Our Affectionate Guardians: Chapter Four
Srila Sridhara Maharaja has on numerous occasions resolved problems that arose between Srila Prabhupada and his godbrothers. Some of Srila Prabhupada's disciples, in the early days of ISKCON, while visiting the Caitanya Sarasvata Math, heard Niskincina Krsna dasa Babaji Maharaja chant "Pranamami sada prabhupada-padam," composed by Srila Sridhara Maharaja. At the end he started singing "Jaya Prabhupada, Jaya Prabhupada." The disciples liked that very much and introduced it in all of Prabhupada's temples. When Prabhupada's godbrothers heard of our usage of "Prabhupada" they raised strong objections and it was Sridhara Maharaja who explained to them that it was written in the sastra that the disciple should pronounce the name of his guru with the titles, "om visnupada, Prabhupada, etc.," giving all respect to his guru. He explained that since our Srila Prabhupada was actually fullfilling the desires of their Srila Prabhupada he deserved this title, which was reserved for great personalities.
That Srila Prabhupada's attempts to obtain land in Mayapura were strongly opposed is well known to his disciples. What is not so well known is that Srila Sridhara Maharaja, upon Srila Prabhupada's request (letter to SM-June 6, 1976) spoke with those godbrothers opposing the acquisition of land (350 acres) and convinced them to stop their opposition. In addition, as a result of Srila Sridhara Maharaja's preaching, they became favorably disposed towards Srila Prabhupada. Later, one of those godbrothers, who apparently opposed Prabhupada as early as 1970 (Letter, May 13, 1970), told the leader of the Janata party to give ISKCON full support (BBT Folio~771106RC.VRN) and further, sent a telegram to Prabhupada that he was anxiously praying for his health (771012RC.VRN). In their 1977 meeting in Navadvipa. Srila Sridhara Maharaja inquired from Srila Prabhupada as to the present status of this land acquisition.
Srila Prabhupada: That's what I say. With much difficulty I translate the books at night and they print it and sell it and send seventy, eighty thousand dollars every month to me here. Is India benefiting out of this or losing out of this? But they are blaming them as CIA. Tirtha Maharaja used to say, "The American government has given Swamiji two million dollars." As if the American government didn't have anything better to do or couldn't find a better person to give the money to. So, for making the devotees chant Hare Krsna and dance, they would give me the money--two million dollars.
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: A man from the Central Intelligence Department took initiation from me. He was asking me about your movement. I told him, "These are nothing but rumors. I know Swami Maharaja since a long, long time. I know him very well and this movement is nothing but a purely spiritual movement." Actually, what they are thinking is that previously they [the British, etc.] used to send the missionaries, then they used to send the merchants and then the army used to come and take over, but those days are no more. Christianity has become much less effective now. Through such a faith of universal religion, if a net could be cast throughout the world--that can be utilized in the future.
And after the disappearance of Srila Prabhupada, Srila Sridhara Maharaja declared,
In his poem, "Prayer to the Lotus Feet of Krsna," we find him pleading with Krsna, 'My dear Brother, Your good fortune will come to You only when Srimati Radharani becomes pleased with You.' Seeing his gurudeva Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati as Radharani's delegation and his order as Her divine service, he humbly submitted that he did not feel himself worthy or fit to discharge the divine service, so he enlisted Krsna in the service of his guru. He had completely dedicated himself to the purpose, he was so earnest in his prayer to Krsna that he may discharge the duty that he has been given by his guru maharaja, that divine force, power, came down to help him. Otherwise, it is impossible. It is not a thing of the ordinary level that anyone will do, but the highest thing has been taken down to the lowest position so extensively. It cannot but be the divine power, embodied and in a great intensity and magnitude! So, saktyavesa-avatara, I cannot but take him to be so."
Vision of ISKCON
When asked what should be the vision of ISKCON, Srila Sridhara Maharaja replied that Raghunatha Dasa Goswami gives the real acquaintance of what is ISKCON in his prayer namasrestham manum api saci-putram atra svarupam, I am fully indebted to sri gurudeva. Why? He has given me so many things, the highest conception of the holy name of Krsna, the highest form of sound which contains the highest form of thought, aspiration, ideal, everything. And he has given me the service of our great savior Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and His dearmost assistant, Svarupa Damodara. Then he has brought me in connection with Sri Rupa, who was ordered to distribute the hearts innermost dealings, the highest devotional love, raganuga-bhakti. Then gurudeva has given me Srila Sanatana Goswami who gives us sambandha-jnana, a proper acquaintance with the environment, and he has given me Mathura Mandal, which will help me in my remembrance of Radha and Govinda wherever I shall cast my glance. By his grace gurudeva has revealed the superexcellent position of Radha-kunda, the favorite place of Radha and Govinda for their pastimes and this great Govardhana. And lastly he has given me the hope that one day I can get the service of Sri Sri Radhika and Madhava. I have been given all these assurances by my gurudeva, so I bow my head with all my respects to his lotus feet." If we are conscious of all these spiritual matters, then we can think that we have approached our gurudeva properly. What is our guru? What is his mission? It is filled with all these things. Devoid of that, what is our interest?
ISKCON must not deviate from this line. We have not come here to deceive ourselves, but to fulfill ourselves. ISKCON will fulfill everyone's inner demand, even extenting to the vegetables and stones, taking them to the feet of Mahaprabhu and the goswamis. From village to village, everyone, in every place, should be hunted and approached, "Take the name of Krsna! Come under the flag of Mahaprabhu!" This grand worldwide mission will thrive like anything; it will touch the heavens and cover the earth, and other planets also. That was the aim of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, and we understand and appreciate that.
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: I heard from different people that Swami Maharaja has told his disciples that in Bengal most of the disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur have deviated from his teachings. So, now you have to go and reinstate them there. Giving such inspiration, he sent them there. Now, if that is true, of course I myself have not heard it from him, I simply heard it from others, and in a way, I think, it is quite possible also, just to encourage them so they might have gone this far from that. They might think that "What our spiritual master, the great preaching work that he has done, what he received from the lotus feet of his spiritual master, that is novel and a wonderful substantial potency, and with that he has come here to recapture. And the ones, those who are in possession of that, they are almost dying. So, you all must go and give it there." Like when the brahmanas fell down in Bengal at one time, the Adisur brought the brahmanas from Kanoj and then he reestablished the varnasrama system here like that. He has also done something like that. I heard from Krsnadasa Babaji Maharaja that before leaving this planet, Swami Maharaja requested him to beg forgiveness on his behalf from his godbrothers--that, at times, he might have offended his godbrothers while preaching. This he said, I heard it from Krsnadasa Babaji Maharaja. He said that although he had due respects towards his godbrothers, but still while preaching he might have offended them a little bit. So, he should be forgiven. Like, I heard once Akincan Maharaja asked him, "What are your other godbrothers doing?" So he replied, "Well, they just eat and sleep and ring the bell." Hearing this they became very offended, and then they came to me. But my observation is neutral. So I said,
The drum that he is playing, if he accepts you as a player of the bell in that band, then you should consider this to be a great honor.
I told this. My view is different. I saw that he is playing a huge drum, a battle drum, so if you get a chance to play the kasi, or cymbals, along with that, that is a great honor to you. A more dignified position you get. This I am speaking from absolute consideration.
[A few Gaudiya Math sannyasis had many hundreds of disciples, had opened many temples and were at that time preaching with vigor, so they were understandably irritated. For example, in a room conversation in Bhuvanesvar in 1977 Srila Prabhupada, hearing the report of his disciples that Madhava Maharaja had a whole village enthusiastically engaged in Krsna conscious activities, suggested that we should do likewise. (770121R2.BHU)]
Keeping ISKCON Together
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: I am open to all. Generally, I want that both parties will come and I shall try to help that it may not be broken asunder, torn asunder. Such a great thing has been done by Swami Maharaja, I love it very much. That a worldwide movement, organization, that will be broken into factions, I can't tolerate this. So, I like that both parties will come and I shall try to find out a middle solution. But the party in power may not care to come. For a long time I am feeling that whenever I have come upon a person going [away] dissatisfied, dissatisfaction is going within the party-I am unhappy. But the party in power does not care to come to me. I am sufficiently old but I don't like to see that Swami Maharaja's great work is disturbed in such a way. So laudable a thing. Prthivite ache yata nagaradi gram, sarvatra pracara hoibe mora nama. This great action undertaken by Swami Maharaja effectively successful, that is going to be ruined by internal feud? Intolerable. So, if both parties come I shall try my best before I die, that I want to see a united front and a healthy thing. Healthy institution, that is my heart's desire.
Bhakti Caru Swami: That is what most of the godbrothers also feel [At this time, in 1980, this includes many GBC members]. They feel that whatever Srila Sridhara Maharaja says, we will accept that decision.
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: In the core of my heart I desire such. That it may be broken is intolerable. It should remain a united front and be victorious over the other religious principles. There are so many enemies in the name of religion, they are flourishing and such a great future will be lost? It is intolerable. And especially Prabhupada asked me to go to the West. I could not go, but Prabhupada has brought the West to me, so I must, I have got some holy duty to discharge about that, I feel. So anyhow, it may not be broken into pieces. United we stand, divided we fall. But if hopeless, then no alternative. For the sake of the truth-we must always side with the truth and not with the falsehood. Hare Krsna. Gaura Haribol. Swami Maharaja took the responsibility of that great unfinished work and did wonderfully successful work and we feel proud for him, we feel pride for his activity and how can we tolerate in our lifetime, within two or three years after his departure it will be broken into pieces? It is intolerable. Hare Krsna. But if for the sake of quality, for the sake of truth, we are to face such a situation, it can't be helped, truth is everything, satyam param dhimahi. Gaura Haribol. Jaya Caitanya.