Dear Srimati Kamala Devi,
Please accept my humble dandavat pranamas in remembrance of my Divine Masters.
Again, I thank you for your email, your well-wishes for me and your considered thoughts and opinions.
As you have touched on topics reminiscent of those I have heard discussed by our predecessor acharyas, I am indebted to you for helping me recall their words. However, after carefully considering your points, I conclude most of what you say is wrong and, when it is right, it is for the wrong reason.
My reading of your two letters tells me you are another self-inflicted (by your own choice) casualty of the guru-less disciple population which believes themselves to be disciples but, when asked who their guru is, either can not or will not respond or, respond (as you did) in a manner indicating they see their guru as one subject to the same relativity as themselves and is, thereby, unworthy of the full respect, adoration, etc., as defined in the shastras, due a guru by a disciple. As a result, when I wrote this to you: “Your name is familiar to me. I apologize, but I can’t place you, although I suspect we may have met in the past. Are you a disciple of Srila Sridhara Maharaja?”, rather than directly answer my question you responded thusly:
My diksa background is too complicated and personal to set out in detail, but I bow my head to the feet of those sadhus aligned with the conceptions and approaches flowing from Srila Bhaktivinoda, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, Srila Sridhar Maharaj, Srila Prabhupada and Srila Govinda Maharaj. They are all my param gurus.
As of late I have heard similar responses to my simple inquiry regarding someone’s initiating guru. If one believes it is too complicated to name one’s initiating guru it tells me there is some doubt in the mind of the disciple as to who their guru is. Hari Nama initiation is the primary initiation and is the foundation for one’s spiritual progress. One has either received Hari Nama from a particular guru, or they have not. It is not complicated. The process is very simple, and is this: a prospective disciple will approach a Vaishnava in whom they have developed sufficient faith that they are willing to commit to accepting his direction as non-different from that of Sri Krishna and will request initiation from him. When approached in this manner, the Vaishnava will examine the prospective disciple. If he believes the request is that of a sincere seeker he will agree to initiate that person as his disciple and, after doing so, the guru disciple relationship is established. The guru then recognizes the sincere seeker as his disciple and the disciple is confident of the eternal relationship now established with their guru. Just as we can have only one father, we can have only one initiating guru. Likewise, just as it is not complicated to know and say who our father is, it is a simple matter to know and say who my initiating guru is.
As to the next point, your “diksa background is too … personal”, I don’t see how identifying oneself as a member of a particular family can be too personal. Everyone has a father and mother and is known as their child. Thus, Krishna is known as Nanda-nandana, Yashoda-nandana, etc.
“Kṛṣṇa is known as Vāsudeva because He appeared in this material world as the son of Vasudeva. Similarly, He is known as Devakī-nandana, Yaśodā-nandana, Nanda-nandana and so on.”
—Bhaktivedanta Swami, SB 4.30.24, Purport
If one cannot identify one’s self as the child of a spiritual father, family lineage, etc., how can one’s faith develop with such uncertainty? It cannot. Likewise, how can one’s family lineage be so personal they are reluctant to discuss it? Even Prahlada Maharaja did not hesitate to identify his father as being Hiranyakashipu, although he was a great demon. How embarrassing! No, not really. It is just a statement of fact.
If you have “param gurus”, you have a diksha guru. You cannot have grandparents without having a parent. If it is not “too complicated and personal” to identify your grand-gurus, I fail to see why there would be any problem identifying your guru and responding to my question in a straight forward manner.
Srila Govinda Maharaja: In Guadalajara Math, that Math there are many disciples of Janardana Maharaja. This question also come, to me. And worshiping, Janardana Maharaja’s disciples, the Deities, what he will do? I told, you must put Janardana Maharaja’s photo there.
Clear conception. We are not envious. And we are not rule breaker. What is the rule, that we shall follow. Who is disciple of Guru Maharaja, he must follow this, line.
And, Janardana Maharaja, representative there now and he was guru there. He has disciple and disciple they are worshiping Deity. And disciple needs guru’s photo. What is the rule, that we shall follow. Who is disciple of Guru Maharaja, he must follow this line.
Disciple not will think, “My guru is small guru and Swami Maharaja is big guru.” That is offense to guru.
Disciple must think, “My guru is the supreme.” And, there, in the [parampara], my guru’s guru. My father is my father. It is very easy thing to understand. My grandfather may be a king. But, my father is my father. He’s my father.
My relationship with my father is very close. But blood relation with my grandfather. Grandfather my relative. And my father is my father, he is not relative.
And guru, his position, always supreme position. Guru Maharaja sometimes joking [sounds like] “chota guru chota hamsa, para guru paramahamsa” [“little guru, little mantra, big guru, big mantra” (chota guru, chota mantra, boro guru, boro mantra)]
Small guru, small mantram. And, big guru, big mantram, it is not. Joking, Guru Maharaja, that “chota guru chota hamsa, para guru paramahamsa”, it is not fact.
Guru means representative. Guru means incarnation of Krishna. And first test, that is the darshan, that is the vision of devotee, disciple. Then when he will enter in more and more deepest layer, level, then he will understand what is the form of his guru. There is Rupa Manjari, there is many things and supremely, it is extremely going to Srimati Radharani.
—Srila Govinda Maharaja “Hapaniya Morning Lecture (12/26/93)”
Recently Sriman Jagadananda dasa, one of my disciples, wrote this to me (emphasis added):
I am in no way crediting myself with having the position to give you “permission” to post anything I disclose, I am merely stating this so that you know I understand that anything we discuss should be frank and open. I have nothing to hide, and I feel that those who have something to hide do so in either fear or shame. I am not afraid of anyone or their opinion of me. All that matters is what your Divine Grace instructs and strengthening my awareness of Lord Krishna. You are my Guru Maharaja and my eyes are fixed on you.
I was very happy to read these words of his because they establish the proper vision of a disciple toward his guru. Unless a disciple has this sort of confidence and can think and behave in a similar way with respect to his or her guru, their progress on the path of Krishna consciousness will be stifled.
Clarity, even with regard to delicate, sensitive, difficult or problematic situations, ideas and actions is helpful and good for the practitioner of Krishna consciousness (emphasis added):
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.
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.
If you believe it is “too complicated” to say who your diksha guru is, I strongly urge you to consider the above and simplify the matter so there is no doubt for you or for any with whom you may have discussions of the matter.
Your email was very helpful to me and I pray mine may be of some help to you.
I want to respond to other parts of your email but may not have the time. I will try but, for now, I want to at least attend to the above as I believe it is the most crucial subject matter to consider.
I pray this finds you well in health and spirits.
Swami B.K. Giri