Srila Giri Maharaja “The Play of Mercy”

BKG folded hands

On Sep 19, 2015, at 8:55 AM, Swami BK Giri wrote:

Dear Sriman Nabadwip das Adhikari,

Please accept my humble obeisances in remembrance of our Divine Masters; Srila Prabhupda, Srila Sridhara Maharaja and Srila Govinda Maharaja.

Your very contemplative letter has given me much to think about and respond to. I will try my best to do so.

“It is easy for me to offer suggestions or critiques, but I do not have the capacity to produce the equal of what you have done”. That’s very hard to believe!

It’s very kind of you to say so. I know it is a sincere comment, one that is typical of a humble vaishnava.

However, I really feel myself to be very inadequate and insignificant when reading the heartfelt expressions of devotees for their guru. These are not always accurate indicators of deeper, more meaningful symptoms of adhikara, but they do, nevertheless, serve as significant reminders of the goal we seek, and our own inadequacies as disciples (students). Such reminders serve a useful purpose for both the writer and the reader.

Ideally we will serve the Lord’s devotees with kaya, mana, vakyah; our body, mind and words. So, words that encourage our progressive march, even if spoken by unknown persons, or unqualified persons, may serve to inspire us in very meaningful ways. Sri Bilvamangala Thakura was moved by the words of the prostitute he was visiting. According to him, she is responsible for his abandoning his materialistic life for the pursuit of pure devotion to Krishna; yet I do not know how much she was a devotee herself. It doesn’t matter. Krishna can use any vehicle to inform us we are nityera krishna dasa. Actually that message is being constantly broadcast by Paramatma, it requires only for the jiva to give attention to it.

In the past I often heard criticisms of devotees, especially those who were inexperienced in lecturing, who gave classes, but were not so polished or expert in doing so. But I never heard a class given by any practitioner that did not move me to think I derived some special benefit by hearing that class. Even the least experienced lecturer knew enough to say something memorable about Krishna, Sri Guru, Vaishnavas, Krishna Lila, etc.

I look for those memorable expressions and there seems to be a great abundance of them, often from unexpected sources.

Based on your long history of dedicated service in the line of our Sri Guru Varga, you are an expected source of such meaningful words, which bring many things to light and naturally touch my own sympathetic remembrances of our Srila Prabhupada and the wonders he worked through his disciples.

All of this is a long way of saying that I do not believe my comment to you should be “very hard to believe.”

I remember some of your articles in the newsletters you were publishing in the 90”s. I think it was called “Counter Point” or something like that, and also the more recent articles on your website.

I think you are remembering our “Vaishnava Transmission” a newsletter produced by Sriman Gokulananda. Back copies are still available via our website by clicking here. Sriman Sruta Srava also asked me to write for his “Vaishnava Toshani” and, when time permitted I did so. I was asked to write for “Counterpoint” but, unfortunately, never found the time to do so.

I especially liked the article called “The Pied Piper of San Jose”. I’ll have to go back and read it again.

I also like it. I have received many good reviews, including some from those who worship the ground Goswami Maharaja walks on. Even Sripada Janardana Maharaja told someone “It was well written.”, and I’m sure he would have preferred it had never been written at all. Of course we should not forget to express our gratitude to Sripada Goswami Maharaja, who provided much of the material and impetus for writing the article. We must also not forget the IAB, whose march behind him, along with their followers, inspired the tie-in with the Piper from Hamlin and later proved true both their behavior and the predictions of it.

To refresh my memory, I just did a quick review of some of the article. After doing so, it is difficult to believe I am the author. I cannot say Srila Gurudeva made me write it. At the same time, I cannot deny that it was he who caused me to do so. But for him, what purpose would be served in writing it? At the same time, I know I am not the pure instrument of His Divine Grace, whose pen moves according to his direction. Thus, though my name is there as the author, the true author remains a mystery to me.

The IAB seems to credit me with the authorship. Posting that article probably had a lot to do with my being labeled an offender and dis-acharya-fide by the IAB. Dis-acharya-fide is like bonafide; in reverse. Something like the way Hrdayananda Maharaja once spoke about Prabhu Rupanuga “He’s following varnashrama in reverse.” (brahmachari, grhasta, sannyasa—sannyasa, grhasta… ). Or, maybe their treatment of me is simply a further manifestation of their disregard for Srila Govinda Maharaja. Perhaps it is some of both.

I’m happy that you also liked the verse about mercy given in the book called “The Merchant of Venice”. In 1994 when we first started Ananta Printing one of our first commercial print jobs that we received was a book titled, “The Quality of Mercy”. The women who wrote it used that verse at the beginning of her book…

This shows that you are keen to find nectar wherever it may appear in the environment. Vaishnava, in its broadest sense, includes all devotees of God, be they Christian, Muslim, Hindu, etc. While most religious teachings in this world are very vague, depending more on sentiment than revealed knowledge of God, they nonetheless reveal Divine thought, if one knows what to look for. Almost all humans are inclined to believe in God. For those of us with such a belief, even the most optimistic view of ourselves reveals our un-godliness and tendency to commit sin, although we struggle against it. This leaves only one hope for our salvation: God’s mercy, coupled with our acceptance of it; as in the case you mentioned of Jagai and Madhai, whose acceptance was proven by their conversion from un-godliness to godliness.

While I have no doubt about the propriety of your application of mercy when you wrote:

“Prabhupada, your mercy is equal to Lord Nityananda’s, and this is not surprising. Your esteemed god- brother and friend, Srila Sridhara Maharaja, had declared boldly that you are the sakti-avesa of Lord Nityananda. That mercy I received from you, and you ordered me to distribute that mercy to others.”

I am doubtful about Shakespeare’s use in his “Merchant of Venice.”

PORTIA: The quality of mercy is not strain’d,

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice.

—William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

“And earthly power doth then show likest God’s, When mercy seasons justice.” appears to me to be more an “earthly” connotation of mercy than one “likest God’s”, for to be like God’s, it must be of God, dispensed by His devotee, without reference to any earthliness.

Spiritual (Godly) mercy should not be confused with the amelioration of earthly suffering or escape from earthly justice. Both of these earthly conditions may continue unabated while the jiva himself is being fully blessed by receiving mercy from the Lord’s devotee.

The duty of a king is that of a kshatriya, to punish wrongdoers. In that I am reminded of this verse from the Talmud: “Those who are merciful to the cruel will be cruel to the merciful.”

A king’s punishment relieves the wrongdoer of the burden of sin accumulated from his crimes. In such cases, there is mercy through justice. “By suffering the reactions to his previous karma, one may be relieved;” (The Search For Sri Krsna) But this is all within the plane of karma.

Spiritual mercy, the type you spoke of in your personal remarks, is a different matter entirely. It is that mercy we seek, and seek to dispense to others. If a king is saintly, he may also do so. If not, what benefit will be achieved by foregoing justice in the name of mercy?

You go on to elaborate, “I would say the qualification for receiving mercy is that one feels an urgent need to receive it. There is no other qualification than this. You were not from a brahmana family, you were not born in Nabadwip, etc., etc, yet, you rightly declare that you were the recipient of Srila Prabhupada’s (equal to Lord  Nityananda’s) mercy. I can only believe the qualification was your eagerness to get it, combined with Srila Prabhupada’s eagerness to give it”. Would you agree if I say that although it is true that the only qualification to get pure devotional service is intense greed to have it, still you need to have some qualification to get that greed.

Yes, I agree one needs “some qualification to get that greed.” But it is spiritual qualification, not material, as you go on to confirm:

“Visvanath Charavarti states in his book, “Madurya Kandambini” that bhagya, causeless mercy, although it seems to be just that, “causeless”, still there is a cause and that is ajanta sukriti, or the unknowing act of doing some service to a pure devotee. . . . “

You wrote: “I don’t remember being intensely eager to get pure devotional service… .“ You don’t remember, you were not aware of being attracted to Krishna’s devotional service:

In Bhagavad-gita it states that there are four reasons for coming to KC and one of them is distress. At the time of joining the movement I don’t remember being intensely eager to get pure devotional service, however, I due remember being in distress. I had no idea of what pure devotional service was. So, to sum it up, I think that some devotional service in a previous life led me to meet and serve Srila Prabhupada. Do I have a point or am i just blowing smoke–so to speak?

There are unlimited numbers of things that happen for which we do not remember or know the cause. Some call these things “accident” but there is no such word in the Vedas. It is adrshta:

Prabhupāda: Nothing happens accidentally. According to Vedic literature, there is no such word as “accident.” The word is adṛṣṭa: There is cause; I cannot see it. Adṛṣṭa. It is not in my vision, but there is cause. There is no question of accident. (Room Conversation—October 14, 1975, Johannesburg)

So, yes, you may not “remember being intensely eager to get pure devotional service.” Such a concept may even have been unknown to you on a “conscious” level. You may have only been aware of your “distress.” But very few souls in this world approach Krishna for the solution to their distress. Mostly people look to dharma, artha, kama and moksha for such relief. So something must have been working in the background, unseen by you, but nevertheless moving you in a particular direction. You may have seen the movement as accidental, but it was not. The cause may have been sukrti acquired in a past life, or in this life. And, it may have been ajñāta-sukṛti or jñāta-sukṛti, or a combination of both, but that acquired sukrti was working in your favor.

Bg 2.40

nehābhikrama-nāśo ’sti
pratyavāyo na vidyate
sv-alpam apy asya dharmasya
trāyate mahato bhayāt

In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear.

The “endeavor” being referred to is the endeavor for knowledge of the soul; specifically that knowledge that gives relief from the greatest fears: repeated birth and death and, impersonal liberation. In other words, knowledge of the soul’s eternal relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna.

Having once begun this endeavor, either knowingly or unknowingly, the process will continue with addition, but no subtraction.

Through this additive progression one’s yearning (greed) to attain the object of pure devotion (krishna prema) intensifies until it becomes all-consuming.

In every stage of development there are categories and sub-categories; small, medium and great (with similar division within each of those groups, and so on). When I mentioned your “eagerness to get it (mercy)”, that eagerness may have been small or great, detectable or undetectable, but I believe it must have been there. On the other side we are certain Srila Prabhupada’s desire to distribute mercy was so great that it was almost irresistible. Combine these two forces, and the outcome is predictable.

You may already know that Srila Prabhupada was contemplating this verse by Srila Rupa Goswami when he was thinking of a name to call his institution:

kṛṣṇa-bhakti-rasa-bhāvitā matiḥ
krīyatāṁ yadi kuto ‘pi labhyate
tatra laulyam api mūlyam ekalaṁ
janma-koṭi-sukṛtair na labhyate

“Pure devotional service in Kṛṣṇa consciousness cannot be had even by pious activity in hundreds and thousands of lives. It can be attained only by paying one price-that is, intense greed to obtain it. If it is available somewhere, one must purchase it without delay.”

No, I did not know that was Prabhupada’s thinking at the time. Now I know, which proves the value of your association.

Srila Prabhupad on many occasions preached that the only way to get this laulyam, greed, was by association with pure devotees. Consequently, he formed  ISKCON, the society of devotees, so that the members could practice pure devotional service, while associating with one another. I would say that wherever there is the association of pure devotees there you will find the true ISKCON.


Srila Saraswat Thakura introduced this system and our Srila Prabhupada expanded it:

@±30:00 Srila Sridhara Maharaja says he met a judge who was later placed on the supreme court. This man said very earnestly that in ancient India there was no organization by the sadhus, everything was an individual attempt. Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s reply included “sango sakti kalau yuge” which he heard from Srila Saraswati Thakura.

[Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu came and introduced sankirtana. In this age of Kali, if the holy name is chanted congregationally, the combined efforts will be fruitful (sango sakti kalau yuge). There is the difference between the preaching mission of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, and the so-called bhajana of the sahajiyas, or imitationists. TSFSK]

Srila Sridhara Maharaja said that Saraswati Thakura established temples so that service to devotees would be made widely available. But it was not limited to the service of pure devotees. He told us the idea was that the junior men would get the opportunity to wash the cloth of the sannyasis and engage in other such services to more senior devotees. In general, the juniors would serve the seniors and all, either directly or indirectly, would be serving in the line of gopī-bhartuḥ pada-kamalayor dāsa-dāsānudāsaḥ

I pray this finds you well in all respects.

Swami B.K. Giri