A Short History of Srila Sridhara Maharaja & The Gaudiya Math
Prabhupada [Prabhupada refers to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhupada throughout this chapter] first saw me on the birthday celebration of Mahaprabhu in Mayapur. He was giving a lecture to so many gentlemen who had come from Krsnanagar--educated persons. When the celebration was finished, Prabhupada told the guests not to cheat him by engaging in service to Krsna and then going home and engaging in worldly affairs. He was saying that, next you will say, "Oh, I have some important business, after that I will come." No, no. If there is a fire and we say that only after extinguishing the fire I am coming, that is also not necessary. If the fire bothers the whole world, you do not lose anything. Rather, you can help the world by discriminating what is burning, and you will be happy. Forcibly Prabhupada was speaking. At that time I felt so much intense necessity for Krsna bhajan. I didn't want to be anywhere else in this living world. So, I had to throw my head here. I selected the restriction that I must be a disciple here. After that, my wife and my mother died. And then in the last part of April, I joined the Math. Bharati Maharaja, Yadav told me, "Oh, you have a better chance." I answered, "I have only two younger brothers. They will finish their reading and take to their vocation and then I shall come away." "No, No," he said, "Your wife is gone. Krsna has removed your wife and Krsna has removed your mother. He has done enough for you. Again if you neglect, perhaps some other austerity will come and this life will be spoilt--no hope." I asked him what he thought I should do? "Come immediately." I took that advice and joined immediately. I was living together with my two brothers in a hostel and they came with me there and they went back crying. I remained in the Math, the Calcutta Math, for some time. Then I was taken preaching. I was requested to do some service in the press there, but I had no liking for the press work, proofreading, etc. I had much liking for the preaching, to go on kirtana and preaching. So, next I was sent on a preaching tour. First stop was Dunmarkanda Math and from there to Benares and from there to Vrndavana and sometimes Nagar kirtana. Then I was taken to Delhi. There, we collected from door to door.
Then Kuruksetra Math was established and I was made the Math commander there. I was there alone. Kuruksetra, was a solitary place at that time. When there was a solar eclipse, it was a great rush affair-lakhs of people thronged there. Otherwise it was a solitary place. First Delhi. From Delhi, Kuruksetra. In this way, I passed about two, three years. Then the Delhi Math was founded and I was in charge there. There was a spirit of preaching. Every year we were to come back to the Calcutta Math celebration for one month, in August. Then I was taken by Bon Maharaja in a party towards Madras side to install footprints of Mahaprabhu. Then we came back and the Bhag Bazaar Math was opened. From a rented Math, the Deities were removed and taken in a chariot to the Bagh Bazaar Math. There was a one month celebration there. After that Prabhupada went on installing padupitha up to Mangalgiri. Then we went to Madras. Prabhupada declared the opening of the Madras Gaudiya Math. He put us there and rented us a house. Bon Maharaja was the leader. He was the senior sannyasi. Meanwhile, I was recommended for sannyasa by Bon Maharaja. My duty was to approach the people and introduce the sannyasis and the work of the canvasser, more or less. Bon Maharaja said, "He is not a good canvasser, but he is a good preacher. He can speak Hari-katha very well." Then I was given sannyasa in 1930, October. We preached in Madras for three or four years, then Vrndavana parikrama, the whole Vrndavana parikrama, and we chanted there. Then Bon Maharaja went to England and I was in charge of the Madras Math. The temple was constructed mostly in my time. When Bombay Math was opened, I was again taken there. And for some time I did service there, on the Bombay side. After that, I was freed from the Bombay Math and was on a general party with Prabhupada, always staying with Prabhupada and preaching here and there in different places in Bengal. In this way, I passed 1936 and 1937. In 1937, in the morning, Prabhupada left. Before this Prabhupada wanted me to go for preaching to London, but I told him that I am not fit, I can't follow their intonation and I can't mix freely with them, so I will pray for it, but I won't be able to show any satisfactory work. However, if you order, I must go. Then he sent Goswami Maharaja instead of me.
When Prabhupada was sick I attended his sick bed. Anyhow, just one day before his departure he called for me and he asked me to chant Sri Rupa Manjari Pada and at that time I was not sitting in the front. I was hesitating and Kunja Babu, Tirtha Maharaja, asked Puri Maharaja to sing. Then he began singing and Prabhupada, he felt dissatisfaction, "I don't like to hear the tune, the sound. " So Puri Maharaja stopped and I had to chant Sri Rupa Manjari Pada. And the others said that Prabhupada has given you admission to Sri Rupa Manjari rasa. Rasa-seva section, you have been given admission thereby. Before this, about one year back, I composed a Sanskrit poem about Bhaktivinode Thakur and he was very happy to find this sloka. When I first showed it to him he remarked, "very happy style." Then next I heard that he told Sravati Maharaja that, "this poem is so fine, it is not written by him, it is written by Bhaktivinode Thakur himself, through him, it is so very nice." Then once he told to another gentleman, Aprakrta Prabhu, Bhakti Yadav Goswami, that "I am satisfied that after me what I came to say, that will stay, that will remain, I find in this sloka the siddhanta. " Then, before this also, I wrote some article in Gaudiya Prakash. And he remarked to Sramana Maharaja, the editor of Gaudiya Prakash, "If you can gather these types of articles and publish them in your paper, then the standard of your paper will be raised. Such articles are desirable to be published." Anyhow, Prabhupada appreciated my understanding, my realization.
Sastra-Nipuna Sridhara Maharaja
What I would read, I would read carefully. So I caught some errors in The Gaudiya, the weekly reading paper and also in the Brahma Samhita that we published. I took the errors in the Brahma Samhita to Vasudeva Prabhu, but he said, "You have found some errors, but I cannot find hundreds of errors in my own work." In this way; and I did not take it to Prabhupada's notice. But it must have come to his notice, that Sridhara Maharaja detected all these things. So, on the Vyasa-puja occasion, Prabhupada published an address and there he mentioned before my name Sastra-nipuna Sridhara Maharaja--that he has very deep knowledge of the scriptures.
In Rajavjabor I collected funds for the Madras temple. And there is also a history. A new man, he had been appointed Diwan of Jaipur and that is Adi-vasi area [original primative inhabitants], so the British introduced there a special sort of rule. The Diwan is more powerful than the King. I came from Madras with a letter of recommendation to the Raja of Jaipur from the officiating Chief Justice, Mr. Ramesvam. Then the Raja promised to pay the cost of the Madras temple, but he said, "I am only giving my signature, but the money will be paid by the Diwan, so meet him." I heard that the Diwan was at heart an atheistic man, so I hesitated to approach him. "No, you are king, you are master, so you will pay, it is better in this way." But he pressed me very much, "No, you will have to go to meet the Diwan." Then, when I met the Diwan, he said, "Oh, no, I am the last man to pay you ten thousand to build a temple in Madras. If you would build it here, then I could consider the case. If we get any excess money, I must use it to help the local people, not for this luxury, to construct a temple so far away in Madras. Go there and collect funds and construct your temple there." In this way he spoke. Then I thought that, it is a hopeless case, so drastic medicine must be applied. I came out with this sloka of Bhagavatam,
vraja-vadhubhir idam ca vishnu
I know that you want to help the Adi-vasis. I also want to help the Adi-vasis. But your help is in a particular way, my help for them is in another way. It has been said in the scripture that to hanker for a thing is heart disease. Sukadeva Goswami mentions in the Bhagavatam: kamam, hrd-rogam, "I want this, I want that, I want thousands, I want crores, millions." That is heart disease and not real. When I was a hog, I devoured a hillock of stools, but hunger is not abated. When I was an elephant I finished a whole forest, but hunger not finished, so hunger can never be finished in this way. So this is heart disease. Sukadeva Goswami in Bhagavatam has given the medicine for this: vikriditam.
When you can accomodate the Absolute to have His full play, unrestrictively, He has the use, His ownership is with everything, every atom, if you can accomodate with such conception of the environment, of the Absolute, then we can get out of this heart disease.
The man was impressed. With tears he said, "Swamiji, I believe in God." I said, "Your eyes are giving evidence to that." "I shall pay your money. You go to Madras-I shall pay." Then he paid the money and the Madras temple was constructed by that. Hare Krsna. My preaching was straight dealing, dealing with the truth, the plain truth, that was the nature of my preaching, not any indirect way.
GBC Elects Vasudeva as Acarya
After the disappearance of Guru Maharaja, there were the trustees and they said that a Governing Body (GBC) must be formed, so on the tenth day after his departure a Governing Body was constructed. The governing body decided to elect an acarya and the majority of the Governing Body voted for Vasudeva Prabhu to be acarya. [Srila Sridhara Maharaja declined being a member of the Governing Body].
One of the trustees was Vasudeva Prabhu and the other two trustees wanted Kunja Babu to become acarya. Many senior disciples like Nemi Maharaja objected. He said that when a branch is directly connected with the trunk and he is then asked to connect himself with another branch, is that possible? This was the argument he forwarded. My advice was asked by Professor Sanyal [as impartial and respected by all]. I started pleading the case of Vasudeva because he was like my elder brother. I said, "According to Srila Rupa Goswami the service to a devotee is the greatest and it is at the same time service to the Supreme Lord. Although the bhakta is only a part, but yet by serving the bhakta even Lord Krsna is receiving the service, is being served. By trying to serve the Lord directly, the Lord might be served or may not be served. But by serving the Lord's devotee, definately both the devotee as well as the Lord, is served thereby. The Srila Rupanuga vicar according to Srila Rupa Goswami is that once you serve the sadhu, the guru, vaishnava, then the Lord is also being served. So that is how I approached this particular situation. That if an elder godbrother is being served and through him our guru is being served, then we are being successful in our devotional life and when the senior godbrother is a very favorite of the Lord, is dear to the Lord, then I am serving the guru through him and ultimately the Lord Himself. This is the conclusion. My own speculation might say so many things but this is the actual conclusion of the sastras. So when I am approaching such a subject I should be very careful so as to not commit any mistake. I should always see the brighter side to avoid any mistake. We must eliminate all the undesirable elements and try to see the brighter side of everything. Judging it very exhaustively in order not to make any mistake and then even if we fail in that endeavor, then of course there is nothing left for us to do. There is no recourse to that. Do you understand?"
Srila Sridhara Maharaja further related, "I do not know sannyasi or grihasta or anything else. We are attracted not by the external grandeur of Gaudiya Math, but by the teachings. The siddhanta has attracted us and whoever knows the siddhanta, he must be acarya, whether he be a brahmacari or any other thing. The siddhanta, according to that; therefore, Vasudeva Prabhu [who could best represent the siddhanta ] is the best choice." And Professor Sanyal and Sundarananda all supported Vasudeva Prabhu. But several older sannyasis were already very eager to get independence, they and both the trustees were on the other side, opposing Vasudeva Prabhu. Bon Maharaja was excluded from the Governing Body at first--he had been passing his days in something of a revolt, with some difference of opinion with Prabhupada about western preaching. He was living a little separately from the mission. But after the demise of Prabhupada, when he came he hankered so much, so he was included on the Governing Body. There were already twelve in the Governing Body and when Bon Maharaja was added it was thirteen. Then Bon Maharaja went against the side of Vasudeva Prabhu, making five votes on that side and eight votes on the side of Vasudeva Prabhu. That meant a three-fourth majority or more on the side of Vasudeva Prabhu. So, they were defeated. They left and rented a house. But unfortunately, later a defect was found in the character of Vasudeva Prabhu.
Then I thought, I tried my best to purify the mission according to my conscience but it is not to be so, so I must leave the mission, go on, go outside the mission, go and try to fight again to purify the mission according to my ability. That was my mentality, but Madhava Maharaja, Vinod Babu, Kesava Maharaja, and Goswami Maharaja said "No, we can't tolerate that a false man will be in the place of our Guru Maharaja. We can't tolerate that. He is the Acarya of the Gaudiya Math. That is the next position of Guru Maharaja. That this position is overthrown by such a character as Vasudeva Prabhu, we can't tolerate that. I was indifferent and they were fighting. Then Vinod Babu and others made a case. But like a coward, I couldn't meet them at that time. [Satsvarupa Maharaja writes in The Lilamrta, Vol. 1, p. 100, that "Sridhara Maharaja disaffiliated himself from the factions of the Gaudiya Math."] I went to Vrndavan leaving the association of the Math. I didn't fight. They tried their best to keep me with them, but I told, "No, it is not possible for me to remain in the association of these worldly elements." Then I went to Govardhana and stayed in Vrndavana for a month, finishing the Kartikka there. I took Govardhana shila and came here and rented a house for two rupees a month. And here I began my life.
Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math
Sakhi Babu secured this plot [in Navadwip], by his own money he purchased. And here I began my heart, in that cottage. In 1942, on Ratha-yatra day, I entered the cottage here with Govardhana shila. Before that, I waited for some time with Kesava Maharaja in a rented house and sometimes in Nagpur Math with Yadhava Maharaja and Madhava Maharaja. In this way, when I came here I was separated from them. Only one, Gopinandana Prabhu, was here. Then gradually more came, Narasing Kaviraja with a few Oria gentlemen and also Bhuterea Narasinghadeva. Then Govinda Maharaja, who at that time was called Gaurendu Brahmacari, and others came. Krsnadasa Babaji asked me, "you please give attention to this Gaurendu Brahmacari, he is very intelligent and qualified." I started to give a little more attention to Gaurendu Brahmacari and two of the temple devotees could not tolerate that. I wanted to give Gaurendu Brahmacari my education, Sanskrit education, training, etc., and they could not tolerate. They gave a proposal that we must prepare a deed. By this time, 1943, this building had been constructed. They demanded a document, three trustees, two godbrothers and myself. I asked them by what law it would be managed according to them. The reply came--according to the majority of the trust. Then, that means that you two when combined, can do anything and everything with me that you like. Then I told that, "I avoided so many others. I came to live alone. That does not mean that you both will guide me. I can't accept this." Then they began to revolt and disturb. Then there was a compromise. Madhava Maharaja and Goswami Maharaja came and gave a few thousand rupees. Five thousand rupees was in the bank and also some seven thousand or something was to be paid to them and I could be here with absolute proprietorship. Goswami Maharaja came to my help. He gave some loan, four thousand and Yadava Maharaja and others collected some funds from different parts and seven thousand was given out. From that time, I am here in this way. And I do not go for preaching very often. I am always sitting here and very rarely do I go out, from that time. And Madhava Maharaja was always accusing me, "You are deceiving the educated section of the people. Sitting here idle, you are deceiving the people. You have quality, capacity to preach Mahaprabhu's instructions to the educated section especially, but you don't do so. You are deceiving them." His charge was always with me, whenever he came. Almost every year after finishing Gaura Purnima celebration, he used to visit me and he was charging. And also every year at the Calcutta Math celebration where I used to go and deliver lectures in Madhava Maharaja's Math. In this way days passed.
Back to Godhead Magazine Starts
I met with Swami Maharaja in Allahabad first, when I was white clad. After that I came here and went to Madras. In about 1930 perhaps, in Allabhabad Swami Maharaja was an agent of Kartik Ghosh and Bengal chemical and he was taken to the Math. At that time Prabhupada was not there. In 1933 or so, after Vraja-mandal Parikrama, Prabhupada came back to Allahabad for the foundation ceremony. At that time Swami Maharaja came in connection with Prabhupada and took initiation. At that time, he was also a businessman. He was in Bombay with his family and we met several times there. He used to always come to the Math. Then Swami Maharaja, when I was here, he left Bombay and opened his center of business in Calcutta. In his next house, on the ground floor was his laboratory. And on the first floor, we subleased four rooms from him. He used to come to me for discussion of Bhagavad Gita, and at that time, Back to Godhead was first issued--about 1944 or so. We had very intimate relationship with him at that time. He used to come here, we used to live there, very close connection with him at that time. Perhaps in the first issue of Back to Godhead, one of my articles is there: Guru and His Grace. And then another issue also. Vyasadeva was a great dictator of the scriptural world. Another article was there perhaps. We have connection. Hare Krsna Hare Krsna. Gaura Haribol, Gaura Hari. And afterwards, I think my relationship with Swami Maharaja, you are already acquainted with that. Gaura Haribol. Gaura Haribol. Nitai-Gaura Haribol.
Only Sridhara Maharaja Can Approach Vasudeva
Krsnadasa Babaji was sent to me. No one could approach Vasudeva Prabhu, they are all very much afraid of his personality. "Only Sridhara Maharaja can approach him. Though he is his greatest enemy, still he has some affection for Sridhara Maharaja." Vasudeva told me that Prabhupada had done many things that cannot be supported according to the scriptures and he incited that, "your name is Sridhara Maharaja. Where is this name mentioned?" I told him "in Gaudiya Kanthahara, you have all printed this and Ananta Samhita. You have this collection of quotations and one hundred and eight names of sannyasis." Vasudeva said, "Oh, that is all false, concoction. No Ananta Samhita. We have concocted this name and Sachin Pandita has given the Sanskrit. So, it is all false. Therefore, we cannot follow strictly the principles of Prabhupada." Then I gave him this answer. In the Veda and Upanisad, there is sin also. The first consideration is Risi, but if we consider that Srimad-Bhagavatam is full-fledged theism and that it is the primary conception of theism-full fledged theism is given in Bhagavatam and Mahaprabhu. And those persons who preach that full-fledged theism and find expression within their heart, anything added to that, it appeared to me, is greater sastra than the Veda and Upanisad. I asserted this before him. Then he remarked, "of course what you say may be true, but that man who feels any suggestion to create new things to help this movement of full-fledged theism must be svarupa-siddha. If he is svarupa-siddha, then what you say is true." That means that he thinks that Prabhupada is not svarupa-siddha. I thought that this was a hard thing, so I became silent. He also became silent. But anyhow, in my talk with him, I found that he may have some compromise with Kunja Babu. I wrote to Madhava Maharaja, saying that I have talked with Vasudeva Prabhu and I felt that a compromise may be affected very soon.
After some time a proposal came to me that I approach Vasudeva and try to make a compromise; otherwise, by the way of litigation we won't be able in our lifetime to reach the solution. Then I approached Bhag Bazaar Math and I asked them that if any compromise was possible, I had come to take that. They said that they were not bold enough to approach Vasudeva with any proposal or compromise. They said that if I was, I could write him in Allahabad. I wrote a letter from there, the Bhag Bazaar temple, to his Allahabad address. Then Vasudeva came suddenly to the Bhag Bazaar Math. I was living there with Swami Maharaja at Sita Kanta Bannerji Lane, Calcutta. They told me that he had come and I went and met him. Then he told me that he didn't care for any future consequence. "Yes, I know that."
I told Vasudeva that "you are in the chariot, well equipped and Kunja Babu is on the earth standing with no weapon, but the law is on his side. Still he will compromise. I also think you should do that. They also rendered important service at the time of Prabhupda as you did, we think.
They should not be cheated from their future service of the mission. Kunja Babu is almost the co-founder with Prabhupada. And the court case will come very soon and attract many people and a few things will come against you, your character. You mind that." "I don't care for that," he said. "That also I know, that you don't care for anything, but there is another party that has got their society--high society--and they will be very much blasphemed in faith. Will you be able to tolerate that? The blasphemy of the other party who has got their good society in Bengal." Then he was calmed, "yes, you try. I am your friend, not your enemy. Still I am your friend. Then you try for compromise." Then I tried and in the middle of the negotiations, Kunja Babu said, "you please take me to him and then everything will be finished." I knew better. Still, I told him that if he wanted I could take him to Vasudeva's quarters. Vasudeva Prabhu and Kunja Babu met together, and the negotiation fell totally. But I hadn't run to Vasudeva's Math; I am here and I must affect compromise. So I said to the both of them, "You don't go from here. I pray to you." And again I connected both the Maths. The Bhag Bazaar Math was the most valuable, so both the parties demanded the Bhag Bazaar Math. Kunja Babu himself had tried his best to construct that temple. So he wanted it. And Vasudeva Prabhu, his party saw that Mayapura was under direct control of Prabhupada's will. If this compromise fails and in the future is again introduced into court, then they won't be able to keep possession of Mayapura which is under direct will of Prabhupada, but Bhag Bazaar has a separate document. The lawyer prepared a separate deed that the successer of Prabhupada will occupy it. So, basically, the Bhag Bazaar Math party thought that it would be safe to keep possession of the Bhag Bazaar temple and were uncertain of the position of Mayapura. They both also said that Bhag Bazaar Math was a preaching center of the whole world, an important position. So both demanded it.
I put a proposal, in other places outside Bengal the temples will be divided equally, but in Bengal, it is Bhag Bazaar Math versus all other temples in Bengal. I gave this formula to them.
Only Bhag Bazaar Math on one side and all other Maths including Dakka, Mayapura, and others. Then they consulted and the devotees at Bhag Bazaar Matha did not leave Bhag Bazaar Math. And Kunja Babu reluctantly took Mayapura. I told him, "the Bhag Bazaar Math can again be created in Calcutta, but a second Mayapura, the birthplace of Mahaprabhu, that can never be created. So this is a good portion."
During negotiations some promise had been given that we could again form a Governing Body--that we shall go on preaching together again, but after the case they did not agree that it would be taken to the Governing Body. Later, another litigation was started, and that is in the court, going on, espoused by others. A 92 case, that is in high court going on, whatever, moving slowly. Hare Krsna. And now Kunja Babu is gone [left this world] and again there is a split. Anyhow, they continued in the possession of Mayapura. That is there. Hare Krsna.