“The Value and Meaning of Sannyasa” – An Email Exchange With Avadhut Swami

BKG folded hands

Dear Sripada Avadhut Maharaja,

Please accept my humble obeisances.

As soon as I received your response, I happily posted your letter; “all of it.”

You may see it here.

If you think the title should be changed, or if you have any other concerns, I will try to address them.

The point of this whole discussion seems to have gotten lost.

To refresh your memory, it is this (to BPJ & BKA), particularly the words in bold text:

. . . really, is this why you left ISKCON to join Srila Sridhara Maharaja, Srila Govinda Maharaja and Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math; to support the creation of Crystal Springs, Chiang Mai, or wherever Crystal Springs 2.0 will be located?

Or, are you both creating your own Crystal Springs, following the Great Leader?

And at that time he told that when Bon Maharaja came back, for the first time from England, with (sulls? and a baron?), two German gentlemen. Then he left his danda and his sikha, and English dress, he came here. We asked him: “Why you are in such way, where is the sikha, where is the danda ?”

Bon Maharaj replied: “But all these things can’t stand there. That is another type of land. We can’t, these sort of things as a fashion, formality, won’t be accepted there.”

. . . So, then another time when Bon Maharaja was in European dress, was going to, Tipura? Here with collar and so many things he is going. I said: “What is this? You are going to meet an Indian king and you are a sannyasi, you are taking this dress and collar, all these things?”

Bon Maharaja replied: “You don’t know the present etiquette. Without this collar none should approach any gentleman.”

I told then: “You know the meaning of the collar but you don’t know the meaning of the sikha and the danda? The collar, this formality you know very well, but what is desired by the Vaishnava’s societies recognized symbol has got no value? But these ultra civilized persons, their fashions you pay to the cent per cent, what is this?” In this way he was captured, could not answer. In this way. Hare Krsna. And more or less converted him.

Srila Sridhara Maharaja “more or less converted” Bon Maharaja, but you will never convert BSG, because you are little puppy dogs to him; simply pets to keep on his leash for his amusement.

Some years ago now, as I recall, you asked me to take down a post referring to the IAB as a group of clowns. To honor your request, I did so within a few hours of posting it. Taking it down may have been a mistake on my part, because what I wrote was true, just as what you read above is true. It was the same point then, as now, only the circumstances are a little different.

clotheshorseSrila Sridhara Maharaja taught us to place a high value on the sannyasa vesha. After once taking it, he never left it. The same is true of Srila Swami Maharaja, Srila Govinda Maharaja and, except for a life or death situation, Srila Saraswati Thakura.

No one is compelled to take sannyasa, or wear the clothing of a sannyasi. But once receiving that merciful dispensation, high honor and distinction, it is disrespectful to the sannyasa guru to disregard what he has graciously bestowed for our highest spiritual benefit and the benefit of all those who see it.

Maharaja, it seems you cannot understand the sort of sentiments I’m expressing. Perhaps at some later time you will.

Without appreciation for the sentiment, I hoped you would at least appreciate the instruction, as given to us above by Srila Sridhara Maharaja. Srila Govinda Maharaja’s instructions were essentially the same. He did not even like a saffron brahmachari to leave that dress, even to sell books or do collection.

Anyway, the email was not originally intended for you. As I said, I copied it to you as a courtesy because you are one of the acharyas Srila Govinda Maharaja appointed. I hoped Sripadas Janardana Maharaja and Ashrama Maharaja would see the value in what I wrote to them. Obviously I expected they would see the value, and appreciate what I was saying, as they should be familiar with these things, even though you and the others might not be.

dec31timelineI never saw the kind of clothing Goswami Maharaja and you are now wearing being worn by any sannyasi in the presence of Srila Sridhara Maharaja; no one would have dared to do it. If anyone had, Guru Maharaja most likely would have immediately withdrawn their sannyasa, as he threatened to do, just hearing that one of his sannyasis had sometimes used saffron brahmachari cloth to disguise the fact that he had taken sannyasa.

As I wrote,

“Acharya Maharaja, Trivikrama Maharaja, Avadhuta Maharaja, they can be excused to some extent. They are so junior compared to the two of you. But you two have had experience with all these things. And BSG has already shown you exactly what to expect from him. Three years after Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s disappearance and BSG begins his Crystal Springs Mission. Now three years after Gurudeva’s disappearance, the same thing all over.”

As you know, I did not publish the email quoted just above. I wanted to give them some time to consider what I wrote, and respond to it. They have not responded, so I will now post it on my blog because, just as you may not know all these things, others also may not know, but I believe they should know.

The value and meaning of sannyasa, the mantram, the sannyasa ashrama and the sannyasa vesha are not cheap ornaments to be accepted and discarded casually. And, when that is done, disaster is sure to follow; just as Goswami Maharaja saw all the spiritual assets he had acquired through great sacrifice and dedication “vaporize” the last time he did this.

bsg1When he minimized the sannyasa vesha, he was minimizing all it represented as well. What had been graciously given by the hand of Srila Sridhara Maharaja, he threw away. Then, gradually, through a series of steps, his “empowerment” was withdrawn and his disciples, who had looked to him for spiritual shelter, had to be given over to Srila Govinda Maharaja for their spiritual safety. The temple, the Deities, the books, the recordings, were all discarded, one after the other and, as they were discarded, he slipped further and further away from the spiritual position he had attained.

When he did, he was not the only loser. He disappointed many devotees who had come to depend on him for a service connection.

As you noted, “if someone is sincere, according to our Guru Varga, nothing will stop his glorious service”. Those who were sincere were soon helped by Sripada Janardana Maharaja who picked up all the broken pieces left by Goswami Maharaja and put them together again, better than before, now with Srila Govinda Maharaja at the helm, guiding the ship.

Sripada Ashrama Maharaja also helped a great deal, as did many of the senior devotees in the San Jose area. I also tried to contribute something.

There are many histories, pastimes of the Lord and His devotees and so forth, that will help us now and in the future, if we will only remember them, and learn from them.

That is my only point. I am not trying to make trouble for anyone, or disturb anyone, as you seem to see it. I am trying to save others from trouble, the trouble that comes from forgetting who we are, who we are to serve and how we should serve.

The wise learn by hearing. Others learn by experience, mostly bad experience. I’ve had lots of opportunities to learn from both. What I have learned, I am trying to pass on to others. My gurus instructed me to do this. I am simply trying to follow those instructions.

I do have one question regarding something you wrote: “unfortunately spiritual centers under my direction are not open for you.”

You introduced Sripada Acharya Maharaja as the acharya for Russia. You “deferred” to him and promoted him as the worldwide acharya. You demanded he receive this special recognition due to the fact that Srila Govinda Maharaja named him as the acharya of the Navadwipa Math.

Sripada Goswami Maharaja also demanded all these things with similar justifications, such as “his position is unique” and so forth, whereas the rest of us, including yourself, apparently were not “unique” and should be regarded as having a lower position.

Sripada Goswami Maharaja, in his letter to me dated Jan 28, 2011, wrote the following:

For another perspective, the London Math Secretary, Devashis Prabhu’s reading of the will is, I think, fairly representative of the understanding of most:

“I read it that Srila Govinda Maharaj is making definite and unique statements about Srila Acharya Maharaj and my feeling is that he wants Srila Acharya Maharaj to be the head of the Mission and Sabha with the other Acharyas as his advisors, guides and mentors, while affording the other Acharyas jurisdiction as initiating Gurus and heads of the mission outside of India. As the Mula Math is given special recognition and central importance over all other branches of the mission, so too will this be with the Acharya of that Math.”

I don’t see this as “big mantras for big gurus” versus “little mantras for little gurus” but the application of spiritual etiquette and common sense.

Goswami Maharaja was making this point; “Srila Govinda Maharaj is making definite and unique statements about Srila Acharya Maharaj and my feeling is that he wants Srila Acharya Maharaj to be the head of the Mission and Sabha.”

I assume you still agree with this point, that “Srila Govinda Maharaj . . .wants Srila Acharya Maharaj to be the head of the Mission and Sabha.”

In addition to the above, unlike my Maths, Srila Acharya Maharaja’s photo is in the parampara in the temples of Russia, next to that of Srila Govinda Maharaja. This gives further weight to the idea that he (Acharya Maharaja) is the “head of the Mission and Sabha” after Srila Govinda Maharaja. Actually, I would say having his photo there, in this position, is conclusive evidence of this fact as determined by “the application of spiritual etiquette and common sense.”

Accepting Goswami Maharaja’s direction, as you do, you must also follow “the application of spiritual etiquette and common sense” he referred to above that dictates you accept “Srila Acharya Maharaj to be the head of the Mission and Sabha.”

You may recall writing a couple weeks ago in your open letter we posted on our website:

“I’m sure that in couple of days . . .Goswami Maharaj publicly will ask him forgiveness for breaking the Vaisnava etiquette.” — B.B Avadhuta Maharaja”

I assume, therefore, that you unintentionally broke “the Vaisnava etiquette” when you wrote to me; “unfortunately spiritual centers under my direction are not open for you.”

I suppose some lapse of memory occurred, or something like that, causing you to forget that all the “spiritual centers” are really under the direction of Sripada Acharya Maharaja, “the head of the Mission and Sabha.”

As such, wouldn’t it be better, following “the application of spiritual etiquette and common sense” that the “head of the Mission and Sabha” decide whether or not his centers will be “open” to me or not?

Maharaja, you may also want to send him a quick note to “ask him forgiveness for breaking the Vaisnava etiquette”, as you apparently did.

When you do, I will be happy to post it, along with any response you may have to me, if you like.

But Maharaja, why worry about me and any of the spiritual centers, either of yours or Acharya Maharaja’s? You must have forgotten again what I wrote you before:

Until Gurudeva’s direction is respected, I will not participate in events or places under the control of those who choose to substitute their own will for the Will of Srila Govinda Maharaja. To do so would set a bad example for others in our Mission. My conscience will not allow that.

You, however, as well as all the other acharyas and devotees of “Russia, America, Ukraine, Africa” etc, are most welcome at any of the centers under my direction. I am open to everyone.

Which reminds me, I want to again extend my invitation to you to join with me for an open meeting in Ukraine with the disciples of Srila Govinda Maharaja, and any others, who would like to understand Srila Govinda Maharaja’s Last Will and Testament, with regard to his appointment of acharyas.

Sensing your apprehension at sharing the stage with a sahajiya, I would be just as happy to have the discussion with the sahajiya “vaporizer”, His Holiness Sripada Goswami Maharaja.

You may assure him I will come prepared, having read Sri Guru and His Grace, which he stipulates as a prerequisite to discussing Srila Gurudeva’s Will. Just in case there are any other books that are also required reading, you may further assure him I have read the following books as well; all the books of Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami, all the books of Srila Sridhara Maharaja, and all the books of Srila Govinda Maharaja. I have also listened to every one of the more than 900 audio recordings of Srila Sridhara Maharaja that are posted on our website at Srila Sridhar Maharaja Audio Archive and viewed all the videos available there.

We have more than 1,000 recordings, both audio and video, in our Srila Govinda Maharaja Audio Archive. I have not yet listened to every one of them, but if there are any that Goswami Maharaja feels are required hearing, in order to understand the Will he wrote, I will be happy to make sure I’ve listened to them prior to our discussion, if he will send me an itemized list.

Now I have some prerequisites of my own. Should Sripada Goswami Maharaja accept my invitation, he will have to supply me with “true” signed copies or “true copies” of the following items, at least a week in advance of our discussion, so that I have time to familiarize myself with them:

  1. Srila Govinda Maharaja’s Last Will and Testament.
  2. All pages of the memo titled “Formation of International Boards”.
  3. “Deed of Endowment on 15th Aswim 1379 B.S., 19.10.1964 AD registered in the office of the Sub-Registrar, Nabadwip and recorded in Book No. I, Volume No. 40, from pages 29 to 48 being number 3744” (description missing from the annotated Will)
  4. Any and all other supporting documents necessary to perform a full and comprehensive reading of the Will.

If Sripada Goswami Maharaja cannot, or will not, supply the documents listed above (which I expect he possesses), and which should all be a matter of public record; then he must agree to limit our discussion to the unsigned annotated version of the Will that was displayed on the Navadwipa Math’s website during Aug. of 2011 (or any other version of the Will that I can read and approve of, one week in advance of the discussion), without reference to any other materials except the books and recordings mentioned above.

I pray this finds you well in health and spirits.


Swami B.K. Giri