But Srila Sridhara Maharaja Was Outside of ISKCON
While it is true that certain institutional considerations must be maintained, we cannot forget that it was Srila Prabhupada himself who opened the door for his disciples to hear from Srila Sridhara Maharaja. And how can we forget that Srila Prabhupada sent Acyutananda Maharaja and others to Srila Sridhara Maharaja to receive siksa from him, "Then I will feel that you are safe." This has been previously documented in chapter one. The principle of siksa guru, essential in our evolving Krsna consciousness — is discussed in detail in Sri Guru & His Grace by Srila Sridhara Maharaja. There are many GBCs, gurus, sannyasis, prabhus, etc. within formal ISKCON who privately take siksa at many levels outside of ISKCON (even today after the 1995 GBC prohibition), although they are not advertising it. The question then arises, "What comprises ISKCON and what is outside of ISKCON?" Some, such as ourselves, who are not allowed within formal ISKCON due to managerial policies, think of ISKCON in a much broader way than the institutional walls. We tend to think of ISKCON conceptually as an ideal dedicated to spreading Krsna consciousness under the inspiration and direction of Srila Prabhupada. In this way we include ourselves within the real ISKCON — the spiritual ISKCON and understand that we have substantially continued our service to Srila Prabhupada. Numerous quotes from Srila Prabhupada indicate that this position has its validity, although working within the institution, when it is possible, is obviously more pleasing to His Divine Grace. Previously, one of the quotes below was misrepresented by the GBC in an attempt to falsely try to prove that those outside ISKCON were un-bona fide, asara.
As Srila Prabhupada is speaking from within his society you would expect him to refer to his society of Krsna consciousness. Sastra refers to the association of devotees and in the purport to the Srimad Bhagavatam 3.15.33 (above), Srila Prabhupada states that it is Vaikuntha for those living in harmony, with Krsna in the center, for any society such as ISKCON. He then states in the same purport that if the members of ISKCON live in this way, they are living in Vaikuntha. Clearly, Srila Prabhupada is sometimes making a distinction between ISKCON and other societies as we would expect him to [to encourage his disciple's dedication to ISKCON, as the founder-acarya of ISKCON], and sometimes not. If we then try to use the statement of Srila Prabhupada in the purport of Srimad Bhagavatam 4.9.11 (quoted above), that one aloof from this Krsna Consciousness Society is living in hallucination, to prove that devotees in any Gaudiya Vaishnava Society outside of ISKCON are not bona fide, it is not consistent with Srila Prabhupada's many other statements. It is contradictary and does not represent the Gaudiya siddhanta nor Srila Prabhupada's intentions.
Better to Bloop
Some criticized those who left ISKCON while others boldly advised that it is better to bloop than take siksa from Srila Sridhara Maharaja. Even more audacious--the GBC priviledge committee suggested to Paramadvaiti Maharaja in 1984 that he would be better to commit suicide than leave ISKCON if no changes were made. Another prominent devotee quipped that it is better to become a meat-eating karmi than hear from Srila Sridhara Maharaja. The GBC guru who often said this later married a non-devotee due to these offenses. Even much worse things were advised and propagated by highly posted devotees, including the taped instruction distributed to all disciples by one GBC Guru that to murder a particular sannyasi follower [in good spiritual standing] of Srila Sridhara Maharaja would incur no karma, and therefore was advisable. And a gundha (gangster) was paid and sent to inflict great bodily harm on Srila Sridhara Maharaja, but recognizing Sridhara Maharaja's exalted saintly qualities he revealed the plot. And it is not as if the godbrothers didn't try for reform; the fact is well known, as to the harsh reactions to any inclination for reform within ISKCON for many many years. In addition to those mentioned in the beginning of this book, the saga of Paramadvaiti Maharaja's endless attempts for reform-cooperation-frustration-are documented in his booklet entitled, The Search for Purity, which surprised a great many devotees with its revelations.
We Thank Our Stars
According to ISKCON's previous policy: "They left Srila Prabhupada and are thus asara," many who left should have dried up long ago-for one who actually leaves his guru in spirit-his future is not bright. On the contrary we see that some devotees have greatly matured in their Krsna consciousness outside of ISKCON and are looked up to as stalwart pillars. In the words of Srila Sridhara Maharaja,
if even from afar-nevertheless we have had a glimpse, and our hearts have been charmed and captured. If we are actually Krsna conscious, thoughtful, mature and unmotivated, then in our honesty we must submit to the Truth, from wherever and however it springs. Our quest is a great search for the Supreme Absolute Truth and our Lord will not neglect us if we are sincere.
It is noteworthy to mention here that some did not leave ISKCON because they did not want to be in ISKCON, nor did they consciously make the decision, "I do not want to be in ISKCON." They simply could not neglect their siksa guru, Srila Sridhara Maharaja, therefore they "are severed from ISKCON." We humbly submit that this policy is not in keeping with Srila Prabhupada's kind and accommodating nature, nor can we expect ISKCON to mature toward a "house in which the whole world can live," a supposed goal of the Srila Prabhupada Centennial. Additionally, in light of the considerations presented within this book, it cannot be considered srota pantha (divine descending dispensation from the Supreme Absolute).
Society Consciousness and God Consciousness
Responding to the necessity of the times Srila Sridhara Maharaja lucidly explains the absolute societal conception of Krsna consciousness:
Devotee: Within a religious mission, sectarian policies may appear to bar the path of progress and pragmatic concerns take precedence over spiritual ideals. Should one risk leaving the formal institution or should he try to remain within and work out the problems?
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: Progress means elimination and new acceptance. So, when there is a clash between the relative and the absolute standpoint, the relative must be left aside, and the absolute accepted. The example is given of a socialist in a country of capitalists. When there is a clash, one will not express their creed for the sake of peace. But to maintain the purity of their faith for the socialists they will try to leave and join the socialists.
So, the absolute and the relative are two different classes of interest. And we find more importance in the absolute interest. We must be sincere to our own creed. The form is necessary to help me in a general way to maintain my present position. At the same time, my conception of the higher ideal will always goad me to advance, to go forward, and wherever I do, I must follow the greater model, the greater ideal. Spiritual life is progressive, not stagnant. We are in the stage of sadhana, and we want to go ahead, not backwards. The formal position will help me to maintain my present status, and my extraordinary affinity for the ideal will goad me towards the front. The search for Sri Krsna is dynamic and living, so adjustment and readjustment is always going on. And we should also change our present position accordingly, so that we may not have to sacrifice the high ideal for which we have come. Einstein had to leave Germany and go to America for his high ideal of life. And so many similar instances may be found in the world. The ideal is all in all. The highest ideal in a man is his highest jewel. Our most precious gem is our ideal.
Many things are recommended in the scriptures, but they are meant to promote us towards the truth in an indirect way (sva-dharme nidhanam sreya). [Bg 3.35] It is recommended at a certain stage that for the sake of our close friends, we should give up our ideal. But in the Bhagavad-gita, Krsna's final instruction is sarva dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: "If it is necessary to maintain the highest ideal, you must give up your friends. Surrender to me. I am the real purport of the scriptures." The highest kind of idealists give up their country, their family, their friends, and everything else, but they can't give up their ideal.
In the Bhagavad-gita, [3.35] Krsna says, "It is better to die while performing one's duty that to try to do another's duty." That is one stage of understanding: the relative consideration. The absolute consideration is also given in the Bhagavad-gita: sarva dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja [Bg. 18.66]. Krsna says, "Give up everything. Come to Me directly." This is the revolutionary way. This is absolute. And this is relative: "Stick to your own clan. Don't leave them." That is the national conception. There is nation consciousness and God consciousness; society consciousness and God consciousness. God consciousness is absolute. If society consciousness hinders the development of God consciousness, it should be left behind. This is confirmed in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (5.5.18):
gurur na sa syat sva jano na sa syat
What to speak of ordinary things, even the guru, may have to be abandoned. One may even have to give up one's own spiritual guide, as in the case of Bali Maharaja, or one's relatives, as in the case of Vibhisana. In the case of Prahlada, his father had to be given up, and in the case of Bharata Maharaja, it was his mother. In the case of Khatvanga Maharaja, he left the demigods, and in the case of the yajna patnis, (the wives of the brahmanas) they left their husbands in the endeavor to reach the Absolute Personality.
Sincere Never Deceived
We need society only to help us. If our affinity to the society keeps us down, then that should be given up, and we must march on. There is the absolute consideration and the relative consideration. When they come into clash, the relative must be given up, and the absolute should be accepted. If my inner voice, my spiritual conscience decides that this sort of company cannot really help me, then I will be under painful necessity to give them up, and to run towards my destination, wherever my spiritual conscience guides me. Any other course will be hypocrisy, and it will check my real progress. If we are sincere in our attempt, then no one in the world can check us or deceive us; we can only deceive ourselves (na hi kalyana-krt kascid durgatim tata gacchati) [Bg. 6.40]. We must be true to our own selves, and true to the Supreme Lord. We must be sincere.
Devotee: After the disappearance of the spiritual master, how should the disciples continue the mission?
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: You must not neglect your conscience. Otherwise you have no faith in your own cause. There may be disturbances but we should not leave the preaching of Mahaprabhu, despite all differences. Disturbances must come, and we must undergo them. Still, we must remain sincere; we must face the difficulty in a proper way. It has come to train us to go in the right direction.
The Fire has Come to Test Us
What we have received from our spiritual master we understood only in a rough estimation. Now, things have come in such a way that we have to scrutinize ourselves in every position. We have to analyze ourselves. Atma-niksepa, self-analysis has begun. We are under trial. What we have received from our spiritual master, in what way have we received it? Properly, or only showingly? The time has come to purify us, to test whether we are real students, real disciples, or his disciples only in face and confession. What is the position of a real disciple? If we live in a society, what is the depth of our creed? In what attitude have we accepted his teachings? How deep-rooted is it within us? The fire has come to test whether we can stand. Is our acceptance real? Or is it a sham, an imitation? This fire will prove that.
So, this is the real field of sadhana, or practice. Our practice, our advancement needs these difficulties. Otherwise, we may not know what is progress, and we will become hypocrites, and give the adulterated thing to others. So, to purify ourselves, it is necessary that so many disturbances come.
And God has no error. He commands the environment. It is not our responsibility. The responsibility of the environment does not rest upon us. If I am sincere, then I have to adjust myself with this environment and put my faith before Him. "Everyone may leave me, but I shall stand alone!" With this attitude we must march on, whatever the circumstances may be. Then the recognition may come in my favor, that "Yes, under such trying circumstances he is still there." Our superiors will be pleased with us.
The relative and absolute considerations are always coming in clash. The absolute should be accepted and the relative sacrificed. Still the relative is necessary. After graduation from primary school another teacher is accepted for higher education, but that does not mean that the primary teacher is neglected or insulted. For our own interest, whatever we find which is akin to what was given to us by our guru maharaja, whatever we find that will enlighten us further, and whatever will help us to understand more clearly what we heard from our guru maharaja, must be accepted. Is my realization a living thing, or is it dead? Anyone who has come in connection with the infinite cannot but say this: "I am nothing." That should be the salient point.
We have left all social concerns and so many other shackles. For what? For the Absolute Truth. And wherever I shall find that, I must bow down my head. And if a great soul shows us, "This is the path to where you will find your thirst quenched. The line is in this zigzag way," we must accept that for our own interest. We are worshipers not of this form, but of substance. Wherever I feel the presence of my Lord in an intense form, I must be attracted to that side. Krsna says, sarva dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja. Wherever we shall find Him, we must run in that direction. My interest is with Him. Not that we can challenge, "Why did Krsna appear here, and why is He appearing there?" If a man in a boat is passing through the current and finds himself in danger, then from whatever side help may come, he must run to that side.
If we are worshipers of Siva, when we understand the special superiority of Narayana, should we stick to Siva? And then Krsna? In the Brhad-bhagavatamrta the story is told of how Gopa-kumara, by chanting his Gopala mantra, gradually leaves one stage and progresses to the next. There, the gradation of devotion is traced from the karma-kanda brahmana, to a devotee king, then to Indra, then to Brahma, then to Siva, from him to Prahlada, then to Hanuman, then the Pandavas, then to the Yadavas, to Uddhava, and finally the gopis. In this zigzag way he is passing. In the sincerity of his quest, his thirst is not being quenched until he goes to Vrndavana. So, the Brhad-bhagavatamrta has shown us the line of guru parampara, or the real line of our quest, of our search.
Sincere Hankering for the Truth is Our Guide
If we are sincerely searching after real truth, then wherever we go may be a contribution to our experience for further preaching in the future. We may cross many guru paramparas before ultimately attaining the Vraja-lila of Krsna, as given by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Sometimes the father may not be our guardian. Our uncle may be our guide, and not the father. It is possible. The line of interest is to be considered the most important. So, our line is the siksa guru parampara.
I am thankful to those that are helping my spiritual understanding not only in a formal way, but in the real sense. Whoever is untying the knots of our entanglement in this material world, giving us light, and quenching our thirst for inner understanding and satisfaction is our guru. In this way, we live on the contribution of all these spiritual masters. They are all our siksa gurus. All the Vaisnavas are more or less our instructing spiritual masters.
And our own sincere hankering for the truth will be our guide. That is guru parampara. So the real disciplic line provides practical knowledge in support of the divine love which is coming down. We must bow our heads wherever we find support of that. We should not become formalists, but substantialists; not fashionists, not imitationists, but realistic thinkers. That should always be our temperament.
And what sort of saintly persons shall we try to mix with earnestly? In the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (1.2.91) Rupa Goswami has said, sajati-yasye snigdhe sadhau sangah svato vare: Those who are in our line, who have the same high spiritual aspirations as we do, and who hold a superior position. To associate with such saintly persons will help us the most to progress towards the ultimate goal.
There may be some obstacles, but if at heart we are sincere, the environment cannot deceive us, because God's inner help is there, cooperating with our sincere, inner need (na hi kalyana krt kascit durgatim tata gacchati) [Bg. 6.40]. What we want from our innermost hearts cannot but come true, because Krsna knows everything. There may be some obstacles, but by Krsna's help, they shall all be eliminated and our innermost aspiration will be crowned with success.
The formal societal position helps one to maintain their present status while our affinity for the high ideal will always push us to advance in Krsna consciousness. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.5.18 it is stated that whatever hinders our advancement must be left behind, even society consciousness. The society is there to help us, not hinder us. Our process is Krsna consciousness not society consciousness.
Commentary: An analysis of the articles in the Back to Godhead Magazine reveals an excessive use of the word ISKCON whereas a study of articles written by Srila Prabhupada within the same magazine will show that he rarely used the term ISKCON. This overidentification with societal consciousness appears to reveal an inner insecurity of the devotees wherein they must repeatedly reassure themselves. We also find that many devotees take the name of Srila Prabhupada very freely and cheaply as if to show their sincere dedication to Srila Prabhupada, while at the same time they may or may not be actually engaged in activities pleasing to Srila Prabhupada.
Follow the Line
From the examples of our previous acaryas we see that they follow the ideal of Krsna consciousness not the external form. Chastity to one's guru cannot be judged by whether or not one remains in the formal institution. If the institution deviates from the high ideal that it is to represent, then the sincere should not follow. Srila Prabhupada said that the Gaudiya Math fought amongst themselves and became asarauseless. Prabhupada himself left this formal mission of his guru.
Deviation Produces Devotion?
ISKCON has also deviated from pure devotional service. This has been clearly explained in a previous section in this chapter entitled, Is Srila Sridhara Maharaja's Mood different than Prabhupada's and throughout this presentation. Srila Sridhara Maharaja assures us above that if the disciple follows the ideal given by his guru then success will follow. If, however, one deviates from this ideal they will not achieve success. Only bhakti produces bhakti —bhaktya sanjataya bhaktya ( Bhag. 11.3.31 ). Deviation will not produce devotion.