(On the occasion of the holy appearance day of Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Deva Gosvami Maharaja, we present a transcript of a class given by Srila Narasingha Maharaja on Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s appearance day in Vrndavana at Sri Sri Radha-Damodara Temple on 12th October 2009.)
Today is Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s appearance day, and yesterday evening was the appearance of Radha-kunda. Radha-kunda is considered to be non-different to Srimati Radharani and in terms of holy places, that place is considered to be non-different to Srimati Radharani. There is the lake and the Deity. All of you have seen here at Radha-Damodara Temple the Deity of Srimati Radharani, and on the altar of our own temple at Govindaji Gardens – that kunda and that Deity are non-different.
Srila Sridhara Maharaja appeared the next day after the appearance of Radha-kunda. Now let us remember Srila Prabhupada and the appearance of Krsna. Krsna appeared at midnight and the appearance of Radha-kunda is also celebrated at midnight. Janmastami is at midnight and in the eternal, transcendental, blissful arrangement of this world, Prabhupada appears the next day – the day after Krsna’s appearance. And the day after the appearance of Radha-kunda, it is Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s appearance. Just see the ‘coincidence’. We do not believe in coincidences unless it relates to ordinary people – that is different. These things are not coincidence. Of course, many people were born on that day. I am sure that Prabhupada was not the only person in the world born the day after Janmastami. There were probably thousands of people born during that same 24-hour period in 1896 – and the same on Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s appearance day in 1895. There were probably thousands of people. But their births on that day are all simply coincidence – it has no significance. It does not mean anything. Why? Because during the course of their lives, they did not show any connection to transcendental reality., I would venture to say that no other living entities born on those days even entered devotional service – except perhaps in Bengal or in India somewhere. But even if they did become devotees, they certainly did not manifest pastimes of being great acaryas nor did they make such great contributions.
Srila Prabhupada was spreading Krsna Consciousness outside of India practically all over the world. He did not go to every single place, but what he set into motion continued and he must be credited with that. Srila Sridhara Maharaja also spread something all over the world that people are only very much aware of now – not the common man, but something the devotee community is very much aware of now. What is that? That is called radha-dasyam – servitorship to Radharani. It was not a unique contribution of his own – it is the ‘Kohinoor gem’ of the Rupanuga sampradaya. It is the crown jewel, the gem of all conceptions amongst various other conceptions – for example, there is the origin of the jiva, the marginal energy; what is this marginal energy? Where does it come from? Where does it not come from? It does not come from the lila of Krsna. It comes from Krsna, who is always in lila. But that marginal energy does not reciprocate with Him in lila and then falls into the material world. It comes from the plane of tatastha. That is the conception of the origin of the jiva.
There is also the conception that Krsna is not an avatara; Krsna is the avatari – the origin of all avataras. Krsnas tu bhagavan svayam – this means that Krsna is the avatari. This is a Gaudiya Vaisnava conception and it is not accepted by the Madhvas, the Ramanujas or almost anybody else. Only the Gaudiyas accept this conception.
Then there is the particular conception and position of the guru-tattva in our sampradaya as the representative of Baladeva, or the manifestation of the energy of Baladeva. But the guru conception does not have only one level – there are layers. Ultimately the guru-tattva represents more than just Krsna or Baladeva. But this is not accepted by other sampradayas. This is unique to the Gaudiya sampradaya.
But none of these conceptions that I have explained are the crest-jewel of the wealth of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. That conception is known as radha-dasyam – servitorship to Srimati Radharani. That conception, and the domain that She presides over as Bhakti-devi, the origin of devotion, and the concept that no devotion passes to Krsna except through Her– that conception is found nowhere else except in our sampradaya. In contemporary times, Srila Sridhara Maharaja is credited with taking this gem from the wealth of Gaudiya sampradaya and showing it to the western world of Vaisnavism. We knew a little about Srimati Radharani – at least you would think that we understood that you should never worship Krsna alone, but some of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples never really understood what that meant and they did worship Krsna alone! Most devotees only knew that Radharani was the ‘Mother of devotion’, but what does that mean?
It is like in Mexico, they have Santa Maria, the mother of Mexico. But when I asked them what that means, they said, “She is the mother of Jesus, the mother of our country.”
I asked them, “What do you get out of that?”
They replied, “Nothing – she is just our mother.”
It is an idea that has no conception behind it. So we may say that, “Yes, Radharani is the mother of devotion!” and run onto some other point. But what did that mean? There was no depth of meaning there. We certainly did not grasp the understanding that no devotion can go to Krsna accept through Radharani. That conception was missing. There were more subtleties – nothing to be afraid of, but something that we must pay close attention to – how bhakti actually develops, where does it come from and what is love for Krsna – where does that come from? That was lying dormant. Of course, you always have to protect those people who think that everything was in Prabhupada’s books. Yes – these things were there also, but they were lying dormant and no one saw them for their true value.
There was also the sannyasa-mantra – the mantra that is considered to be the raga-marga mantra. Prabhupada gave it to fifty-nine sannyasis and none of them knew what it was; none of them knew absolutely anything about it. There was never even any discussion about it. When they heard what it actually meant, they objected! When they were told that this was a raga-marga mantra and that at its root was service to Radharani and that radha-dasyam was the purport to the sannyasa-mantra they condemned it, “What is this Sahajiyaism? What is all this gopi-talk?” The words in the mantra are 'gopi-bhava' and they said that, “Gopi-bhava is maya!” They chant this mantra religiously three times a day because if they don’t, they think they will go to hell – but when the meaning of it was brought to their attention, they ridiculed it and rejected it. So when I say that things were lying dormant, I mean that these things were lying very, very deep in the catacombs!
Sridhara Maharaja brought us there, dusted off the chest, took the key out of our own pockets (which everyone had been looking for) and opened the treasure chest. He is saying that, “Prabhupada has given you the key, now you have to open it and inherit the wealth of what he has come to give you.” But most people ran out of the door, horrified that they might have to actually do something – such as get saved or surrender! There is this notion that the guru will pull you up by your sikha – well, that isn’t going to happen! That is not what your sikha is for. The guru is not going to grab you by the sikha and take you back to Godhead, but that has probably been quoted as the meaning of the sikha more than anything else, and many devotees believe it. The other day, when I told one sannyasi that this isn’t going to happen, he was shocked. I told him that, “We are not Christians who think that Jesus will come out of the clouds to save them. Prabhupada is not going to come here on the Day of Judgment to save us, and he is not going to come the day that you die to pull you by the sikha back to Godhead. These things get lodged in people’s minds but they have no basis in reality. There is a truth worth recognizing that the guru does drag us out of the material world, but not in that way.
I am sure that 90% of the people who receive our new publication of Upadesamrta, with the illuminations of Srila Sridhara Maharaja, will go to the last verse first, because that is the highest sloka. That is the tendency nowadays. What does Sridhara Maharaja say about the highest thing, Radha-kunda? This year, the controversy is already in the air – should you bathe your shaggy butt in Radha-kunda, or should you honor Radha-kunda and just put a few drops on your unworthy head?
Sridhara Maharaja condemns those that think that they are on such an elevated platform when he says, “The scent of the beast is still in them!” He says that they are claiming raga-bhakti, but raga-bhakti is a qualification. Raga means that you have realized your siddha-deha, your spiritual body, and with the consciousness of such it is possible that you may bathe on that spiritual plane in Radha-kunda. That is called raga-marga. People who are doing that are consciously, or subconsciously, claiming that they have raga-bhakti. He says that, “We consider them pests to the Vaisnava society!” Rats, mice, ticks, mites, mosquitoes – these are all pests. Sridhara Maharaja, the embodiment of harmony and love, says, “We hate them! And Gaudiya Matha has come to destroy them!”
Some people are saying, “He didn’t really mean that,” and some people say that, “Narasingha Maharaja simply arranged Sridhara Maharaja’s words that way.” If you can find that he ever said anything contrary to this, I will surrender whatever meager wealth I have – but don’t waste your time! He never said anything contrary to this; neither did his guru nor any of Srila Sarasvati Thakura’s bona-fide disciples.
Then Srila Sridhara Maharaja says, “Some of Svami Maharaja’s disciples have gone to that camp.” What camp is that? The beastly camp, the camp of the pests, the camp that we hate and the camp that it is our duty to destroy. Now, he is not talking about using sticks, knives and brass-knuckles – he is talking about preaching philosophy. The era has now come that the Sahajiyas can babble and vomit their misconceptions, but anyone who wants to preach the right conception should not do so because “that’s offensive.” If that atmosphere prevails, it is better that we all return to our jobs in the material world and live honestly. Better to live as honest materialists than as cheating spiritualists.
When those that wish to bathe in Radha-kunda read these words of Srila Sridhara Maharaja, most of them will not be pleased. Yesterday we checked our ‘illusions’ with Purnananda Prabhu, one of the closest assistants of Srila Sridhara Maharaja during his final pastimes. We asked him, “Do you bathe in Radha-kunda?”
He replied, “Guru Maharaja would never, never, NEVER allow his disciples to do so.”
Then we told him, “Well, there is one sannyasi disciple of Sridhara Maharaja who was swimming in Radha-kunda.”
He shook his head and said that, “He is not following Guru Maharaja.”
He was very sad to hear that someone who has got connection with Sridhara Maharaja would behave in such a way.
But that is the world we live in today, my friends. Transgressions have become the norm. People want to throw everything away and lower the standard just to get people to chant Hare Krsna. If you don’t have a philosophical mind then you will think, “ Yes, we should do that!” Then why follow the four regulative principles? Serve a little wine at the Sunday feast and get everyone to chant! If there are filters on the cigarettes, then what is the harm in sucking in a little smoke? Once you start to lower the principles, where do you stop? Well, you will find out that there is no stopping! We are just at a particular level right now – we can bathe in Radha-kunda, and as a sannyasi you can hug your lady disciples. Well, in the Vallabha sampradaya it denigrated so much that they fornicated with their female disciples also, and it was considered acceptable for the acarya to do that – until a hundred years ago when the Vallabha sampradaya was taken to court and a legal injunction forced them to stop such immoral practices. That is what happened just after the time of Vallabhacarya up till a hundred years ago. So, you start now by hugging your lady disciples – soon after, your disciples will be taking them to bed!
We are up against a very formidable force and we cannot lower the bar and think that we are going to attain the ultimate goal of life. Certain things should be fixed forever and bathing in Radha-kunda is one of them. Sridhara Maharaja is saying that, “Our Guru Maharaja did not do. We do not do. We do not advise to do.” And who is doing? It is amazing. The adjustment in their minds is all very reasonable if they just push these words away and say, “Narasingha Maharaja has invented all this!” When I receive such praises I am absolutely astounded. One person said that I wrote Follow The Angels, not Sridhara Maharaja. I thought, “Oh my God, I feel so blessed that you think that I have such a capacity.” What they meant was that we manipulated his words. I would like to see you take Sridhara Maharaja’s words and manipulate them in any other way. You would have to cheat by cutting out the words ‘bathe’, from one place and ‘Radha-kunda’ from another place and finally cut and paste them together to construct a sentence that says, “All the devotees should bathe at Radha-kunda.” That is how twisted you would have to be. So what did our evil editors do when they compiled Sridhara Maharaja’s commentary on Upadesamrta? Nothing. They corrected the spelling and grammar. That’s all they did.
We preach and we print what we find to be the truth and people ridicule us for it. That is the life we lead and we are not giving it up. But that is not our only platform. We have other preaching – preaching to people who have never even heard about Krsna. It is a big world. We have our preaching in Mysore, Bangalore, Mulki, Brazil and Mexico. We are not a group of book-worms who cannot apply this knowledge that we have to the world. Our program is as dynamic as anybody else’s, but we do not compromise essential principles. That is the trick – how to preach and not compromise essential principles. We are not to give up the wealth of the sampradaya to the whim of the neophyte; rather we must learn how to engage the neophyte in the Holy Name and other devotional activities.
We are not to sacrifice the wealth of the sampradaya and the dignity of our acaryas. Sridhara Maharaja said, “I should have died a long time ago, but I am living to give you these things.” And somebody will throw this away? Such a person cannot be my friend! Maybe I know such a person, but they are not my friend.
In 1932, during the month of Karttika, while lecturing at Radha-kunda, Sri Siddhanta Sarasvati Thakura made the following comment.
"Those who are still attached to this body and mind can never attain the qualification to bathe in the kunda of our Vrsabhanu-nandini; I say this at all times! But those who are not attached to this body and mind – they are eternally qualified. This body has been produced by our mother and father – one who still deliberates upon this body or deliberates upon the mind cannot bathe in Sri Radha-kunda! Only one who is knowledgeable of his aprakrta body and intrinsic internal nature can bathe there.
"We are fallen souls! These words should always remain in our ears. They will be most beneficial for us life after life. By hearing such words we will be protected from offences."
The above quote was published in numerous books and periodicals of the Gaudiya Matha during that period [1932-33].
Further research into the topic of who takes a full body bath at Radha-kunda as opposed to those who simply put a few drops of water on their heads as a reverential bath has revealed that only Sahajiyas, most of ISKCON and a few stray sannyasis with no authority actually take full body bath at Radha-kunda. The vast majority of Gaudiya Vaisnavas, including all of the Gaudiya Matha and most respectable Gosvamis and even some Sahajiyas do not take full body bath at Radha-kunda. YES – even some Sahajiyas say that Radha-kunda is too high and is always to be shown the greatest respect by not bathing there. That being said, where does that leave those who neglect the caution given by Srila Sridhara Deva Gosvami and other acaryas.