Our  Affectionate Guardians

Chapter One:
A Transcendental Friendship


Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Deva Goswami first met in 1930 in Allahabad, India. Many times they worked very closely in establishing the preaching of the Gaudiya Matha, particularly in Allahabad, Bombay, and Calcutta. During the years of internal strife in the Gaudiya Matha, Srila Prabhupada and Srila Sridhara Maharaja lived together for more than five years in Calcutta. In the Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, Satsvarupa Maharaja writes of Srila Sridhara Maharaja's subletting several rooms from Srila Prabhupada's apartment on Sita Kanta Banerjee Lane:

Here Abhay [Srila Prabhupada's name before initiation] and Sridhara Maharaja and his followers could remain aloof from the warring factions [of the Gaudiya Matha] and together pursue their plans for spreading Krsna consciousness. [Lilamrta, Vol. 1, p. 100]

Many years later, after establishing Gaudiya Vaisnava temples around the world, Srila Prabhupada, upon returning to India, would sometimes stay at the matha of Srila Sridhara Maharaja in Sri Navadvipa Dhama. Srila Sridhara Maharaja also sometimes visited Srila Prabhupada at his Candrodaya Mandira in Mayapur. During one such occasion, recorded in March 1973, Srila Prabhupada happily shared some of his fond remembrances with Srila Sridhara Maharaja and his own disciples.

We are very fortunate to hear His Divine Grace Om Visnupada Paramahamsa Parivrajakacarya Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja. By age and by experience, in both ways, he is senior to me. I was fortunate to have his association since a very long time, perhaps in 1930.

Maharaja, I think you remember the incident when you went to Allahabad? On that auspicious occasion, we were connected. There is a long story, it will take time, but I had the opportunity of associating with Sridhara Maharaja for several years. Krsna and Prabhupada [Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura] liked him to prepare me. Sridhara Maharaja lived in my house for many years, so naturally we had very intimate talks and he was my good advisor. I took his advices and instructions very seriously, because from the very beginning I knew he was a pure Vaisnava, a pure devotee, and I wanted to associate with him, and I tried to help him also. Our relationship is very intimate. [1]

Herein, we find the history of a transcendental relationship between these two pure devotees of the Lord. They intimately associated and discussed Srimad-Bhagavatam for more than five years, often for five to seven hours a day. While remembering their intimate talks, specifically in regard to Bhagavad-gita, Srila Sridhara Maharaja recalled the depth of their conversations:

Once while discussing the verse dadami buddhi yogaµ tam yena mam upayanti te [Bg. 10.10, "I give them the understanding by which they can come to Me."], I submitted to him that here, upayanti is indicative of parakiya-rasa [paramour relationship]. On this point he agreed with me, saying, "Yes, at this point there cannot be anything but the parakiya-rasa of Vraja. The conclusion of Bhagavad-gita must come to this."

Please Look After Them

Their many confidential talks reveal the depth of their relationship. In March 1982, Srila Sridhara Maharaja said:

When he [Srila Prabhupada] began his translation of the Bhagavad-gita, it was in consultation with me in a very deep way. Later, he requested me many a time, "Please look after them; I am taking them this side [to Krsna consciousness]. You have a responsibility to look after them."

Srila Prabhupada would often consult with Srila Sridhara Maharaja regarding the spiritual significance of his failing business and family relationships. Srila Sridhara Maharaja confirmed Srila Prabhupada's suspicion that Krsna's special mercy was being shown to him by taking away all his material possessions as per the Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.88.8 verse, yasyaham anugrhnami.

An example of Prabhupada's helping with Sridhara Maharaja's preaching work is seen in his financing Prapanna-jivanamrta: Life-Nectar of the Surrendered Souls. (Lilamrta, Vol. 1, p. 103) This book, the most important work of his life, shows Sridhara Maharaja's exceptional brilliance in extracting the essence of the scriptures. Prapanna-jivanamrta was also greatly favored by Niskincana Krsnadasa Babaji Maharaja and was the only book he carried with him.

Whether in Allahabad, Bombay, Calcutta, or other parts of India, Srila Prabhupada and Srila Sridhara Maharaja's relationship continued to develop. Srila Prabhupada recalls:

In my householder life, I had opened an office in Bombay for our business. The Bombay Gaudiya Matha was established by Sridhara Maharaja and myself. We made a party for begging and collecting alms, consisting of Sridhara Maharaja, myself, and Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaja. I took the party to my chemist friends and we collected about five hundred rupees. Sridhara Maharaja would speak, I would introduce, and Goswami Maharaja would canvass. (Lilamrta, Vol. 1, p. 81)

In the Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, Satsvarupa Goswami writes further:

Abhay would often accompany Sridhara Maharaja and his assistants at preaching programs, where he would play the mrdanga. And when Sridhara Maharaja fell ill, Abhay led the other devotees on preaching engagements, performing kirtana, playing mrdanga, and giving lectures on the Bhagavatam. (Lilamrta, Vol. 1, p. 100)

Europe Defeated by Asia

While in Bombay, Prabhupada and Sridhara Maharaja were the receiving party for a Gaudiya Matha sannyasi who was returning from Europe. They were dismayed by his changed appearance. He was missing the tridanda of a Gaudiya sannyasi, the sikha of a Vaisnava, as well as the traditional robes, but they still eagerly inquired about the preaching field in the West. The sannyasi remarked, "They ask questions that cannot be answered." Prabhupada inquired further as to the nature of those questions, and one after another Sridhara Maharaja answered them all. At that time Prabhupada boldly declared, "Today, Europe has been defeated by Asia!"

An example of Srila Prabhupada's trust of Srila Sridhara Maharaja is found in his letter of January 30, 1970 to Satsvarupa Maharaja, the editor of Back to Godhead magazine:

Regarding Sridhara Swami's article: I do not know what sort of article it is, but whatever it may be, the writer's name should be Swami B. R. Sridhara. Besides that, there is no need of giving any short introductory note at the present moment. If we publish an article, it is to be understood that the version of the article is not different from ours.

In other words, even without seeing Srila Sridhara Maharaja's article, he understood that it was philosophically sound and in agreement with his mood of presentation. Additionally, in a 1973 BBT meeting in Los Angeles, Srila Prabhupada stated that only himself and Srila Sridhara Maharaja were qualified to give commentary on the Srimad-Bhagavatam. This is confirmed in Giriraja Maharaja's letter of September 16, 1978 to the GBC:

[In reference to] Sridhara Swami, who Srila Prabhupada said we should consult about philosophical and practical points[Srila Prabhupada said that] apart from himself, only Sridhara Swami was qualified to write the Bhagavatam purports.

What I Came to Say, Will Remain

Upon meeting Srila Sridhara Maharaja, a young gentleman of high brahminical lineage who was noted for his Vedic scholarship, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura remarked, "If persons of your caliber join us, then certainly our mission will be successful." Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura greatly appreciated Sridhara Maharaja's writings and was once so pleased with a poem that Sridhara Maharaja wrote about Bhaktivinoda Thakura that he remarked to his sannyasa disciples Bhakti Yadav Goswami and Sravati Maharaja:

Bhaktivinoda Thakura himself has written this through him. Now I am satisfied that after me what I came to say, that will stay, that will remain; I find in these slokas the siddhanta.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura informed Sravana Maharaja, the editor of the Gaudiya Matha's periodicals:

If you include articles written by Sridhara Maharaja, the quality of your publications will be greatly improved.

Confirming Sridhara Maharaja's profound erudition in the sastras, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura once directed that his name be suffixed with the title Sastra-nipuna [one who has very deep knowledge of the scriptures, a scriptural genius].

Srila Sridhara Maharaja composed many original Sanskrit works. Among them is the Prabhupada-padma stavaka, glorifying Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. Srila Prabhupada requested that this song be sung daily in all his temples. Also composed by Srila Sridhara Maharaja is the sublimely beautiful Prema-dhama deva stotram, which presents Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's lila. and precepts. Niskincana Krsnadasa Babaji Maharaja said that within this offering he found the presence of Srila Rupa Goswami Prabhupada, the leader of our sampradaya.

Because of Srila Sridhara Maharaja's keen ability to explain the inner esoteric lectures of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, many of his senior sannyasi godbrothers would often ask Sridhara Maharaja to repeat the points covered by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and explain them. Throughout his life, Srila Sridhara Maharaja was revered as an unrivaled "consulting physician," able to give authoritative and impartial spiritual advice to all who sought his counsel. Sridhara Maharaja reflects:

I explained and they were satisfied. Prabhupada's discourses were very deep. The general public could not understand them. It was deep philosophy, so I was requested to repeat his message by the elevated servants of our Guru Maharaja. I could repeat this at least to their satisfaction. Madhusudana Maharaja and others were always of a very skeptical nature, not prepared to rely on anyone else. But they also said that when they listened to me it was as if they are hearing Prabhupada. So, my type is very akin to that of my Guru Maharaja. By his grace. Many persons have told us this.

Bhaktivedanta Swami

Srila Sridhara Maharaja advised the leaders of the Gaudiya Sangha to confer the title "Bhaktivedanta" upon the then Abhay Caranaravinda dasa. (Lilamrta, Vol. 1, p. 103) This was after Srila Prabhupada had been given the title "Bhaktisiddhanta dasa" by another godbrother, Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaja. Srila Sridhara Maharaja adjusted Prabhupada's name in response to suggestions from the Vaisnava community that the guru's name should not be given to the disciple.

Later, Srila Prabhupada's sannyasa guru, Sripada Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Maharaja, one of the most senior disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura and the third sannyasa disciple of Sridhara Maharaja, gave sannyasa to Abhay Caranaravinda Bhaktisiddhanta dasa, retaining the title "Bhaktivedanta" and conferring the sannyasa name "Swami." Initially Prabhupada asked Tirtha Maharaja in writing for sannyasa, but when he understood the conservative policy of Tirtha Maharaja, he went to Sridhara Maharaja for sannyasa. Srila Sridhara Maharaja replied that he was too intimate with Srila Prabhupada's family, and certainly Prabhupada's wife would give some trouble to his matha. Srila Sridhara Maharaja suggested he take sannyasa from Kesava Maharaja, who was unknown to Srila Prabhupada's wife. In a sense, this would be the same as taking sannyasa from Sridhara Maharaja, since Kesava Maharaja was Sridhara Maharaja's sannyasa disciple.

Lord Caitanya's Prophecy Fulfilled

When Srila Prabhupada returned to India in October 1967, after his successful preaching campaign in America, he stayed with Srila Sridhara Maharaja in Navadvipa and observed his Vyasa-puja celebration. At that time, Prabhupada wrote a letter to Satsvarupa Maharaja saying:

Yesterday, we have all come to Navadvipa-dhama. This place is an establishment of one of my godbrothers. It is a very nice and extensive place, and my godbrother B. R. Sridhara Maharaja has spared one entire house for our stay. He has also agreed to cooperate with our society. We shall observe his birthday celebration, and the brahmacaris shall learn how to celebrate the spiritual master's birthday. (SP Ltr. Satsvarupa, Oct. 26, 1967)

Shortly afterward, Srila Prabhupada asked Srila Sridhara Maharaja to be the head of his newly formed society, the International Society for Krsna Consciousness. (Lilamrta, Vol. 3, p. 205) However, out of his deep appreciation of Srila Prabhupada's preaching, Srila Sridhara Maharaja thought that Srila Prabhupada himself should be the acarya.

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 Caitanya'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)

Later, on July 7, 1975, Srila Prabhupada referred to Srila Sridhara Maharaja's statement in a letter to his godbrother Bon Maharaja:

Sripada Sridhara Maharaja also appreciated my service. He said that Caitanya Mahaprabhu's prediction: prthivite ache yata nagaradi grama, sarvatra pracara haibe mora nama, would remain a dream only, but he congratulated me that I have done it practically. I do not know how things are going on automatically except by His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada [Bhaktisiddhanta], because I have no other assets except his causeless mercy.

In a letter to Bodhayana Maharaja on November 9, 1976, Srila Prabhupada confirmed Srila Sridhara Maharaja's nonenvious appreciation of Srila Prabhupada as a "great powerful acarya in the Vaisnava world at present." Indeed, both Srila Prabhupada and Srila Sridhara Maharaja had very deep realizations. Satsvarupa Maharaja writes in the Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta:

During the Vyasa-puja celebration, Acyutananda Swami saw Prabhupada and Sridhara Maharaja fully absorbed in a deep discussion in Bengali. Upon inquiry about the nature of their talk, Prabhupada replied, "If I were to tell you, you would faint. Sridhara Maharaja has very high realizations." (Lilamrta, Vol. 3, p. 205)

I Take It on My Head

It is clear in the following letter that Srila Prabhupada regarded Srila Sridhara Maharaja as his confidential friend and well-wisher throughout his life. Concerned about his failing health, Srila Prabhupada had written Sridhara Maharaja asking whether he should continue living in the United States or return to India to live his last days in Vrndavana. Srila Sridhara Maharaja wrote Srila Prabhupada advising him to stay in the U.S. and preach rather than come back to Vrndavana to leave his body. He asserted in his letter, "Wherever you are, that is Vrndavana." After receiving Sridhara Maharaja's reply, Srila Prabhupada wrote:

What Sripada Sridhara Maharaja has directed, I take it on my head. He is always my well-wisher. After the departure of Prabhupada [Bhaktisiddhanta], it is appropriate that I should accept his direction. I got direction from him that I shall live in this country forever. (SP Ltr. Govinda Maharaja, Jan. 29, 1969)

My Siksa Guru

Throughout his life, Srila Prabhupada always maintained the highest respect for and confidence in Srila Sridhara Maharaja. He even sent some of his disciples to Srila Sridhara Maharaja for instruction. On January 31, 1969, in a letter to one of his disciples, Hrsikesa dasa, he wrote:

Because you are my disciple and, I think, a sincere soul, it is my duty to refer you to someone who is competent to act as siksa guru.For spiritual advancement of life, we must go to someone who is actually practicing spiritual life; not to some head of a mundane institution, not to someone who has offended his spiritual master in so many ways. I do not wish to go into details here. So, if you are actually serious to take instructions from a siksa guru, I can refer you to the one who is the most highly competent of all my godbrothers. This is B. R. Sridhara Maharaja, whom I consider to be even my siksa guru, so what to speak of the benefit that you can have by his association.So, if you are serious about the advancement of your spiritual life, I will advise you to go to Sridhara Maharaja.It will be very good for your spiritual benefit, and I will feel that you are safe. When I was in India with the others, we lived with Sridhara Maharaja. You can also make arrangements for your other godbrothers to go there in the future.

Your Instructions Nondifferent Than Our Prabhupada's

At the opening ceremony of the ISKCON Mayapur Candrodaya Mandira, Srila Prabhupada remarked that he considered Srila Sridhara Maharaja to be his siksa guru. And then he declared:

Jaya Om Visnupada Paramahamsa Parivrajakacarya Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja ki jaya.

At the 1976 Gaura Purnima celebration in Mayapur, Srila Prabhupada invited Srila Sridhara Maharaja to share his vyasasana with him, which he did. The only other godbrother to share Srila Prabhupada's seat was Niskincana Krsnadasa Babaji Maharaja. In March of 1981, it was related to Srila Sridhara Maharaja by Sudhira Goswami that Acyutananda dasa had written about him in his book Autobiography of a Jewish Yogi:

He compares you to a great general, when he met you. And he tells how Srila Prabhupada told him that he regarded you as his siksa guru, and that Acyutananda should come to you for your instructions. He was in some spiritual difficulty. So he describes the nine months that he was living here and his hearing from you, the many different subjects you would speak about. For all these years we have wondered how Acyutananda knew so many things. Everyone has always wondered. And now we can understand, by your association where he learned so many things. His conclusion was that your instructions were nondifferent than our Prabhupada's instructions. But at the same time different. This is my understanding--the spiritual sweetness of variety. It's nondifferent but at the same time it's different. And I didn't know that it could be like that. Because as you said in your poem to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta about this world being filled with the cheaters and the cheated. So, Srila Prabhupada was the only person I ever met who did not cheat me, until I met Your Divine Grace.

When Srila Sridhara Maharaja was told that many devotees cannot understand how someone can have two gurus, he replied:

That is because they are situated in a formal position, but when they enter into substantial spiritual realization, they will not have such a grievance because they will see what is guru. Guru means one who has come to give Krsna consciousness. The formal difference will be reduced when one can catch the very substance of the teachings for which the guru is respected. When one is intimately connected with the thread of divine love which the guru comes to impart to us, he will accept it, wherever it comes from. He will see it as a friendly relation-not antagonistic, but cooperative. Although separate in figure, at heart both of the gurus are the same because they have a common cause. They have not come to fight with one another; they have come to fight only with the agents of Satan. If we can recognize the real thing for which we are approaching the guru, then we will understand how to make the adjustment in our relationship with the siksa guru, diksa guru, and vartma-pradarsaka guru [the instructing spiritual master, the initiating spiritual master, and the one who first shows the way to devotional life, respectively]. We are infinitely indebted to all our gurus. We are helpless. What can we do? They are benevolent; they are infinitely gracious; they are my guardians. I may have many guardians. They are to look after my welfare; they have not come to destroy me.

We Are Happy; We Are Glad; We Are Proud

The endorsements that Srila Prabhupada gave Srila Sridhara Maharaja are unparalleled in Prabhupada's statements about his other godbrothers. The fact is that Srila Prabhupada had the highest respect and appreciation for Srila Sridhara Maharaja, and Sridhara Maharaja consistently expressed his deep admiration of Prabhupada, as shown in the following eulogy: [2]

So our Swami Maharaja has done a miracle! Thakura Bhaktivinoda conceived and Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura began to translate this conception into action. And we find that through Swami Maharaja, in his last days, it has been fulfilled to such a great extent. We are happy; we are glad; we are proud!

Prabhupada with great humility, his voice choked with emotion, tearfully replied:

By guru and Vaisnava, whatever position I have got, it is by guru's mercy and the blessings of the Vaisnavas. Otherwise, how may I have? So, I wish that Sridhara Maharaja may bestow his blessings as he was doing always, and may Guru Maharaja help me so I can do some service.By his grace it has become successful. I have no credit. I do not know how things are happening, because I am not at all qualified: chadiya vaisnava seva, nistara payeche keba. [Without serving an ideal Vaisnava, who can be delivered from the clutches of maya?]

In Navadvipa on June 27, 1973, Srila Prabhupada joked with Srila Sridhara Maharaja about coming to America with him.

Srutakirti wants to serve you, provided you go with us to the U.S. (laughter). He says, "If Maharaja goes with us, then I shall take care of him."[3]

And in their last known recorded meeting in 1977, just prior to Prabhupada's leaving this mortal world, we find him imploring Srila Sridhara Maharaja to take up residence at his temple in Sridhama Mayapur.

Please Stay With Me

Excerpt of 1977 conversation in Navadvipa [transcription by Bhakti Caru Swami] [4]

Srila Prabhupada: I do not know for how long I will be able to carry on. So, I came to see Sridhara Maharaja.

Devotee: If you all go away, then the world will become dark.

Srila Sridhara Maharaja: [to Prabhupada] It is so wonderful that the will of the Lord becomes manifest through someone.

Srila Prabhupada: I want very much, Maharaja, that you come and stay at Mayapur. Because Prabhupada [Bhaktisiddhanta] always desired that you preach. He told me quite a few times, "Why don't you pull him out?" [They both laugh.] You know, I also tried to some extent before, but somehow or other it did not work out. Now, why don't you come and stay at Mayapur? Srila Prabhupada told me also, "Sridhara Maharaja is one of the finest preachers." I want to take you everywhere. At least at the place we have in Mayapur, people are coming from all over the world. If you just agree, then whatever kind of building you want, I will arrange it for you. They are trying to build a house for me. So both of us will stay there. And whenever you want, you can come here to your matha.

Srila Sridhara Maharaja: Yes, as long as I am alive to fulfill [Bhaktisiddhanta] Prabhupada's desire.

Srila Prabhupada: This is my earnest desire. Since you could not go around the world and preach, at least stay there and people will come to you. I shall make that arrangement. If you stay, then it will be helpful to me also. Sometimes I need to consult with someone and there is no one. There is no one that I can consult with. I feel this deficiency very greatly.

Devotee: If he [Srila Sridhara Maharaja] stays in Mayapur, all kinds of people will get to hear from him.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that's right.

Srila Sridhara Maharaja: Yes, people from all kinds of cultural backgrounds will come there.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, and they are already coming. And in that house I will make arrangements for an elevator so that you won't have to go through the difficulty of walking up and down the stairs. You won't even have to move a step yourself. I'll make arrangements for a car and an elevator. My disciples are telling me that they will build a house for me. So, both of us will stay in that house. Most of the time I am traveling around, so if you are there, they can get some guidance. So, Maharaja, please, give me the order and I will make all the arrangements for you.

That planetarium [The Temple of Understanding] also will be built under your direction. My idea is to combine the Indian culture and the American money-the lame man and the blind man policy. I tell them also that this will be very beneficial for the world.

Temple of Understanding

Srila Prabhupada refers to "that planetarium." Srila Sridhara Maharaja was very fond of Sanatana Goswami's most famous work, the Brhad-bhagavatamrta, in which devotees, devotional service, and Krsna are described very scientifically. On the basis of this transcendental literature, Sridhara Maharaja had contemplated an elaborate preaching exhibition, using dioramas to depict the varieties of spiritual planetary systems and showing that the ultimate spiritual destination is Krsna's own abode, Goloka Vrndavana. Due to insufficient funds, Sridhara Maharaja humbly submitted his idea to Srila Prabhupada, who concurred, saying, "It will be built under your direction."[5]

He Can't Be Converted

In a talk on October 8, 1981, Srila Sridhara Maharaja remarked:

Some faith, yes, he had some faith in me. I can't deny that. In his last days he expressed that two quarters side by side will be built here. And you will live in one and I in the next. Birds of the same feather flock together. Common interest has drawn us near; our common attraction has brought us nearer, closer.

Sometimes it is wondered why Sridhara Maharaja did not take up Prabhupada's offer. Sridhara Maharaja explains:

I said, "Of course I shall try to help you. Sometimes I shall go and stay there with you." But I really did not think at the time that I shall survive [live longer than] him.

About the reticence regarding large-scale preaching that Srila Prabhupada mentions in friendly jesting, Srila Sridhara Maharaja once reflected:

I did not want to become a big person. That is not my nature. I did not want to move around with many people. I am just satisfied with whatever I have. My spiritual thinking is my life. The conclusions of the scriptures, the advice of the mahajanas, to relish them and practice them and to discuss them in a small confidential circle, that is the main goal of my life.

Prabhupada testifies to his having personally heard Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura mark the high qualifications of Sridhara Maharaja, whom he first chose to have go to the West. Many of the mission stalwarts recommended Sridhara Maharaja to preach, stating: "He is the fittest man to preach in the West." In this regard, Sridhara Maharaja once remarked:

My Guru Maharaja wanted me to go to the West for preaching, but I don't consider myself a fit person to preach in the West. Because, you see, I can't follow your intonation. I must listen clearly, then I shall tell. So, in this way, I told that if you order, I must go, but I don't think that I am fit to preach in the West. Anyhow, it was stopped, and Goswami Maharaja was sent to the West. I am of reserved type, of reserved mood. I am a man of more thinking and less speaking.

When Sridhara Maharaja had been selected, one of his sannyasa godbrothers came to him and revealed the reason Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura had chosen him to preach in the West. This godbrother explained:

Do you know why Prabhupada wanted you to be sent to the West? He said, "Because he can't be converted." You have checked such an ambitious chance. If you went to the West, a big name you could acquire easily as a preacher, but you left it so easily.

Bhakti Raksaka

Shortly before his departure from this mortal world, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura called Sridhara Maharaja and asked him to sing Narottama dasa Thakura's song Sri Rupa-Manjari Pada (the lotus feet of Rupa Manjari are my treasure). Sridhara Maharaja recalls:

So I did, hesitatingly. My nature is always hesitating, pushing back. Then, Kunja Babu asked me to stop. I was not a good singer, so as soon as he suggested, I stopped. Then, Kunja Babu asked Puri Maharaja of Kalna, "You sing." So he began. Then, Srila Prabhupada was a little disturbed. "I don't like to hear the sweet tune of the song," he said. Then, he stopped singing, and I had to begin again with Sri-rupa-manjari-pada, sei mora sampada. He wanted me to sing that song. That is the fulfillment of life for every one of us, to be rupanuga followers of Sri Rupa.

Senior godbrothers who witnessed this exchange [notably Srila Bhakti Promode Puri Maharaja] have described it as a "mystic transmission" in which Sridhara Maharaja was given admittance into the eternal entourage of Sri Rupa Manjari. Srila Sridhara Maharaja's humble vision, however, is that he was posted as the gatekeeper, the guardian of devotion (bhakti-raksaka), to protect the storehouse of conclusive truths about the full-fledged theistic conception of Sri Krsna as given by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

Divine Qualities

The innumerable high qualities and praises of our Srila Prabhupada are well-known and accepted by the vast majority of Vaisnavas around the world. Additionally, throughout this publication, we present the many wonderful glorifications of Srila Prabhupada by Srila Sridhara Maharaja. We would also like to enumerate herein a few of the divine qualities of Srila Sridhara Maharaja:

  • High recognition by other saintly personalities, including Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Niskincana Krsnadasa Babaji Maharaja, Srila Bhakti Promode Puri Maharaja, Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Maharaja, and a host of godbrothers and other respectable devotees and scholars.
  • Numerous original Sanskrit compositions and literary contributions.
  • Brahma-gayatri commentary--unprecedented in our sampradaya.
  • Spotless character.
  • Freedom from envy and faultfinding.
  • Extraordinary ability to harmonize opposing elements.
  • Exceptionally kind and affectionate nature in dealing with subordinates.
  • Great attachment for discussing the pastimes of the Lord and Krsna conscious siddhanta for hours on end.
  • Superexcellent realization and clarity of presentation of Gaudiya siddhanta, thereby earning the title sastra-nipuna.
  • Blessing of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura as the Guardian of Devotion (Bhakti Raksaka) and further as the representative of the Rupanuga siddhanta (Rupanuga-acarya).

Just prior to his departure from this mortal world, Srila Prabhupada advised his senior disciples that in his absence, when the necessity arose to consult higher authority for clarification of certain philosophical points, they should consult Sridhara Maharaja. Prabhupada thus once and for all opened the door for his disciples to associate with Sridhara Maharaja. His final instruction regarding Sridhara Maharaja takes precedent over all other instructions. It was made only weeks before Srila Prabhupada's passing from this world, a time during which one puts all else aside and shares one's heart. He did this in spite of having on occasion criticized Sridhara Maharaja, criticisms we shall discuss in later chapters.

In this chapter we have presented the spirit of the relationship shared by these two parama Vaisnavas. Ignoring this, while attempting to assess the nature of their relationship, one ignores the very spirit of Vaisnavism. Srila Prabhupada's glorification of Sridhara Maharaja and his stated subordination to his godbrother is balanced with similar statements of Sridhara Maharaja in praise of Srila Prabhupada. Such a transcendental exchange reveals the greatness of both Srila Prabhupada and Srila Sridhara Maharaja, who thus in the very least instruct us as to genuine Vaisnava humility and the sense that all of one's success in spiritual life is derived from the blessings of the Vaisnavas. Thus we humbly submit that the transcendental relationship between Srila Prabhupada and Srila Sridhara Maharaja be viewed and respected in terms of their eternal spiritual positions and long-standing appreciation and affection for each other, rather than in terms of their differences in style.


References in the text to purports are to those of Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Footnote references correspond to lectures, conversations, and letters of Srila Prabhupada in the BBT Book Trust Folio Archives.

[1] 730317RC.MAY (First two paragraphs missing from BBT Folio transcription)
[2] 730317RC.MAY
[3] 730627RC.NAV
[4] 1977 BBT transcription available only, not original.
[5] 730627RC.NAV

Chapter Two