Sri Sri Gaura Radha-Madhava And the Temple of Misunderstanding

Nov 1 2017 - Krishna Talk 201
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rila Prabhupada’s original Deities of Gaura Radha-Madhava
Srila Prabhupada’s original Deities of Gaura Radha-Madhava

The main drift of this article is to recall to memory the establishing of the Deities of Sri Sri Gaura Radha-Madhava at Mayapura by His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada during his manifest lila, and to draw attention to how the present institution of ISCON has unfortunately gone astray from the proper Gaudiya conception. But before addressing that, we would first like to present some of the historical and sastric evidences concerning Vaisnava Deity worship in general and Gaudiya sampradaya Deity worship specifically.

Deity worship has long been a part of Vaisnava and Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition dating back thousands of years. Possibly the oldest sastra detailing arcana (Deity worship) in any Vaisnava library is the pancaratra. Pancaratra contains the instructions of Narayana Rsi to His disciples at Badrinatha during Satya-yuga. Pancaratra gives many details on Deity worship and for observing Vaisnava festivals. These instructions mainly concern the worship of Visnu avataras.

Other more contemporary writings on Deity worship for the Gaudiya Vaisnavas are such sastras as Hari-bhakti-vilasa by Sanatana Goswami, Gaura-govindarcana-paddhati by Gopala-guru Goswami, Gaura-govindarcana-smaranapaddhati by Dhyanacandra Goswami and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s Archana-paddhati, that forms the basis of all contemporary Gaudiya Vaisnava Deity worship in the line of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura.

Concerning the Deities of the Visnu avataras, many of which date back five millennia and before, there are many, especially in, but not exclusively in, South India such as; Padmanabha, Adi Kesava and Janardana in Kerala; Ranganatha in Tamil Nadu; Narasimhadeva at Narasimhapalli in West Bengal; Udupi Krsna in Karnataka; Balaji in Tirupati and Narasimha at Simhachalam, Mangalagiri and Ahobilam in Andhra Pradesh, to name a few.

The Deities of Jagannatha, Subhadra and Baladeva in Puri, Dvarakadisa in Dvaraka, Badari-Narayana at Badrinatha and Saligrama in the Gandhaki Valley of upper Nepal are counted amongst the oldest, most original Deities of the Personality of Godhead on this planet. The ancient Deities mentioned above are worshiped by many Vaisnava sampradayas and also by Gaudiya Vaisnavas.

However, there are Deities that are worshiped exclusively by Gaudiya Vaisnavas – the Deities of Govinda and Gopinatha (now in Jaipur), Madana-mohana (now in Karauli), Saksi-Gopala (now in Orissa) and others are also from a period approximately 5000 years ago, having being established by Vajranabha (the king of Mathura) and Uttara, the mother of Pariksit Maharaja. Also among the ancient deities worshipped in Vraja are Harideva at Govardhana, Kesava at Mathura, Dauji at Baldeo, Vrnda-devi at Kamyavana, Yogamaya in Vrndavana and the four siva-lingams of Vraja – Gopesvara, Caklesvara, Bhutesvara and Kamesvara.

However, it was not until the period of the Six Goswamis and their successors that the Deities of Radharani and Lalita-devi manifest and came to be at the side of many of the original Krsna Deities in Vraja. From that time on it became the standard of Gaudiya Vaisnavas not to worship the Deity of Krsna alone, but always accompanied by Sri Radha, His internal pleasure potency, the hladini-sakti.

Even more exclusively worshiped by contemporary Gaudiya Vaisnavas are the Deities of Gaura-Nitai, first established by Gauridasa Pandita at Kalna; Gaura-Gadadhara, first established by Vaninatha Vipra at Campahatti; the Panca-tattva, first established by Sarasvati Thakura at Srivasangana and Yogapitha; Dhamesvara Mahaprabhu, first established by Visnupriya at Navadvipa; Mahaprabhu, Visnupriya and Laksmipriya, first established by Sarasvati Thakura and Bhaktivinoda at Yogapitha; Adhoksaja Visnu (found during construction at Yogapitha); Krsna-Balarama, worshiped in the house of Jagannatha Misra and Saci Mata in Mayapura, and Sri Sri Gaura Radha-Madhava, first established by Sarasvati Thakura at Yogapitha. This then brings us to the main focus of our article – the worship of Sri Sri Gaura Radha-Madhava and Their ontological importance.

Gaura Radha-Madhava at Yogapitha
Gaura Radha-Madhava at Yogapitha

The Deities of Gaura Radha-Madhava are the special contribution of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura to the Gaudiya sampradaya that represents the highest theological conclusion ever revealed to humanity;

tabe hasi tanre prabhu dekhaila svarupa
rasa-raja mahabhava-dui eka rupa

“Lord Sri Krishna is the reservoir of all pleasure, and Srimati Radharani is the personification of ecstatic love of Godhead. These two forms have combined as one in Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. This being the case, Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu revealed His real form to Ramananda Raya. (Cc, Madhya-lila 8.282)

mahaprabhu sri caitanya, radha krsna nahe anya
rupanuga janera jivana

“Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is non-different from Sri Sri Radha-Krsna and is the very life of those Vaisnavas who follow Sri Rupa Goswami.” (Sarasvati Thakura, Sri Guru Parampara)

We include here a statement in this regard by Srila Sridhara Deva Goswami Maharaja:

“Our Guru Maharaja (Bhaktisiddhanta) installed almost everywhere this Mahaprabhu and Radha-Govinda, meaning that Mahaprabhu is combined Radha-Govinda. Mahaprabhu means Radha-Govinda. Svarupa-damodara has given us a sloka about the ontological nature of Mahaprabhu:

radha-krsna pranaya vikrtir hladini saktir asmad
ekatmanav api bhuvi pura deha-bhedam gatau tau
caitanyakhyam prakatam adhuna tad-dvayam caikyam aptam
radha-bhava-dyuti-suvalitam naumi krsna-svarupam

‘The loving affairs of Sri Radha and Krsna are transcendental manifestations of the Lord’s internal pleasure-giving potency. Although Radha and Krsna are one in Their identity, They separated Themselves eternally. Now, these two transcendental identities have again united in the form of Sri Krsna Caitanya. I offer my obeisances unto Him, who has manifested Himself with the sentiment and complexion of Sri Radha although He is Krsna Himself.’ (CC, Adi-lila 1.5)

“Guru Maharaja wanted to show in this form of installation of the Deities, that the highest order of worship is here – that Mahaprabhu combined, who is giving the rasa, and the Radha Govinda with Their paraphernalia which They are tasting within Their own circle – that highest order of sweetness is being distributed by Mahaprabhu Himself in His lila. They are of the same level, layer, and the same dignity, and same highest position. To show, to represent this to the worldly intellect and devotion, Guru Maharaja has taken this method in the worship, in arcana, as favorable for his preaching about Radha-Govinda in Vrndavana.” (Sridhara Maharaja, transcript: April 23rd, 1982)

A question arises, “How can you overlook the importance and position of the Deities of Sri Sri Gaura Radha-Madhava and still be conscious of the highest theological conception ever revealed to humanity? Overlooking this, how can one be considered a rupanuga, a follower of Srila Rupa Goswami? The answer is, you can’t!

When establishing his center in Mayapura, the seat of the Gaudiya sampradaya, Srila Prabhupada was very attentive to this point and thus he established the Deities of Sri Sri Gaura Radha-Madhava, thus demonstrating that he is a follower of Sarasvati Thakura in the line of Bhaktivinoda and all rupanugas. But what has happened since the departure of His Divine Grace is anything but attentive to the Gaudiya conception of Divinity – rather, the most sacred conceptions of Divinity at his Mayapura centre have been lost. The Deities of Radha-Madhava and the Asta-sakhis now overshadow Gaura Radha-Madhava and They are given little to no importance. Even Prabhupada’s childhood Deities of Radha-Govinda have been stolen from the altar and the original Deity of Sri Radha, who was with Madhava, de-manifested when dacoits attacked the temple. Such happenings are truly unprecedented in our sampradaya. The infamous Emperor Aurangzeb, with his entire army, could not touch a single Deity in Vraja when he attacked Vrndavana – so how is it that a grungy group of Muslim dacoits snatched and mutilated the Deity of Radharani from the altar at ISCON Mayapura? However, it was ‘Maya-Sita’ that they snatched, not Sri Radha, thus indicating that She had withdrawn Herself.

The question of what caused Srila Prabhupada’s Radha-Govinda Deities to disappear from the altar and Radharani to de-manifest has never been addressed by the leaders of ISCON. Such things can only happen due to offenses, apa-radha – that which is displeasing to Sri Radha. In the early years of Prabhupada’s preaching and establishing temples in the west, the Deity of Subhadra, standing between Lord Jagannatha and Baladeva in San Diego, California burned to a pile of ashes. Srila Prabhupada commented at the time that Subhadra had de-manifested due to offenses being committed in the temple. The letter he wrote about this sensitive issue has long since disappeared from the archives/folio.

That offenses can bring about complete devastation is certainly nothing new in the history of Vaisnavism and can be the only acceptable answer to what has caused the numerous catastrophic events that have taken place in ISCON since the departure of His Divine Grace. There is an elephant in the room but no one cares to mention it —business as usual.

What were the offenses that turned the great ISKCON into the dismal institution it has become (ISCON)? Not just apa-radha, but vaisnava-aparadha. And to which Vaisnavas were these aparadhas committed? First, offenses to Srila Prabhupada by neglecting his instructions, and the ‘Magnificant Eleven’ trying to usurp his legacy. Then, offenses to many disciples and followers of Srila Prabhupada who were abused and ousted from ISCON. Last but not least, offenses to Srila Prabhupada’s godbrothers – and most shamefully, offenses committed against Srila Prabhupada’s dearest friend and godbrother, Srila B.R. Sridhara Maharaja, whom Srila Prabhupada desired to guide Prabhupada’s disciples philosophically (http://gosai.com/writings/our-affectionate-guardians). These numerous offenses have caused the spiritual decline of ISCON and the fall-down of countless GBCs, gurus, sannyasis and devotees.

Now at Mayapura, ISCON is spending millions of dollars to build the grandest of temples which they insist on calling the Adbhuta Mandira as envisioned by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Srila Prabhupada did indeed wish to build a grand temple which he called the ‘Planetarium’– not the Adbhuta Mandira. The Adbhuta Mandira envisioned by Bhaktivinoda was envisioned at Yogapitha and later constructed by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta in 1933.
http://gosai.com/writings/adbhuta-mandira-and-bhaktivinodas-vision
http://gosai.com/writings/temple-of-understanding
http://gosai.com/writings/mayapura-and-the-adbhuta-mandira

Furthermore, as concerns the grand temple at Mayapura, it was to be built under the direction of Srila Sridhar Maharaja.

Srila Prabhupada: (speaking to Sridhara Maharaja) That Planetarium also will be built under your direction. My idea is to combine the Indian culture and the American money--the lame man and the blind man policy. I tell them also that this will be very beneficial for the world. (Excerpt of 1977 conversation at Sri Caitanya Sarasvata Matha, transcription by Bhakti Caru Swami)

Historically speaking, the idea to build such a grand temple at Mayapura came from Sridhara Maharaja and was adopted by Srila Prabhupada.

“I asked Swami Maharaja (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada) to construct a temple where the whole Gaudiya Vaisnava philosophy will be demonstrated. I had a mind to construct such a temple here, but that was too ambitious and I could not do it. When I was told that he would build a temple there (in Mayapura), I humbly put forward my desire. I wanted a temple to be built according to the Brhad-Bhagavatamrta of Srila Sanatana Gosvami. The whole structure of Gaudiya Vaisnava philosophy will be represented there in that temple.” (Taped discourse, 1981)

Again, Srila Prabhupada confirms this while speaking with Sridhara Maharaja,

Srila Prabhupada: As you have suggested we are doing that temple. Goloka-namni nija-dhamni tale ca tasya devi-mahesa-hari-dhama. That way I was explaining to them (my disciples) about our temple contemplation, it will be almost a skyscraper building. Skyscraper building in temple shape, with four divisions. Goloka-namni nija-dhamni tale ca tasya devi-mahesa...so Mahesa-dhama, how it will be depicted? Parvati’s Mahesa?

Srila Sridhara Maharaja: It has been already described by Sanatana Gosvami in Brhad-Bhagavatamrta. (Bengali Conversation between Srila Prabhupada and Srila Sridhara Maharaja, June 6th, 1973)

However, rather than follow Sridhar Maharaja to show the progression of theology and the highest conception of Godhead as the combined form of Radha-Krsna in Mahaprabhu, ISCON has chosen, thru their temple in Mayapura, to prove to the world that the Earth is flat! In doing so, they have completely overlooked the concepts of Divinity in Gaudiya Vaisnavism.

It is debatable that Srila Prabhupada wanted to establish Radha-Madhava with the Asta-sakhis at Mayapura since he supposedly only revealed his desire to one devotee, Bhavananda Dasa. He only ever mentioned it to Bhavananda Dasa once – he never mentioned it in any letter, conversation or instruction of any kind to anyone else. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume that it was indeed the desire and instruction of His Divine Grace – that still gives no cause to overshadow and neglect the conception of the original Deities of Sri Sri Gaura Radha-Madhava.

In the grand temple at Mayapura, the central Deities should be Sri Sri Gaura Radha-Madhava and since ISCON is making all their Deities very large, then Gaura Radha-Madhava should also be increased to the appropriate size. Sri Sri Guru-Gauranga (Panca-Tattva) should be on the first altar, Sri Sri Gaura Radha-Madhava on the central altar and Radha-Madhava and the Asta-sakhis on the third altar. This would be, for the most part, in keeping with Gaudiya theology.

Panca-Tattva manifests the sankirtana movement to uplift and save the fallen conditioned souls of this world. That is the secondary purpose of Mahaprabhu’s decent.

satya ei hetu, kintu eho bahiranga
ara eka hetu, suna, ache antaranga

“Although this is true, this is but the external reason for the Lord’s incarnation. Please hear one other reason—the confidential reason—for the Lord’s appearance.”

PURPORT

In the Third Chapter, fourth verse, it has been clearly said that Lord Caitanya appeared in order to distribute love of Krsna and the chanting of His transcendental holy name, Hare Krsna. That was the secondary purpose of Lord Caitanya’s appearance. The real reason is different, as we shall see in this chapter. (Cc, Adi-lila,4.6).

Sri Sri Gaura Radha-Madhava represents the highest conception of Divinity within Gaudiya Vaisnavism and the real reason for Mahaprabhu’s appearance.

sri-radhayah pranaya-mahima kidrso va anayaiva-
svadyo yenadbhuta-madhurima kidrso va madiyah
saukhyam casya mad-anubhavatah kidrsam veti lobhat
tad-bhavadhyah samajani saci-garbha-sindhau harinduh

“Desiring to understand the glory of Radharani’s love, the wonderful qualities in Him that She alone relishes through Her love, and the happiness She feels when She realises the sweetness of His love, the Supreme Lord Hari, richly endowed with Her emotions, appeared from the womb of Srimati Sacī-devi, as the moon appeared from the ocean.” (Cc. Adi.1.6)

radhikara bhava-kanti angikara vine
sei tina sukha kabhu nahe asvadane
radha-bhava angikari’ dhari’ tara varna
tina-sukha asvadite haba avatirna

“Therefore, assuming Radharani’s sentiments and bodily complexion, I shall descend to fulfill these three desires. Unless I accept the luster of the ecstatic love of Sri Radhika, these three desires cannot be fulfilled.” (Cc, Adi-lila 4.267 & 268)

This conception and identity of Mahaprabhu should be shown on the center altar at the grand temple at Mayapura with Sri Sri Gaura Radha-Madhava, and the same should be preached from the pulpit – not preaching that the ‘Earth is flat’. Brhat-bhagavatamrta does not concern itself with the dimensions and shape of Planet Earth. This book is exclusively concerned with progressive theological conceptions – not flat Earth, hollow Earth or any other relative nonsense that seems to have preoccupied the minds of ISCON’s leading ‘thinkers’.

Rather than preaching real Gaudiya conceptions according to sastra and the previous acaryas from the vyasasana, ISCON’s main concerns are preaching how ISCON is exclusively the bedrock of the Gaudiya sampradaya, so much so that some leaders state that those Vaisnavas outside ISCON will have to be born again within their institution in order to go back to Godhead. This is simply caste-consciousness in another form.

However, it is a fact that in every case of Gaudiya siddhanta – from jiva-tattva, to nama-tattva, to guru-tattva and more – ISCON either has an incomplete understanding or a total misunderstanding. Yet there is little concern about this. Their main focus is proving the flat Earth theory, promoting Krsna rock bands, pizzerias in the dhama, markets at Mayapura selling Nike shoes, and novelties like Krsna West. In other words, deviation after deviation. But who’s counting…

Again, assuming that Srila Prabhupada did desire to manifest the Deities of Radha-Madhava with the Asta-sakhis, that Deity arrangement should be placed on the third altar. This is not a step towards the highest theological conclusions of Gaudiya Vaisnavism, but rather a grand display of Krsna’s opulence to attract the general public, as was the case in Mumbai where Srila Prabhupada established Sita-Rama-Laksmana-Hanuman on the third altar. One has to remember, people in India really, really like their ‘eye candy’!

Radha-Madhava and Asta Sakhis at ISCON Mayapura
Radha-Madhava and Asta Sakhis at ISCON Mayapura

In the arena of rasa-lila, Krsna was there with Sri Radha, the Asta-sakhis and millions and millions of other gopis. However, when Radharani left the rasa dance, Krsna could no long feel pleasure, even when dancing with the Asta-sakhis and a multitude of gopis. Krsna then left the rasa-lila in search of Sri Radha. After being reunited, the Divine Couple sat together under a tree on the banks of the Yamuna and there, during Their loving embrace, Rasaraja Krsna and Mahabhava Radharani became one. This place is known as Imlitala and is described by Srila Sridhara Maharaja as the appearance place of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as follows.

tintidi talastha yamunormmi bhavanaplutam
nirjanaika radhikatma bhava vaibhavavrtam
syama radhikapta gaura-tattva bhittikakaram
prema-dhama-devam eva naumi gaura-sundaram

“As the Lord was visiting various places in Vrndavana where Lord Krsna performed His Pastimes, He visited that famous tamarind tree that existed during the Dvapara-yuga. Sitting beneath the tamarind tree, the Lord's memory of His confidential water-sporting Pastimes with the cowherd maidens was aroused when He saw the dancing gestures of the Yamuna's waves. The Lord's entire being was captured by tasting the sweetness of Sri Radha within the depths of His heart. Identifying with that selfsame sweetness and emotion that possessed His entire self, the Lord’s entire existence was stolen away. This place is indicated to be the place of origin of gaura-tattva, for it was here that Syamasundara became greatly absorbed in the divine mood of Srimati Radharani. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is Himself the origin of all, eternally resides in this place. I offer my obeisances to that beautiful Golden Lord, Gauranga-sundara, the divine form of krsna-prema.” (Prema-Dhama-Deva Stotram, verse 42)

In the present arrangement, when the grand temple is completed, pilgrims will go in and out of the temple by the millions and few, if any, will even notice the Gaura Radha-Madhava Deities standing at the feet, and just to the side of Radha-Madhava and the Asta-sakhis. And if They are noticed, most will consider Them simply as utsava-murtis to be bathed and occasionally taken out on procession. They will not be recognised as the representation of the highest form of Divinity to have ever manifested to human society. Pilgrims will leave the temple having missed the greatest boon ever offered to humanity – but they will walk with steadiness, having been assured that the Earth is flat and they need not worry about falling off…

If ISCON continues at this point with their current plans for the Planetarium, then they will inadvertently be giving prominence to the wrong Deity arrangement, failing to establish the correct Gaudiya siddhanta, misleading the public with their flat Earth theory and in summary be building the ‘Temple of Misunderstanding’, not the Planetarium that Srila Prabhupada desired, nor the Adbhuta Mandira envisioned by Bhaktivinoda Thakura.

Epilogue

Can ISCON improve? Yes…if they know what they have to improve. But it doesn’t seem to be possible at the moment, especially with the present leadership. For change and improvement to take place, a full renaissance is required.

Why bring all this up? Is it simply out of hatred and envy? We think not! The reason is twofold – firstly, if you don’t know the truth of the past then your present reality is simply a deception. Secondly, you can’t find what you don’t know you’ve lost. Living in the deception that everything is good and being unaware of what has been lost, the devotees will lack the incentive to Search for the Ultimate Goal of Life. This article has been written in the mood of ‘sugar and spice’ with the hope that somehow, they will correct themselves. Praemonitus, praemunitus – “Foretold is forewarned.”

Note from Swami Narasingha: The last time I visited ISCON Mayapura was the day before Gaura Purnima in 1996. I entered the temple room at the commencement of Srila Prabhupada’s guru-puja. Midway thru the aratika and kirtana, I was astonished to see what I consider to be the most bizarre display of foolishness ever. Suddenly, Vipramukhya Swami, holding his hands to his head like horns, began to charge around the kirtana like a bull. Then Trivikrama Swami began to play the part of a matador, using his uttariya as a matador’s cape. The matador and the charging bull played this ridiculous game for several minutes amidst the raging kirtana. Their antics seemed to stimulate the assembled devotees. Then Prthu Dasa brought an end to this foolishness by grabbing Trivikrama’s danda like a matador’s sword and stabbing the bull in the back. Vipramukhya then fell to the floor as dead and the crowd roared with approval.

Had I just witnessed the bull of religiosity slain right in front of Srila Prabhupada’s murti during guru-puja? I had seen a lot of bizarre things in ISCON since the disappearance of His Divine Grace – papal foppery, drug dealing, money laundering, murder, illicit sex, child abuse, endless court cases, the selling of the Manhattan Temple, the splitting of the BBT, changing Prabhupada’s original books, offenses to numerous Vaisnavas, etc, etc, but this was off the charts! I left, never to return.

Sometimes devotees fault me for having left ISCON, but my reply is, “Knowing what I know, and having seen what I have seen, I wonder how any sane person with even a little self-respect would ever agree to stay.”