Srila Giri Maharaja “Notes On Writing”

10  New Vrindaban 1972

Date: 9/12/15

Dear ___________ ,

Please accept my blessings and well-wishes in remembrance of my Divine Masters.

You wrote:

I have read your articles and see that you are an incredible writer. My friend, who is an ISKCON member, also became interested in your writing and had nothing but great things to say about it, so I know I can learn many things. I look forward to serving you.

There are much better writers than me. Sripada Jayadvaita Maharaja said it very well in an email to me a few years back (2008) with regard to a short article I wrote noting the passing of William F. Buckley (WFB):

“Thanks for sharing with me your piece on WFB. A little edgy, as you
say. He was a better writer than both of us, but we had the good
fortune to come in touch with Krsna’s pure devotees.”

Actually I think of myself as more of a reporter than a writer. I see events and report on them, offering background material to understand them in the context of guru, shastra and sadhu.

The scriptures tell us that being a good writer is not very important. It is important that we present revealed Truth without adulteration. When It is presented as It is, It will take root in the heart’s of honest men.

Our Sri Guru Varga is replete with excellent writers, and those who could not write their own name. Yet each induced a revolutionary change of consciousness into the heart’s of “purified men who are thoroughly honest.”

Below is a scan of a portion of the Preface to the first volume of Srila Prabhupada’s “original Delhi Bhagavatam set”, as it has come to be known.


Even these earliest pages, which might be considered the most important, as they would be the first to meet the reader’s eye and, with that, create a first impression of what is in store in the pages to come; were, by any measure, “irregularly composed.”

I suspect Srila Prabhupada knew this himself. Otherwise, why make mention of his “frailties” in these opening pages? Yet, he did not appear to be embarrassed or shy to present his set of Srimad Bhagavatam to the so-thought-of sophisticated English readers in India, and even the so-called sophisticates of the West; indeed, to the very heart of the sophisticated West; Manhattan, New York City, New York.

The message he brought was not to be found in his English grammar, or even the Sanskrit text, or its transcribed diacritic marks; for there were none.

His message was contained within his urgent desire to bring Krishna to the heart’s of all jivas of this world: or at least to one. If he succeeded in making even one pure devotee of Krishna, he would feel fulfilled:

The difficulty is that we do not want to become a regular student. Haphazardly, here and there, here and there, but I remain the same thing. It is a science. Vedas say, tad vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet [MU 1.2.12]. If you are serious to learn about that, tad vijnana. Tad vijnanam, gurum evabhigacchet. You must go to a bona fide guru who can teach you.

Nobody is serious. That is the difficulty. Everyone is thinking, “I am free,” although he is pulled by the ear, by nature. Prakrteh kriyamanani gunaih karmani sa.. [Bg. 3.27]. You have done like this, come on, here, sit down. This is going on, prakrti. Ahankara-vimudhatma kartaham iti manyate [Bg. 3.27]. The rascal, befooled by his false ego, he is thinking, “I am everything. I am independent.” Those who are thinking like that, they have been described in the Bhagavad-gita, ahankara vimudhatma. By false ego he is bewildered and thinking, “What I am thinking is all right.” No, you cannot think in your own way. Must think as Krsna says, then you are right.

Otherwise, you are thinking under the spell of maya, that’s all. Tribhir gunamayair bhavair mohita, na ‘bhijanati mam ebhyah param avyayam. Mayadhyaksena prakrti suyate sa-caracaram [Bg. 9.10]. These things are there. Read Bhagavad-gita thoroughly, follow the rules and regulations, then your life will be successful. And so long you have got, this is also right, that is also right, then you will not do the right. You will all be misled. That’s all. That is not [indistinct]. What Krsna says, that is right. That, that should be the [indistinct]. Otherwise you will be misled.

So we are trying to preach this philosophy in that way. Maybe, very small number, but ekas candras tamo hanti na cittara sahasra. If there is one moon, that is sufficient. What is the use of millions of stars, twinkling. So that is our propaganda. If one man can understand what is Krsna philosophy, then my preaching is successful, that’s all. We don’t want many millions of stars, with no light. What is the use of millions of stars with no light?

That is Canakya Pandita’s advice, varam eka putra na chavur kasatan api. One son, if he is learned, that is sufficient. Na chavur kasatan api. What is the use of hundreds of sons, all fools and rascals? Ekas candras tamo hanti na cittara sahasras. One moon is sufficient to illuminate. There is no need of millions of stars. Similarly, we are not after many millions of disciples. I want to see that one disciple has understood Krsna’s philosophy. That is success. That’s all. (Conversation: Hyderabad 1975-04-12, “You Cannot Preach Your Philosophy”)

Srila Prabhupada’s urgency was born of a desperation to fulfill the desire of his spiritual guru, Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakura, who spoke to him in a language he could understand and appreciate; the language of the transcendent plane of Vaikuntha.

That was Srila Prabhupada’s language. It was the language of transcendental consciousness that could be conveyed by different means; by personal discussion, by recordings, sankirtana, by books and, most importantly, by his disciples: the latter being the traditional and most efficacious method—diksha: the transmission of transcendental knowledge from the guru to the hearts of his disciples, who then carry the same message to others, in a succession.

Everything is existing within consciousness and, only consciousness can influence consciousness. Only consciousness can touch consciousness.

Srila Prabhupada, following in the line of Sri Chaitanya Saraswati (Sri Krishna Chaitanya to Srila Saraswati Thakura), took something from the plane of Vaikuntha and delivered it to the hearts and minds of unlimited conditioned souls of our plane, the material plane:

SB 6.2.14

sāṅketyaṁ pārihāsyaṁ vā
stobhaṁ helanam eva vā
aśeṣāgha-haraṁ viduḥ

“One who chants the holy name of the Lord is immediately freed from the reactions of unlimited sins, even if he chants indirectly [to indicate something else], jokingly, for musical entertainment, or even neglectfully. This is accepted by all the learned scholars of the scriptures.”

What he delivered was vaikuntha-nama, the Holy Name and, with it, the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, His pastimes, His Dhama and His devotees, as They exist in the transcendental realm of Sri Vaikuntha. He delivered all these to the masses by all the means described in the preceding verse. In addition, he delivered them to his disciples via spiritual diksha.

Srila Prabhupada was so successful in doing this, Srila Sridhara Maharaja recognized him as a shaktyavesha avatara of Sri Nityananda Prabhu, the deliverer of all fallen souls of this world.

Yet he did not become so through great writing, although his writing was praised by Srila Saraswati Thakura and Srila Prabhupada’s scholarly Godbrothers, one of whom conferred upon him the title (even during his household life): Bhaktivedanta. Nor did he gain this recognition by mastering the English language, as a great orator might do. His English remained noticeably Indian-English.

Srila Prabhupada’s success came entirely by making himself an empty vessel to be filled by the order, instructions, guidance and advice of his spiritual master, Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakura Goswami Maharaja; which he then executed with the utmost faith and determination.

Thereby, he has shown us the path to follow. If we can do that, our writing will be successful. Therefore, we will do well to remember:

Just like Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, amara ajnaya guru hana [Cc. Madhya 7.128], “You become a spiritual master under My order.” So if you carry out the order of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Krsna, then you become guru. Amara ajnaya guru hana. Unfortunately, we do not wish to carry out order of the acaryas. We manufacture our own ways. We have got practical experience how a great institution was lost by whimsical ways. Without carrying out the order of the spiritual master, they manufactured something and the whole thing was lost. Therefore Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura stresses very much on the words of the spiritual master. Vyavasayatmika buddhir ekeha kuru-nandana [Bg. 2.41]. If you stick to the order of spiritual master, then, without caring for your own convenience or inconvenience, then you become perfect.

yasya deve para bhaktir
yatha deve tatha gurau
tasyaite kathita hy arthah
prakasante mahatmanah
[SU 6.23]

This is the confirmation of all authorities. We have to carry out very faithfully the order of the bona fide representative of Krsna. Then our life is successful. Then we can understand Krsna in truth. Vadanti tat tattva-vidas tattvam [SB 1.2.11]. We have to hear from the tattva-vit, not from the so-called scholars and politicians. No. One who knows the truth, you have to hear from him. And if you stick to that principle, then you understand everything very clearly. (Bhaktivedanta Swami—Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.11: Vrndavana, October 22, 1972

Form and substance. The from may not be perfect, it cannot be. There is always some defect with everything in this world. We must simply and sincerely make every effort to present the perfect substance.

If we can present the perfect substance in a pleasing form, so much the better. But never elevate the form at the expense of distributing the perfect transcendental message of our Guru Varga as widely as possible, by all means at our disposal and, with a sense of utmost urgency.

I pray this finds you well in health and spirits.

Swami B.K. Giri