Dear Sripada Trivikrama Maharaja,
Please accept my humble obeisances in remembrance of our Divine Masters.
In pursuance of your phone call yesterday, and the ensuing conversation, I have a few questions.
One of the last things you mentioned was to the effect, as I remember it, that you want to continue to support Acharya Maharaja’s Indian Maths, take your disciples there and keep some sort of ongoing relationship with those Maths. Will you kindly tell me why you feel these things are important to you?
You said you agreed with me on most points, that you made mistakes and hope to correct them and so on. One of the mistakes (my words) was to initially establish Sripada Acharya Maharaja as the acharya of your Math in Brazil, even though Srila Govinda Maharaja said it was you who should be the acharya there. In opposing that idea I told some of the acharyas, perhaps you were one, that it will be easy to place Acharya Maharaja’s photo in the parampara on your altars, it will be very difficult to remove it.
Fully aware of the significance in doing so, I believe you installed BNA’s photo on your altar after that of Srila Govinda Maharaja. Is that correct?
From what I heard, you later added your photo after his. Is that correct?
What is the current arrangement? Is BNA’s photo still present in your parampara? If so, where is your photo in relation to his?
You may think these questions are of minor significance. I believe they are of the utmost significance. You must know why I believe this. Still, I will briefly explain.
It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. During Srila Govinda Maharaja’s time I think you know the standard that he expected for all Maths operating as Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Maths. The photos in the parampara would be arranged (right to left) in the following order after Srila Saraswati Thakura: Srila Sridhara Maharaja, then Srila Govinda Maharaja. Because I am a disciple of Srila Swami Maharaja I asked Srila Govinda Maharaja about having his photo on the altar. He said: “He would not want to digest the prestige of Srila Guru Maharaja.” However you wish to interpret that statement, it is clear Srila Gurudeva did not think it appropriate to have a photo of Srila Prabhupada included in the parampara of the altars of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math.
In addition, the photos in the parampara show the line of disciplic succession (parampara). This can get a little messy as we acknowledge the supremacy of the siksha guru parampara. There are other considerations also. In a simple form, however, those who view the parampara will naturally trace the line of succession as it is represented in the placement of the photos.
In my case, when I returned to our New Jersey Math as an acharya, after attending the functions in Navadwipa marking Srila Govinda Maharaja’s disappearance (April 2010), I first thought I should place Srila Prabhupada Swami Maharaja’s photo in the parampara indicating my connection with him. When my photo was added to the parampara, I had (shortly before) placed his photo there between the photos of Srila Saraswati Thakura and Srila Sridhara Maharaja. I had given a great deal of thought to this as I had begun thinking about it almost immediately after learning that I had been named to be an acharya. Still, I was uncomfortable with this arrangement and within a few days, remembering Srila Govinda Maharaja’s words, I removed Srila Swami Maharaja’s photo from the altar. I placed it instead on a table next to the chairs of the acharyas in our temple room.
I will explain why I decided to take this action.
Srila Govinda Maharaja was the undisputed acharya of this Math prior to his disappearance. Before that, this Math was established at the direction of Srila Sridhara Maharaja as one of his Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Maths. After receiving his blessings to establish a Math for him I asked him if I could place a photo of my Gurudeva, Srila Prabhupada on the altar. He agreed his photo could be there and I included it. It remained on our altar in the parampara until Sripada Parvat Maharaja raised an objection to it during a time when he was staying here. I told him this had been sanctioned by Srila Sridhara Maharaja but I was not fully at peace with the matter and asked Srila Govinda Maharaja about it at the first opportunity. It was then that he told me it was inappropriate for the altar of any Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math. I can cite many discussions about this issue, but I don’t have the time to include them all herewith.
I didn’t argue with Srila Govinda Maharaja or even tell him that Srila Sridhara Maharaja had previously approved my inclusion of Srila Prabhupada’s photo in the parampara. For me, the way was clear: Srila Govinda Maharaja is the acharya and I must respect his decision and be obedient to it. I didn’t second guess his thinking or try to persuade him that I had some superior knowledge on the matter (instructions coming directly from the lips of Srila Sridhara Maharaja), or any such thing. I simply accepted Srila Gurudeva’s opinion on the matter.
These sorts of things happened many times. When I disagreed, which sometimes happened, I didn’t argue with His Divine Grace; although I did ask many questions to clarify different points. I only recall two points of serious disputes I had with Srila Gurudeva. One was a point of philosophy concerning paramatma. The other was a matter concerning the use of the term “madhurya rasa.” On the first point I eventually prevailed. On the second I stood no chance arguing about the usage of a Bengali word with a native Bengali Vaishnava.
On a third occasion Srila Gurudeva could probably sense I was about to argue a point with him and he simply cut me off saying “I am the acharya.” Yes. He is the acharya. Argument finished.
And there it is, the whole thing in a nutshell. He is the acharya and the acharya is absolute. Borrowing some passages from the article of mine you read recently:
That way you will choice āchārya: whom you can give your full respect about religious matter. He is perfect man. His direction can give us kalyāṇ, maṅgal, auspiciousness. Under his guidance we will be benefitted. This way you will choice your āchārya. But when one you choice, then cannot say very easily anything against him. And he will try to run the sevā and everything, and governing body will give advice to them.
. . .
That is, we must expect our friends who will be in the governing body, he have full faith to his āchārya. Otherwise, he not will come to the governing body. When we will choice someone in the governing body, we can believe he has full faith to the āchārya. And what will past [pass], āchārya has veto power. And why that is veto power? Āchārya what will say, that they will follow happily and respectfully. That is our activity of Vaiṣṇavism.
—93 GB Meeting 1A
Srila Govinda Maharaja said how we should adjust with the fact that Srila Prabhupada, Swami Maharaja, is held as a highly esteemed Vaishnava (even shaktyavesha avatara of Sri Nityananda Prabhu) among the servitors of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math. He said something like this: “You can place his photo anywhere (but the parampara) and it can be as large as you want. He is a worshipable Vaishnava and we must worship the Vaishnava’s. There is no problem with that.”
Now I am serving the chair of the acharya. Who has placed me in that chair is the previous acharya of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math. Only he could authorize such service. Neither did it require the vote or approval of any other person or persons. Srila Govinda Maharaja knows me very well. He knows I am a disciple of Srila Prabhupada and still he entrusted me with the chair of the acharya as one of his successors. I must believe the reason is he had some trust in me that I would be faithful to him and also continue his line of shiksha. Others may be thought to continue the line of Srila Swami Maharaja (Incidentally all the quotations of Srila Sridhara Maharaja that BSG posted to imply he should be accepted as an acharya of SCSM, were never intended to have that meaning when Srila Sridhara Maharaja spoke them. At that time he was encouraging BSG to continue the line of Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami, in his own Temple, independent from SCSM.). Still others may believe they will continue the line of Srila Sridhara Maharaja, while ignoring Srila Govinda Maharaja, as I believe BSG is attempting to do.
My belief is this: no one will be successful in any of their attempts absent the sanction and grace of Srila Govinda Maharaja. Those who want to please Srila Swami Maharaja and/or Srila Sridhara Maharaja will only be successful if they have accepted a position as a particle of dust at the lotus feet of Srila Govinda Maharaja. For the disciples of Srila Swami Maharaja and Srila Sridhara Maharaja, our only hope for success is from the position of recognizing our ourselves as being the most meager and insignificant servants of His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Sundara Govinda-Deva Goswami Maharaja. Considering our circumstances, I see no other way of satisfying our Divine Masters who departed from our midst before we had attained the age of majority (an adult). Then what to speak of others? Especially Srila Govinda Maharaja’s direct disciples?
Considering all these things, I decided our parampara should exactly reflect the fact that in the Maths named by Srila Gurudeva, where I was selected to be his successor, as his successor, my photo should follow immediately after his. Furthermore, as it has always been in Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, there would be no photo of any acharya of any other Math.
What I have written immediately above seems obvious. I suspect it is the practice followed in Navadwipa SCSM with regard to Acharya Maharaja. I doubt there are photos of any of the other acharyas selected by Srila Govinda Maharaja included there in the parampara alongside the photo of Acharya Maharaja. Assuming I’m correct, it should be obvious that this should be the standard for the Maths of each of the other acharyas as well.
As I have said many times, Srila Govinda Maharaja named one acharya for Brazil, etc. He never said Acharya Maharaja should be the acharya for Brazil or any Math outside the Indian group. Thus, my question as to whether or not his photo is in the parampara of the Math where Srila Govinda Maharaja said: “Sripad Trivikram Maharaj is a respected person there and he will be the Acharya of Brazil.”
You told me yesterday that although you were initially reluctant to accept Srila Gurudeva’s order to become acharya of Brasil, you realized your mistakes and later, attempting to fulfill his desire, accepted the post of acharya. Naturally, then, the questions I pose above arise in my mind as a means to further understand your thinking and how you are proceeding.
As we discussed yesterday, I don’t care much for secrecy in matters I consider to be relevant and of interest to a wider group of devotees. I generally try to compose my letters carefully, considering my writing to be little different from discussions I might have in a group of devotees where such discussions might be recorded and, or by word of mouth, distributed to others. I look forward to your reply and humbly suggest you consider following a similar practice to that which I just described.
I pray this finds you well in health and spirits.
Swami B.K. Giri