Our Affectionate Guardians: Introduction
Before reading this book we ask our readers to reflect upon the nature of the devotees' quest in this material world. We are interested in the Absolute Truth (Sri Krsna); therefore, we must fearlessly pursue Him, no matter what the consequences. Let us approach the Supreme Absolute Truth with an unbiased mind, so that we may certainly find Him. We will not find the truth if we don't want to find the truth.
A major portion of this book (chapters one thru five) was originally prepared for presentation to the 1995 International Society for Krsna Consciousness (ISKCON) Governing Body Commission (GBC) Meeting in Mayapur. Although we felt that there was little scope for the reconciliation of our two societies, we nevertheless took the invitation of the ISKCON GBC to meet with the Gaudiya Vaisnava Society as an impetus to clarify many misunderstandings. Indeed, we found reconciliation difficult, if not impossible, on an official level. Therefore we have undertaken the writing of this book, in an attempt to reconcile with the devotees on an unofficial level. We hope that it is appreciated by thoughtful-minded devotees. Herein we have presented portions of relevant conversations, letters, and other verifiable evidence to substantiate our belief that Srila Sridhara Maharaja as well as Srila Prabhupada are "Our Affectionate Guardians." Doing so brings many truths regarding the intimate relationship between Srila Prabhupada and Srila Sridhara Maharaja to the attention of the devotees in general and in particular to the attention of those who have at one time or another been associated with ISKCON. We hope that this will diminish the ongoing offensive [and intolerable] attitudes that we observe in many devotees around the world and help relieve them of the effects of these attitudes by causing a change of heart. It is not our intention to force Srila Sridhara Maharaja on anyone nor are we trying to disturb the ISKCON devotees. We simply feel very strongly that the enlightening and previously unknown (to many) facts contained within this book will serve to clarify past, present, and future misunderstandings on this subject. This will help clear the air of the predominantly offensive attitude toward Srila Sridhara Maharaja, help devotees relieve themselves from offenses they may have committed, and also provide welcome and needed encouragement in the devotional lives of many.
The form of this book is continuously evolving as per the suggestions of many similarly concerned devotee friends. Almost unanimously they have advised that we "tell it like it is," so please forgive us if in the process we have offended anyone. Our aim is not to spew out a tirade of angry accusations mixed haphazardly with inappropriate sastric quotations as we have seen in some publications, but rather to present the truth such that it will stand the test of time. We felt that it was necessary to document specific incidences so that our readers would have criterion for understanding why we came to the conclusions that we did. In doing this, almost all names have been left out wherever unpleasant events are mentioned. Although some would rather "let the past rest," we felt that misinformation about what really happened was causing devotees to continue to commit aparadha into the present. Thus we felt that we had a duty to carry out and "to neglect it would be an offense to Mahaprabhu." Also, as stated in Perfection of Yoga (Ch. 4), "A real sadhu is one who uses sharp words to cut the mind from its attachments." And many have grown accustomed to an offensive attitude toward Srila Sridhara Maharaja. It is high time to tell the story and clarify this once and for all. We do not feel that we are airing our dirty laundry in public but clarifying the many misconceptions already manifest and providing a truthful explanation of previously misconstrued information and improper propoganda.
We feel strongly that the elucidation of many points of siddhanta by Srila Sridhara Maharaja has been an absolute necessity in our evolving spiritual lives--our gain is immeasurable. Many of these points were drawn out by force of great need at the time of the disappearance of Srila Prabhupada. The intense searching and questioning of the devotees at that time drew down such mercy that even disciples of Srila Sridhara Maharaja for forty years said that they were hearing things that they had never heard before. Also, much siddhanta was given by Srila Prabhupada in seed form and not having the adhikari to figure it out on our own, we find that many times we need the help of a more highly situated Vaisnava. Innumerable quotes by Srila Prabhupada and sastra overwhelmingly support the conviction of seeking proper answers by higher association.
We are firmly situated in the conviction that the instructions of Srila Sridhara Maharaja are God-sent and are an invaluable asset in the evolving and precarious spiritual lives of the disciples and grand disciples of Srila Prabhupada--mahajano yena gatah sa panthah. Further, we see in our scrutiny of the transcripts of the meetings of ISKCON GBC members with Srila Sridhara Maharaja that at the time of receiving instructions from Sridhara Maharaja all the ISKCON stalwarts were genuinely appreciative and time and time again responded, "Very clear, very clear." This went on for several years. We have taped recordings of these stalwarts' heartfelt statements that "you are our siksa-guru, you are nondifferent than our Srila Prabhupada. We take it that Srila Prabhupada is speaking to us through you." And many more heartfelt statements were made.
The clear instructions of Srila Sridhara Maharaja in regards to gurus, godbrothers, disciples, worship, and proper Vaisnava etiquette were well-received by the GBC, partially implemented, then ignored and later used as a excuse for the GBC's rejection of Sridhara Maharaja. Pertinent excerpts from the most comprehensive question and answer sessions of the GBC representatives with Srila Sridhara Maharaja are presented throughout. The GBC appears to have used Srila Sridhara Maharaja as a source of information which they then picked over and chose what they liked, rejecting that which did not suite their desires. That this is the case is self-evident upon examination of the advices given and the subsequent decisions taken by the GBC. Once the GBC found that Srila Sridhara Maharaja's advisory capacity was far far higher and more Krsna conscious than they bargained for-that they would then have to expand the guruship, treat godbrothers equally, tone down their excessive puja, etc., etc.-- they started to vilify him in so many ways.
Year after year blasphemous statements and condemning invectives were shouted from the vyasasana and distributed as authoritative GBC papers [such as Vaishnava Ke and Purity Is the Force], interspersed with a few private half-hearted apologies--half-hearted in that absolutely no attempt was made to undo the negative impressions continuously hammered into the minds of the majority of ISKCON's devotees. One well known devotee, upon reading the GBC publication, Purity Is the Force, quipped, "If this has anything to do with Krsna consciousness, I don't want anything to do with it." For fifteen years an atmosphere of negativity has been maintained within ISKCON towards Srila Sridhara Maharaja and continues to this very day. So strong is this blasphemous propaganda that many adopt it without even knowing anything about the issues. Thus it is not surprizing that one ISKCON guru recently contended, "we [the GBC gurus] didn't do anything wrong-it is all Sridhara Maharaja's fault-all ISKCON's problems can be blamed on him." The disastrous effects of this kind of attitude are documented in chapter six, Aparadha, The Vaishnava's Greatest Enemy.
That grievous vaisnava-aparadha has been institutionalized within ISKCON and blocks the advancement of so many we have painstakingly documented. Its effects are there whether we like it or not, whether we recognize it or not-it is wreaking havoc in the devotional lives of so many devotees. Real devotees happily see their ongoing progress in Krsna consciousness as proof that it is a real process, bhaktih paresanubhavo viraktir anyatra (Bhag. 11.2.42). This proof comes in the form of ever-increasing realizations (anubhavah), higher taste for serving our Lordships (bhaktih), detachment from material endeavors (viraktih), etc. Conversely, we also (unfortunately) find real proof of the validity of the process of Krsna consciousness in the practical demonstration of devotees being covered by ignorance, mayayapahrta-jnana (Bg. 7.15), losing their taste for Krsna consciousness, the inverse of param drstva nivartate (Bg. 2.59), and being swallowed up by maya, buddhi-nasat pranasyati (Bg. 2.63)-slowly as a result of not following strictly and properly, bhogaisvarya-prasaktanam tayapahrta-cetasam (Bg. 2.44), and rapidly as a result of offenses, yadi vaisnava-aparadha uthe hati mata (Cc. Madhya-lila 19.156).
We are trying our best to present the facts as they are. We have found heartfelt evidence amongst our dealings with many Vaisnavas that one's love for a Vaisnava is usually increased as a result of association with yet another high Vaisnava. Raghunatha Das Goswami, the Gaudiya Vaishnava prayojana acarya, after the disappearance of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu journeyed to Vrndavana, experiencing the greatest pain of separation. Yet he found Mahaprabhu wonderfully present in Rupa and Sanatana. "Mahaprabhu is working through them. He is in their literature, in the literature of Rupa and Sanatana, in their deeds, in their movement, they were fully possessed by Mahaprabhu." In this way he found inspiration and consolation. Siksa of advanced Vaishnavas is a fundamental necessity of Krsna consciousness. Here also we are not at all talking about ordinary personalities. The majority of devotees are unanimously in agreement as to the exalted position of Srila Prabhupada yet cannot accomodate another exalted personality. We see this as a lacking.
Whether or not Srila Sridhara Maharaja is a great exalted personality whose lucid instructions are invaluable, in no way at all reflects upon or minimizes the supremely exalted position of Srila Prabhupada.
It is indeed an offense to try to compare them in this way.
We are speaking of adding love and affection to our lives, not taking any away. It must be the nature of a real Vaishnava to be so accomodating.
We beg the Vaisnava's mercy in that we may commit some offenses ourselves in writing this book. We have tried to avoid all traces of envious criticism and to just present the facts in a scholarly yet devotional way. We are proceeding with this book under the assumption that the truth being self-effulgent will be recognized for what it is, when it is properly presented. In the words of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura: "If we have undaunted faith--we shall achieve all perfection. Therefore you should preach with fearlessness and with utmost energy the message of Rupa and Raghunatha under the guidance of the followers of Sri Rupa." With a straw between our teeth, we humbly beg our readers to please give fair consideration to our presentation and contemplate the significance of the grievous far-reaching effects of the vaisnava-aparadha to Srila Sridhara Maharaja.