The following is an email to a disciple of Srila Sridhara Maharaja who wrote to Srila Giri Maharaja in appreciation of his visit to our center in England during March of this year.
Dear _______________ ,
Please accept my humble obeisances.
It’s good to hear from you. I apologize for also being a bit “belated” with my response to your email.
It has taken me until now to get to the point where things are more or less back to normal here, after being away for six weeks or so. That said, my “eyes” for seva are always far bigger than my “stomach” can accommodate. So I am always running behind so much seva in front of me, but can never catch up to it.
I also hope to spend more time in the UK in the future and look forward to meeting with you and your friends there. It is obvious that you are all very familiar with the teachings of Krishna Consciousness and its philosophy, as presented by Srila Sridhara Maharaja and other acharyas. My hope is to develop a preaching field in England and establish a permanent Math there in the line of our Sri Guru Varga.
As you must be aware, I have been very disappointed to see some of the most prominent preachers of SCSM, while well read and highly qualified, academically, stray from the foundational basis of Krishna Consciousness, which is to present intact and unadulterated, not only the teachings (i.e. philosophy) of our predecessor acharyas, but also their accompanying instructions. It is not enough to preach in the form of an academic discipline, we must also teach by example a more difficult discipline, that of a disciple who, with perfect faith in Sri Guru, follows his instructions without deviation.
From my observations, many of my Godbrothers and Godsisters (directly or indirectly) are more knowledgable than I with regard to the scriptures, history and teachings of our immediate predecessor acharyas. They are not likely to learn much about these things from me. I may, on the other hand, learn much from them.
The fruit that should be produced from our knowledge is full faith in Sri Sri Guru Gauranga that manifests as a life of total dedication to the service of Sri Guru and Vaishnava, and the distribution of sukrti for the good of all jivas. This is what I am attempting to do in England. It is my humble prayer that you and your friends, with a similar interest, will help me to the extent you are able.
It was fairly obvious to me that the devotee you mentioned was suffering from some mental problems and I suspected he was either heavily medicated or perhaps intoxicated. It is unfortunate that he suffers in this way, but I cannot attribute the cause or blame to be with the actions of his father, or anyone else. We all suffer and enjoy the results of our own karma, activities and actions; either from this life, or previous lives.
“The environment is friendly” is certainly applicable in his case. His father and mother brought him so much spiritual good fortune through their association with our exalted acharyas and their followers. It is up to him to take advantage of this good fortune. It appears he has done so. As a result, he is in the association of such well-wishers as yourself and other devotees.
Free will and free choice to serve maya or Krishna are ever present with the jiva who is one hundred percent a spiritual entity and never subject to the dominion of maya, except to the extent he accepts her jurisdiction, rather than Krishna’s. If we were to accept mental or physical disabilities as being actual impediments to Krishna Consciousness, then we would have to reject as false propaganda the verse:
mukam karoti vacalam
panghum langhayate girim
yat krpa tam aham vande
sri gurun dinataranam
This gentleman may have some mental disability, but you can see that despite such disability he chooses to maintain a friendship with devotees. This soul is searching for and seeking Krishna and Krishna is giving direction from within, guiding him and helping him. His consciousness is pushing past the mental and physical planes to touch the spiritual plane. That is what I was seeing in him.
With all well wishes for your mission in the line of Srila Guru Maharaj and Sri Gaurasundara.
It is very kind of you to offer your blessings upon me. I am very grateful for that. I hope you will understand my position, as I see it.
My “mission” is certainly “in the line of Srila Guru Maharaja and Sri Gaurasundara”, but my real authority for continuing that line comes from Srila Govinda Maharaja who was given the sole responsibility for preserving and continuing that line by the Divine Will of Srila Sridhara Maharaja.
I was not initiated by Srila Govinda Maharaja, but he obviously entrusted me to continue what was coming from him, and through him.
What I believe was coming through him was the complete representation of the spiritual current that flowed from Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakura, Srila Gaura Kishora dasa Babaji Maharaja and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Srila Govinda Maharaja is certainly fully dedicated to the service of Srila Sridhara Maharaja, his spiritual master, and perfectly presents the conception of His Divine Grace, imbued with his example of perfect fealty to one’s guru. He also clearly and repeatedly acknowledged Srila Swami Maharaja, Prabhupada, as his siksha guru and another spiritual master, not only for himself, but the entire world.
Compared to Srila Govinda Maharaja I am very junior and, more than that, very unqualified to render meaningful service to my two initiating gurus, although I try my utmost to do so. Seeing my pitiful condition, and with the sanction and encouragement of my two initiating spiritual masters, Srila Govinda Maharaja has accepted the charge of directing my service and I accept his direction, exclusively, by way of following faithfully the injunction put forth in Sri Sri Prapanna-jivanamrtam, that our highest attainment will come through the qualified realization that we are the very least of the servants, of the servants of our Lord.
tatra suddhahankarasya paricayasamrddherabhivyaktih –
naham vipro na ca narapatir napi vaisyo na sudro
naham varni na ca grhapatir no vanastho yatir va
gopibhartuh padakamalayor dasadasanudasah
— Sri Sri Bhagavatas Caitanyacandrasya
The vivid revelation of the treasure within the identity of pure ego in self-dedication –
“I am not a priest, a king, a merchant, or a laborer (brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, sudra); nor am I a student, a householder, a retired householder, or a mendicant (brahmacari, grhastha, vanaprastha, sannyasi). I identify myself only as the servant of the servant of the servant of the lotus feet of Sri Krsna, the Lord of the Gopis, who is the personification of the fully expanded (eternally self-revealing) nectarean ocean that brims with the totality of divine ecstasy.” – the Supreme Lord Sri Caitanyacandra
Formally I have the necessary prerequisites to attempt to continue the line of our Sri Guru Parampara independently of Srila Govinda Maharaja or any of my Godbrothers, etc.
Like others, Srila Sridhara Maharaja sanctioned my initiating disciples in order to encourage me to do the work of continuing that line. Soon after receiving that sanction, however, my conscience was troubled with the remembrance of maryada-vyatikrama, crossing over a superior guru.
Because I had received permission from Srila Sridhara Maharaja to initiate my own disciples, I was not violating that injunction, but I not only wanted to direct others to the shelter of Srila Sridhara Maharaja, I wanted to come fully under his shelter myself by living as a member of his Mission and serving in his Math, under his direction. He mercifully accepted my appeal and gave me some service in his Mission, giving me the charge of one of his Maths.
Well before his disappearance his direction was clear; all those who had faith in him should place that faith in Srila Govinda Maharaja. It had been long established that, with the exception of Srila Sridhara Maharaja, Srila Govinda Maharaja’s authority was supreme in Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math. Srila Sridhara Maharaja had even directed us “If I say one thing, and Govinda Maharaja says something different, you must follow what Govinda Maharaja says.”
With this background and, recognizing the same guru tattva in Srila Govinda Maharaja that I had seen previously in Srila Prabhupada and Srila Sridhara Maharaja, it was an easy transition to move from accepting Srila Prabhupada’s spiritual authority, to Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s, to Srila Govinda Maharaja, as the unquestionable authority on all spiritual matters.
One might disagree with me, believing that my opinion is one of an extremist or fanatic, or caused by some blinders that keep me from seeing other gurus or vaishnavas as equal to, or superior to, Srila Govinda Maharaja. Without disparaging anyone I can only offer the same rationale as that offered by Srila Saraswati Thakura, as explained by Srila Govinda Maharaja:
We have also been fortunate to hear from the holy mouth of our Śrī Guru-pāda-padma that while speaking Hari-kathā to one servitor, Śrīla Prabhupād said, “Only Śrī Vṛṣabhānu Nandinī and my Śrī Guru-pāda-padma beautifully serve Kṛṣṇa at all times; I do not know, nor do I need to know, who else does or does not.” This is the ultimate example of devotion (niṣṭhā) to one’s mūl-āśray.
From a Bengali article written by Śrīla Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj
Originally Published in Śrī Gauḍīya Darśan
Volume 14, Issue 2, Tuesday, 1 December 1970
Substantially, I see no difference between the line of Srila Swami Maharaja, Srila Sridhara Maharaja and Srila Saraswati Thakura. In each of them I believe a close inspection will reveal the finest conception conveyed by Srila Rupa Goswami Prabhupada.
Srila Raghunatha dasa Goswami is recognized as our prayojana acharya and one of the most intimate associates of Sri Chaitanya. However, when he surrendered to Sriman Mahaprabhu, He gave him over to Sri Svarupa Damodara. As a result, he became known by another name, Svarupera Raghu, the Raghunatha of Svarupa Damodara.
After the disappearance of Lord Chaitanya and Sri Svarupa Damodara, Raghunatha dasa was utterly hopeless, being completely bereft of the association of his life and soul, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Sri Svarupa Damodara. Then he went to Vrndavana where he found them fully present in Sri Rupa and Sri Sanatana Goswamis. In the final analysis, we consider Sri Raghunatha dasa to be in the line of Sri Rupa Goswami, who Mahaprabhu selected to be the ultimate representative of his teachings.
I am a fallen soul. What can I say about these things? I know very little about spiritual affairs. But my nature is to always try to see things clearly and try to see the finest point of all ideas.
After much consideration I have concluded that my duty, following the disappearance of my two initiating spiritual masters, is to preserve and continue the mission of Srila Govinda Maharaja; that is the service I have been charged with. I do not see it as separate from the mission of Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja (“We shall see who is thrown out of ISKCON”—Srila Sridhara Maharaja, referring to himself.), or the mission of Srila Sridhara Mahraja, Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math. I see “the mission” as Srila Sridhara Maharaja saw all missions in the line of Srila Saraswati Thakura, they are all “Gaudiya Math.”
Still, each branch of Gaudiya Math has some distinction associated with the acharya of that Math. The distinction here is that I am trying to follow the direction of Srila Govinda Maharaja, while always seeking the blessings, help and guidance of Srila Prabhupada (Swami Maharaja) and Srila Sridhara Maharaja.
Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami considered his mission big enough to include everyone. Thus he invited his Godbrothers, and even their disciples, to work with him. He famously asked Srila Sridhara Maharaja to be the President of ISKCON. He also invited Srila Govinda Maharaja to accompany him on his world preaching tours, and Srila Sridhara Maharaja happily agreed with this proposal.
Likewise, Srila Sridhara Maharaja, and afterwards Srila Govinda Maharaja, happily accepted many disciples of Srila Swami Maharaja to serve in their missions. In a letter to me, Srila Govinda Maharaja wrote:
“Sometimes many words manifest themselves before me, like surrender, sacrifice, dedication, bonafide, devotion, and disciples. Finally, when seeing the appearance of Service then everything goes hazy in front of me. Only I can see at that time, the benedictine tree of divine aspiration. We are, no doubt, so insignificant and unqualified but our Gracious Masters are Divine. That is our only hope.”
In this lifetime I have little hope of attaining this Divine vision. But I aspire to it, and believe it should be the hallmark of “my mission”, which Srila Govinda Maharaja graciously bestowed upon me, as was his right to do, as it was previously his mission, bestowed upon him by Srila Sridhara Maharaja and so on, following in the line of Sri Rupa.
Reading your words to me “your mission”, hit a very tender nerve. It is a very painful thing to hear. Srila Swami Maharaja said about his ISKCON, “It is Mahaprabhu’s mission.” or “It is Krishna’s mission.”, I don’t recall his exact words. So, it is not my mission, it is the mission of my Master. But either way I cannot avoid taking ownership of it, as much as I would like to avoid doing so.
A father may bequeath a house to his son. The father’s house may have come to him in the same way from his father. The son may always remember the house as his father’s house, but if any legal matter comes, or any taxes are to be paid, the responsibility must be accepted by the son, the current owner. He cannot say “It is not my house, it is my father’s, take up these matters with him.”
It is so audacious to say, and disturbing to hear, “my mission.” But is it any less audacious to say “It is not my mission, it is Krishna’s mission.”? How can I say the mission I am overseeing and promoting is none other than the mission of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna?
From that perspective it may be better to say “it is my mission”, thus disassociating it, and all my personal defects, from anything remotely connected with Sri Krishna, Sri Rupa, etc.
If I use that tactic, then I am immediately left to wonder “If it is my mission, why would anyone want to join it or associate with it?”
Therefore, it seems to me the best approach is to accept all the responsibilities as if they are related to “my mission”; all the while doing my utmost to see that the Mission is non-different from that of Sri Chaitanya Saraswati.
I am very grateful to all those who offer their assistance to this mission, regardless of whose mission they perceive it to be. In every instance I know the service is intended, not for me, but for my Master, who describes how we should relate with Him:
jnatva mam santim rcchati
A person in full consciousness of Me, knowing Me to be the ultimate beneficiary of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attains peace from the pangs of material miseries. — Bg 5.29
Some seem to think their position is enhanced identifying themselves as disciples of Srila Swami Maharaja or Srila Sridhara Maharaja, ignoring Srila Govinda Maharaja. I do not want to venture to say what the actual position of such persons is. But from my perspective, no one is more realized in the precepts of these two great Vaishnavas than Srila Govinda Maharaja.
If anyone believes that I am, in some way, representing the conception of Srila Swami Maharaja or Srila Sridhara Maharaja, it is the highest honor one can receive. But I cannot believe such honor can come, except by the grace of Srila Govinda Maharaja.
Earlier I mentioned the despair felt by Sri Raghunatha dasa after the disappearance of Sri Chaitanya and Sri Svarupa Damodara. But his anxiety was even more pronounced after the disappearance of Sri Rupa, Sanatana:
Without the help of guru the disciple is nowhere. And [Raghunatha] Dasa Goswami Prabhu, the prayojana acarya of the whole Gaudiya philosophy, spiritual system, he has also remarked:
vyaghra-tundayate kundam, girindro ‘jagarayate
[Sri Prarthanasraya-caturdasaka – Fourteen Prayers For Shelter]
“After the demise, departure of Gurudeva, Rupa Sanatana, the Govardhana Giri which is the representation of Sri Krsna Himself is, it seems to me, just like a big python, jagar, coming to devour me. And Radha-kunda, the holiest place of the divinity of the Gaudiya-sampradaya, is like a tiger’s mouth coming to devour me, for the separation of Gurudeva. So much excitement they’re giving to me about the absence of my Gurudeva, my dearest and my highest spiritual guardian, who posed the most intense affection for me, to nurture me for spiritual purpose, he’s not here. How can I tolerate? My everything is gone; all vanishes with his departure.” — 78.03. _ . A [GBC]
This indicates that Raghunatha dasa felt himself even more dependent upon these two (Rupa, Sanatana) than Mahaprabhu Himself, or His most intimate servitor, Sri Svarupa Damodara.
Raghunatha dasa was so closely connected with Sriman Mahaprabhu and Svarupa Damodara that Srila Krishna dasa Kaviraja looked to him to describe the later pastimes of Mahaprabhu, that he would then record in Sri Chaitanya Charitamrta. Likewise, Sri Rupa Sanatana felt themselves most fortunate to hear descriptions of these pastimes from Srila Raghunatha dasa, and would often prompt him to speak about them.
One might initially conclude that Raghunatha dasa’s “mission” was in the line of Sri Chaitanya, or Sri Svarupa Damodara. But further examination shows that it was more in the line of Sri Rupa and Sri Sanatana Goswamis. Going even further in our analysis we will surely find Raghunatha dasa was following and continuing the line of Sri Rupa.
These lines are all the same; and all different. Such is the wonder of acintya-bhedabheda-tattva.
You are already aware of, and appreciative of, the “oneness” of “my mission” with the line of Srila Sridhara Maharaja. I hope you will also appreciate my view of the difference. If I did not point to this distinction, I would feel embarrassed that I had neglected to show proper regard and appreciation to His Divine Grace, Srila Govinda Maharaja; as it is, in the strictest sense, his line I am trying to promote and continue.
I pray this finds you well in all respects.
Swami B.K. Giri