Aparadha, The Vaisnavas Greatest Enemy: Introduction
In this chapter we trace the course of activities over the years from 1978, when the GBC first approached Srila Sridhara Maharaja with many important questions, up to the present. Excerpts are presented from relevant question and answer sessions of the GBC representatives with Srila Sridhara Maharaja, showing the lucidity and sastric appropriateness of Srila Sridhara Maharaja's advice. The GBC stalwarts openly and enthusiastically expressed their satisfaction at the time of receiving advices from Srila Sridhara Maharaja from 1978 to 1982 but over the years their feelings soured toward him. The supposed reasons for this, widely propogated by ISKCON leaders, were that Srila Sridhara Maharaja was trying to take control of ISKCON, trying to destroy ISKCON and that some of his advice was misleading and dangerous for ISKCON. In this section we present many samples of Srila Sridhara Maharaja's advice on important issues in an attempt to bring to light the fact that Srila Sridhara Maharaja was sastrically perfect and held the interests of Srila Prabhupada and ISKCON formost in his considerations. In actuality, the GBC's negative attitude toward Srila Sridhara Maharaja was primarily due to three reasons: He clearly pin-pointed their deficiencies, wrongdoings and shortcomings and advised proper courses of action, to which the GBC continuously turned a deaf ear. Many devotees, dissatisfied and discouraged by the ISKCON GBC's style of management, approached Srila Sridhara Maharaja for advice. His wonderful advice evoked a higher more mature perspective in these devotees which many times also included more tolerance and compassionate dealings in regards to the ISKCON leaders. His expert advice and comforting words which revived many a devotee's faltering faith, earned Srila Sridhara Maharaja a fast rising popularity which the GBC feared would diminish their position and control. Although ISKCON leaders man feel justified for their ongoing institutional vilification campaign to this very day against Srila Sridhara Maharaja, we find these activities vehemently condemned by all sastra--as leading to the most dire and disastrous consequences for those responsible.
We refer our readers to The Heart of Krsna, Vaisnava Aparadha and the Path of Spiritual Caution by Srila Bhakti Promode Puri Goswami Maharaja, for an in depth and substantial presentation of the ontology of vaisnava-aparadha. Therein it is irrevocably established that vaisnava-aparadhis are forever bereft of achieving the ultimate goal of life--krsna-prema.
It is said that offenses committed at the lotus feet of the Vaisnava devotees of the Lord distance one from devotional service of the Supreme Lord. In the highest sense, then, this means to be removed from the service of Sri Radha-who is seen as the representative of all servitors, the very embodiment of pure concentrated exalted devotional service of the highest caliber. Since all divine service to Krsna is being conducted under Her direction, to offend Her servitors is to make one unfit for Her divine service-hence the name is given--apa-radha.
The Lord is overly protective of His devotees (bhakta-vatsala). He cannot tolerate any offenses against them. They have bhakti (devotion), and they can awaken it within us. Bhakti is the sole means to attract Krsna, Who is a slave of devotion. The same is true of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. In Chaitanya-bhagavata, Madhya-lila 22.8, Vrndavana dasa Thakur states ,
vaisnavera thani ya're haya aporadha
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura writes,
Regarding the phrase krsna krpa hoileo ("even though he may receive Krsna's mercy"), Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur comments: "People may think that because an offender appears to continue to chant without difficulty, the Lord must still favor him, but they are wrong. The Lord is not even slightly moved by their sham devotion." The author of Sri Chaitanya-bhagavata, Vrndavana dasa Thakur, says that these statements are not his alone; they are the verdict of the Vedas.
Further, the Chaitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 19.156 states:
yadi vaisnava-aparadha uthe hati mata
Because Krsna's mercy descends only through the Vaishnavas-is embodied in the pure Vaisnava's heart, sadhavo hrdayau mahyam (Bhag. 9.4.68), those who offend the Vaisnava, what to speak of the pure Vaisnava, are forever bereft of the Lord's mery.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, in one pastime freely distributed krsna-prema to all who approached, yet when asked to give this to His divine mother Sacidevi, He refused because of a minor offense in mother Sacidevi's mind to Adwaitacarya.
It is almost impossible to be released from the consequences of vaisnava-aparadha. Without feeling deep and substantial remorse, and without surrendering at the feet of the offended devotee, one can never be forgiven. Without such forgiveness, the goal of life is lost.
"The Lord refuses to accept any worship from those who slight his devotees. Although the characteristic of a pure devotee is that he excuses the offenses of the ignorant, Krsna however -- bhakta-ninda sahite na pare -- never tolerates an offense to the lotus feet of his devotee." (Chaitanya-caritamrta, Antya-lila 3.213) To even hear vaishnava-aparadha is damaging. The Srimad-bhagavatam 10.74.40 states that, "Any person who, on hearing blasphemy against the Supreme Lord or his devotee, does not leave that unholy place, is implicated in the offense and loses all sukrti (spiritual merit)." Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur writes further, that not only is the vaishnava-aparadhi's association to be strictly avoided, but also the association of the associates of vaishnava-aparadhis. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Himself declares that, "He who criticizes and offends my devotees even once will be destroyed by chanting My holy name. Just because one is chanting is no guarantee of success. I destroy anyone who tries to hurt my devotees. Even if a sannyasi offends a pure devotee he falls down." (Caitanya-bhagavata, Madhya 19.207-214)
Not only have the GBC members committed repeated Vaishnava-aparadha and engaged in strong blasphemy of Srila Sridhara Maharaja, but they have also committed guru-aparadha, in that many openly offered Srila Sridhara Maharaja glorifying words of praise as their siksa guru, repeatedly stating that his words were nondifferent than Srila Prabhupada's. To then reject and vilify him for improper reasons of personal motivation is most offensive. We have seen over the years so many harsh reactions to these offenses. Many sincere devotees see a direct correlation between these activities of the fifty-five percent of the original gurus and their horrible falldowns and activities.
"Sridhara Maharaja is Sincere; All Others Not"
We have documented the very intimate and long-standing relationship between Srila Prabhupada and Srila Sridhara Maharaja and their highest regard for each other in chapter one: A Transcendental Friendship. In 1967 Srila Prabhupada asked Srila Sridhara Maharaja to be the president of his newly formed Society-ISKCON. [Lilamrta, Vol. 3, p. 203-5] And again in a 1973 Room Conversation [Transcript available] Srila Prabhupada told his disciples, "Our relationship is very intimate. After the breakdown of the Gaudiya Math, I wanted to organize another organization making Sridhara Maharaja the head." One year later (1974) Srila Prabhupada wrote the Rupanuga letter instructing us to not make the same mistake as the Gaudiya Math. This has been previously shown in chapter one to be inconsistent with Srila Prabhupada's actual intimate relationship with Srila Sridhara Maharaja. In his July 7, 1975 letter to Bon Maharaja, one year after the letter to Rupanuga, Srila Prabhupada related Srila Sridhara Maharaja's obviously nonenvious praise of his successful preaching, "Sripada Sridhara Maharaja also appreciated my service. He said that 'Caitanya Mahaprabhu's prediction: prthivite ache yata nagaradi-grama, sarvatra pracara hoibe mora nama; would remain a dream only,' but he congratulated me that I 'have done it practically.'" A year and a half earlier, during a morning walk in Los Angeles on December 14, 1973, Srila Prabhupada had also narrated how Srila Sridhara Maharaja has said that he has done the impossible: mukham karoti vacalam pangum langhayate girim. "That one of my important godbrothers says. He's sincere. All others, they are rascals. He says that, 'In the Caitanya-Caritamrta it is said: prthivite ache yata nagaradi-grama. So we were thinking that this is imagination, that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's cult would be spread all over the world, every one will chant. So you have done it.' So, he's appreciating in that way. 'But we are simply thinking that it is not possible, it is simply imagination. But that you have made it possible.' So that is his appreciation." In 1977, Srila Prabhupada again made the same distinction between Srila Sridhara Maharaja and envious godbrothers who, after so many years had not learned how to correctly manage the Gaudiya Math temples--that Sridhara Maharaja and others who are intelligent and nonenvious, they are making something, they have a properly functioning Gaudiya Math . [770113RC.ALL] Srila Prabhupada in a letter to Bodhayana Maharaja on November 9, 1976 confirmed Srila Sridhara Maharaja's nonenvious appreciation of Srila Prabhupada as a "great powerful acarya in the Vaishnava world at present." Satsvarupa Maharaja writes in the Srila Prabhupada Lilamrta, "Srila Sridhara Maharaja praised Srila Prabhupada's preaching in America, repeatedly using Prabhupada's phrase 'Krsna consciousness.' Swamiji's work, he said, was the fulfillment of Lord Chaitanya's prophecy that Krsna consciousness would one day spread all over the world. He laughed and smiled and praised the Krsna consciousness movement with no trace of jealousy." [Lilamrta, Vol. 3, p. 203-4]
Further glorification of the supremely pure and spotless position of Srila Sridhara Maharaja spontaneously manifests from his godbrother Srila Bhakti Promod Puri Maharaja. Upon mentioning the name of Srila Sridhara Maharaja he becomes so very happy and will endlessly and joyfully relate the glorious transcendental qualities of Srila Sridhara Maharaja for hours on end, "Although he was born in a high-class, wealthy family, was handsome and became famous for his scholarly achievements, no trace of false pride was ever found in his life or character. He was never known to give trouble to anyone in any way and never felt himself to be the loser when taking troubles from others. He was completely free from any tinge of malicious anger, which is opposed to pure devotional service. He would always heartily try, with great patience, to resolve any problems arising from the conflicts or disputes between his godbrothers. A natural, simple and most cordial behavior was always seen on the part of this spotless personality setting an exemplary standard for the brahmacaris and sannyasis of our mission." We have presented a more complete glorification of Srila Sridhara Maharaja by Srila Puri Maharaja in chapter two: Exalted Glorification.
Srila Prabhupada's implicit trust in Srila Sridhara Maharaja is revealed in Prabhupada's letter of January 30, 1970 to Satsvarupa Maharaja, editor of his Back to Godhead Magazine:
In other words, even without seeing Srila Sridhara Maharaja's article, he understood that his article was philosophically sound and in agreement with our mood of presentation of philosophy and therefore acceptable
"Please Stay With Me"
In chapter one: A Transcendental Friendship, excerpts from Room Conversations between Srila Prabhupada and Srila Sridhara Maharaja in 1967, 1973 and 1977* are given as well as numerous other verifiable references, all of which conclusively show the extremely high regard of Srila Prabhupada for Srila Sridhara Maharaja and the extremely high regard of Srila Sridhara Maharaja for Srila Prabhupada. In the 1977 Room Conversation (transcribed from the Bhaktivedanta Archives by Bhakti Caru Swami) Srila Prabhupada repeatedly (six times) implores Srila Sridhara Maharaja to please come live with him in Mayapura and preach to his disciples: "I want very much that you come and stay at Mayapura . . . why don't you come and stay at Mayapura . . . I want to take you everywhere . . . at least at the place we have in Mayapura . . . Why don't you come and stay there? If you just agree . . . This is my earnest desire . . . at least stay there . . . then they can get some guidance . . . please, give me the order and I will make all the arrangements for you."
Srila Prabhupada on several occasions sent disciples to Srila Sridhara Maharaja to be trained and on many occasions asked Srila Sridhara Maharaja to take care of his disciples. This has also been established in chapter one.
"Please Look after Them"
Srila Sridhara Maharaja explains:
Real Seekers of Truth are Fearless
Devotee: They are afraid that the institution is breaking.
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: If they are seekers after truth, they'll be fearless. It is His movement [Krsna's], if He likes, He will keep it. It is spread by His will. So spacious and extensively, in such a small span of life, Swami Maharaja took it to the length and breadth of the world. It is by divine will.
Devotee: Their position is that now they are in so much difficulty that they are just looking for somebody to blame. They don't want to blame themselves. They are just looking for someone outside.
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: It is human nature. General weakness of man.
On August 25, 1981 Srila Sridhara Maharaja said,
In 1978 the GBC as a body approached Srila Sridhara Maharaja for advice on many important questions-questions for which he had proper answers. A complete transcript of the first two meetings is given in Appendix A: The GBC Meets Srila Sridhara Maharaja ~ March 1978
Siksa of Srila Sridhara Maharaja Authorized
March 1978~Excerpt from Meeting of GBC with Srila Sridhara Maharaja
Jayapataka Maharaja: After the departure of our beloved spiritual master we came to offer our respects to you as well as to hear your very esteemed upadesa on certain matters if you would be kind enough. Maharaja, when our Srila Prabhupada left, he has given instruction that for initiating and for carrying on the sampradaya there would be eleven. In the beginning, he appointed eleven devotees, his disciples, to be initiating spiritual masters or to accept disciples and in the future that number would also be able to be increased. So we wanted to take your advice on some points as to various details of how these initiating spiritual masters should deal with certain questions. If we could ask questions to you then.
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: yes, you may ask.
We Should Approach Sridhara Maharaja
Jayapataka Maharaja: He has given explicit desires, but he told us that, on other technical points and other matters of philosophy, if there was question we should approach you. He said that when he was very ill, he had appointed eleven ritviks and he said that after he disappears that these ritviks would continue as initiating spiritual masters and that they could be increased later, that would be decided by the GBC or Governing Body Commission.
The first question was, we wondered that some of the disciples had been initiated by Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja. But this Hari-nama, so they will be taking diksa from one of his disciples, so they wondered, what is their relationship in this type of situation with each of the spiritual masters?
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: A Disciple, he may like one-first or third or fourth or fifth, how to solve that.
Tamal Krsna Maharaja: (background): That we must solve.
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: A person . . .
Guru Choice by Sraddha
Jayapataka Maharaja: He can take who he likes, he may take whichever one he wants?
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: According to his sraddha.
Devotee: His faith.
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: According to his sraddha a newcomer should be given some time. Who will come to be initiated, he should be given some time for a fair period of time to hear from different persons and then the sraddha, the faith . . .
Devotee: . . . will be awakened.
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: Ah, will be considered to whom he will submit. Do you follow?
GBC Assembly: Yes
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: After sravan, then varan, five stages there are; first to hear. First stage is to hear and the second stage, that is varan, that is, acceptance by the guru and the sisya, both the preceptor and the disciple. That is the second stage, varan dasa. Then the sadhana or the attempt for realization will begin. First stage, to hear openly, open field-fair field to hear-then the connection should come between the guru and sisya-preceptor and disciple, both sides. Then that should be better. Sravan dasa, then varan dasa, then sadhana dasa, apan dasa, prapan dasa-five stages in sadhana in spiritual life.
Earlier, in chapter five in the section entitled Zonal Acarya System, we have presented excerpts of Srila Sridhara Maharaja's advice from which it has been alleged that this controversial concept of zonal acaryas arose. Although Srila Sridhara Maharaja mentioned that a zonal preference for guru would help to get out of the difficulty of many gurus in some temples, he later in the same session adjusted this statement. A careful study of these transcripts shows that while he stated that according to our Gaudiya siddhanta, our process is an autocratic one, submission to guru is unconditional-that the "sisya will be greatly disturbed if he sees any other Vaisnava disturbing the absolute position of his guru"-therefore "at least one place should be there where the disciples can get their guru exclusively," but that he also added, "will not be possible practically." Further, he said that "We cannot reach into a particular solution as all complete and perfect." He related that his Guru Maharaja, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura had answered a similar question with the explanation that, "'Krsna is adhoksaja, He is not bound to come into our fist.' We cannot reach into a particular solution as all complete and perfect. Go with fair feeling, this utmost I can suggest to you."
Srila Sridhara Maharaja also said that if non-gurus were to govern gurus this would cause a difficulty, so his suggestion was that if all the members of the GBC were guru then it would be better. Then Sridhara Maharaja suggested that they carry out the instructions of Srila Prabhupada for the time being and gradually gain practical experience. Rather than giving all the GBC the position of gurus, the eleven controlling gurus made the two gurus who were not GBC's into GBCs and left it at that. They consolidated their power rather than take the path advised by Srila Sridhara Maharaja, that of a dynamic process -- a fair field for all -- preserving the spiritual characteristics. One might conjecture that the remaining non-guru GBC's weren't qualified to be guru, to which we answer, then they certainly were not qualified to have absolute rigid control of the spiritual lives of so many. This neglect of Srila Sridhara Maharaja's advice led to just the problems predicted by Sridhara Maharaja. In March of 1981 Srila Sridhara Maharaja was told,
Sridhara Maharaja's response, presented earlier in chapter five in the section I Told Them Right at the Beginning, was
Synthesis Will Help You Most
1978 Darshan continued:
Tamal Krsna Maharaja: How shall we deal with temples with several acaryas?
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: In the major centers, problems will arise if one guru will take the central position, because so many interests exist there. Those centers which Srila Prabhupada personally established should keep a group photo with Srila Prabhupada in the center on the altar. You may start with your gurudeva, Srila Prabhupada, in the center and others as parsada. You must start in this way now. Then the time will help you gradually.
Tamal Krsna Maharaja: This is in the main branches or in the sub-branches? This is in the main Math or everywhere?
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: This will be maintained everywhere!
Tamal Krsna Maharaja: Everywhere?
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: Everywhere!
Tamal Krsna Maharaja: Group Photo.
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: Synthesis will help you most. As much as we can synthesize that will come to help you more. Your Prabhupada's Vyasasana should not be occupied by any of the disciples nor by their picture. A second seat should be given a little below for the present acarya. This will impress the disciple that even his [siddha] guru, he is giving respect to his own guru.
Jayapataka Maharaja: But in those temples newly established by zonal guru, in that place then, this would not be required? (Bengali)
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: Even in new organization also, the same thing will go on, because whatever you are creating, that is with the impression, first impression is from him [Prabhupada].
Tamal Krsna Maharaja: That's a fact.
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: Go with fair feeling, go on with fair feeling, this utmost I can suggest to you.
In his paper Under My Order, (see chapter five) Ravindra Svarupa writes,
Free Choice of Guru Reiterated
That the rigid zonal acarya system (forced initiation by the local guru only) would be forced on all to accept could hardly be expected, but when Sridhara Maharaja was informed of this on Feb. 1, 1982, he reiterated his original suggestion of free choice by sraddha :
Srila Sridhara Maharaja further suggested (again) that the number of gurus be increased. Finally in March of 1982 three gurus were added for the first time [Gopal Krsna Maharaja, Svarupa Damodara Maharaja and Panca Dravida Maharaja, who immediately all went to Srila Sridhara Maharaja for his blessings in their new service. [This was in the middle of a major GBC confrontation with Srila Sridhara Maharaja]. More gurus were not added again until 1985.
You Must Become Guru
In March of 1981 (Tape #7c) Srila Sridhara Maharaja reiterated to Satsvarupa Maharaja his advice of a few days earlier. Tamal Krsna Maharaja had stated that he did not feel quite fit to take the position of initiating guru, so, should he go on and do so? Srila Sridhara Maharaja answered, that, amara ajnaya guru haya; by the command of Mahaprabhu and my guru maharaja, it is His order. We must be so much careless of ourself, if it is possible, that I may go to hell, but I must carry out my guru's order. So, through me, the work will go on. That is one. And another instance is that of Krsna's headache, where the gopis supplied their footdust for Krsna's headache even though they would go to hell for doing this they didn't care as Krsna was cured. Another example quoted by Srila Sridhara Maharaja was that of Ramanujacarya who freely distributed a mantra that gave liberation, although forbidden by his guru. Here his guru admitted that his disciple was greater than him. Further, Jiva Goswami says jnana sathya vittha sathya, that if I have some money and another person is suffering and I can't pay-if I keep tight that money, and he lies fasting without food, then I'll be responsible for that. Vittha sata. So, jnana sata is there, I have got some knowledge, I can help my neighbor, but if I don't do that, then I am responsible. I shall commit an offense against the society and against the cause. Srila Sridhara Maharaja also gave the example of a doctor who does not have perfect knowledge of treatment of all diseases, yet he must treat his patients or the whole method of treatment will vanish. So, in good faith with whatever knowledge one has got, he must sincerely help others with that sort of knowledge and guidance. In this spirit we may take it, otherwise we will be blamed. However if a superior guru is available we must help others to take help from him. We may feel ourselves the lowest of the low, but when acarya-abhimana will flow, it will come through the order of Krsna. You have to do it. If such a sincere urge comes within our heart, then we must do it. If I do not serve the society, whatever I have gotten, then if I think again, no, then I will be responsible to my guru-you have gotten so much energy from me and you keep it within yourself, but the difficulty is there, that to become guru, to capture the position of a guru, the respect of a guru, that is one thing, and to discharge the duty that is another stage. Sincerity is necessary in the conception.
Siksa & Diksa Guru
Jayapataka Maharaja asked Sridhara Maharaja the difference between siksa guru and diksa:
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: Diksa guru-siksa-guruke ta'jani krsnera svarupa (CC Adi 1.47) Diksa guru and siksa guru are both extensions of Krsna. Guru is Krsna, acaryam mam vijaniyam [CC Adi 1.46 ~ Bhag. 11.17.27]. Krsna has come there to liberate me, in different appearance, representations. He is coming, Krsna is coming, oneness in variegated position.
Tamal Krsna Maharaja(Background): Who can be a siksa guru, who is qualified?
Jayapataka Maharaja: Who is qualified to be siksa guru?
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: Whoever sincerely will help me to go towards Krsna, he is siksa guru. Vaisnava is also siksa guru, vaisnavas. Vaisnavas, siksa guru. Who will come in my connection and will help me to go forward, he is siksa guru. And there is vartma pradarsaka guru, siksa guru, mantra guru, nama guru and sannyasa guru.
On 28 October, 1981 Srila Sridhara Maharaja advises that we must be very cautious that we select the right things in our devotional life-that we select a guru carefully, that we make decisions based on correct critereon, etc:
Srila Prabhupada advises:
"No one should be allowed to sit on the vyasasana who is not spotless in character and who is not freed from the above mentioned vices [4 Regulative Principles]" (Bhag. 1.1.6). In the purport of Cc Adi 1.46, Srila Prabhupada writes,
In March of 1978, in the first meetings with the GBC, Srila Sridhara Maharaja advised reading the section in chapter six of Harinama Cintamani on guru tyaja, wherein Bhaktivinode Thakura gives a detailed and elaborate description of guru selection, guru falldown, guru rejection, etc. We have included this section from Harinama Cintamani in Appendix I so our readers can further see the efficacy of Srila Sridhara Maharaja's advice.
Devotee: Will the disciple of a madhyama-adhikari guru achieve the same result as a disciple of an uttama-adhikari guru?
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: Of course. There may be little differences but according to one's previous sukrti we may recover the differences-sincerity. That may be compensated, gradually. If we are sincere, just as the connection of guru we may have by the arrangement of the absolute, so also in our own case that madhyama-adhikari guru will give instruction rightly. And also he may return and I can have justice. In one birth I may meet one guru and in another birth I man meet another guru. But substantial measurement will all be the same, only some difference in form. So, even in this life also after getting some instructions from a particular guru I may get another siksa guru where I can learn more. That may not be impossible. Because that guru is one, acarya mam vijaniyam. Our sincerity and His grace, that is one and the same thing. His grace-simultaneously there may be guru, simultaneously many gurus.
Guru Deviation ~ GBC Acts
Srila Sridhara Maharaja speaks on the removal of two acaryas in April 1980:
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: They have both been permanently removed?
Dheera Krsna: Out of the zone? It's permanent?
Bhakti Caru Swami: Permanent.
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: Both permanently removed?
Dheera Krsna: From America . . .
Bhakti Caru Swami: Permanently removed, by unanimous vote.
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: Permanently removed. This has been a very serious mistake. It can be considered a death blow. The position that was established by Swami Maharaja on the strength of majority to dismiss it in just one or two years [Based on the information given by the GBC to Srila Sridhara Maharaja]. This has been a very bold step. This has been an interference into the "srota pantha." I think that such bold step should not have been taken. To challenge the decision of the spiritual master and give a verdict against his will -- to remove the nominated acaryas of Swami Maharaja so soon, it has become very undeliberate and is almost suicidal, almost suicidal step. It has challenged the very nomination of Swami Maharaja.
Dheera Krsna: That's one of the questions. In Prabhupada's books he never says that one is guru by appointment, but he says one is guru by qualification. By qualification-not by appointment.
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: Considering the qualification, he gave recognition to the acaryas, is it not? Independent of qualification, whimsically he appointed, did he? Did he do so?
Bhakti Caru Swami: Actually one of the questions is that, whether Prabhupada really appointed them as guru. Because so far we haven't found enough proof to confirm that.
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: What is the basis of the acaryas?
Bhakti Caru Swami: That Prabhupada said that they can be ritviks.
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: Ritvik.
Bhakti Caru Swami: Yes, on behalf of Prabhupada they can initiate.
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: During his lifetime. During his lifetime these eleven were appointed as his assistants. They could also initiate during his lifetime?
Bhakti Caru Swami: No, not during his lifetime. During his lifetime they can initiate on behalf of Prabhupada. But, after Prabhupada left, who will initiate, Prabhupada did not clearly mention. This doubt is coming up now.
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: At least that is to be surmised that persons that were allowed during his stay, who occupied the position or ritvik or mediator they should have some recognition thereby -- there must be grave reason to remove. It is, of course, removable but not so easily, not so easily. Once this has been accepted by the GBC that they have gotten nomination from gurudeva in any way or another, they should not be removed so easily. There must be grave cause to deal against them. And it is mentioned in the scripture that with the help of a higher Vaisnava, with the advice of a higher realized soul, the position of guru should be challenged. And that is the most deplorable thing in the world, in the life of any man, to change the guru or to see that his guru is charged or dismissed or dishonored. Of course, it can never be permanent, only in the case of vaisnava-aparadha. That is the most detrimentral thing on this path, without that any small defects that can be seen in our eyes or felt by our ordinary conception that is not sufficient cause to remove one from the position of acarya who has already been selected by guru maharaja. To disbelieve the guru maharaja to such a high degree, this is not an easy matter to play with.
Bhakti Caru Swami: Now that it has been done.
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: Now, that may be compensated, it is temporary and then to reinstate, to remove the foolishness of the body. Of course, if there is sufficient cause, sufficient cause including a sort of dishonor to guru and vaisnava, not ordinary differences in policy or propoganda or preaching. The policy and the process of preaching may vary, that does not matter much, but offense against a guru and Vaisnava that should be considered as the serious point to remove an acarya. Or, gross negligence about moral life. Something like that. A very heavy loss of moral life, that is also sufficient, that may be a strong cause but the offense to the guru parampara descent line of the divinity, that is generally considered to be the cause of the removal of the acarya. Krsna.
On October 21, 1980, following several such intense question and answer sessions, Satsvarupa Maharaja, very much enthused by the sound sastric advice presented, prepared a tape of these sessions with his own introduction and distributed it to all his disciples:
Position of Acarya
Sridhara Maharaja: The position of acarya is very intricate. It is very difficult to bring an acarya under rule. You see, that is our practical experience. You please hear and note: The position of acarya is a relative thing, just as mother-child, father-child, wife-husband; so it s a relative thing. the position of disciple is also relative. So, relative and absolute and their position; to adjust between the two is a difficult thing and it is an eternal [problem[. So, as in rasa, in the madhurya-rasa even there is enmity between vatsalya-rasa and madhurya-rasa. Yasoda is thinking that, "My son is lost! They have captured my son!" And the gopis in madhurya-rasa see that vatsalya is always jealous of our free mixing. That is a hindrance to the way of our free mixing. Still, two things to be continued. It is clearly written in sastra that vatsalya and madhurya are two antagonistic rasas. One is always suspicious that the other in encroaching on my rights. Very jealous. Jealously, encroachment is coming from the other side, against our rightful possession. This is an eternal truth. So, we have to accomodate with such mentality, and such broadness of our hearts. When the Absolute consideration will come, they will have to attach both rasas within the fold. So, to the disciple, the acarya's position is Supreme, even more so than God. In scripture we find it. The guru is more near and more affectionate than God. God has many to deal with, but guru is only careful about my welfare.The other day [August 18, 1980] I told to some of you that it is described in sastra that guru is water around the lotus, and the sun is God. Remove the water, and the sun will burn the lotus. And when the water is around the lotus, the sun will foster the lotus. But if guru is removed, the very God, the sun will burn the lotus. The guru's position is more helpful to the disciple. If we have a natural growth, if we want a natural growth of the sraddha of the disciple, the regard of the disciple toward the guru and the Absolute, such room must be allowed in the constitution, if the constitution is to live at all.
Some adjustment must be made between the relation, and it is better that the acaryas themselves, they will come to directly make all the necessary adjustments between acarya and acarya, acarya and Godbrother, acarya, and his disciples, and the disciples and disciples. All these fine points of sentiment. Sentiment is not to be neglected. Law is not everything. Law should be accomodating to increase the sentiment, otherwise this is no law. Law should come to promote the sraddha, make room for the faith to develop. Such law should come to help us. Sastra. Sastra's jurisdiction is limited. Only to promote love, and when love comes it will be free. Smooth harmonious working is possible only in the area of love. Spontaneous. That is also some sort of hitch, as in madhurya-rasa and vatsalya-rasa . . . but all to please Krsna. Harmony is there. But ragavid bhava navadhi vaidhi bhakti adhikaras tu ragavid bhava navdhi. Vaidhi bhakti: devotion under the guidance of sastra, laws and rules, that is to a certain extent necessary. It will only help the inner awakenment of love and affection, and then it will retire. Law will retire giving room to the spontaneous flow of love. Loving service to the Supreme. So, law is not all. Law is necessary and especially in the lower stage. And it should make room for free movement between the relationship, just as I once told that if one is not married, there is no necessity of any separate room. He may lay down here and there. But, whenever he marries, he wants some room to behave in a particular way. Some private arrangement. So, when one is next to a disciple, that sort of relationship should find some independent place to express its fullest feelings, unbridled feelings towards the master. That should not be curbed by law. There is also necessity of law, and law's object will be to work our freedom for everyone. Freedom is the highest thing. Free service is raga-marg, and that is service proper. Not regulated and coerced, and pressed by law. That is not service. Expecially our aim is Vrndavana. So, free service. Without freedom, service is not valuable. Forced labor is no labor. Labor of love, that is required. and it is the thing for which all are out. Let us essentially think that we are all not only for the constitution, but the thing for which the constitution has been made, to that object. The constituation should promote to that aim. With this feeling. The newcomers are coming with their faith, and faith should be encouraged and also adjusted, that the faith of one person will not disturb another."
Posterity Will Judge — History Will Reveal All
Srila Sridhara Maharaja told the story of Queen Victoria who as a new queen wanted to be lenient in judging her first case. He suggested, "In the internal administration, you'll give more to affection, and towards your dealings with the public, you may proceed with some legal action. Legal, moral, all these things are to be showed in public. But forgive and forget within you, internally. The consideration of love and affection, that should be the greatest consideration."
Further Srila Sridhara Maharaja cautioned the GBC that posterity will judge them-history will reveal all, so they should be very careful, that they are writing their Prabhupada lilamrita so they should show the proper dignity of the acaryas.They will gain the greatest confidence of the devotees and gain in power by dealing magnanimously. Further, he pointed out that the restriction on the acarya must come from the acarya himself, that the disciples should see that their guru is not ruled by law-by others-"otherwise the disciples faith will vanish." This is the ideal put forward by Srila Sridhara Maharaja. It is not that this is the all in all-the acarya now is free to do any and all nonsense. But the ISKCON "acaryas" didn't regulate themselves-worse, the slightest mention of constructive criticism was treated as if it was a demoniac attack. They did whatever they wanted with the admonition that "the acarya cannot be regulated," placing themselves above any form of regulation, thus abusing these instructions. Later they blamed Srila Sridhara Maharaja for their improper activities.
Law Necessary but not to Kill Enthusiasm
"The free love, free faith, that is the only thing, the most valuable thing for which we have come out of our own house, and joined the mission. That purity of purpose should always be kept intact. Of course, some help from law, regulation is necessary. But not so much as to check the growth of the vitality. Promote the vitality! The real spirit, the real purpose of the mission, that should be given first hand. In this way, you have to deal. And there, some lenient dealings are necessary."
Srila Prabhupada manytimes gave instructions similar to Srila Sridhara Maharaja's instructions above. Perhaps the most well known instruction is Srila Prabhupada's letter to Karandar das in 1972:
Srila Sridhara Maharaja responds to the GBC's Centralization:
Devotee: Maharaja, they are arguing that Srila Prabhupada wanted everyone to work under the GBC, but we are not doing that, so therefore everything we do is unauthorized.
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: Authorized from the greater circle -- the general saying of the general call to go and preach about Krsna. GBC committee resolution is recommendatory. But, to facilitate that he appointed some gentlemen. That does not mean that he has given everything within their fist, their whimsical fist. At present it is dollars, diplomacy and despotism in the name of devotion, dedication and divinity. God is within their fist, Krsna, and they think like that. But that it is the opposite they will have to think. So much pride: "Whatever we view, we'll dictate, and that cannot but be the opinion of Guru and Gauranga, Krsna." So, limited narrow views. So much so, don't go beyond our guru maharaja's books. His guru, other goswami's, no. Don't go. What is this? The natural advice should be, "Read others to support what is written by our gurudeva." By extensive study. Food, that is what our guru maharaja has said, to support that. Our expansion is necessary. Otherwise you won't be able to maintain your solidarity. This is defeatist mentality. It is not a dead thing, it is a progressive living thing.
Below we present an excerpt from the August 19, 1980 darshana wherein Srila Sridhara Maharaja, hearing that many Godbrothers are leaving ISKCON in frustration, unable to tolerate the mismanagement of ISKCON, advises not to be too rash, but "Wait and see." Further he suggested that the Godbrothers should "Call For A Meeting." He proposed that at this meeting the grievances of the Godbrothers could be presented to the GBC and hopefully resolved. A careful study off the transcripts shows that always Srila Sridhara Maharaja advocates a moderate thoughtful path--don't be rash, consider the many consequences of your activities-consider the best interests of the devotees, not just the maintenance of the ruling power.
GBC Activities Intolerable
Bhakti Caru Swami: Bengali:
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: Bengali:
Yes, the ones who won't be able to check themselves, they will come forward. And the ones, those who are wavering, those who can tolerate a little more, they can wait and examine what actually is Krsna's desire for a little longer. The primary consideration is Krsna's will . . . The ones who won't be able to control themselves, they will dive into it. Without considering the good, bad, honor and infamy; without considering the future, they will dive into it for reformation. From a distance I am saying, "Wait and see." The ones, those who are the real lovers of the institution, for them this is becoming intolerable. This is going beyond their level of tolerance.
Bhakti Caru Swami: Bengali:
The main reason why we came is because there are many devotees, those who are impatiently waiting to hear what you have to say. Now, if you just show us the way. Now this has come to this point and unless some rectification is made, must be done, then they all will get together to do something about this.
"Call For a Meeting"
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: Bengali:
If I have to say something formally from outside, then I have to say that among you who enjoy the greatest confidence of all the devotees, through such a man you "Call For A Meeting" in America or wherever the field is the most important. And in that meeting, the ones, those who are willing to boldly face the situation, participate, the GBCs, those who you feel are dissatisfied inwardly, call them and call a few acaryas like Ramesvara Maharaja who are sympathetic. And then in the meeting, you record the feeling of different devotees and then with the strength of that resolution you call for their explanation that, "What are you doing in the name of Prabhupada? You are not absolutely infallible. Due to your activities the mass of the disciples of Prabhupada have become very bewildered. They are becoming very disappointed and they can see that a great loss is going to be incurred by the ISKCON society. The ISKCON society is in danger. So now, you all reconsider yourselves and appeal to them to readjust themselves and thus this disaster can be saved. So many devotees are leaving the movement. So many devotees have become half-dead, and so many devotees have already died. And so many are lamenting and we cannot just sit idly without trying to rectify the situation. We ourselves do not want any position, but what is going on is intolerable. It shows that the major portion is going to die. This must be thought out and accepted." So, with this idea, you form a committee, make a resolution, and then selectively invite to come. In this way you "Call For A Meeting," pass a resolution, and then call for them and ask them to readjust their position and reconsider. Otherwise we shall be in painful necessity to make progress independently. You can say this in this line.
Finally, many years later in 1985 a meeting was arranged in New Vrndavana-many issues were at hand-godbrothers throughout the movement demanded reform. One of the many dealt with-that of the grossly deviant and fallen condition of one of the eleven original gurus. Which was finally admitted and dealt with, that which had been hidden and covered up for so long-private bank accounts of huge amounts of money, extravagant spending, illicit homosex, drugs, and many more things. Extravagant guru worship was lowered, exclusive vyasasanas and acarya pictures on the altar except during arotika were stopped, guru expansion was opened up, and in the words of Satsvarupa Maharaja in his September 21, 1985 Guru Reform letter to his disciples, "a near unanimous decision has been reached by the senior devotees, that the present system of zonal acaryas should be changed." Additionally the GBC resolved as a result of these meetings that individual temples could make changes regarding guru-disciple-godbrother relations, worship etc as they saw fit.
On the previous day, August 18, 1980, Srila Sridhara Maharaja had addressed the problem of acarya grandeur and stated that he thought it would create difficulty if it was not adjusted. We have discussed this in chapter five in the section entitled, Is Srila Prabhupada's Mood different than Srila Sridhara Maharaja's? [full transcript in Appendix E], wherein we present the sound advice of Srila Sridhara Maharaja in response to the complaints of the Godbrothers in regards to the GBC's management and personal activities. Further, we give the history of one GBC guru's attempts to adjust his worship to a moderate standard. He was forced by the GBC to abandon his reform attempt or lose his post as guardian of the Bhaktivedanta Book Publishing Trust.
Another guru took the sastric instruction that one may see the nama-guru thru the mantra (gayatri) guru (when they are different personalities) by Srila Sridhara Maharaja too far and forcefully told his Godbrothers, who had both initiations from Srila Prabhupada, that they had no relationship with Srila Prabhupada and must see Srila Prabhupada thru him-that "you must serve a person, not a concept," inferring that Srila Prabhupada was reduced to a concept and that he, the GBC guru, was the living embodiment of this guru-tattva. Clearly this is a misinterpretation of this instruction and severly shook the faith of those Godbrothers in this guru and caused much disturbance. Srila Sridhara Maharaja had warned the GBC in their first meeting in 1978 that they must respect the faith of their godbrothers in Srila Prabhupada. And when he heard of this misinterpretation of his instruction on August 19,1980 (Appendix F), he very kindly replied:
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: Guru bhognike. This is not objectionable to the extreme, but partially objectionable, because, suppose there are five sons of a father and the eldest son says to the youngest, "You don't know the ways how to satisfy the father. You must do what I shall say. You do that to please my departed father. These things were very favorite, to offer these things will be most pleasing" This sort of advice may be given. If it is done in such color then of course it is innocent. That I have got more experience about Prabhupada's nature so if you really want to do favorite work of Prabhupada, you use my experience, that will help you a great deal. Don't try to connect direct-have a direct relation with him. You'll be deceived. You'll not be able to come to his concrete self, it will be only vague.
Bhakti Caru Swami: Maharaja, we heard about the characteristics of a paramahamsa, that he extracts the nectar. Separates the milk from water, and he takes the milk. That now we can see in you the manifestation of that quality, you are always taking the nectar
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: Yes, I am simply trying to see the brighter side of it so that we may not commit any mistakes against the other party. We must always see the brighter side . . . So all the arguments that the other party might want to give, we shall discuss them in detail and bring out the salient points so that we might not make any mistakes. We must be aware that we are not influenced by any prejudices. Just like they are being influenced by prejudices, we should be careful not to commit the same mistake. We must be well-guarded so that we are not led astray of the path of truth.
Another guru prohibited the guru-puja of Srila Prabhupada in his temples. Disciples of Srila Prabhupada were not allowed to worship Prabhupada. Another wanted to live in Srila Prabhupada's quarters and when he was refused a big fight ensued. Many of the offerings to the gurus were refused as not being opulent enough.
GBC Must Be Living Nor Mechanical
In March of 1981 (Tape # 7A), Srila Sridhara Maharaja advised the GBC representative that the GBC must be a living organization, not mechanical-one cannot mandate affairs of the heart with an iron fist, as per Machiavellian philosophy (see Machiavelli's Princes in chapter five):
"Some sort of restriction should be there, but life cannot be ruled by only law. Both must be accomodated. The scope to the merit. Scope to merit must be allowed, and there should also be some sort of rules there. Law and vitality. Law is there, but merit or vitality cannot be checked. They must have field, proper field, merit must have proper field. By law one should not check the proper person and only encourage the improper one. Both sides-regulation, law is also necessary to be subservient to the natural growth. Suppose a boy requests more food, he will grow, he will be more strong. If you give him more food, then it will bring justice, according to his capacity he should be given food, he will get more strength and do more work. So, this sort of provision must be in the law, is it not? To make the movement quite living. That is my opinion. This facility is to create a fair field, so it must be a living Governing Body, not a mechanical Governing Body, but living Governing body."
Earlier in chapter five, we quoted Sivarama Swami's suggestion that the GBC be more in touch with the rest of ISKCON instead of trying to administrate all problems once a year.
Guru Deviation ~ Wait & See
Sudhira Goswami: If after initiation one sees some problem in the behavior of his guru then?
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: Then of course he cannot but be indifferent to his present guru in the beginning, that I see difference, it is not in the line. But I have taken initiation, so, wait and see, that should be his behavior. Wait and see. I do not find any encouragement in him to engage in the service with earnestness. It may be that it is of course a disaster, calamity.
Sudhira Goswami: It may also be due to immature understanding.
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: But those defects, they should be analyzed as to whether they are external or internal. The difference that is being detected, is that external, superficial or substantial. If they are superficial, he should be encouraged that this may be neglected, but if internal, then of course it is a difficult case, and he cannot but be indifferent for some time, and then gradually time will decide and show what is the matter, and then he should take such steps accordingly.
A Fair Field is Necessary
In March of 1981 Srila Sridhara Maharaja responded to the following statement of a GBC guru, "So, I have some questions about the position of our gurus. Prabhupada named me also as one of the devotees who would begin initiating. So I have felt disturbed that the position of the gurus was raised above all of our godbrothers because of too much worship . . . It seems to me that many of my godbrothers, they are equal or even greater-they can give Prabhupada's teachings just as well as anyone, but they are not named as gurus, so there seems to be too much difference between them and the gurus. So this has been a big disturbance to me:"
"That is a very serious question. They are making much of the position of the acarya. They are misusing the position according to him [Prabhupada]. But that is a very serious question and on that point I have discussed, I have given my opinion many times. In brief, a system should be created or arranged for the proper adjustment. Of course it is necessarymad gurusi jagad guru. He is the suprememost, at least in a particular way. In a particular way he is the best: yar ye rasa se haya sarva . . . Relative position. From the relative standpoint the disciple will see his guru to be the best. And there he will think, that the Lord has delegated him to come to me and to deliver me from the clutches of maya. He has some particular affinity there. And there are many acaryas, and what should be the behavior, the conduct of the disciples of different acaryas? How and what should be the behavior or conduct towards the nonacarya, godbothers of the acarya? That should be evolved. If direction is not given by Swami Maharaja, there might be some signs, some hints. But if it is not found there, then we shall have to evolve some rules and regulations for a proper adjustment so that the mission may not suffer. Suffer from indifference or negligence or abhorrance of the nonacarya disciples of Swami Maharaja. As you say, there are more qualified disciples outside the acarya board, or GBC. It is not impossible, not impossible. So, we should sit together and try to see that valuable persons that came to serve Swami Maharaja with all their energy and sincerity they will go away, it is very, very regretable. We should try to save the mission from that great disaster. I hear that so many stalwarts they are going away, being indifferent and going underground to the unknown quarter, depressed because they do not see fair field. So these things should not be set aside but it must be taken in and they should be discussed. Some salient points, you should prepare a list-that this is a list of disadvantages, inconveniences. The disease has entered into ISKCON and how to treat it. This is our common cause, we are all interested in ISKCON, we are members, we have given our life, dedicated our life for this mission. We are interested and we don't like that our godbrothers will go astray dissatisfied with the management. So try your best to evolve some rulings or some sort of laws, rules which should guide us all, help us all. At the same time it will push the cause of the mission of ISKCON. As dynamic as it is accomodative-comprehensive and dynamic mission we want to have.
Recruiting a Farce when Stalwarts Leaving Discouraged
We have a great field ahead. We must go to the length and the breath of this world with the banner of our Guru Maharaja Prabhupada, Swami Maharaja, and combined effort is necessary for that. We do not like to lose anything. We should collect all our energy, money, men, and we must go on with the banner of our Prabhupada. For this, unity and fairness in the field is necessary. This will strengthen the hearts of all the members of ISKCON. In this way you may introduce-that such an accomodating and dynamic program we want to have. We would like to have. And without doing that we won't allow you to dissolve your meeting. You must come to such a conclusion and give us such a program. Otherwise we won't allow you to go away from this Math. Do it. Make provision to feed all the members, such that all can be satisfied, have food, proper food. Everyone must have proper food to work on. Evolve such a program and give it to us. If you are efficient enough, if you will consider yourself to be efficient, then give us this thing-that we can march on with the flag with our head erect. We have to go and capture the new, but the old is already going back. They are driven, they are being driven and we are going. The old, the important members, who received the grace of our Guru Maharaja, they are being discouraged and becoming indifferent. And we are going to recruit new persons? Is it not a farce?"
Living GBC Meeting We Want Not Formal
"I am speaking a little strongly. But as a friend of your Guru Maharaja I feel this in my heart, so I say, this worldwide grand mission will thrive like anything. It will touch the heaven and cover the world and other planets also. And what is this? That old persons they are going back? There may be one, a few exceptions, but generally people came with a good and sincere heart and they are feeling discouragement. Some encouraging program must be evolved, we want to have. So, let us evolve. Not just a formal meeting for two days, three days. But it must be a meeting to satisfy the real necessity of the day. That is a living committee, that we want. Living meeting we want. Not a formal meeting. After one year, a formal meeting and some resolutions passed, and everyone has gone to his own field and is doing as he likes. Hare Krsna. Gaura Hari Bol."