking friendships; as many as possible, without regard for the quality of the spiritual conception of their many new friends. This type of behavior was never encouraged by our preceptorial line who identified such behavior as “chanchala.” Chanchala means flickering, wavering or restless.

Bhagavad-gita 6.32-40 — New York, September 14, 1966 : 660914BG.NY :

“He is describing his deficiencies that “My dear Kṛṣṇa, my mind is so much restless, agitated,” cañcala… Cañcala means restless. Cañcalaṁ hi manaḥ kṛṣṇa pramāthi. Pramāthi means just like a madman, pramāthi, without any brain, pramāthi, and balavat, and very strong. Oh, my mind is dragging to somewhere else. I am trying: “No, mind, don’t go there.” Oh, no, mind says, “No. I must go. I must go.” And sometimes we agree. “All right, let me go.” So it is very strong.”

The word chanchala is also used to describe a loose woman, one who goes from one man to another, always seeking new friendships. Such a woman is called unchaste. But chastity to one’s guru is vital if we are to make progress in the line of Sri Rupa Raghunatha.

I never went to any other maṭh without any service to Śrīla Guru Mahārāj. Śrīpād Madhusūdan Mahārāj would come and serve Śrīla Guru Mahārāj every year, but without my service to Guru Mahārāj I also never went to his maṭh. Katwa, the place where Mahāprabhu took sannyās, is just twenty-eight miles from here, but I never went there in thirty years. I can go to see, “Oh this is the very auspicious place where Mahāprabhu took sannyās. Here is Mahāprabhu’s Deity and here are many reminders of Mahāprabhu’s sannyās-līlā.” But leaving my service I never went there. And that wasn’t one year or two or three years, but for thirty years I did not go to Katwa. I am passing Katwa station by train, but not getting down. (Srila Govinda Maharaja, Affectionate Guidance)

This policy of Srila Govinda Maharaja has always been my policy. During their lifetimes I never went outside the association of my gurus, except for their service. I have travelled all over the world and made many many pilgrimages to India. I cannot describe to you what the inside of any Math looks like, except the Maths and Temples of my gurus; because I have not seen the inside of any other Maths, with a few very rare exceptions.

What is there to see, to explore, to find outside our Sri Guru Varga? I do not know, and I do not want to know.

We have also been fortunate to hear from the holy mouth of our Sri Guru-pada-padma that while speaking Hari-katha to one servitor, Srila Prabhupada [Saraswati Thakura] said, “Only Sri Vṛshabhanu Nandini and my Sri Guru-pada-padma beautifully serve Krishna at all times; I do not know, nor do I need to know, who else does or does not.” (Srila Govinda Maharaja, Sri Gaudiya Darshan, Vol. 14, Issue 2, 12/1/70)

I believe Srila Sridhara Maharaja is referring to the same incident here:

Srila Sridhara Maharaja: In Radha Kunda, when our Vrndavan circumambulation was going on in perhaps 1932, Prabhupada, on the banks of Brahma Kunda, he delivered a lecture and told, as I remember, that divinity; perfect divinity has come down thru my gurudeva. After my Guru-pada-padma,  it is perfect divinity come down, then this consideration may be practiced. So: acaryam mam vijaniyam by Gods special grace, this is one of his functions that go to the low-to the lowest person and to take him from there gradually, this is one of the eternal functions of the Supreme Lord. (78.03.__.A [GBC] 78.03.A & 78.03.__.B [GBC] 78.03.B)

The following is from Srila Govinda Maharaja’s Divine Guidance, Hand-carved Gems (reproduced from a letter written to Sriman Pushta Krishna dasa, a senior disciple of Srila Prabhupada, Swami Maharaja):

Srila Swami Maharaja himself selected a few leaders for maintaining and spreading Krishna consciousness all over the world for his Mission—that was called the “G.B.C.”—and he was proud of them. At that time my own feelings were non-different from ISKCON and I was very happy to see the mood of the devotees. I did not get the chance to mix with everybody — it was also not possible — but I was surprised to see the depth of knowledge of Krishna consciousness in those I saw. Actually, I received much nice impression and enthusiasm from them including Sripada Bhavananda Maharaja, Sripada Tamal Krishna Maharaja, Sripada Achyutananda Prabhu, etc. I still have many friends in the ISKCON society and they have a very good mood. They are living within the preaching and practising life and I highly respect them.

But you know that after the disappearance of Srila Swami Maharaja many things have happened in that society. Not only that, but many of the great, great devotee personalities showed their very unfortunate form and that was painful for their followers and many of the followers of Srila Swami Maharaja, and it was very painful for myself also. Those confused persons eagerly sought secure shelter for their spiritual life, but they could no longer fully trust others in that society.

At the same time they did not want to leave Krishna consciousness because living in their hearts was the seed of Krishna consciousness planted by Srila Swami Maharaja.

Srila Swami Maharaja 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 Maharaja 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.

Actually Srila Swami Maharaja organised the ISKCON society so there can be practising of Krishna consciousness under proper guardianship, and that is the only goal of life for all conditioned souls. This is not only the preaching of His Divine Grace, but it is also the preaching of Sriman Mahaprabhu, His associates and the preceptorial line after Him. No doubt it has manifest in the world at large, especially in the West, through Srila Swami Maharaja, but the many disciples of Srila Saraswati Thakura and our Srila Guru Maharaja continued according to their own capacity to preach and practice Krishna consciousness. We see everywhere that each do not have the identical preaching method and mood of Sriman Mahaprabhu: trinad api sunichena taror api sahishnuna, amanina manadena… and they were not all free from Vaishnava-aparadha. Therefore many difficulties arise in every society, and even our society is not fully free from that.

We need to do good for ourselves and for others. We want to leave the ideal of mundanity and we must try to achieve the super-beneficial transcendental service-plane—which is really our life’s goal—through chanting the Mahamantra without offence in the association of devotees, and preaching. The chanting without offense is so very essential, and if that feeling does not come to us we will not get the proper beneficial results. I feel that this is very important for us now.

Of course there may always be exceptions to the rule, but in general the “Vaishnava-aparadha” Srila Govinda Maharaja was so delicately referring to; offense to Srila Sridhara Maharaja, others in his mission and in the missions of some of the other disciples of Srila Saraswati Thakura, has become more or less institutionalized in ISKCON and is ever present as the undercurrent I referred to earlier.

So, we must be very cautious about our associations. We have even been cautioned to avoid the “sadhus of Viakuntha”:

82.11.18.B 82.11.18.B
@27:40 Srila Sridhara Maharaja: … mixing with sadhus of vaikuntha may cause one to be “hurled down to Vaikuntha.”

In Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s Sri Sri Prapanna-jivanamrtam we find this (emphasis added):

For the pure devotees who have taken refuge in the mellow of pure devotion in Vrndavana, even the reverential service of Lord Narayana in Vaikuntha is considered to be as adverse as the aspiration for worldly pleasure or liberation –

krsnavarta vina ana, ‘asadvarta’ bali’ jana,
sei vesya ati bhayankari
srikrsnavisaya mati, jivera durllabha ati,
sei vesya mati laya hari
suna mana, bali he tomaya
muktiname sarddulini, tara katha yadi suni,
sarvatmasampatti gili’ khaya
tad ubhaya tyaga kara, muktikatha parihara,
laksmipatirati rakha dure
se rati prabala ha’le, paravyome deya phele,
nahi deya vasa vrajapure
vraje radhakrsnarati, amulya dhanada ati,
tai tumi bhaja ciradina
ruparaghunathapaya, sei rati prarthanaya,
e bhaktivinoda dinahina
(Bengali poem by Sri Bhaktivinoda Thakura)

“Anything but Krsna’s message, know as falsehood such a passage,
such a harlot is so very dangerous:
devotion to the Lord Sri Krsna, rarely gotten by the jiva –
that harlot steals away this consciousness.
O dear mind, please hear my prayer:
And if you hear the presentation of the tigress liberation,
all the soul’s good prospect she’ll devour.
Both temptations please abandon, and not to speak of liberation,
curb attraction for the Lord Narayana;
by attraction to that plane, to Vaikuntha you’ll be hurled down –
denied the chance to live in Sri Vrndavana.
Love for RadhaKrsna in Vraja, bestows the most precious treasure;
adore Them in your heart eternally;
RupaRaghunatha’s feet, for such devotion, does entreat
this Bhaktivinoda, bereft, in all humility.”
(Bengali verse translation)

The last point I’ll make on this subject comes as an excerpt from an email I sent some time ago to one of my Godbrothers (a senior disciple of Srila Prabhupada):

ISKCON is the starting point for us. A necessary manifestation of an entity born to serve the eternal Sankitrana movement of Sri Sri Gaura Nitai and, explicitly, Their greatest exponent in our time, Srila Prabhupada. It is one stop on the eternal transcendental parikrama of Sriman Mahaprabhu and His party of parshada devotees. ISKCON is not a manifestation of this mundane world and, as such, cannot be comprehended by the mundane mind and intelligence or noticed by the mundane senses. What it is, exactly, we cannot know, because it has appeared from the mind of a pure devotee and we cannot fully know such a mind.

ISKCON is an instrument of service like an aroti tray that holds many ingredients to worship and serve the Divine Couple. This instrument of service is held by our Sri Gurudeva who has collected many different objects, purified them, as one places drops of Ganga jal on items for puja to cleanse them and, when satisfied they are suitable to offer to the Lord, for His pleasure, he does so. Our hope, our ambition, our desire, is not to fixate on analyzing and describing the form of ISKCON, but the substance of it. The substance of it is Srila Prabhupada. Separate him from it and it is no longer a radiant temple of jewels, but a mausoleum, a burial place for the dead, discarded remains of those who refused to drink fully the elixir of life Srila Prabhupada distributed so eagerly to anyone who would simply follow his direction with faith in his words of salvation.

It may seem a severe commentary, but I believe it is a reasonable one, based on Srila Prabhupada’s own expectations “Ekas candras tamo hanti, na ca tara sahasrasah. If I create one moon, that is sufficient. I don’t want many stars. That was my Guru Maharaja’s principle, and that is my principle.”:

Prabhupada: Therefore Krsna has said, mam ekam. “Don’t go to these foolish rascals.” Mam ekam. Otherwise you’ll be misled. Because they are misleaders, rascals.

Dr. Patel: You are so very hard.

Prabhupada: I must be hard!

Dr. Patel: Hard, harsh, and hard and harsh…

Prabhupada: The whole world is spoiled for these Mayavadis. Therefore I am very much hard.

Dr. Patel: What… I don’t say hard. Hard and harsh…

Prabhupada: No, we must be harder and harder. Dr. Patel: Hard and harsh! Doesn’t matter…

Prabhupada: I don’t make any compromise with these rascals. No words. No, no. I never made that. Even if I don’t get any disciples, I’ll be satisfied. But I can’t make any compromise like these rascals. I cannot make. Ekas candras tamo hanti na ca tara sahasrasah. If I create one moon, that is sufficient. I don’t want many stars. That was my Guru Maharaja’s principle, and that is my principle. What is the use of having number of fools and rascals? If one man understands rightly, he can deliver the whole world. [break]

Morning Walk — March 23, 1974, Bombay

“Is there an ISKCON in the spiritual world?”, asks a child of Srila Prabhupada. And the child received an answer suitable for a child, “Yes.”

As for your letter to Sripada Acharya Maharaja: if your intention is to leave his connection to take initiation from me, simply tell him this and ask him to kindly release you to do so. Then wait for his answer. This is the courtesy. Again, such a move should only be undertaken on the basis that you do not feel confident that your faith in Sri Sri Guru Gauranga can develop properly under his guidance.

One should not change gurus as a fashion. It is a serious matter. However, it is approved in certain circumstances, such as those you’ve described to me with regard to yourself.

Your case is not exactly the same as in the discussion below, but it informs us on how to think about situations such as yours:

82.03.02.C @22:54 82.03.02.C

Srila Sridhara Maharaja: We have got combination. We have got our committee that is absolute. Whatever we shall do that must be justified by the resolution of our combined opinion.

Devotee (Bhakti Charu Swami – BCS): Another thing is, Mahäräja, they are so much into lording it over that they cannot stand that somebody should go away from their clutches, from their controlling jurisdiction.

Srila Sridhara Maharaja: (about 1min 20secs of Bengali)

Devotee (BCS): (Bengali ……………………………………………..)

Maharaja just said that he feels that it would be better if the mass takes initiation from the local, the zonal guru. But the class, those who got to see the other gurus, mix around with the other gurus, they should be given a chance…

Another devotee (Akshayananda Maharaja): According to their faith, sradha.

Devotee: According to their faith they can select their guru; otherwise if somebody develops their faith for somebody else and is forced to take initiation from somebody else that will not be natural.

Srila Sridhara Maharaja: And the concept of provincialism will also disappear. Everyone has got disciple from anywhere, any place combined. According to sradha the relationship should be allowed to grow, for guru and sisha; otherwise it is artificial, a labored thing, a pressure on the faith. As much as natural we should try to go on, faith, independent faith.

Hare Krishna. Gaura Haribol. Gaura Haribol. Nitäi Gaura Haribol.

Devotee (BCS): Maharaja, what happens when one is forced to take initiation from somebody and then later on he develops his faith on somebody else?

Srila Sridhara Maharaja: So by chance it may happen, it was not available, but if the policy is there, that is worse.

Devotee (BCS): Maharaja, what is the position of that man who has been forced to take initiation from somebody on whom he doesn’t have total faith?

Srila Sridhara Maharaja: Very unwholesome position. Whole life he will labour under uncertainty. No progress.

Devotee: Can he change, can he take sort of, can he surrender himself…

Srila Sridhara Maharaja: That is undesirable, it is undesirable. That is, in reality, it should be, should be; either in this life or in another life, next life. Otherwise it cannot thrive, the soul cannot thrive without natural connection. According to ruci, according to the rasa, adjustment and re-adjustment is possible. But this life is almost useless; it will go on repenting in hesitation and no progress. The progress may be intellectually, but from soul’s standpoint no progress, no faith. A forced guru is thrust on him whom he cannot regard, give regard, that is life in death, something like life in death.

Devotee (BCS): These are the defects of an institution Maharaja.

Srila Sridhara Maharaja: So, as much…, an institution must be accommodating to the truth, the conception of truth.

[Transcriber: Ramai dasa Brahmachari; Edited & proofread by Paramänanda däsa, U.K. & bkg]

For the sincere soul seeking to make progress in Krishna Consciousness, there is no offense. I consider you to be such a sincere seeker.

I pray this finds you well in all respects. Please convey the same to your wife & family.

With affection,

Swami B.K. Giri