Srila Giri Maharaja “Our Line of God Consciousness Differs from…Other Religious Groups”

Nd & Gd

The photo above was taken in California during Srila Govinda Maharaja’s first world tour in 1992. Sriman Nabadwip is in the blue shirt and Sriman Gokulananda is in the black shirt, recording Srila Govinda Maharaja leading kirtana.


Prabhu Nabadwip dasa Adhikari is one of Srila Prabhupada’s earlier disciples. Soon after joining ISKCON he began helping with the printing of Srila Prabhupada’s literature. He proved himself excellent in many varied duties, serving at different times as book distributor, collector, press operator, layout & pre press worker, cook, restauranteur, businessman and head pujari to Sri Sri Guru Gauranga Rukmini Dwarakadisha in the Los Angeles ISKCON temple.

Sri_Sri_Rukmini_DwarkadhishSri Sri Rukmini Dwarakadisha


Sriman Nabadwip was what one might now call an “early adopter” of Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s saving grace. As I recall, I first made his acquaintance in the summer of 1981 during an extended visit to ISKCON Los Angeles. At the time I was one of the top “worldwide” book distributors and had been invited by Sripada Rameshvara Maharaja to help refocus the attention of the book distributors in Los Angeles who he felt were being “distracted” by talks about how Srila Sridhara Maharaja could fill the spiritual void left by Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance some four years earlier.

My next recollection of Prabhu Nabadwip was in 1984 during another extended visit of mine to California. While there, I looked after his house in Sacramento for several weeks while he was away. Soon afterwards he seemed to magically appear at Sripada Goswami Maharaja’s temple in San Jose, just in time to do the paste-up* (literal cutting and pasting of typeset text onto layout boards) for the first printing of The Golden Volcano of Divine Love.

After Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s disappearance he and Prabhu Sarvabhavana, with help from Prabhu Ananta Krishna, established Ananta Printing. From there Prabhu Nabadwip continued to work diligently to see that Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s books were reprinted, new editions were published and, works of Srila Govinda Maharaja were added to the list of publications. A few years ago he proposed we purchase the entire stock of books remaining with Ananta Printing. It was a very happy proposal I could not refuse. (See our “Shop” for a listing of books currently available.)

Prabhu Nabadwip also helped Sriman Sruta Srava by printing many newsprint editions of his “Sri Vaishnava Toshani.” Although printed on this inexpensive paper stock, it was superb in its presentation of the Vaishnava Siddhanta of our line and was much beloved by Srila Govinda Maharaja and the devotees of our Mission. Later on Prabhu Sruta Srava produced a digital version which is accessible here: Vaishnava Toshani We also have many of the original newsprint editions which Sriman Sruta Srava kindly donated to us. Those interested may contact us for copies.

Srila Prabhupada’s foremost method for spreading Krishna Consciousness was through the printing and distribution of his books. I have yet to see a more successful campaign in the history of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. This methodology was envisioned by Srila Bhakti Vinoda Thakura and inaugurated by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura who called it the Brhat Mrdanga. He used this term, meaning “great mrdanga” or “big mrdanga”, because the effect, the sound, from playing this mrdanga was far, far greater than that of the musical instrument known as a mrdangam (barrel-shaped double-headed drum with one head larger than the other), which was used to accompany the kirtana of Sriman Mahaprabhu’s followers.

Sriman Mahaprabhu instructed his foremost disciples, Sri Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis to write books establishing the principals of what would later be known as Gaudiya theism or Gaudiya Vaishnavism. They did so, in the Bengali and Sanskrit languages. Srila Bhakti Vinoda Thakura mercifully pointed the way to the salvation of the Western world by publishing his English language Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, His Life and Precepts, which he pushed into the Western consciousness by seeing to its incorporation into the library of one of the most prominent universities in the world, McGill University (Canada), in the year 1896.

Srila Saraswati Thakura pushed his disciples to print and distribute the publications of his Sri Gaudiya Math in India. At the same time, he stressed the importance of preaching in the English language. So much so, that Srila Sridhara Maharaja told us a story of one of Saraswati Thakura’s disciples, who studied English while working as a field hand. When asked why he was studying English, he said it was because he expected he would be sent to the West, where he would have to converse in that language while cultivating crops there.

Srila Prabhupada, Swami Maharaja, took the cue from his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and strenuously urged his disciples to print and distribute as many of his books as possible. In doing so, he lit the fuse for an explosion of Krishna Consciousness in the Western world that was so tremendous, its shock wave caused huge repercussions throughout the land of India, from whence the inter-continental ballistic missiles of Gaudiya Vaishnavism had originally been launched.

Like Srila Swami Maharaja, Srila Sridhara Maharaja and Srila Govinda Maharaja were always greatly pleased to see a new book printed and always encouraged us to follow the example set by Srila Swami Maharaja, to print and distribute as many books as possible. Srila Govinda Maharaja said this was the best way to support our Maths and our preaching work.

In a similar vein, Sriman Nabadwip is always encouraging us to give stress to book distribution.

In the world of illegal drug trafficking it is obvious that demand drives supply. As long as there is a demand for illegal drugs, someone will attempt to profit by supplying them. Likewise, book distribution is the demand that drives book printing and publication. Book distribution is the profit center that motivates the suppliers of transcendental literature. It produces a transcendental cycle of addiction by which everyone connected to the chain benefits, enormously.

Srila Prabhupada explains this in a letter to his disciple Keshava dasa (Bombay 1 January, 1972):

“I have been receiving so many reports about how my disciples of the San Francisco Temple cannot be surpassed by anyone in distributing my books. Sometimes they are selling as many as 70 Krishna Books daily. So if this is true then certainly when I return to the U.S. I must come and stay in your Temple. By distributing my books profusely you are giving me great encouragement to translate. And you are all helping me to fulfill the order which Guru Maharaja gave me. So I am so much grateful to you, and I am sure Krishna will bless you a million times over, for doing this work.”

Here, in a very succinct manner, Srila Prabhupada has explained how each participant benefits, be it himself, the author, the temples, his disciples and even their param guru, Srila Saraswati Thakura.

And what of those who receive the books? “If he reads one page his life may be turned”:

Letter to Bali-mardana — Los Angeles 30 September, 1972: Regarding the question you have raised about traveling sankirtana parties and selling of books, yes, we want money. So that is the real preaching, selling books. Who can speak better than the books? At least whoever buys, he will look over. If you have to sell books, do it by hook or by crook. The real preaching is selling books. You should know the tactic how to sell without irritating. What your lecture will do for three minutes, but if he reads one page his life may be turned. We don’t want to irritate anyone, however. If he goes away by your agressive tactics, then you are nonsense and it is your failure. Neither you could sell a book, neither he would remain. But if he buys a book that is the real successful preaching.

It seems almost impossible to find an initiated devotee who was not influenced in some important way by reading one of our spiritual books. Most of us were, in fact, “turned” by reading one. Is there a better symptom of our compassion towards others than attempting to persuade them to take a book, magazine, etc. that could turn their lives towards surrender to the greatest saviors of the fallen souls, Sri Sri Gaura Nitai?

My conversations with Prabhu Nabadwip invariably remind me of these vital aspects of our siddhanta, which exist as only surface deep, without their practical application, which should include the highest welfare work of distributing the literature of our Mission to those mired in the mud of samsara.

Our conversations also remind me of my good fortune to have the association of one who reliably represents our siddhanta in an accurate way.

Srila Prabhupada once said something like this: that one should be a brahmachari for his whole life. But, if that is not possible, then at least to the age of twenty-five. If that is not possible, then at least for one year. But, if even that is not possible, then at least for one day. I will say the same about book distribution. All our devotees should know the joy and satisfaction that comes from a lifetime of distributing the books of our gurus. But, if not for a lifetime, then at least once in one’s life, he should have this experience. Chances are that will be enough to create the same sort of addiction that has made an addict of Sriman Nabadwip and me. If we are not distributing books, we still cannot help but remember that deeply pleasurable and satisfying experience that comes with knowing a book we distributed to someone may be the cause of his turning to Krishna, Mahaprabhu and Sri Gurudeva; maybe even creating another addict, like ourselves.

—Swami B.K. Giri


Date: 8/12/15

Dear Sriman Nabadwip Prabhu,

Please accept my humble dandavats pranams.

I was very happy to receive both of your emails below and pleased to read your comments.

You wrote:

In any case, I very much like how you answered your disciple regarding Guru tattva. As for sending it to Jananarda Maharaj…

I didn’t expect you to send it to Sripada Janardana Maharaja. That was a joke.

It seems we agree on the subjects we began to discuss during our phone call of a week or so ago. I am not surprised. Rather, I expected it. Whenever we speak I feel I am speaking with someone who understands very well the conclusions reached by our Guru Varga, and their practical implementation.

I can never estimate the extent of the fortune I gained by the grace of Srila Prabhupada. Whenever I may be caused to wonder how our line of God consciousness differs from those preached and practiced by other religious groups, I immediately think of the disciples of our gurus, such as yourself. You remind me that no other spiritual mission has produced such nice devotees of Sri Sri Guru Gauranga Gandharvika Giridhari. Thinking in that way I am reminded of Their eternal pastimes with Their devotees:

CC Ādi 1.16

preṣṭhālībhiḥ sevyamānau smarāmi

In a temple of jewels in Vṛndāvana, underneath a desire tree, Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Govinda, served by Their most confidential associates, sit upon an effulgent throne. I offer my humble obeisances unto Them.

Srila Krishna dasa Kaviraja must have felt some special affinity for this verse. He used it in the opening chapter of each of his divisions of Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta: Adi, Madhyama and Antya Lilas. There is so much beauty in this verse. It is itself a “temple of jewels in Vrndavana.” It encapsulates concisely and perfectly so many aspects of the beautiful relationships between the Lord, His hladini sakti, His devotees, His devotional service and His home in Sri Vrndavana Dhama.

I have never seen anything like it in any other religion, spiritual conception or spiritual movement. More importantly I have never seen any spiritual movement produce devotees of God that make me remember their beauty in relation to the beauty of this verse.

What grace I got from Srila Prabhupada was through association with his disciples, especially those like you who are senior to me. They printed the books, and distributed them, and by that I was first attracted. Then I met Prabhupada’s disciples in the San Francisco temple, before it was moved to Berkley, and they enlightened me about Krishna Consciousness, its philosophy and precepts. From that moment I could not resist the strong attraction to live with Srila Prabhupada’s disciples and learn from them about their spiritual master. After being accepted by them I was recommended by them to Srila Prabhupada for initiation. I was trained by them to be a disciple, to understand the transcendental nature of our Gurudeva, our responsibilities to him and how to serve him. Gradually, some of their faith was transferred to me and my faith in Srila Prabhupada grew as a result.

Upon his disappearance I was comforted by Srila Prabhupada’s disciples who reenforced my faith that his disappearance did not mean he had left us. He would always be with us through his divya vani. I learned from my Godbrothers that his divine instructions included his direction that we continue our progress under the watchful eye of his closest and most respected Godbrother, Srila Sridhara Maharaja. I sought his shelter and guidance along with a much smaller group of Godbrothers, as not all could fully appreciate the depth and value of this instruction.

With Srila Guru Maharaja’s disappearance, the disappearance/successor pastimes began anew, with new actors and, with previous actors playing different roles. The process repeated again upon Srila Govinda Maharaja’s disappearance.

All these things are very mysterious, extremely wonderful and — beautiful. Krishna is beautiful and he is ever more beautiful.

During my short time serving Srila Prabhupada in ISKCON, it never really occurred to me that the day would come when he would no longer be sitting at the helm as the Acharya of the Mission I joined to serve His Divine Grace. I could not have imagined ISKCON without Srila Prabhupada. I still can’t imagine it, what to speak of believe it. But what is ISKCON? What is Srila Prabhupada. And what is a disciple of Srila Prabhupada?

If the guru is not the fleshy form we see with our material eyes, how can ISKCON be a similar thing; whose form we see with our material vision and understand to be an organization of resolutions and by-laws? ISKCON can never be those things. ISKCON is a spiritual community of transcendental devotees who serve at the beckon call or our Divine Master who, in his eternal form, will be known by another name than the one by which we knew him. He will possess another form than the form we used to identify him. He will have his serving group of friends and servants and he will be part of the serving group of another, who he will serve, regarding him as his superior. There will be unlimited numbers of groups like this, each with superiors, inferiors and peers. They will all happily cooperate with each other, fight with each other, serve one another, and accept the service of others, all for the ultimate delight of Sri Sri Guru Gauranga Gandharvika Giridharijiu and all Their friends, associates, superiors and servants.

I have seen my group of friends expand and contract with each enactment of our gurus’ appearance, disappearance and successor pastimes. I feel very fortunate that you remain my friend through each of these. The best friend is one who will tell me if he sees I am departing from the siddhanta of our sampradaya. I am happy to know when we agree, but I always welcome your comments on points of disagreement, because I see they are coming from a plane of introspection and thoughtful consideration by a serious student of our Divine Masters. The student environment is my favorite place. It is wonderful to know we are eternally students. That knowledge is a source of great inspiration for me and provides me with a high expectation that a very bright future awaits us.

I pray this finds you well in health and spirits.

Affectionately yours,

Swami B.K. Giri

*Paste up refers to a method of creating or laying out publication pages that predates the use of the now-standard computerized page design desktop publishing programs. Completed, or camera-ready, pages are known as mechanicals or mechanical art. In the offset lithography process, the mechanicals would be photographed with a stat camera to create a same-size film negative for each printing plate required.

Paste up relied on phototypesetting, a process that would generate “cold type” on photographic paper that usually took the form of long columns of text. These printouts were often a single column in a scroll of narrow (3-inch or 4-inch) paper that was as deep as the length of the story.

A professional known variously as a paste-up artist, layout artist, mechanical artist, production artist, or compositor would cut the type into sections and arrange it carefully across multiple columns. For example, a 15 inch strip could be cut into 3 5-inch sections. Headlines and other typographic elements were often created and supplied separately by the typesetter, leaving it to the paste up artist to determine their final position on the page.
Adhesive was then applied to the back side of these strips, either by applying rubber cement with a brush or passing them through a machine that would apply a wax adhesive. The adhesives were intentionally made semi-permanent, allowing the strips to be removed and moved around the layout if it needed to be changed. The strips would be adhered to a board, usually a stiff white paper on which the artist would draw the publication’s margins and columns, either lightly in pencil or in non-photographic blue ink, a light cyan color that would be ignored by the orthochromatic film used to make printing plates in offset lithography. For magazines, newspapers, and other recurring projects, often the boards would be pre-printed in this color.

Other camera-ready materials like photostats and line art would also be prepared with adhesive and attached to the boards. Continuous-tone photographs would need halftoning, which would require black paper or red film (which photo-imaged the same as black) to be trimmed and placed on the board in place of the image; in the process of creating the negative film for the printing plates, the solid black area would create a clear spot on the negative, called a window. The photographs would be converted to halftone film separately and then positioned in this window to complete the page (although this process was typically performed by a different worker, known as a negative “stripper”).
Once a page was complete, the board would be attached to an easel and photographed in order to create a negative, which was then used to make a printing plate.

Paste up was preceded by hot type and cold type technologies. Starting in the 1990s, many newspapers started doing away with paste up, switching to desktop publishing software that allows pages to be designed completely on a computer. Such software includes QuarkXPress, PageMaker and InDesign. (Wikipedia)